Saturday, March 21, 2009

On Guys Wearing Hats in Worship

Recently, I have had several people comment on one of our musicians wearing a hat in worship. Just so you know the context, The Vine is the name of the worship service and it is a contemporary worship service. The guy wearing a hat is not wearing a ball cap or a cowboy hat. It is one of those nice dress hats. He is a very eccentric person, but I believe him to be very committed to Jesus. In fact, he is so committed to our worship service that he has made other sacrifices just to play in the praise band. He is a very nice guy with a loving heart. I am sure that he in no way wants to hurt anyone by wearing a hat. He believes he is expressing his personality on stage.

It seems the two opinions are a follows. (1) Guys should not wear hats in worship because it is disrespectful. (2) There is nothing in the bible that says wearing a hat is wrong, so it should not matter what other people think. If this person wants to wear a hat, they can.

In trying to figure out the best way to approach this issue in a way that helps both this musician and the those with the complaints, and most importantly gives honor to God, which is what I believe worship is all about. In order to get some grounding for how to approach this issue and I believe this must begin with the Bible. Of coarse, I have not found anything that specifically answers this question, but there is one that seems to address some of the factors involved. The passage comes from 1 Corinthians 11. Paul writes,

2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. 3 But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, [a] and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.

    7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own [b] head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

    13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

In 1 Corinthians it seems Paul is addressing several problem areas in the Corinthian church and worship practices seem to one of those areas. He actually writes about worship practices all the way through chapter 14. In chapter 11, it appears that the Corinthians church has disregarded common practices of the day. The issue in question seems to be made clear in verse 13. "Is it proper for women to pray to God with her head uncovered?" It seems that Paul answers the question in verses 14-16. He concludes that the common practice of the other churches is for a guys head to be uncovered and a woman's to be covered. It appears that Paul sticks to tradition in answering this question.

Paul's explanation for why he concludes what he does begins in verse 2. I think he is stating the traditional opinion that a man is honored without a head covering and a female is honored when her head is covered. The reason flows from the order of creation. God-Male-Female.

You will notice that Paul admits in verse 10 that a woman should have authority over her own head. In other words, a woman should have the freedom to cover their heads or to leave them uncovered. Paul also expresses a similar truth to that in Galatians that there is no male or female in Christ, everything comes from God. Paul points out that nobody is independent of anyone else. Paul's conclusion then is not based on Men being superior to women, but on following a cultural norm. It really appears to me that Paul wants to offend the least amount of people by telling the Corinthians they should follow customs because nobody is independent of anyone else.

I believe this truth stems from one that Paul made just one chapter earlier. He says, "I have the right to do anything," you say—but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything"—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others." In chapter 10 Paul is saying that there are no such things as idols, therefore the meat should be fine to eat, but as to not offend, if someone is offended by the eating of meat that comes from the market, which has been involved in temple sacrifice, then don't eat it. The same truth applies here. While women are free to uncover their head, in this context it is not beneficial.

What mat we conclude about the question, "Should Guys Wear Hats in Worship?"

  1. I don't believe God really cares if we wear a hat in worship or not. It should be a non issue.
  2. In the south especially, cultural norms say that men should not wear hats in worship.
  3. Our musician is free to wear a hat if he wants to,
  4. However, Paul's advice would be to follow cultural norms so that the least amount of people are offended and distracted in worship.
  5. Worship is about God and his saving work in Jesus. Everything that is done in worship should honor God. When we take away from others honoring God, we should think and pray about making a change.

I think my next step as the pastor in the worship service would be to express these five things to our musician and let him think and pray about wearing the hat in worship. I would love comments about this blog and reflections.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sermon 03/22/09 24 Redemption Part 4: “The Irony of it All”

Scripture: Mark 14:53-15:20

Over the last several weeks, we have been working our way through the last 24 hours of Jesus' life. We first looked at the story of the woman, possibly Mary, who poured perfume over Jesus' head to anoint him for burial. We then looked together at the Last Supper and the Gethsemane story.

Today we will be looking at Jesus on trial. The Gospel of Mark records the story this way.

