Category Archives: ethics
March 2, 2017 by jmar198013
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November 22, 2016 by jmar198013
Suspicious of Daniel, the Jewish exile who prayed three times a day for God to liberate his people, royal officials of the Persian empire ramrod a piece of legislation that requires all prayers to be made to the emperor, King Darius. Or be fed to the lions. When Daniel disobeys, Darius learns too late that he has been conned. The man everyone is praying to cannot save his most trusted advisor, Daniel. He himself is limited by the law he signed. Only Daniel’s God–and ours–can rescue him. God’s people and the whole creation still live in the shadow of oppressive forces of the satan, sin, and death. But like Daniel, we await the King of Kings who will rescue his people and save the creation. That is the hope of Advent people.
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June 17, 2016 by jmar198013
To say that the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus is good news because it means that there is a new creation. And this new creation is possible because the fallen creation died with Christ; and when he rose, he brought a new creation with him. And in this new creation, everyone and everything is reconciled to God. This is a very big, very good gospel.
I want to celebrate this very big, very good news. I want us to celebrate the gospel—this gospel—together. But I suspect that some of you might be sniffing around this very good gospel for horse manure. And that’s okay. Some days, I do, too. So if any of you are thinking, “Preacher, either Paul was full of it; or you are; or both of you are”; I get it. That’s totally understandable.
When we look around our world, everything doesn’t look reconciled, does it? When we examine our lives, everything doesn’t feel reconciled, does it?
Some preachers will just tell you not to trust what your eyes can plainly see; what you have learned from experience; or what your heart already knows. But there is a very real tension between what Paul has told us, and what we see and feel and experience every day. It would be dishonest of me; or of you; or anyone, to deny that this tension exists.
March 19, 2016 by jmar198013
During Passover in Jesus’ day, the Roman governor Pilate would enter Jerusalem, leading a battalion or two of Roman security forces. On war horses. It was a mighty display of shock and awe. Peace through strength.
But Luke didn’t even bother mentioning Pilate’s Passover parade in his Gospel. Everyone already knew about that.
Instead, Luke made sure to tell about the time Jesus led a bootleg Passover parade through the other side of the city. He rode in on a (borrowed) donkey. His parade consisted of rowdy disciples singing off-key hymns (and butchering the words); and throwing their garments on the ground.
Two parades going on at opposite sides of the same town. At roughly the same time. And the two parades tell two different stories about peace, and what a peaceable kingdom looks like.
We must all choose to join one of those parades. You can’t be in both, because they’re on opposite ends of town.
Which parade will you be in?
March 9, 2016 by jmar198013
Less than a week before Jesus’ death, his friend Mary anointed his feet with perfume that cost a year’s wages. His disciple Judas complained: “That could have been sold, and the money given to the poor!”
But Jesus said: “You will always have the poor with you. But you will not always have me.”
But what if Jesus IS always among us in the form of the poor we serve? Remember, Jesus was a poor homeless man on the verge of death. And Mary poured out a year of wages to make sure he smelled good! What if that’s our example to follow? What if Jesus’ point is we should be THAT extravagant when we serve the poor?
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February 25, 2016 by jmar198013
Once some folks told Jesus that Pilate has massacred some of his neighbors. Obviously, these folks thought the dead had it coming.
Not Jesus! He didn’t blame the victims. He didn’t even blame the system. He turned it back on the ones who thought Pilate was doing God’s work: “Do you really think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans?”, he asked. “No. But I tell you, unless you repent, you will likewise perish.”
I think he was saying: “You have more in common with the people you’re judging than you think.” The repentance Jesus wants is compassion. Mercy. Empathy. When we fail at those, we’re burning the only bridge we have to cross, too.
February 11, 2016 by jmar198013
Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” But in Luke 4.1-13, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. These temptations are meant to persuade Jesus to take an easier, softer way than the way of the cross. They are shortcuts that embody “ends justify the means” thinking. And they appeal to comfort, power, and security.
This story should prompt us to examine what means are willing to use, or to justify, for the ends of comfort, power, and security? What shortcuts are we willing to take in our pursuit of those things? Perhaps we should pray: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from shortcuts.”