welcome. why "weak on sanctification"?

this accusation is often made about lutheran christians. because we focus so strongly on god's justifying grace in christ, and our continual need, as "sinner-saints," to receive god's gifts of grace through word and sacrament, people say we are "weak on sanctification." i prefer to say we are strong on jesus, whose sanctifying work in our lives is the fruit of the gospel all along our lifelong journey. i would much rather focus on what he has done than on anything i might do.

the weekly discussion

each week I set forth a topic to promote discourse about some aspect of Christianity, the church, or the spiritual life. i would love to hear your perspective and thoughts on each week's subject. these discussions are usually posted on mondays, so if you missed this week's post and would like to catch up on the conversation, just scroll down and join us.

September 26, 2009

the lord's day—sept 27, 2009

17th sunday after pentecost

today's lectionary readings
Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29
Psalm 19:7-14
James 5:13-20
Mark 9:38-50

today's bach cantatas
bwv 161, "come, sweet hour of death"
bwv 95, "christ is my life"
bwv 8, "dearest god, when will i die?"
bwv 27, "who knows how near my end is to me?"

today's van gogh
the church at auvers, 1890

today's good news

in their book, adventures in missing the point, brian maclaren and tony campolo tell a story called the parable of the race. here's my version of this tale...

there was once a land of incredible boredom and drudgery, and one day an announcement came that there was going to be a race that would cure all that. the promise was that anyone who participated in the race would grow strong and never be unhappy again. many of course, were skeptical, so they just showed up to see what would happen. others came dressed and ready to run.

the runners lined up and the gun went off. then curious things began to happen. one runner took two or three steps and then fell on his knees, crying out, "i've crossed the starting line! this is the happiest day of my life!" he even sang a song of praise thanking god for his grace in letting him take the first step. another racer started running around to the other participants, hugging them and giving them high fives, shouting, "we're in the race! we're in the race! isn't it wonderful, we're in the race!" some of the runners stepped off the track and gathered in a circle to pray, thanking god that they had been considered worthy of being in the race, and praying with deep concern for those who had doubted that the race was real. at one point, one of them took out the race manual that had been written to help the runners, read a portion of it, and they all expressed their agreement with the rules of the race before returning to prayer. the various runners did lots of silly things like this. none of them actually ran the race!

spectators in the stands watched these goings on with bemusement. some muttered their disapproval. some laughed. some decided this whole race thing was a bunch of bunk and went home.

in last week's passage from mark, we watched as jesus' disciples missed the point for a second time when he repeated his announcement that he was going to die on the cross. in fact, they not only missed the point, it scared them silly and they decided it would be best if they just didn't talk about it anymore. instead, they decided to talk about things that interested them, like who was going to get the best seat at the table when jesus set up his kingdom. they completely missed the point.

in today's passage, their adventures in missing the point continue. here we see them concerned about another group who is using jesus' name to cast out evil powers and help people. now you might think that would be something they could support, but instead the disciples get all parochial about it. "hey jesus, they're not in our club. they don't know the secret password, they can't give the secret handshake. tell 'em to stop doing good in your name!" again, missed the point.

so, once more, jesus confronts them in their cluelessness. "you're missing the point!" he tells them. "those folks may seem funny to you, but they at least grasp that my mission is about getting out there and overcoming evil. they are not against us. even if they were just passing out cups of cold water in my name, they would be showing that they get it more than you do!

"you guys just don't realize how important my mission and this journey to the cross is, do you? it's so important that you need to be willing to cut off a hand or a foot to be part of it. you should be willing to pluck out an eye if it will help you see its significance more clearly! you're supposed to be the salt that penetrates the world with my good news and grace. get salty again! stop missing the point and let's start running this race together."

from one clueless disciple who regularly misses the point—thank you, jesus. now, where did i put those running shoes?

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