Scripture Monday – 1 John 4:10-11

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:10-11, NIV).

I don’t have much of a question about these verses.

They are a beautiful picture of the love that God has for us.

We are able to love others because God first loved us.

What is God’s purpose?

The best response that I have to this is found in scripture:

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.'” (Exodus 3:14, TNIV)

God is.

God exists in relationship eternally, with creation, humanity and individuals. Perhaps God’s purpose is to love and be loved in return.

What would you add to this response?

I recently met with a congregant who shared some deep questions with me. I asked for permission to share them on this blog to more broadly share my response.

What I Learned from the Board of Ordained Ministry

Several weeks ago, I interviewed with the Board of Ordained Ministry in Kansas West and was continued as a provisional member of the conference. This is good news. It means that next year I will be eligible to be fully ordained and have all the rights and responsibilities of a clergy person within the United Methodist Church. I interviewed with a team of three persons – two clergy and one lay. I recognize that I am just starting out this ministry thing and always seek to learn from others. My final question for them was, “What advice would you have to offer me, as someone just starting out in ministry?” There responses are excellent.

  • Love the people.
  • Don’t denigrate what is happening when you first arrive in an appointment.
  • There are hands on practical things to do as a pastor – call when someone is not in worship, call when they come back to worship, make rounds like a doctor.

I appreciate all the wisdom that those who have gone before me in the path of ministry. I hope to always continue to learn from others.

What is some advice that you have received or that you have to offer for somone just starting out in ministry?

How should I relate to my gay child?

I received this question from a blog reader like you. Do you have a question? Check out this post to let me know.

Here is a comment are excerpts from a comment that I received on a post this month:

Andrew,  I have something that I need to comment about and to ask your opinion on.  I have two children that I love very much.  My son is educated, kind and very well established in his profession.  He is also gay, although not “looking” for a partner.  He is very religious and in fact led us to COR.  He has since been transferred [out of state] and I miss him so much.  [He] has been influential in my spiritual growth by his deep faith in Jesus even though he is not accepted by most Christians.  I must admit that I was one of the “holier than thou” people and I rejected him for several years.  I so regret my actions. …

At first I thought God had surely turned His back on me since my two children were not the”norm”.  I now feel chosen to have them in my family.  I am blessed each day by having known them and feel called by God to have them in my family.  I have grown to love so much more deeply by having known and loved them.  Please pray for the World to love and accept them.

I do not have any better response on how to relate to your son than the one that you expressed already. I do not believe that one’s sexual orientation has a correlation to one’s discipleship nor necessarily to family relationships.

I believe that a person of any sexual orientation can be on the journey of becoming a deeply committed Christian.

I believe that a person of any sexual orientation can have positive relationships with family and friends.

How should one relate to a gay child? As you would relate to any of one’s children. Love, care and respect.

Guest Blog – Does the World Know?: Christian Unity in a Fractured Age (2 of 3)

This is a guest blog from Jared White of Finite Calls Infinite. Jared is a musician, a Web developer, a photographer, and a Charismatic Christian who believes that the Spirit of God is moving dramatically across the world today and impacting entire nations with the Gospel of the Kingdom.

In last week’s installment of “Does the world know?”, I introduced the topic of Christian unity and the relationship between the world’s knowledge of Jesus and the love Christians have for one another. This time around, I want to expand on the importance of unity in a fractured age.

Ever since the Fall of Man, the world has been teetering on the brink of chaos. We see that now more clearly the ever because the world is getting smaller every day. The rise of globalization and modern communications may promote a facade of worldwide solidarity, but we know better. Ideologies, philosophies, cultures, and beliefs are colliding with each other at an ever rapid pace, and love is given lip service as hatred drives people apart. Nations tout democracy even as their own people are unable to live side by side. Religions promise peace while their own followers attack those who do not agree with them. We live in a fractured age, but there is one constant which has the power to bring wholeness and restoration to everything in a lasting, permanent, and meaningful way — the “greatest story ever told” as it has been called.

