Tag Archives: salvation

People of New Beginnings

Sunrise in Upstate New YorkAnd I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
(Revelation 21:3-5, NIV)

That sentence, “I am making everything new!” has been playing in my mind all day. When I looked it up, I realized that this is the end of our story. This is what we have to look forward to as we walk with God. I also realize that the end of this story is the beginning of another one, forever as the people of God!

Even though the above passage comes in the final chapters of the Bible, it is also a reality for us here and now! Jesus came to us as our Emmanuel, “God with us,” and gave us the indwelling Holy Spirit at Pentecost, who continues to fill God’s people to this day. And as Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21, NIV)  New beginnings are as close as a prayer away.

My thoughts about new beginnings began with baptism and resurrection, which I will most likely address next week. For now, I pray that we, as God’s people, experience new beginnings as we live in close relationship to God and the people God has placed in close proximity to us.

Grace and peace,
Brook

The Easter Story

sunrise with rainbow effectEven though it’s evening on Resurrection Sunday, I still want to wish you all a Happy Easter. Below is a collection of scripture passages that tell the Easter story.*  I compiled it to be read at the Community Easter Celebration my church held outdoors this morning. I thought I would share it with you here. This blog post is dedicated to Giovanni Serrato and Stacey Hamilton for their willingness to read it before the gathering this morning with next to no advance notice.
Enjoy! He is risen!

Grace and peace,
Brook

In the beginning was the Word
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
The Word was with God in the beginning.
Everything came into being through the Word,
and without the Word
nothing came into being.
What came into being
through the Word was life,
and the life was the light for all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.

The Word became flesh
and made his home among us.
We have seen his glory,
glory like that of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth.
(John 1:1-5, 14)

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.
(John 3:16)

This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. This is love:it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins.
(1 John 4:9-10)

Christ Jesus: Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
by taking the form of a slave
and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:5-8)

That evening a man named Joseph came. He was a rich man from Arimathea who had become a disciple of Jesus. He came to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate gave him permission to take it. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had carved out of the rock. After he rolled a large stone at the door of the tomb, he went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting in front of the tomb
(Matthew 27:57-61)

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ dead body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb. They were saying to each other, “Who’s going to roll the stone away from the entrance for us?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. (And it was a very large stone!) Going into the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right side; and they were startled. But he said to them, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him. Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.
(Mark 16:1-7)

It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “ Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. Jesus said to them again, “ Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
(John 20:19-22)

After his suffering, he showed them that he was alive with many convincing proofs. He appeared to them over a period of forty days, speaking to them about God’s kingdom.
(Acts 1:3)

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. Jesus came near and spoke to them, “ I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
(Matthew 28:16-20)

All scripture passages are from the Common English Bible.

* I am completely aware that this collection of scripture passages deals very little with Jesus’ earthly life and is thus not fully narrative. For the sake of time and poetic/literary license, I moved quickly from the pre-incarnate logos to death on a cross with only a quick glance toward Jesus’ earthly life. Thank you for understanding, and I hope you enjoyed the reading.

Embracing Hope

Every year I write an Advent devotional for each of the four weeks of Advent. I usually employ some sort of traditional pattern along with a theme to walk us toward Christmas. This year I will continue the theme of Embracing with the pattern of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

photo credit – Josh Pinkston

photo credit – Josh Pinkston

When we look at the nativity story of Jesus in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, we see that Jesus was the fulfillment of Israel’s hope for a messiah. This messiah would be a king from the family of David who would establish justice and righteousness for Israel and all those who align themselves with this king. Jesus accomplished this, just not in the way they had expected. The Jews were looking for messiah to bring a national deliverance from the oppressive Roman regime. Instead, Jesus brought deliverance to individuals who collectively and over many years changed the world.

The church today continues to carry this hope into the world. It is a hope for resurrection that all things would be made new. It is a hope for justice that all things would be made right. It is a hope for deliverance that all would be made free, not just free from something, but free for something. Lastly it is a hope for love that through love all things would be restored and made whole again.

