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Living In The Between Times

  • Written by David Titter
  • Published: 21 March 2012

Luke 19:11-27

[11]While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. [12] He said: "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. [13] So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.' [14] "But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, 'We don't want this man to be our king.' [15] "He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. [16] "The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.' [17] "'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.' [18] "The second came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned five more.' [19] "His master answered, 'You take charge of five cities.' [20] "Then another servant came and said, 'Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. [21] I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.' [22] "His master replied, 'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? [23] Why then didn't you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?' [24] "Then he said to those standing by, 'Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.' [25] "'Sir,' they said, 'he already has ten!' [26] "He replied, 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. [27] But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them-bring them here and kill them in front of me."

Jesus tells this story in part to manage the expectations of his followers, who are getting ahead of themselves and sense that a grand conclusion is imminent. He wants them to understand that a time is coming when they will need to be faithful and responsible in his absence, that the kingdom will come, but not quite yet.

This is a parable that speaks very directly to our situation. We are living in the in-between times, awaiting the second coming, while looking back to the first. The nobleman has been made king and will be returning to rule his country. He has given us responsibilities in his absence; as the servants were entrusted with significant capital to invest, so we have been gifted to build and expand his kingdom. Are we living in expectation of his return? Are we the kind of servants that he will be pleased with?

What gifts do we have that we can use to build the kingdom of God on earth? Are we pouring our energy, skills and talents into furthering his influence? Shall we resolve to get a good return on the "minas" we have been given?

Purity of existence

  • Written by David Titter
  • Published: 05 April 2010

A thought in passing when reading Joshua, chapters 10 thru 13 where he led the Israelites in destroying all the kingdoms of the land the LORD had given the Israelites.

 

Many who read this will only see the barbarity and insensitivity of the conquering Israelites as they commit “genocide” on many established kingdoms destroying everything in their path all in the name of their LORD.  A holy war in some people’s eyes.  They will ask why would a loving God make people do this to others, is He not a God of love and peace?

 

We must look at this from a different perspective.  GOD chose the Isrealites as his own and required many things of them including a “purity of existence” in following HIM only.  In return HE promised to care for them which HE had been doing since they left Egypt.  HE knew they were weak and easily tempted so HE required them to clear a territory and remove all outside influence which they did with HIS help.  HE did this to show HE was in control and they should not depend on their own abilities.

 

Jumping forward to today, we have a lesson in these passages as we live our lives in submission to Christ.  We, also, are to have a “purity of existence” and keep ourselves from temptation.  So, in a sense, we are to wage a holy war on any outside influence, totally destroying the influence that could separate us from our LORD.  We must also remember we are not able to do this cleansing ourselves, but, with our LORD’s help we can be victorious.

An orienting challenge...

  • Written by Nathan Willowby
  • Published: 26 March 2014

I came across a good description of what I think our congregation and church tradition should emphasize and offer others. No surprise, but someone said it really well, long ago.  E. A. Reardon was a campmeeting speaker in 1929 where he said that the challenge facing the Church of God "was to speak with a clear and distinctive voice without allowing distinctiveness to become a preoccupation" (Strege, I Saw the Church, 193).

We must seek Christ and speak the truth as we understand it, but we must not make having an exclusive understanding of the truth our idol.

What you Imagine, You Desire.

  • Written by Nathan Willowby
  • Published: 11 April 2014

Sunday, I worked with this phrase in the sermon. The point was not as much the phrase itself as an entry way into the importance of developing a Scriptural Imagination in order to understand the failures of both Pilate and the Chief Priests in John 19.

 Sometimes you push an angle in preaching too far. After the service, someone came up to me and challenged the phrase. He said that he can imagine a lot of things that he wants to avoid. He also said that he does think the corollary is true—you can’t desire what you have not imagined.

 I kept thinking about the exchange as the church day wound down. In the sermon, I mentioned my initial hesitation with my friend’s Instagram comment. Sometimes people are able to remind you after a sermon that you over-stated something and I am convinced that was the case on Sunday.

 So, perhaps you can modify my sermon illustration from Sunday to this. You cannot desire the Christian option without first developing a Christian Imagination. Pilate and the Chief Priests had not come to desire Jesus’ Kingdom, Kingship, and power because they failed to see, understand, or imagine what that kind of King Jesus really was. Jesus was and is the King of the Jews, and it is much easier for us to see that retrospectively. So many times, the way that is really God’s way comes to us as we look back, because Jesus is constantly inviting us to a reality that requires transformation of imagination.