53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.

55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.

57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.' " 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.

60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, "Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?" 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?"

62 "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."

63 The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. 64 "You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?" They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, "Prophesy!" And the guards took him and beat him.

66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. "You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus," she said.

68 But he denied it. "I don't know or understand what you're talking about," he said, and went out into the entryway. [a]

69 When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, "This fellow is one of them." 70 Again he denied it. After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, "Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean."

71 He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, "I don't know this man you're talking about."

72 Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. [b] Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows twice [c] you will disown me three times." And he broke down and wept.

1 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

2 "Are you the king of the Jews?" asked Pilate. "You have said so," Jesus replied.

3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, "Aren't you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of."

5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

6 Now it was the custom at the Festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. 8 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

9 "Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?" asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.

12 "What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?" Pilate asked them.

13 "Crucify him!" they shouted.

14 "Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!"

15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

The gospels agree on the trials of Jesus for the most part. Luke adds one extra step, telling his readers that the first time Jesus was sent to Pilate, he did not find fault with him and sent him over to Herod. Herod simply wanted Jesus to perform magic and is disappointed, se he sends him back to Pilate. John's gospel seems to focus in more on Jesus' interactions with Pilate, making Pilate look better than most historians do.


As I read and studied the trials of Jesus, primary in the gospel of Mark, I have been struck by the number of ironies in this passage. Some of you may remember Alanis Morissette's song Ironic. She sings,

An old man turned ninety-eight

He won the lottery and died the next day

It's a black fly in your Chardonnay

It's a death row pardon two minutes too late

It's like rain on your wedding day

It's a free ride when you've already paid

It's the good advice that you just didn't take

Who would've thought... it figures

It's like rain on your wedding day

It's a free ride when you've already paid

It's the good advice that you just didn't take

Who would've thought... it figures

"It's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife

It's meeting the man of my dreams

And then meeting his beautiful wife

And isn't it ironic… don't you think

A little too ironic… and yeah I really do think


As I was reading this story, I was saying the same thing about the trials of Jesus. The events that unfold tend to be very ironic. According to Wikipedia, Mark uses dramatic irony, which is a disparity of expression and awareness: when words and actions possess significance that the listener or audience understands, but the speaker or character does not.

A Little Ironic

Irony #1:

The first two ironies come from the way Mark and Matthew frame this story. Notice that the trial of Jesus begins, Mark shifts over to the story of Peter denying he knows Jesus. Mark records that the High Priest asks the question, "Are you the Messiah?" The sentence in Greek reads, "auvtw/|\ su. ei= o` cristo.j" If we go back to Mark 8, where Peter confesses, "You are the messiah", which reads auvtw/|\ su. ei= o` cristo,jÅ in Greek. Ironically, the High Priest makes a confession while Peter who once clamed Jesus was the Messiah denies knowing him.


Irony #2

The second irony comes from the reactions of those around Jesus. They blindfolded Jesus and hit him, then asked him to prophecy who had hit him. They were mocking Jesus as a false prophet. Ironically, Mark then records Peter denying that he knows Jesus, just as Jesus had foretold earlier in chapter 14. In other words, those trying Jesus considered him a false prophet when he was actually able to prophecy.

Irony #3

The third irony has to do with Jesus being on trial. The high priest and the rest of the Council are there to cast judgment about Jesus. Indeed, they find him to be guilty. Notice however, the words Jesus uses to describe himself in when he is asked the question, "Are you the Messiah?" Jesus answers, "I am; and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."

Jesus is taking a metaphor from Daniel 7, in which Daniel sees the "Ancient One" casting judgment over the whole earth. Then, he sees one like a human being, coming with the clouds of heaven. The Ancient One gives him dominion, power, and glory. In other words, Jesus is saying to those passing judgment on him that one day, God will vindicate him and he will be the one given power to judge them.