Recently at the conclusion of one of our community classes, a conversation begun with the students, the instructor, and others in the room. It was a vulnerable conversation about sad and painful things happening in their lives and in the lives of others they love. It became a moment in which the only appropriate thing to do was listen, acknowledge, and feel. Those that were there knew that the best way to share hope was to simply share their presence.

Hope is not just a dreamy-eyed notion that somehow, someday, everything will be alright. Hope is a substantive belief that we engage through faith. It is the knowing that in Christ resurrection, justice, freedom, and love are all a reality. We know this because we have seen it in Jesus, have experienced it through God’s presence in our lives, and through the love of God’s people.

“Hope is really hope when all seems hopeless.” John Caputo*

This is not to say that since I have Jesus in my life that everything is just peachy all the time. I am currently walking through a season in which I feel that I have lost hope for a number of things and in a number of circumstances. Some days all I can do is receive love from those who love me, trust that God is there, with and within me, and lay my hope down in hope that through all these things it will become hope again.

It is in these times when my hope is challenged that I realize that hope is not something I can muster or conjure up. It comes to me through the love and presence of God and people. Hope is a gift we hold up and hold out.

As we reconnect with the story of hope this Christmas, I pray that we become agents of hope for those around us, believing for them the realization of resurrection, justice, freedom, and love.

Grace and peace,
Brook

* From a Homebrewed Christianity interview with John Caputo. Minute 32:00-35:00

Salvation: A Collective Experience

At last Sunday’s VLC worship gathering, Pastor Stuart talked about the Essentials of Family Culture in which he made some comparisons between church family and natural family. As part of this comparison, he asked the gathering, “What are some qualities of a ‘perfect church?’” In VLC fashion, responses were shouted out, one of which was “grace,” “grace for those coming into the local church and grace for those moving on from that local church.” At this moment I started reflecting on the phrase from Ephesians 2:8, “It is by grace you have been saved.” Families are integral to salvation, which is more than just making sure we get to go to heaven when we die.

 

The Greek word for “save” is a common word with a broad range of definition. It, of course, carries the meaning of rescuing or delivering from danger, peril, or judgement. But, it also can mean to make well, heal, restore to health, or deliver from suffering.

 

The grace we extend to one another is a gateway for salvation, both in the here and now and for eternity. When grace is extended, it affords the opportunity for people to receive salvation by placing their faith in God and in his people. Faith is the act of receiving the gift of grace, which is only ever a free gift. A church that is maturing in Christ will be a family of grace and a community of healing. Salvation is a collective experience.

 

Grace and peace,

Brook

Crossing Over: The Cross as the Only Bridge into the Kingdom

As we continue in this discussion of building bridges, I must admit my way of visual thinking is kicking in again. Though, what I see and what I believe seem to be at odds, but there is a further truth still. I still don’t believe that using “us and them” language is helpful in reaching people for Jesus, but the fact of the matter is that there are those who are in God’s kingdom and those that are not. In my mind’s eye I see believers and unbelievers mingling in the borderlands of the kingdom. As I wrote two weeks ago, the church is the bridge to the kingdom. The church with its daily interactions with the world can only bring people to the edges of the kingdom. The cross of Jesus is the only bridge into the kingdom of God.

 

You may have seen a picture something like this one when you heard a presentation of the plan of salvation.

Bridge04

The only way for a person to enter into the kingdom of God is to receive the saving work of Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection. As the Apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, “Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:2) Paul also wrote to the Ephesians that because of our sin we were rendered as dead to God, but “God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:4) This new life in God’s kingdom is a gift of his grace and received only by faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9

 

This is only the beginning. This first step enters a person into the greater story of the gospel and also into the people of God who continue the ministry of Jesus, which is to bring salvation in all its forms to anyone in need. (Luke 4:18-19) May our life in Jesus be a bridge to new life in him through his cross.

 

Grace and peace,

Brook