Archive for April, 2009

how cool is that?  you can find the entire bible illustrated in legos!

how cool is that? you can find the entire bible illustrated in legos!

Mark 14:17-25

17When it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” 20He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. 21For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”

22While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”


According to Mark, the meal the disciples and Jesus share was the Passover Seder, the meal shared between friends and family in which they retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt.  This is a meal of celebration rooted in ritual; ritual foods, ritual drink, and ritual remembrance.  Jesus knew this would be the last meal he shared with the disciples.  Even though he knew that one of them would soon betray him, they ate and drank as friends, as family. 


Eating was a central theme in the life and ministry of Jesus.  Eating is central to our Christian faith as well as we gather together for potlucks, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Eating together was and continues to be a celebratory moment, even when darkness looms over the horizon, as it did for Jesus. 


This was the last meal for Jesus but it was the first Communion for those who would become Christians.  Communion is a sacrament—a ritual in which God draws us closer to God and to one another.  It is more than a simple remembrance of Christ Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection it is that and more.  It is a time in which we join together with all of the Christians who have come before us and all of those Christians who will come after us—it truly is a foretaste of the glorious heavenly banquet to come.


Holy God, we give to thanks and praise for your gracious gift and sacrifice of your son, Christ Jesus.  We also offer thanksgiving for the sacrament of Communion in which you pull us closer to your very breast.  We have done nothing to deserve this grace and mercy and yet you continue to bring us ever closer to you and to one another.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.



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christensen_-_widows_mite_theMark 12:  38-44

38As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
41He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

     Jesus spent Wednesday in the Temple teaching through parables.  The first parable Mark mentions is one about the master’s vineyard in which the slaves kill the master’s messengers and even his son,   He says that when the high priests realized that he had told a story against them they then sent in others in an attempt to trap him, so that he would offend the crowds that were listening to him teach.  However, Jesus’ answers outwit the questioners each time and the crowds cheer with appreciation.  The high priests whisper together that he must be stopped, they must kill him but not in front of these crowds because the crowds love him.  The parable of the widow who gives all she has is the last he teaches in the Temple this day. 
     This parable is not just about how we should give–calling attention to ourselves or giving in humility.  This is also a parable about justice.  Jesus is accusing those who run the temple of basically stealing from the widows and the poor–persuading them to give when they basically have nothing to fund the Temple, which funds them.  While this poor woman struggles for daily existence and yet gives to the Temple.  The leaders of the Temple wear elegant robes, expect the best of everything as well as to always be given great respect. 
     Unfortunately, we still see this in some churches today.  Gandhi once said that if everyone would just do what they were supposed to do, to do what they knew was right then most, if not all of the world’s problems would be solved.  I think he was definitely onto something.  As Christians we are called to tithe 10% of our income, studies show that Methodists tithe about 3%.  What if all of us tithed our 10%?  I would imagine that if all of us did our part then the whole UMC would then be better able to care for the widows and poor rather than taking their money to support some of building projects for new and upscale office and things that to some eyes reek of injustice.
Holy Creator God, you have called us to care for the widows, orphans, and the poor.  Sometimes this is hard to do.  Do we give to every homeless person we see?  Do we throw money at the problems or is there more you are calling us to do?  We don’t want to be conned and taken advantage of, no we want our money to truly help someone.  God, please help us to discern how we can help to create justice in our everyday life.  Soften our hearts so that  we are able to give more than just money, but to give of ourselves.  Help us to create justice within our denomination so that our priorities revolve around helping those in need rather than buildings and enormous salaries for some.  We pray for our church pastors and leaders that they remain humble and remember that you came as a servant king, rather than an earthly one.  Through the Holy Spirit we pray.  Amen.

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Mark 11: 20-25
In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed miraclesofthelordpa31has withered.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Have* faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea”, and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received* it, and it will be yours.
‘Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.’*
According to Mark, Jesus and the apostles are one their way back to the Temple when the apostles notice that the tree Jesus has cursed has died.    They are in awe of his power and yet Jesus ends his early morning lesson with the apostles on the subject of forgiveness.  First he tells them that with God anything is possible, then he tells them that anytime they pray they need to forgive whoever they have a grudge against or with whom they are angry.  We must forgive if we seek forgiveness from God.
We pray this every week in church through the Lord’s prayer–“forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  We pray it every week but do we hear those words?  Sometimes, I practically choke on them because I know there is someone I need to forgive.  Sometimes a wound is so deep that only God can help us to forgive.  The forgiving is not for the person(s) that have hurt us but for ourselves.  God has freely gifted us with grace and forgiveness.  We have done nothing to deserve it.  It is through God’s grace and forgiveness that we are then able to freely forgive others who we may believe do not deserve it.
God of Grace and Mercy,  thank you for sending Jesus so that we could come to know you more fully and experience your forgiveness through him.  Forgiveness is hard, God.  Please help me to forgive those who have hurt me, for I can only do this through your love.  Thank you for this new day, a new start, a new beginning with you.  Amen.

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Mark 11.12-33

12On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.21cuaresmab3

15Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; 16and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written,

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?
But you have made it a den of robbers.”

18And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. 19And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.
Mark has a tendency to “sandwich” a story within another (it’s called framing).  When Mark does this, it is a sign that these stories work together to help us understand their meanings–they are stronger together than apart. 
Jesus wasn’t just grumpy and hungry  when he came across the fig tree.  Furthermore, he couldn’t have expected figs to be on the tree–it was not the season in which the trees bore fruit.  The fig tree represents the Temple.  What was it that would not be present at the Temple?  What did Jesus hope to see, but should have known better than to expect it to be there at the Temple?
Yesterday, Jesus entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, then he and the disciples took a look around the Temple and Jerusalem before going back to the outskirts of town where they were staying.  Jesus had essentially “scoped” out the Temple.  He knew what to expect the next day.  Jesus was not simply having a temper tantrum, but he was fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy in which the Temple has become corrupt with power and greed, being a place not for prayer but a place in which thieves, robbers, and crooks took refuge. 
Jesus knew he would gain the attention of not only the high priests but also the pilgrims and the Romans.  This was not a temper tantrum out of sheer anger, this was a prophetic action to demonstrate that this is not what the Temple was to be used for–the Temple was to be a house of God, not a house of corruption and greed where the high priests and the Romans conspired to do what was best for them rather than the people.
What has gained power in our church, in the Church Universal, that has turned our attention away from God?  What needs to be cleansed from the Church, from our church, from our very own lives?
Holy and humble God,  we ask that you help us to cleanse our hearts so that nothing will  stand between us.  Convict us of our corruptions and greed, from our idols, from our addictions.  Free us from those things that bind us, so that we may be truly free to honor you with our very lives, seeking your will and doing our part to work in your world for justice.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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I get excited when I dare to push my folks to think about injustice in our  midst.  Sometimes it requires me to bring up courage because I know that I am also putting myself on the spot.  I was excited about the devotion I wrote this morning.  It felt good to give voice to something I consider a justice issue within the UMC and I’d assert that it’s also a problem within the Church. 

So I am going to post the daily devotions here and I anxiously await your comments and to hold me accountable.  One of the things I fear is that of abusing my post as preacher and proclaiming what I see fit rather than what God wants her people to hear.    I guess that is a good fear to have.  Peace be with you.

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