 So, friends, You cannot Desire the Christian option without first developing a Christian Imagination. May we all seek and accept a formation that leads to Christian Imagination.

Why wash feet?

  • Written by Nathan Willowby
  • Published: 19 March 2014

On Thursday, April 17th we will gather for a service of foot washing and share in a Seder Meal for our congregation’s Maundy Thursday service. Many churches now celebrate foot washing on Maundy Thursday, but the practice has been important and standard in this congregation since its inception in 1910.

Now, in keeping with the theme of these blog posts, we will ask the question once more—why do we do this? Why will our church have a foot washing service this year? Because it has been done for 100+ years? Because we really like showing off our feet? Because we like making new people uncomfortable? Because our church is more humble that all the others in the whole wide world?

The answer is really two-fold. On the one hand, we do this because we are a part of the Church of God. Foot washing has roots in the Winebrennarian movement that influenced the most influential figure of the first generation of the Church of God reformation movement--D.S. Warner. Beyond his Winebrennarian influence, Warner wrote frequently about the importance of foot washing alongside believers’ baptism and communion as an element of the life of the church depicted in the New Testament. Beyond it just being something found in the Bible, the Church of God has repeatedly affirmed the importance of sharing in foot washing. For example, there was a big conflict in the early Church of God movement (late 1800s) when a group that was teaching at an Ohio Campmeeting against baptism, communion, and foot washing. In response Warner and others sought to explain why that teaching was wrong and not consistent with the proper understanding of the Church of God in its aspirations to mirror the New Testament church (Strege, I Saw the Church, 35). The importance of foot washing for Church of God identity does not stop in the 1800s. Brother Slacum mounted an attack on those who he felt had apostasized from the true church in 1944 and one of the most important signs that a church was in apostasy was their failure to practice foot washing (Strege, 274).

Therefore, as a congregation that grew out of and remains a part of the Church of God movement, we have precedence on the side of practicing foot washing. In that sense, if we are going to practice believers’ baptism (we do.) and communion (every 3rd Sunday) then we are on the trajectory of following these ordinances and church practices. In other words, we should follow our tradition unless we have a good reason to go against it or let it go.

But the more important answer and the one that is the second half of this post is that ultimately, our commitment to practicing foot washing is about following Jesus’ example. In John chapter 13, Jesus washes his disciples feet and tells them that since he as their Lord and Teacher has washed their feet, they should do likewise. In our congregation’s understanding, this was more than just a one time event and story for us to cognitively absorb. Instead we see a powerful message within the story about what true glory is, what true power is, and what posture we as followers of Jesus are invited to adopt.

Gil Stafford emphasizes the importance of Jesus’ disciples being “willing to lay aside [our] cloaks of respectability for the sake of God’s redemptive work in the world.” Jesus’ followers are to follow his way of servanthood by deliberate humility in service to others.

Stafford cites Edwyn Hoskyns, who writes about the societal implications of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. Let’s just say, Jesus was subverting the standard practice in several ways. Hoskyns states,

“To wash the feet of their masters belonged to the duties of slaves (1 Sam. 25:41). According to Rabbinic teaching, slaves of Jewish birth were not bound to perform this menial action, thought wives were expected to wash the feet of their husbands.”

From this background, Stafford notes that Jesus was both not expected to do this and in doing so, took on the role of a slave or woman. I think it is important to comment here that Jesus regularly redefines things in the New Testament. It is not so much that we should think of Jesus as a slave or woman but to challenge how his actions here should adjust our notions of what is relegated as the work “merely” for slaves and women. Jesus takes claim of activities that “respectable men” wouldn’t dream of doing and instructs those people who follow him to practice these acts of servanthood.

So in short, we are going to wash feet on April 17th because Jesus taught us that foot washing is an important practice of those who follow him. Foot washing is an embodied practice that reminds us the posture of our Lord in the face of those who will betray you or follow you to the end.

If you’ve never participated in a foot washing service, we invite you to join us. You are welcome to just watch if it seems too new or strange to you. We trust that the experience will be one where you will have the opportunity to grow more deeply in your faith and the journey of following Jesus as Lord.

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Notes from the pastors of Crossroads Church of God