What am I referring to? It is this: Jesus Christ is Lord over all and was sent by a loving God to save those who have gone astray, i.e., us. As beneficiaries of His divine love, all we have to to is accept it and receive it, and it has the power to change our lives. When we give ourselves to Christ’s love, selfishness gives way to generosity. Pride gives way to self-sacrifice. Corruption gives way to servant leadership. Animosity gives way to charity. And division in the community gives way to unity in the Spirit.

As unworthy recipients of “so great a salvation”, we are tasked with one mission above all else, and that is to love one another as Christ loves us. This isn’t just a feel-good notion, a fanciful idea that has no practical value, it is vital to the overall mission of Jesus Christ. When the world sees Christians loving one another, when the world see Christians laying down their lives for one another, when the world sees Christians living out the transformed life of grace, the world sits up and takes notice.

In my community here in Sonoma County, California, and specifically the city of Santa Rosa, there is a group of local pastors who have met regularly for a number of years to pray for the area and for one another and for unity in the Church. This loose coalition of pastors and churches has grown in stature and favor to the point where it now has the ear of the local government. We have been able to conduct county-wide events and launch community programs to bring healing and hope to the local populace in astonishing ways. Now other cities and para-church organizations in California are beginning to come to our group to see how they can take the unity and love of Christ to their own communities.

The reason I bring this up is that people are now beginning come to Christ and believe in who Jesus is and what He did because of the unity of churches that is growing in our city. I’ve heard some amazing testimonies already and this is just the beginning. Many local churches aren’t yet onboard, so much work remains to be done. But the evidence is clear: when the Church is divided, the community is fractured. When the Church comes together in love, the community is restored.

As Christians, we have been given the precious gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God cannot operate where there is division. A wise man once said that the unity of the Spirit is not that we hold to the exact same doctrines but that we love the same Father. When Christians come together to love the same Father, to worship the same God, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus together, and to carry out His mission to bring the Kingdom of Heaven down to earth, then the miraculous and regenerative power of the Holy Spirit is brought fully to bear. And when that happens, Light shines forth in the darkness, and humanity is made whole.

It can’t be this simple, right? It’s all very well to talk about Christian unity, but how can such a thing be when there are so many denominations, church networks, independent fellowships, home churches, fringe groups, traditions, and what not? How can we all possibly come together? What about error and false doctrines? What about sinful lifestyles? What do we do about that? I will attempt to share my thoughts on these questions next week in my final installment. In the meantime, I want to challenge you to consider the same questions I put forth in my last post:

  • Does the world know?
  • Does the world know that God sent Jesus to us?
  • Does the world know that God loves His people just as He loves His Son?
  • Has Jesus’ prayer been answered?
  • Has the vision that He laid out in this prayer come to pass? If not, why not?

The Most Important Parts of the Story of Jesus

At the conclusion of the three week study on the Gospel according to Mark I asked the class to reflect on two questions. I found the responses to be fascinating. Each person has a distinct understanding of Jesus. I feel that all of the following are good responses to the questions, but each person may react differently depending on where they are on the journey of faith.

Questions to the Class

  • If you were telling someone the story of Jesus for the first time what would you want to make sure and not leave out?
  • If you had to tell the story of Jesus to someone in the time that it takes a stoplight to change from red to green (let’s say 1 minute), what would you say?

Responses from the Class

  • God loved us
  • God sent his son
  • We can have eternal life
  • Resurrection
  • Jesus’ birth
  • Jesus took on our sins
  • Jesus accepts us where we are
  • Loves everyone
  • Big picture – connect with the story of the Old Testament
  • Invitation to relationship for benefits
  • Jesus ministry – inclusiveness, compassion, kindness
  • Witness to how Jesus has worked in one’s own life
  • Is there anything you would die for?
  • Opportunity for a personal relationship

Guest Blog: Hope

This is a guest post from deviant monk. I recommend both his blog and podcast. Would you like to guest blog at Thoughts of Resurrection?

If you click on this in the past, you’ll have to wait for the future to listen to the podcast

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.

Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.

Holy Week begins in a couple of days. Throughout this next week, if we slow down enough to notice it, we will come face to face with the vivid reality of suffering. This seemingly senseless aspect of our lives is something we try, hard as we may, to escape as much as we can.

