Friday, March 8, 2013

Joy on the Way to the Cross

It is interesting. As I read the lections for March 17 and try to find appropriate readings, that I notice that many of them are so very joyful and hopeful.

Is 43: 16-31--"I am about to do a new thing"
Ps. 126--When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion
Phil 2:4-14--I press on toward the upward calling

only the gospel text hints at the coming of the crucifixion through the words and actions of Jesus.

From this side of the cross, we view difficulty of holy week with both trepidation and joyful anticipation, We know that while we remember the horror of the crucifixion, Friday is not the final word. Easter Sunday is the final word. We must not forget the cross, but thank God from our perspective we know that the cross is not the end of the story. And thank God, that even through the lectionary readings, we are reminded of this truth.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lenten Discipline and the Name It Claim It Pseudo-Gospel

Recently I preached a sermon focused on one of the seven churches of Revelation. The Scripture (in Revelation 2) said to the church, encouraged the people that "although they were poor, they were rich". Meaning that even though they were experiencing present economic and political hardship as a congregation, they were rich in the things that really mattered, such as faith, love, and honor.

One of the members of our worshiping community also attends a congregation that preaches an extreme form of the prosperity gospel. If anything bad happens to you, or if anything is difficult for you, or if you are not wealthy, it is because somehow you have failed spiritually. Somehow this text spoke to him about how wrongheaded the gospel of "name it and claim it" is.

Interestingly, my friend shared with me another experience. He is teaching youth spiritual disciplines. He approached this pastor about teaching about fasting during the season of Lent. The pastor reacted very strongly against any mention of the season of Lent, calling it "legalism". Why would this pastor reject Lent? At first, I thought because of its relationship to liturgical and Catholic teaching. Now I think different. I think this pastor rejected Lenten discipline because Lent trains the body and the soul in the healing and redemptive nature of self-denial and suffering. By embracing the fast of Lent, or any fast for that matter, one has to believe that going without something one loves or desires helps one grow, has the potential to bring one closer to Christ, and to help one understand how to be rich while experience the "poverty" of something.

Lent is about going to the cross with Christ. The prosperity gospel is about escaping the cruciform nature of the life of discipleship. The name and claim it gospel, in fact, attempts to treat the cross as a candy-dispenser of grace, forget about the suffering savior, and run directly to the empty tomb in triumph. As a result, the movement preaches a bastard half-gospel of salvation that attempts to transform the God of the universe into a step and fetch it bitch of the faithful instead of the Sovereign Master of all.

So I encourage you, as you embrace a Lenten fast, to take the opportunity to remember that God is God, and you are not.