Sunday, January 31, 2016

Luke 4:22 (MSG): Recognizing Christ in our Midst


All who were there, watching and listening, were surprised at how well [Jesus] spoke. But they also said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son, the one we’ve known since he was a youngster?” (Luke 4:22)


I chose Eugene Peterson’s The Message this week with some deliberation.  In looking at various translations of this Scripture, I wanted the translator to convey what is implied in the text: The Jews in the Nazareth synagogue saw Jesus as a common son of an everyday carpenter. They watched this child grow up and learn his trade at the workbench of Joseph.  They would have known Jesus as the “youngster” down the road, and Peterson captures that in his translation.


People who know Jesus from his upbringing in Nazareth are impressed with his return to town, interested in the stories of his ministry and healings, and “surprised” by his reading of Isaiah 61:1-2 and proclamation during the Sabbath celebration. But their own preconceived ideas of who the Messiah must be, a warrior king from outside of Galilee, clouds their vision of who the Messiah really is, the humble son of a local carpenter -- the “youngster” from down the road. This reality, however, confronts the traditional religious pride of self-knowledge. They cannot get past their preconceived notions and humble themselves. Christ chose a life of simple humility, and people rejected him because of it.


My own pride, busyness, and narrow understanding are reflected in the voices of rejection among this local crowd. How would I have reacted in that synagogue? Would I, too, have followed the crowd in driving Christ to the outskirts of Nazareth, intending to push him off of the cliff?


God emptied Himself of all rank, riches, and notoriety to live among us as a humble, common man. We should embrace this simple way of Christ in our own lives. We must break down the barriers of our own expectations and pride and embrace the beauty of Jesus’ magnificent simplicity. And when we see the least likely among us, or, as Jesus says in Matthew 25:40, “the least of these,” we remember the presence of Jesus in front of a furious crowd looking to cast him off a Palestinian cliff. Let us not, in our pride and preconceived notions, reject others but embrace them with love and compassion, imitating the humble, welcoming way of Christ.


I pray that God grant us the grace to imitate the humble simplicity of Jesus in our everyday encounter with others.


Let us keep each other and our special intentions in prayer this week.  


May you all be blessed and encouraged in the love and peace of Christ.  

Stan

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Romans 5:3-4: (NLT): Trials and God’s Blessings

Romans 5:3-4: (NLT): Trials and God’s Blessings
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance helps develop strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (Romans 5:3-4).

A friend of ours recently went through a difficult divorce.  Betrayal and cheating, secrecy and surprise, and difficulty and defeat were all emotions she experienced.  As a witness to her trials, I noticed a few things. First, there was an initial sense of hopelessness and anger. After time, however, she became less angry and developed a sense of perseverance, strength, and confidence: She had to carry on and be strong for her 12-year-old daughter. And she did. Fast forward two years and she met a man who is kind, loving, and treats her and her daughter well.  Happiness and trust once again reign in her life. Her situation now, according to the visible fruit of their relationship, far exceeds that of her life before the trial she bore.

Life doesn't always work out as it did for our friend, but we must have faith in God’s plan. Our “problems and trials . . . help us develop endurance.” Sometimes in the thick of our trials, however, God’s blessings are hard to see or even imagine. But when we look with the eyes of faith, hope, and love, God’s presence is made manifest.


Let us keep each other and our special intentions in prayer this week.  


May you all be blessed and encouraged in the love and peace of Christ.  


Stan