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Power Through the Lens of the Cross

Luke 23:3-4; 23-25, NRSV
1 Corinthians 1:26-31, NRSV


When grace is pierced, it bleeds pardon. When grace is crucified, it doesn’t condemn.
Crucified grace is even cognizant of how nearly impossible it is for sinful persecutors to act otherwise. Those who seek to imitate this kind of grace will eventually be wounded themselves — they will endure a stigmata upon their soul. They will help complete what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ (see Colossians 1:24). This is what it means to be Christlike in the fullest sense. Before we are the church triumphant, we are the church stigmatized, and we are to bear our stigma with grace.

For your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
— Romans 8:36-37

We are “more than conquerors,” not by winning the petty games of the rat race and wearing the tin badge of “success,” but by imitating the slaughtered Lamb who sits at the right hand of God. We lessen the sin of the world by joining the Lamb of God in bearing sin and pardoning sinners.

— Brian Zahnd, Water to Wine

  • Absolute power corrupts absolutely, but what about power of the cross?

  • Pilate’s power
  • nonchalance and cool of his power
  • just want the protests to go away
  • just want to maintain and keep the power he has
  • We all are frantic about keeping our power/privilege too

  • Jesus’ power of love
  • When we consider people who change our lives
  • Are they closer to Pilate, who has power to control and manipulate us
  • Or are they closer to Jesus, who would forgive, love, listen to us
  • What is the source of our lives?

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The Cross And Evil: Jesus and His Cry of Abandonment

Psalm 22:1-2; 23-24, NRSV
Mark 15:33-34, NRSV


ON a Thursday morning a few months ago, I got a call from my doctor’s assistant telling me that I have Stage 4 cancer. The stomach cramps I was suffering from were not caused by a faulty gallbladder, but by a massive tumor. I am 35.

…a neighbor knocked on our door to tell my husband that everything happens for a reason.

“I’d love to hear it,” my husband said.

“Pardon?” she said, startled.

“I’d love to hear the reason my wife is dying,” he said, in that sweet and sour way he has. My neighbor wasn’t trying to sell him a spiritual guarantee. But there was a reason she wanted to fill that silence around why some people die young and others grow old and fussy about their lawns. She wanted some kind of order behind this chaos. Because the opposite of #blessed is leaving a husband and a toddler behind, and people can’t quite let themselves say it: “Wow. That’s awful.” There has to be a reason, because without one we are left as helpless and possibly as unlucky as everyone else.

— Kate Bowler, assistant professor, Duke Divinity School from a column in the NYTimes, 2/13/16 entitled “Death, the Prosperity Gospel, and Me”

  • Ordinary Darkness
  • Try to be present to the Lord in pain
  • Pain/sorrow is part of life
  • We can try to avoid it, but its effect is making us numb
  • Or stay at superficial level like the neighbor in the NYTimes article

  • Look at the pain, suffering, sorrow and evil thru the cross
  • Reality of evil
  • Some say God is good, some say God is not, so really beauty & brokenness come together
  • But this is not the end

  • Seed of redemption
  • Trust while in the darkness, we will wait in hope

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The Cross and Wisdom

Isaiah 29:13-14, NRSV
1 Corinthians 1:18-25, NRSV


In terms of human wisdom, Jesus was a perfect fool. And if you think you can follow him without making something like the same kind of fool of yourself, you are laboring not under the cross, but a delusion.

— Frederick Buechner

  • We are not looking at life thru the lens of the cross

  • “Anti-cross” wisdom of humanity
  • v20 – The “wise”, the “scribe”, the “debater” of this age
  • Human’s ultimate truth is power, as Pilate thought he had over Jesus
  • If the cross is not making you humble, you are not getting the message of the cross

  • Wisdom of God
  • Crucifixion is what we do to God
  • The Cross is god’s reply
  • To regain the vision of the beauty of the cross
  • You can’t think your way out of your destructive pattern

  • Journey with Jesus
  • What you think of God is what is driving your life

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Jesus is what God has to say

Mark 9:2-9, NRSV


Jesus is the true and living Word of God. Jesus is what the Law and Prophets point toward and bow to. Jesus is what the Old Testament was trying to say, but could never fully articulate. Jesus is the perfect Word of God in the form of a human life. God couldn’t say all he wanted to say in the form of a book, so he said it in the form of Jesus. Jesus is what God has to say!
The Law and the Prophets were the lesser lights in the pre-Christ night sky. They were the moon and stars. Israel could grope forward by their soft light; the Hebrews could navigate through the emanating from the Torah and the Prophets made all the difference.
But with Christ, morning has broken, the new day has dawned, the sun of righteousness has risen with healing in its rays. Now the moon and the stars, Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets are eclipsed by the full glory of God in Christ!

— Brian Zahnd

  • Jesus being the spokesperson

  • Why is the meeting with Moses and Elijah called?
  • Moses represents the law
  • Elijah represents the prophets

  • Why does it matter to me?
  • Showing us God’s trustworthiness, God’s love

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King Herod: Fear, Faith, and Doubt

Mark 6:14-29, NRSV


For many people, the opposite of faith is doubt. The goal, then, within this understanding, is to eliminate doubt. But faith and doubt aren’t opposites. Doubt is often a sign that your faith has a pulse, that you’re owning your path, engaged, thinking, feeling, that your heart is alive and well and exploring and searching. Faith and doubt aren’t opposites; they are, it turns out, excellent dance partners.