But in the contemplation of Holy Week, we are forced to come to grips with this reality that never seems too far away, that never seems to go away. For as much as we feel society to have progressed in technology, in medicine, in knowledge, in mastery of nature, yet this very grim presence constantly haunts our lives, and can easily strip the meaning from the rest of it.

In Holy Week we find that even God must suffer. We all face this inescapable truth- to be human is to suffer. We cannot escape it, we cannot shake it off. As Pope Benedict says in his encyclical “Saved In Hope”,

Indeed, we must do all we can to overcome suffering, but to banish it from the world altogether is not in our power. This is simply because we are unable to shake off our finitude and because none of us is capable of eliminating the power of evil, of sin which, as we plainly see, is a constant source of suffering.

In the face of so much suffering, in the reality of even the Son of God sharing the same lot as the rest of us, how are we to find hope? Perhaps it is really all just meaningless, senseless, purposeless.

However, Holy Week reminds us that suffering is not meaningless. In fact, it is from this participation in our suffering that God sheds hope abroad into the world. As was mentioned, we cannot eliminate suffering. as Pope Benedict says:

Only God is able to do this: only a God who personally enters history by making himself man and suffering within history. We know that this God exists, and hence that this power to “take away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29) is present in the world. Through faith in the existence of this power, hope for the world’s healing has emerged in history.

Through God’s uniting of Himself with humanity, God united to Himself our suffering. God was not content that our suffering should remain ours and ours alone- God shared in our suffering by suffering with us. It is in the midst of this sharing of suffering that love and hope are born. Pope Benedict says:

Indeed, to accept the “other” who suffers, means that I take up his suffering in such a way that it becomes mine also. Because it has now become a shared suffering, though, in which another person is present, this suffering is penetrated by the light of love.

When we try to comfort those who are suffering, we offer them consolation. In English this is at best the kind words we can offer those in pain, and at worst the token words we offer out a sense of obligation. But ‘consolation’ comes from the Latin “con-solatio”. Literally, it means ‘not alone.’ Consolation is meant to go beyond words and platitudes and wishes for hope and health and better days- consolation is ‘being with’ the one who suffers. The one who is alone, who suffers alone, ceases to be alone, ceases to suffer alone. Simeon in the Gospel was waiting and hoping for the ‘consolation of Israel’. That consolation came through none other than Immanuel- “God with Us.”

To love thus becomes to suffer and to suffer with others. Love must deal a painful death blow to the rights and intentions that belong to ‘I’. In that death of self is opened up the capacity to love others.

In this suffering alongside others, in this consolation is hope born. But it is still hope- it is not yet a reality. We still face the pain of our often bitter lives and the final sting of death that will befall us all.

The glory of Holy Week is that it ends not in suffering, but in a resurrection. It is on this event that the Christian hope is founded- the hope that suffering is not the end, that death does not have the final say and that somehow all of this means something. The God who created all things became like us to suffer with us and for us. In the Incarnation and the Passion and the Resurrection is wrapped up all of human history- all of our sins, all of our injustices, all of our suffering. In it all God demonstrated that Love makes suffering worthwhile- in the light of this grand exhibition we are empowered to, like God did for us, give the gift of ourselves to others. In this gift of self is an anticipation and deposit of the hope that we have- that Love is actually greater than suffering, and that there is meaning even in the senselessness of suffering. And since love comes from the One who is Love, we can have hope in its endurance beyond the fragmented years of our pain.

In the resurrection is the great hope of the Christian faith realized. Love is worth the pain we endure, and guarantees through faith the day when we will see the world set aright, and where Love will rule all.

So may we offer others consolation through not only our words, but also our presence.

May we remember that God became like us to suffer with us.

And may we hope in the resurrection, and believe that God is greater than our suffering.

Guest Blog – Deviant Monk

This is a guest post from deviant monk. I recommend both his blog and podcast. Would you like to guest blog at Thoughts of Resurrection?

If he were still alive, St. Augustine would almost certainly listen to the podcast

God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (I John 4:16)

Charity is a word we use with very specific connotations. To speak of offering charity is usually to give some money or resources to somebody who is poor, less fortunate, hard pressed.