Irony #4

Fourth, Pilate fails to make a judgment about Jesus, so he lets the people choose a person to release. They decide to release a guy named Barabbas who, more than likely led some sort of revolt against Rome, possibly a violent revolt. The people choose to have Jesus crucified. Jesus, who is innocent, dies in the place of a criminal. The irony is that Mark's readers realize that Jesus' dies a death that he doesn't deserve for people who do.

Irony #5

Notice also the questions that were asked of different people. The High Priest asks, "Are you the Messiah" and Pilate asks, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Peter was asked if he knew Jesus. The irony for Mark is that these are not just questions he wants the people in the gospels to answer. These are the questions he wants the readers to answer. Each of us has to make a judgment about Jesus. Do we believe that Jesus is the Messiah? Do we believe that he is the king? Will we acknowledge that we know and follow Jesus? The gospels ask us to make a judgment about the good news of Jesus.

Hatch or Go Bad

Have you ever had a discussion with your spouse, or a boy friend, or girl friend, or maybe even a friend about where to eat? If they are anything like my experiences, it probably goes something like this. 'Where do you want to eat?" I don't know, how about you." "I don't know either." If we are going to go eat, somebody has to make a decision.

In this passage, Pilate is seen as a person who fails to make a decision about Jesus. Instead, he allows the decision to go to popular vote. Mark makes it clear that by not making a decision about Jesus, he sided with everyone who shouted "crucify him."

CS Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity makes the point that we must make a decision about Jesus. He says it is like an egg, it either has to hatch or go bad. Today, Mark is asking us to make a decision for or against Jesus. I believe we make this decision by choosing to follow Jesus in our lives.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sermon 3/15/09 24 Redemption Part 3: “The Problem with a Perfect Prayer Life”

Mark 14:32-52


Over the past several weeks, we have been walking through the last 24 hours of Jesus' life. The first week, we guessed that about 24 hours before Jesus died, he may have been at the home of Lazarus and been anointed by Mary with oil. Last week, we suggested that about 20 hours before he died, he gathered his disciples together and shared the Last Supper with them around the Passover Meal. This morning, we are going to move a few hours closer to Jesus death as we look together at the story of Jesus in Gethsemane. This may have taken place about 16-18 hours before Jesus died. Mark 14:32-52 reads as follows:

32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch."

    35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."

    37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

    39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.

    41 Returning the third time, he said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"

    43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.

    44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: "The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard." 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Rabbi!" and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

    48 "Am I leading a rebellion," said Jesus, "that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled." 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.

    51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.


Now that Melanie and I are parents, we have had a lot of adjusting to do. One of the biggest adjustments has been functioning on a lack of sleep. Caleb is a pretty good baby and does sleep fairly well at night, but he is still a baby and requires Melanie and I to get up at night.

Melanie and I have a pretty good routine. When Caleb cries, I get up and change his diaper. I then hand him over to Melanie so she can feed him and then I go back to bed. Every now and then, Melanie will just be plain exhausted and ask me to stay up and keep her awake. On those occasions, I will do my best to stay awake, but often I will wake up just as Melanie finishes feeding him.

In our Scripture lesson this morning, we find that the disciples are having a similar problem of staying awake. After Jesus had finished his meal with the disciples, they go to a place called Gethsemane, which literally means "oil press." This was probably an olive grove. John's gospel tells us that this was a place Jesus and the disciples went frequently.

Jesus then tells his disciples that to stay where they are while he goes off to pray. Mark tells us that he takes with him Peter, James, and John. Mark tells us that Jesus becomes "distressed," and "agitated." He then tells the disciples that he is "deeply grieved." Jesus then walks just a bit further, but tells the three disciples to stay awake.

When Jesus comes back, you can image what he finds. The disciples are sound asleep. He wakes them up, tells them to pray and we he comes back the second time, they are sound asleep. Again, Jesus prays a third time and returns to find the disciples asleep again. Both Mark and Matthew tell us that the disciples were asleep because their "eyes were heavy." Luke tells us that it was more than just being tired, but rather they were so overwhelmed with grief. Luke also tells us that Jesus was so overwhelmed with the situation that he was actually sweating blood.