— Rob Bell

  • Portraits of different people:

  • King Herod
  • Indecision – not the same Herod as in birth of Jesus time (Mark’s mocking)
  • Perplexed, in doubt

  • Herodias
  • Vengeance – a grudge that kills one’s soul

  • John
  • Freedom – even though in chains, in prison

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Jesus: Healing with Resurrection Power

Mark 5:21-43, NRSV
Psalm 131, NRSV


Just as Jesus wasn’t coming to be a one-man liberation movement in the traditional revolutionary sense, so he wasn’t coming to be a one-man emergency medical centre. He was indeed starting a revolution, and he was indeed bringing God’s healing power, but his aim went deeper; these things were signs of the real revolution, the real healing, that God was to accomplish through his death and resurrection. Signposts are important, but they aren’t the destination.

— N.T. Wright,
Mark for Everyone

  • Jesus’ timing is not your timing
  • It always feels slow
  • It seems God doesn’t care

  • Jesus’ agenda is not your agenda
  • When He asked “who touch me,” He is to recognize the woman, who is not well-regarded

  • Jesus’ tenderness is what makes people trust Him

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The Parable of the Sower

Mark 4:1-20, NRSV
Psalm 126, NRSV


One of the best-kept secrets, and yet one hidden in plain sight, is that the way up is the way down. Or, if you prefer, the way down is the way up. This pattern is obvious in all of nature, from the very change of seasons and substances on this earth, to the six hundred million tons of hydrogen that the sun burns every day to light and warm our earth, and even to the metabolic laws of dieting or fasting.


In Scripture, we see that the wrestling and wounding of Jacob are necessary for Jacob to become Israel, and the death and resurrection of Jesus are necessary to create Christianity. The loss and renewal pattern is so constant and ubiquitous that it should hardly be called a secret at all.


Yet it is still a secret, probably because we do not want to see it. We do not want to embark on a further journey if it feels like going down, especially after we have put so much sound and fury into going up. This is surely the first and primary reason why many people never get to the fullness of their own lives. The supposed achievements of the first half of life have to fall apart and show themselves to be wanting in some way, or we will not move further. Why would we?


Normally a job, fortune, or reputation has to be lost, a death has to be suffered, a house has to be flooded, or a disease has to be endured. The pattern in fact is so clear that one has to work rather hard, or be intellectually lazy, to miss the continual lesson.

— Richard Rohr,
Falling Upward

  • Joshua Bell in Washington Post’s Stop and Hear the Music — people are not hearing
  • Parable makes things less clear

  • The Seed – announcement of gospel, message of Kingdom
  • Seed is small and fragile, incremental

  • Soil
  • Hard soil is like when we hear the message and think it applies to others but not you
  • Life start to choke the poetry out of us

  • Sacrifice
  • After the seed takes root, grows, and bears fruit, it is then given back to the earth. To receive the Word is to take up the likeness of Jesus Christ, who gave himself to the world.

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Putting New Wine into New Wineskins

Mark 2:1-22, NRSV
Psalm 103:6-14, NRSV


If Christ is the answer, what are the real questions? Does God speak my language? How can we live out and share the gospel without domesticating the new wine?

— Harvie Conn,
Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace

  • Period of Epiphany
  • Baptism of Jesus
  • We need God for things we cannot do
  • We can’t fit God into whatever system/scheme we have
  • “New Wine” of forgiveness
  • Danger of over-realized and under-realized promises
  • Baptism is a way God to pledge transformation in you

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Birthed Into Mission

Hosea 13:13, NRSV
John 3:1-10, 16-17, NRSV


Just as we are invited to step into the worship of the Trinity in which the Son glorifies the Father in the Spirit, so we are called to share in the mission of the Trinity in which the Father sends the Son by the power of the Spirit to redeem the world. The word “mission” is derived from the Latin verb for sending. The Church is missionary because it is sent by the God who sends his Son. The Church does not have a choice about being involved in mission any more than it has a choice about being involved in worship. Worship and mission belong to the very being of the Church. We cannot be otherwise than a worshipping community and a missionary people because we have been adopted into the life of God. God’s life is a life of worship overflowing into a life of mission.

— Christopher Cocksworth
Holy, Holy, Holy

  • Rebirth is messy but also glorious and beautiful
  • Rebirth into mission, into the city

  • Rebirth and keep renewing
  • Mission is fuel of discipleship
  • “crummy music freaks people out”

  • Rebirth teaches God’s agenda, for us to be more Christ-like

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Elijah: Faith with a Limp

1 Kings 18:20-39, NRSV
Mark 9:1-8, NRSV


Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things.

— St. David of Wales, d.589

  • The main question: where is God?
  • We need prophets’ voices that scream out
  • but that is not a sustainable way to live spiritually
  • In the Bible, there are miraculous fires and there are prophets but the grand final voice is Jesus’ limping, dying, and rising again in resurrection to new life. Jesus is what God has to say, and God says, “Listen to him”

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