Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

For me, forgiveness isn’t condoning wrongdoing, it’s naming it. It’s not forgetting wrongdoing, it’s learning from it. Forgiveness isn’t done in isolation, it often takes a friend, a church, or other community to support you in it. It’s not a one time moment, it’s often a long term process. Like shampoo, you have to rinse and repeat! Forgiveness isn’t surrender, it’s the difficult path that leads to liberation, and ultimately peace in God … for you and the wrong doer.

What’s the hardest thing you ever had to forgive?

Forgiveness isn’t just a spiritual practice that Jesus encouraged the disciples to do; after he was raised from the dead, it was the very first thing. Forgiveness opens us and the world to freedom in God, and the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

Blessings of Peace and healing,
Mark

 

Jesus said that his sheep recognize his voice and follow (John 10:22-20). But with so many other voices vying for our attention these days, hearing demands even more intention! 

You have to admit it seems like it’s getting harder and harder to hear God’s voice amidst the chop and rise of the sea of facts and alternative facts in our day and age, of truth and truthiness, of information, misinformation, and downright misguided information, all of it eager to be sorted and processed, discarded or applied. (more…)

Almost every person of faith has experienced a revelation of the risen Christ.
What’s your story?

ALMOST ALL PEOPLE OF CHRISTIAN FAITH claim to have some sort of experience of the risen Christ. For some, it happened underneath a starlit sky, or along a shoreline at sunrise. For others, it  was in worship on a Sunday morning when the preacher was preaching a fiery message, or at a funeral when hearts were heavy with grief. (more…)

Like the cross, and the brutal form of death it once represented, death is now a way-marker or a signpost that points us toward abundant life in Christ, today, and eternal life, tomorrow.

Have you ever been with someone near the time of their death?
Find out who and what we see before we die. 

Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem, and kept his focus on the eventuality of the cross (Luke 9:51-62). Jesus was set-faced and cross-eyed. Find out how the cross, and the death it once symbolized, have now become way-markers on our greater journey. (more…)

IF SOMEONE ASKED YOU TO PICK A SHAPE TO BE BEST SYMBOLIZE LOVE, WHAT WOULD IT BE? A circle? A Square? Maybe even a Möbius loop? For Christians, love comes in the shape of a cross. The cross represents a kind of love that the ancient Greeks called, “agape” love. Agape is the kind of love that willingly lays itself down for the other.

There’s power in the cross. I once almost quit the ministry, but a deeper understanding of the cross and all that it represents called me back. Where is it calling you?

May God continue to strengthen your faith as you carry the cross throughout your Lenten journey and beyond.

Dr. Mark

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This Lent I’m preaching a sermon series at the historic Old Stone Church in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. The series is called Cross Words: There’s Power in the Cross! 

This afternoon, after our staff meeting, Old Stone’s Associate for Care, my friend and colleague in ministry, Rev. Dr. Charles D. Yoost shared this beautiful prayer from the Iona Community with me which connects so well with our Lenten  focus on the cross. Today, I share this prayer with all of you along with my own prayer that the cross may bring you closer to God and God’s purpose for your life this Lent and always.

O Christ,
The Master Carpenter,
who at the last through wood and nails,
purchased our salvation,
wield well your tools in the workshop of the world,
so that we, who come rough-hewn to your bench,
may here be fashioned to a truer beauty by your hand.
We ask this for your name and for your sake.
Amen.

– From the Iona Community, Scotland

LET’S ADMIT IT. WE MAINLINE PROTESTANTS GET DOWNRIGHT SQUEAMISH WHEN ASK US IF WE’RE BAPTIZED IN THE HOLY SPIRIT OR FIRE! We tend to leave that kind of Spirit and fire business to our peppy Pentecostal siblings and their speaking in tongues, or to our quirky Charismatic cousins and their rolling in the aisles. No siree Bob Jones! A baptism of Spirit and fire just isn’t a part of our party line.

Baptism for us mainliners tends to be all about water. We have peace like river, joy like fountain, and love like an ocean but that Spirit and fire talk has been a bit of stumbling block for us forward thinking, Princeton University founding, academic loving, progressive Presbyterians and mainline Protestants.

Well listen up! That locust-breath, desert-dwelling prophet John the Baptist says baptism with Spirit and fire is what Jesus brings. “I baptize you with water,” says John,  “but one who is more powerful than I is coming . . . He will baptize you” en pnuemati agio kai puri – “with the Holy Spirit and purifying fire.”

Baptism with Spirit and fire is for even us Presbyterians, Methodists and the like, too. Perhaps there’s a way for God’s frozen chosen to get thawed out by God’s fiery Spirit but we just have to think about it in a new way.

Walter Brueggemann, one of the foremost biblical scholars of our times says that being baptized by fire means that “we may be visited by a spirit of openness, generosity, that “the force” may come over us, carry us to do obedient things we have not yet done, kingdom things we did not think we had in us, neighborly things from which we cringe.” Being baptized in Spirit and fire inspires a belief that “God may act in us, through us, beyond us” and in greater ways “than we imagined.”

In other words, being baptized by Spirit and fire means that we live with a certain confidence, a holy hope, because even though we can’t imagine a brighter future, or better outcome, or even a distinct possibility,  we know that our very good God can. God holds out more than we ever imagined! It’s like that old hymn says, “I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds tomorrow!”

Baptism with Spirit and fire takes us beyond the limits of our own imaginations and opens us to the limitlessness of God’s. Baptism with Spirit and fire is the very essence of our faith that allows us to live with less fear and more trust, more courage, and more hope. More. Baptism with Spirit and fire allows us to get up off the couch and go up against the odds to work for peace and justice even in a world as divided, broken, and unjust as our own.

Next time you hear a voice from a closed mind – whether it belongs to someone else or even yourself, say, “Hey, sounds really nice, but somehow I just can’t imagine it ever happening!” You just tell that voice, “That’s okay, God can!”

Blessings of Peace and Love,
Mark