The Perfect Prayer Life

What I find fascinating about this text is the comparison between the prayers of Jesus and the actions of the disciples and how this plays out throughout this text. First, notice the disciples. They have just had a meal with Jesus where he tells them straight out that he is going to die. He has been telling them this for some time now. I am not sure if they have really gotten it yet, but they could have been grieved by this situation. At the least, they were tired. Jesus tells Peter that he needs to pray so that he doesn't fall into temptation. What does Peter do? He sleeps.

Jesus on the other hand is grieved, even to the point of death. He then goes to God in prayer. Notice the substance of this prayer. "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." This prayer is reminiscent of the prayer he taught his disciples. Notice he begins by called God "Abba" which is a very personal address for God. He then notes that God is all-powerful. He asks God to take away the cup, but as in the Lord 's Prayer, we states that he wants God's will to be done. Jesus prays this pray three times, which is normal for a 1st century Jewish person who is in crises.

Notice when Jesus finishes the third prayer, Judas comes with a crowd to arrest Jesus. Remember Peter's prayer life. When the crowd comes to arrest Jesus, one of the twelve, which John names as Peter, pulls out his sword and cut's off the ear of the high priest's servant. Notice also Jesus' reaction. He stays calm. He allows them to arrest him and take him away. Luke's gospel says that Jesus even healed the servant's ear.

What should we conclude about this contrast? Jesus prayed that the cup might be taken from him, but when the time came, he was arrested. I am sure Jesus would not have wanted to be arrested and it appeared that the cup he wanted to be passed from him was happening.

While Jesus did not get what he asked for, through this time of prayer is seems that God have him the strength he needed to endure. The disciples without having spent any prayer time completely flipped out. Mark tells us that they all ran away. Jesus on the other hand seemed to have a strength that was given to him from God. Luke actually tells us that God sent an angel to comfort him.

I am convinced that there is a profound truth to this story regarding prayer. Jesus knew the next 18 hours would be difficult and, like any of us, wanted that not to happen. He also knew that this was what God had called him to do. So, God did not pass the cup from him, but gave him the strength to endure.

Oftentimes when we pray for certain outcomes to come true, but the reality is that sometimes the outcomes are not what we want. Even when this is the case, I believe that through our prayers, God will give us the strength to endure.

Staying in the Garden

This story as NT Wright puts it, "[I]s part of normal Christian experience that we, too should be prepared to agonize in prayer as we await out complete redemption and that of all creation."(NT Wright, Luke for Everyone 200) In other words, I still believe that God calls us to pray in agony over things that hurt and destroy lives. I also believe that there are times when God calls us to stand in prayer for others when they are suffering. Oftentimes we want to flee when things are tough, but I believe God is called his people to stand in prayer with the strength of God so that redemption can happen.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Lenten Lecture Series: Spiritual Disciplines Part 2 “Searching the Scriptures”


Slide 1:

"I want to know one thing,"
—the way to heaven: how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be a man of one book." John Wesley


Slide 2: How did Scripture come to be?

Slide 3&4:

2 Peter 1:16-21.

For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.             

Slide 5:

2 Peter 3:16

He (Paul) writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Slide 6:

According to Peter, these sources are Scripture:

  1. Testimony about Jesus
  2. Prophecy of the Old Testament (includes all of the OT)
  3. Paul's writings


Slide 7:

Eusebius on Scripture

  1. Usefulness to the church
  2. Apostolic origins
  3. Theological consistency with books that is clearly apostolic.


Slide 8: What does the Bible itself say about Scripture?

Slide 9:

2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God's people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Slide 10:

  • Inspired by God (theopneustos God breathed meaning and truth into them.)
  • The goal of Scripture is to make sure Christians are equipped for every good work
  • The authority does not rest in the bible itself, but by God who has authority and used the bible as means of communicating As NT Wright says, "God exercises his authority through Scripture.

Slide 11:

  1. The Bible is the infallible word of God
  2. The Bible was a 1st century book and should be read as a good history book
  3. The Bible was a 1st century book written by human beings, but conveys timeless truths which connect us with God.


