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The Basin and Towel

with Indispensable Churches and Tending the Light

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empowered living

The Sermon on the Mount

An Indispensable Churches post

The Christian claim is that life is better lived in the church because the church, according to our story, just happens to be true.  The church is the only community formed around the truth, which is Jesus, Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life.  Only on the basis of his story, which reveals to us who we are and what has happened in the world, is true community possible. (page 77)

In a world like ours, it is tempting to seek community, any community, as a good in itself.  . . .  (page 77)

The Sermon [on the Mount, Matthew 5-7] implies that it is as isolated individuals that we lack the ethical and theological resources to be faithful disciples.  The Christian ethical question is not the conventional Enlightenment question, How in the world can ordinary people like us live a heroic life like that?  The question is, What sort of community would be required to support an ethic of nonviolence, marital fidelity, forgiveness, and hope such as the one sketched by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount?  (page 80)

– Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, Resident Aliens(Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 1989)

Naether Memorial Chapel; Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu, India

We happened to be reading the “eye for an eye” part of the Sermon on the Mount last Sunday in Bible class, and commenting on how difficult it is for us to live the kind of life Jesus describes in those verses.  But we’re not alone – everyone struggles with the “love your enemies” words of Jesus.  We do the Christian quick-step around them with re-interpretations (“He didn’t really mean love in the same sense that you love . . . “).  We make exceptions (“I can love my enemies in general; but not that one in particular”).  We’re so hopelessly in love with the lex talionis because each of us has so idolized our individual selves that for Jesus to say things like “But I tell you . . . ” drives a knife right through the heart of our self-importance.  And yet we want to call ourselves Christians, too, and claim to follow Jesus.  The rock is firm, the hard place is hard, and we are caught firmly in the middle, unable to escape by ourselves.

Then come Hauerwas and Willimon (above), who tell us that it is precisely because I cannot escape by myself that I need the church, the community of believers, the communio sanctorum.  It is only in that context and in that community that I can be faithful to the words of Jesus.  It is only in the church, surrounded by other believers current and past, that I learn the truth about forgiveness, marital fidelity, and all the other things Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount.  We both know we won’t learn any of it in the world.  We both know that not just any community is up to the task, no matter how ethical it tries to be.  Only the church, the body of Christ, is uniquely designed by Jesus Himself to feed and nourish and nurture its members so that together we grow into the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells.

I need the church that is the body of Christ all over the world – in India, in the USA, in Europe, wherever there is another believer.  I need that believer.  I need the church that is the denomination I belong to, and the denominations I see around me.  I need the church that is the body of Christ assembled in the building in which I preach, as well as those assembled in other similar buildings in our community.  I need the church that is the huge one in the big city, and I need the church that is the tiny one on the ridge overlooking the village of used-to-be.  I need them all – and so do you – because each and every one of them teaches me how to live the “But I tell you . . . ”  I confess that I am a poor, miserable sinner.  I rejoice that Jesus has forgiven my sins!  But I need the Church Indispensable to teach me to be the disciple He calls me to be.

And I think you do to.

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Mark 3:20-30 – The sin against the Holy Spirit?

A post from The Formational Pastor

For June 10, 2012 (Proper 5 / Second Sunday after Pentecost)

The against the Holy Spirit is said by Jesus to be the one sin that is unforgivable.  But why?

The classic answer is that it involves stubborn and persistent resistance to the work of the Holy Spirit, resulting in terminal unbelief for the individual.  But that’s only one aspect of this sin.  There are at least two more, which we might infer from the rest of the story.

Aspect #2:  Imagine you are one of the crowd sitting around Jesus, hearing this exchange.  Imagine you are someone from whom He has cast out demons – maybe Mary Magdalene, from whom He cast out seven demons.  Your life has been turned upside down – you’ve been totally transformed – and now all you want to do is to follow this Jesus and devote everything you are and have to Him in love.  Now there come some people from Jerusalem and say to you, in effect, “The demons you had were like some gang of local punks, but this Jesus is the head of a ruthless cartel.”  Would that shake your faith foundation?  Would that cause you to doubt or wonder?  Whether it would or not, that kind of tactic from those men has no other purpose than to undermine your faith in Jesus, and that is part two of the sin against the Holy Spirit who has been working hard to strengthen that faith day by day.  Empowered living, lies and distortions, re-wounding

Aspect #3:  The fact that Jesus begins His response to these men by saying “A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand” means that He views this not simply as an issue of personal faith, but ultimately as an issue involving the clash of the Kingdom of Heaven with the kingdom of Satan.

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