Tuesday, March 30, 2010

CRF: Preparing for Summer

I’d be a little worried that a talk like this could end up being something like new years resolutions. Maybe you all are far more disciplined, but there’s no sense in have high hopes and good intentions and not achieving much of anything. The way to plan well for the summer is by beginning now what you hope to achieve and accomplish over the summer. And for most of us, some kind of accountability and planning is necessary.

Planning for Summer from Holy Week
As it turns out, today is Monday of Holy Week, a week in which Christians have traditionally focused prayers and meditation and worship on the sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus. So I’ve grouped my exhortations around three passages thematic linked by the approaching passion and death of our Savior. But it should be pointed out that all human planning ought to always be done from the vantage of the passion and death of Jesus. And this week happily underlines that for us. Who we are is bound up with the death and resurrection of this man. How could it not affect everything for us?

Set His Face Toward Jerusalem
“Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem… ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’” (Lk. 9:51-53)

There came a point in Jesus’ ministry in which He knew that His ministry was coming to a climax. Sometimes we talk as though Jesus was God controlling a man suit from a robotic control center somewhere inside the person of Jesus. But if Jesus was in fact one human person with both human and divine natures fully present, we must realize that the psychology of being Jesus is far more complex than we can really imagine. There are hints that Jesus knew and understood a great deal, but there are also hints that Jesus truly faced the unknown, pain, temptation, etc. truly as human being. However these realities sorted out in the consciousness of Christ, He nevertheless made the decision to go to Jerusalem, and this resolution is to be mimicked by His disciples.

We cannot know the future, but we are to be lords of time by faith in the One who rules time. We must always say, ‘if the Lord wills’ and at the same time, we must plan and execute those plans with courage and wisdom. This means assessing the lay of the land with regard to your interests, gifts, strengths, weaknesses, proceeding to get counsel, and then planning to use your time and resources to the best of your ability. It is always freeing to be ‘in the will of God’ and the Word and the Spirit are the leading for this.

Is it lawful (Word)? Is it strategic for the Kingdom (Word)? Are you good at it (Spirit)? Is their opportunity/need for it (Spirit)?

Loved His Own, Loved them to End
“Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” (Jn. 13:1-5)

Jesus loved His own, and He loved them to the end. In other words, He loved them to the death. Who are your own that you are called to love? How are you planning to love them this summer? And how are you planning to love them to the death? Obviously, this should include people like your family and relatives, your spouse or future spouse/children, and other friends.

Notice that this love also extends to the unlovely and to enemies. Jesus knows that one of His closest friends will betray Him, but this does not mean that Jesus shorted Judas with any of His love. Jesus washed Judas’s feet too. Who are your own betrayers/enemies that you are called to serve and love? Maybe they are not personal enemies, but they are enemies for the sake of the gospel. Who are they? What are their names? And how will you love them this summer?

I love the fact that it says, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands … rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself… poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet…” Jesus was given all things. All things were in His hands, and He knew that He was to return to the Father in glory. And with that knowledge of great power and authority, He laid aside His garments and began to wash the disciples’ feet.

We rightly emphasize the fact that service is the path to glory and greatness, but there is another sense in which when God gives us opportunities to serve, we ought to see those opportunities as gifts that God gives to those who are authorized for them. In other words, if greatness is serving, then God reckons us great enough for the task that He gives. This looks ahead to the next passage, but do despise little jobs, lowly tasks or service. For those who would be great must become servants of all. So who will you love this summer? How will you wash their feet?

The Child is the Father of the Man
“But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mk. 10:42-45)

One item to note here is that Jesus is not rebuking his disciples for wanting to be great. He’s rebuking His disciples for settling for something less than great. It’s like a child who saves up $100 and declares that she will spend it all on M&Ms. Of course there’s a place to splurge, and there’s even a time for candy and M&Ms. But a wise parent will probably encourage the child to diversify a bit.

Ruling like the gentiles is childish. It’s based on the power of force and violence and manipulation. But it’s not real authority or power. It’s temporary and short-sighted.

Jesus did not wait to start serving either. Jesus came to serve and to give His life as a ransom. Of course this principally points to the crucifixion, but His entire life was practice for the main event. Wherever you find yourself this summer; make sure it’s practicing for the main event.

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