Slide 12&13:

Modern scholarship has absolutely nothing to say about whether the Bible is the Word of God or not. There is simply no way anyone can look at the biblical story or law or even an individual word and say, "This is authentically divine," or This is merely human…. Just as human words can be used by God, so, I would suppose, can human stories and human laws and human ideas. And even where one part of the Bible contradicts another part, does that prove that one of them is merely human? When you think about it, the answer has to be no.

For a lot of people, including some biblical scholars, the Bible is just another ancient Near Eastern text or collection of texts. But for a great many Jews and Christians, it continues to play the role it always has played: It is the book, the great revelation of God's way with human beings, his guide for leading a life in keeping with his will, and the path to salvation. (An interview with James Kugel in US News and World Report James Kugel is a retired professor of Hebrew Literature at Harvard University.)

Slide 13: How do we "Search the Scriptures?"

Slide 14: Examine Ourselves

  1. What is happening in our world?
  2. What is happening in our lives?
  3. What is our motivation for studying?
  4. Will we be able to listen to the text?


Slide 15: Choosing a Translation

  1. Word for Word- NASB
  2. Thought for Thought TNIV, NIV, NRSV, NLT,
  3. Paraphrase- The Message, The Living Bible


Slide 16: Methods of Studying Scripture through questions

  1. What is the genre of the texts?
  2. Where are the boundary markers of the text and within the text?
  3. What is the structure or strategy of the passage?
  4. What is the main theme of the passage?
  5. What is the context of the passage (What happened before and after)
  6. What key words or themes occur in the passage?
  7. What is the socio-historical setting of the text?
  8. What Old Testament passages appear to be behind the text?
  9. What other passages come to mind from this text?
  10. What have others said about this text?

Joel Green, Seized by Truth

Slide 17: Application of the texts

  1. What were the truths being taught in the text?
  2. How do those truths apply to the situation of the 21st Century?
  3. How do those truths apply to my own situation?


Slide 18: Sources for more reading:

Joel B. Green, Seized by Truth (Abingdon Press)

Ben Witherington, The Living Word of God (Baylor Press)

NT Wright, The Last Word (Harper San Francisco)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Liturgy for Communion Taken from the Haggadah, Luke 22, and Psalms 113 and 116


Pastor: Jesus told his disciples," I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God." Jesus then pronounced a blessing over the first cup

People: Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Pastor: After the second cup of wine is prepared, the youngest son would ask, "What makes this night so different from all nights?"

People: We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord, our God, took us out from there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm. Even if all of us were wise, all of us understanding, all of us knowing the Torah, we would still be obligated to discuss the exodus from Egypt; and everyone who discusses the exodus from Egypt at length is praiseworthy.

Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD, you his servants; praise the name of the LORD. Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised. The LORD is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens.

Pastor: After taking the second cup, Jesus gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."

People: May the Merciful One break the yoke of exile from our neck and may He lead us upright to our land.

Pastor: Why is Unleavened Bread Eaten?

People: This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat.

Pastor: Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."

People: I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise is always in my mouth. Ultimately, all is known; fear God and observe His commandments, for this is the whole purpose of man. My mouth will utter the praise of the L-rd; let all flesh bless His holy Name forever. And we will bless the Lord from now to eternity. Praise the Lord.

Pastor: In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory because of your love and faithfulness.

For you, LORD, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.





Friday, March 06, 2009

The Lord’s Supper Breakdown




When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.

When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.

14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.


15 And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.


16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God."


17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you.

21 And while they were eating, he said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me."

18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me."

21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!"

22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?"

19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, "Surely not I?"

23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.

    23 Jesus replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."

20 "It is one of the Twelve," he replied, "one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."


25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" Jesus answered, "You have said so."


 26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."

22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body."

    19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."

27 Then he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you.

23 Then he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying,

28 This is my blood of the [b] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

    24 "This is my blood of the [c] covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them.

"This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

29 I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."

25 "Truly I tell you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."

18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."

    30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.