It is also fairly easy to abstract. We can involve ourselves in charity through organizations that are committed to such a thing, without really having to engage in the act of charity; the dirty work, so to speak, of offering it personally.

Charity comes from the Latin ‘caritas.’ ‘Caritas‘, however, doesn’t mean ‘charity’ as we think of charity, but actually means ‘love.’ The first three words of I John 4:16 are Deus caritas est– God is love.

Love, of course, is defined by many different people in many different ways- we speak of loving our children in one breath and in the next about loving our favorite kind of chocolate. It can be provoked by passion, prodded by biology, produced by sensation.

But Christian love- caritas– differs from many of the ways in which we think of love. Not necessarily by means of exclusion, but certainly by means of origination. To believe that God is love is to acknowledge a source of love, and to acknowledge that source of love is to recognize that, apart from it, there is no fullness of love, there is no fullness of caritas.

Pope Benedict says in his Encyclical Deus Caritas Est

We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction…Jesus united into a single precept this commandment of love for God and the commandment of love for neighbour found in the Book of Leviticus: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”. Since God has first loved us, love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.

To love begins with the understanding that we have first been loved by God. But let’s not begin with abstraction- let’s begin personally. I have been loved by God. I am loved by God. The profundity of this is easy to miss, unless you stop and contemplate the complete gratuity of God’s love. In this gift of self to humanity, God has made us- made me- in His image. It doesn’t take long to connect the dots- if I am loved by God, and made in the image of the God who is love and who gives love, then the purpose of my image-ness is to love. And not only to love God, but to love the image of God wherever I find it.

It is in this realization that the abstraction we so easily apply to charity begins to be broken away. I can no longer be content to ‘give’ to charity; the act of charity becomes an image of God’s gift of love to us. Those to whom I give in caritas cannot be nameless faces- to truly realize my own image-ness is to truly realize theirs as well. Pope Benedict says:

Love of neighbour is thus shown to be possible in the way proclaimed by the Bible, by Jesus. It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend. Going beyond exterior appearances, I perceive in others an interior desire for a sign of love, of concern.

Christian love pulls together two things that are often pulled apart- love for God and love for my neighbor. In my church we often use the language of holding together the evangelical gospel and the social gospel. However, in love that comes from God, it is impossible to have one without the other. You can’t simply love God without acting in love towards others; likewise, you cannot truly love others without having encountered the God who first loved you. James mockingly challenges our dualism when he says

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

In a similar manner, Pope Benedict says

If I have no contact whatsoever with God in my life, then I cannot see in the other anything more than the other, and I am incapable of seeing in him the image of God. But if in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be “devout” and to perform my “religious duties”, then my relationship with God will also grow arid. It becomes merely “proper”, but loveless. Only my readiness to encounter my neighbour and to show him love makes me sensitive to God as well. Only if I serve my neighbour can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me.

The kind of love, the kind of charity that God wants from us begins with encountering God, for Christian love can only come from God. Within this transformative union our charity burns with the fire of the love that God gave to us, and the love that God gave to us is is stoked by the love we give to others. In this life of love, we find a metaphor for the Trinity, as Augustine said:

If you see charity, you see the Trinity.

So may we love with the caritas that comes from God.

May we give ourselves to others in love, to find that we open ourselves to receive more love from God.

May we encounter the God of love, and allow the love he gives to us to blossom in our hearts and in our hands.

Belief in the Trinity

Do you think it is important to God that we believe we understand the Holy Trinity or do you think He wants us to constantly be trying to understand?

I think that it is important that we have faith that seeks understanding of the Trinity and many other theological concepts – atonement, salvation, forgiveness. Some of these we experience, some of these we seek to understand, and for many of them we do both. In regard to the Trinity, I believe that it is more important to seek a relationship and experience interaction than to think about or try to understand.

I do not think that it is a faithful response to say that we fully understand the Trinity. I think that there is a balance between knowing / understanding and fully understand the Trinity. Our journey at Resurrection is one of knowing, loving and serving God and this is a journey that will likely not be complete in this life.

This question came out of a young adult small group taster last Sunday morning in which I taught about the question “What is the Trinity?”