Events in all three synoptic gospels:

  1. Ate a meal with disciples
  2. Jesus pointed out that someone would betray him
  3. The disciples question Jesus about who it is
  4. Jesus broke bread and said, this is was his body
  5. Jesus took a cup and said that this was a new covenant poured out for many
  6. Jesus says he either will not drink again until he is in God's kingdom


Events in Matthew and Mark, but not Luke:


  1. The one, who betrays his will dips into his bowl, will betray him. Then he warns about this.
  2. They sing a hymn

Events in Luke, but not in Matthew and Mark:

  1. Jesus says he is eager to eat the Passover meal with the disciples before he suffers
  2. Jesus adds that he will not eat this meal again until he does so in God's kingdom
  3. Jesus' saying about not drinking from the cup again is done so as he passes an extra cup.

Events in Matthew, but not in Mark and Luke

Judas specifically asks if he will be the one to betray Jesus and Jesus reply's, "You have said so."

Sermon 3/8/09 24 Redemption Part 2: “Making a Meal of It”

"Making a Meal of It"

Luke 22:14-23


About five years ago, when we were having The Vine in the gym, we severed communion like we normally do. I thought the service had gone well and the sermon was pretty good. After the service was over, I noticed a group of college students meeting over in the back corner, sitting in a circle. A few of the students had the Bible's open. It appeared that they were looking up different Scripture texts. Being curious, I walked over and asked them what they were looking up.

One of the students looked up from her Bible, and said, "We did not like the way you served communion so we were looking for the place in the Bible to tell you to read so that you would not do that again." I went from being curious to agitated, so I asked what they thought I had done wrong. They said, "You served communion to people who were unbelievers and we know the bible says not to do this."

At this point, they still had not found the Scripture passage they were looking for, so I thought I would help them out. I told them to look in 1 Corinthians 11. Paul does tell the Corinthians that some of the Corinthians were getting sick because they were taking communion in an "unworthy manner." We did have good discussion about communion and the passage in 1 Corinthians. At the end of the day, I think we had all made our points and agreed to disagree.

There has been several issue of contention over Communion in the last 2000 years, ranging from who can receive communion, how often it should be taken, and what happens when the elements are blessed.

As we go back and look at the last meal Jesus ate with his disciples, which happened about 20 hours or so before he died, I hope we will better understand what happened at that meal and what it means to celebrate this meal when we take communion. Luke's gospel records the story as follows,

14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God."

 17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."

 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."

 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!" 23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.

All three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) record this story. John's gospel records a last meal, but seems to highlight Jesus washing the disciple's feet. Either this was the same meal with a different emphasis or these meals are separated by time, perhaps a day or so.

The storyline in the synoptic gospels run fairly similar. Luke changes some of the order, but here is the basic outline.

  1. Ate a meal with disciples
  2. Jesus pointed out that someone would betray him
  3. The disciples question Jesus about who it is
  4. Jesus broke bread and said, this is was his body
  5. Jesus took a cup and said that this was a new covenant poured out for many
  6. Jesus says he either will not drink again until he is in God's kingdom

Luke adds the following to the story line.

  1. Jesus says he is eager to eat the Passover meal with the disciples before he suffers
  2. Jesus adds that he will not eat this meal again until he does so in God's kingdom
  3. Jesus' saying about not drinking from the cup again is done so as he passes an extra cup.

The setting for this supper was the Passover meal, which was celebrated each year by all Jews. This was the meal which remembered Israel's rescue by God from Egypt, as recorded in the book of Exodus. It was called Passover because God "passed over" the first born children of Israel and killed the first born sons of the Egyptians, causing Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go and worship God. At this meal, four cups of wine would be passed as the family shared the story of the Exodus. The youngest son would ask the head of the household why this meal was so special. They ate unleavened bread and ate bitter spices to represent their slavery and God's hurried rescue.

It was at this dinner that Jesus shared his last meal with the disciples. As Jesus passed the first or second cup, he broke away from the standard liturgy and told his disciples that he would not drink from the fruit of the vine again until he was in God's kingdom.

Before the meal was shared, the bread would be passed around and they would speak about its meaning. As Jesus passed the bread, he said that it was his body, given for them. After the supper was over, two more cups of wine would be passed. Jesus took one of these post dinner cups and said that it was the blood of the new covenant, poured out for them.

What exactly was Jesus trying to say at this Passover meal? According to Rabbi Irving Greenberg, the primary meaning of Passover was that by reliving God's act of his liberated the Hebrews from slavery gave the hope that God would liberate the whole word from sin and bondage. Jews believed that one day, God's kingdom would reign and the world would be set free. He says the Exodus story set up an alternative conception of life. While this has not been realized in the world yet, this is the goal to which it will go.

I want to submit that Jesus is saying that in his death, this alternative conception of life has come to pass. When Jesus says that the bread is his body and the wine is his blood of the new covenant, Jesus believes this is now happening. God is about to liberate the whole world from sin and bondage just as he liberated the Hebrews from Egypt. Jesus is saying that this will be a reality in his own death. Like the Passover lamb was slaughtered, he will die in order to bring life.

Jesus does ask his followers to do these things in remembrance of him. Therefore we take the wine and the bread and we remember that Jesus gave his life in order to set the whole world free from sin and bondage. We remember that Jesus died to set us free in order to bring life.

Argument at the Dinner Table

Luke adds one story to the end of this special meal. While Jesus is talking about the significance of this meal and what he is about to do, Luke tells us that the disciples begin to argue about which one of them is the greatest. Think about this scene for a moment. The disciples are obviously not in the proper mind set for the things Jesus is saying. They still seem to refuse to believe that Jesus is going to die and they are arguing over meaningless stuff.

The closest example I can think of would be a family arguing over their parent's inheritance when one of their parents are in the midst of dying. Instead of living in the moment and capturing their last memories, they are fighting. The disciples were missing out on this amazing moment that would transform the world.

Amazingly, Jesus served every disciple and Judas, who would leave and betray him. As I have reflected about this action, I think Jesus is showing us a foretaste of what heaven will be like. Jesus invites each and every person to the table to experience the bread and the cup. In these elements is represented the life changing act of Jesus' death that transforms the world. Jesus invited the disciples to the table, in spite of their shortcomings and he invites us all to his table, just the way we are. However, Jesus does not expect to leave us the way we are when we come to the table, Jesus expects to transform us through the grace that comes from the table.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Sermon 3/1/09 24 Redemption Part One: Arguing Over Poured Perfume

Arguing Over Poured Perfume

Mark 14:1-11


As many of you know, my son was born on February 13th. It was a very amazing moment. There were people running around everywhere. I finally got to hold him after he was cleaned up and checked out. Melanie and I spent a couple of days in the hospital with him. It was a good time as we visited with friends and family. We learned a lot about taking care of him.

Amazingly, they let us out of the hospital with him on Sunday afternoon. I remember asking two nurses if they were actually going to let me out of the hospital with him. Carrying to the car really made it sink in that the hard work and the memories were just beginning.

The same is true in our Christian faith. Oftentimes we refer to the moment of following Jesus as our "new birth." The actual act of following him is where the difficulty and memories really begin.

In the early church there was a practice to prepare Christians for this journey of following Jesus. The day before Easter, new converts were baptized as a mark of following Jesus. They would enter into a time of preparation for six weeks, which became known as Lent. After the candidates were baptized, they would be anointed with oil as a sign of being a part of the community of faith as they pledged to live the Christian life together.

In the season of Lent, we will be studying the last 24 hours of Jesus' life. We hope that during this time of preparation we will be able to grow in our faith commitment so that we can better follow Jesus.

As we begin studying the last 24 hours of Jesus' life, we are going to begin with the story found in Mark 14. It says,

Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. "But not during the Festival," they said, "or the people may riot."

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, "Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor." And they rebuked her harshly.

"Leave her alone," said Jesus. "Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

This story is also recorded in Matthew and in the Gospel of John, although the sequential order is different. John's gospel has the story situated just before Jesus enters Jerusalem in the last week of his life. Mark locates the story just after the temple arguments and the prediction of the temple's destruction. Mark tells us that this event could have happened two days before Passover, which would have been on a Wednesday. The text does not actually say this even happened two days before Passover, but that it happened when Jesus was spending time in Bethany, before the Passover dinner.

You may be wondering why I would begin a sermon series about the last twenty four hours of Jesus life with a passage that may well have happened days before. The answer is that while this passage may not have happened in the last day of his life, it certainly points to the theme of Jesus' last day.

Jesus was dinning at the home of Simon the Leaper when a woman comes up to him and anoints his head with expensive perfume. We are told that this perfume was so expensive that it cost about a year's wages. Another difference between the story recorded in Mark and Matthew and John's gospel is that John says that Jesus was at the home of Lazarus in Bethany. Mary is the woman who has the perfume.

There is a similar story recorded in Luke's gospel where an unnamed woman, who is called a "sinner" anoints Jesus with oil at the home of Simon the Pharisee. Some people have claimed that these stories are the same story, but I believe there are actually two anointing stories.

Notice right away the disciples get upset because of the waste of money. John's gospel focuses particularly on Judas, who John says wanted to steal money. Either way, it appears that the disciples as a whole are uncomfortable with this action because it was such a waste of money.

Jesus' words contradict the disciples as he tells his disciples that what she has done is a good thing. He then explains why he believes this is good. He tells them again a message that he has been trying to get across to them. He tells them that they will always have the poor with them, but he will not be with them much longer.

As I was studying this passage, one question kept popping up in my mind. The question I asked myself was, "What did this woman believe the significance of this action was?" As I began studying I learned that there were really three reasons to anoint someone with perfume or oil. (1) Romantic or cosmetic reasons (2) Burial Rites (3) In the Old Testament, kings and prophets were anointed with oil. Interestingly enough, kings who were being buried were anointed with oil on their head.

The woman in this passage seems to understand two truths that the disciples are still having a tough time with. She seems to know that Jesus is a true king and that this king would soon die. I think this is the truth Mark hope we will see.

Notice the different characters in this passage. The chief priests and the teacher of the law, along with Judas are looking for ways to kill Jesus. They seem to know that he will die, but they fail to recognize who Mark believes Jesus to be. The disciples on the other hand seem to understand that Jesus is a king like figure, but just can't comprehend that he is about to die. Although over and over again, he tells them these two truths, they cannot put it together like this woman at Simon the Leaper's home.

Believing vs. Obeying

The two approaches to Jesus in the first century remind me some of the way I see folks approaching Jesus today. On the one hand, we have people who remind me of the disciples and they believe all the correct things about Jesus. They can tell you the exact date they came to believe in Jesus. Yet sometimes those of us, who believe so strongly in Jesus, seem to fail to follow what Jesus is teaching us. I don't know if it is because we get caught up in believing the right things, but we do not live out the things Jesus taught us. Like the disciples who failed to grasp the reality that Jesus would die soon and that his kingdom was very different from what they had in mind.

On the other hand, there are those who say Jesus was an amazing teacher and we should respect his teaching and live by it, but they fail to believe the things that Jesus claimed about himself. For some reason they fail to recognize that God sent Jesus into the world to lead people out of brokenness and into wholeness. The story of the woman anointing Jesus reminds us that Believing and Obedience go had in hand.

A couple of years ago I taught a class here at the church called, "The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy." The class was modeled after some of the essays from a book by the same name. I love CS Lewis and I have studied him a lot, but I was not really a philosophy expert.

After reading the book, I set out to teach this class and I found out that while I could read the book and understand the philosophy in the book, I really did not understand how it all fit together. I struggled with a lot of the philosophy in that class because I did not really know or understand philosophy. In order to teach something like that you have to know it inside and out. In order to know it inside and out, you have to immerse yourself in it, you have to have a true passions for it.

I think the same is true about following Jesus. In order to really follow Jesus, we have to immerse ourselves with the truth about who he was and is. Then we have to fall in love with him and his teaching. I believe the Lenten journey calls us to a deep committed faith in Jesus.