April 19 — culture

Today’s Bible reading 

1 Corinthians 4:14-17 — “I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.”

More thoughts for meditation

Let’s think about how new followers of Jesus and our children learn the language of faith and find the joy of being who we are in Christ.

“Just as we learn a new language best by immersion in the culture in which it is spoken, so, we believe, are people formed spiritually by an immersion in the culture in which faith is lived in heart and experience. We hang out at the dock where the old sailors are. We watch them on their ships and learn the nautical language which they use as easily as their mother tongue. We listen to their stories and learn the lore that is part of the legacy of the sea. Nothing compares to listening to them describe that which they are exuberantly, passionately in love.

You can learn to speak a foreign language by sitting alone in a room, reciting grammar and memorizing vocabulary cards, but you will never know the rich taste of the language on your tongue until you hear it spoken by others who love the language and speak it with a fluency rich in the experience of their own lives. The way to nurture our lives of faith most deeply is by spending time with experienced and wise mentors who can help us discover the way, to read stories of the great men and women of faith who preceded us in the body of Christ.” — Keith Anderson and Randy D. Reese in Spiritual Mentoring.

Suggestions for action

Take a moment and ask:

Who has created a safe space in which to tell my own story?

Who has already been a mentor for me? Was it a pastor, teacher, authority  figure, friend, cell mate or team mate?

How am I culturing a space for others to learn the lore of life in Christ?



April 18 — lamb

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read John 18

Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

More thoughts for meditation

Let’s ponder who we are in Christ in contrast to the empires of the world.

“In both John’s Gospel and Revelation, Jesus is “the Lamb” (John 1:29, 36; 31 times in Revelation). One could hardly imagine an animal image less evocative of imperial might….The ‘conquering Lamb” speaks of this contrast in this often misunderstood testimony before Pontius Pilate:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world [ek tou kosmou]. If my kingdom were of this world, my underlings [author translation of hupertai]  would be fighting [egoizonto]  to keep me from being handed over to the Judeans. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here. (John 18:36, emphasis added)

The phrase ek tou ksomou is found thirteen times in John’s Gospel, ten times in the Farewell Discourse, where Jesus repeatedly prepares his disciples to be “in the world” but not “of the the world.” Jesus is not contrasting an “earthly” kingdom with the “afterlife,” but rather, two sources of power. From the beginning, people have sought to legitimize human power with claims to divine authority, developing throughout history versions of “the religion of empire.” Jesus’ kingdom is simply not another human building project. It is, in contrast both to that of Rome and that of Jerusalem, a truly divinely authorized realm of power. Jesus illustrates this contrast with one simple, yet definitive criterion: kingdoms which are ek tou ksomou exert their power by “fighting” for power rather than, as Jesus does: loving to completion (John 13:1).

This is further illustrated by two dramatic connections elsewhere in the gospel. The word translated literally as “underlings” is used elsewhere in John’s Gospel to refer to those who do the will of the Jerusalem elite (7:45-6, 18:3, 12, 18, 22, 19:6). It is these who engage in violence in defense of their own “kingdom.” The other connection is at Jesus’ arrest, where it was Simon Peter — who will momentarily deny being of Jesus’ disciples — who drew a sword and struck at the high priest’s slave, only to be sharply admonished by Jesus (18:10-11). The conjoining of Peter’s words and actions is key: his swordstroke is evidence that he was not at that moment a disciple of Jesus. It is only after this experience and Jesus’ resurrection that Jesus, for the first time, calls Peter to discipleship (John 21:9). Only then is Peter “born of God” into Jesus’ kingdom, one diametrically opposed to the kingdoms of “the world.” — Wes Howard Brook in “Come Out, My People.”

Suggestions for action

The basic question to answer is: “How have you answered the Lord’s call to discipleship? Are you a minion of the empire or a disciple of the Lamb of God?”

Let the Spirit convict you about the reactions (like Peter’s swordstroke) that reveal who you really serve.

Consider your actions. How do you organize the week’s schedule? What does the schedule serve?

April 17 — joy

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read John 8:1-12

Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

She said, “No one, sir.”

And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

More thoughts for meditation

Let’s consider the joy of being uncondemned and free of the coercive power of people who dominate others for their own satisfaction or to feed their unconscious needs.

“A lot of the Christianity of the past 100 years in this country has been very powerful:  Hard sermons threatening hell — harsh priests and nuns promising punishment if you don’t follow the rules — lots of relentless fighting about logic and rejecting of friends and relatives who stay on the other side of an argument. People have gotten so burned by all that coercion it is a main factor in moving Europe and North America into the post-Christian column.

I hope we are part of a new era in which we try relating the Jesus-down-in-the-dirt way, the ever-surprising way by which people find out that they are not as condemned as they feel or deserve. I hope we keep finding joy in looking into a hurting, angry, hopeless, mean-spirited, depressed, or violent person’s face with love and keep finding joy in winning the right to tell them, “Go and leave your life of sin. With God’s help, I’ll do whatever I can to make that possible.” — Rod White in A Circle of Hope

Suggestions for action

Jesus keeps looking into your hurting, angry, hopeless, mean-spirited, depressed, or violent face with love and keeps finding joy in winning the right to lead you into life. Sit with that.

The joy of being the person who receives such grace is often hard to allow; it seems wrong to be so loved and impossible to be so lovable. Spend a few minutes letting the joy of being who you are in Christ come up to the surface.

April 16 — centripetal

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Galatians 3:23-4:7

In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

More thoughts for meditation

Let’s honor what Desmond Tutu calls the “centripetal process” God has set in motion and find joy in being drawn to Jesus.

“There is a movement, not easily discernible, at the heart of things to reverse the awful centrifugal force of alienation, brokenness, division, hostility, and disharmony.

God has set in motion a centripetal process, a moving toward the center, toward unity, harmony, goodness, peace and justice, a process that removes barriers. Jesus says, “And when I am lifted up from the earth I shall draw everyone to myself” as he hangs on the cross with outflung arms. Thrown out to clasp all, everyone and everything, in a cosmic embrace, so that all, everyone, everything belongs. None is an outsider, all are insiders, all belong. There are no aliens, all belong in the one family, God’s family, the human family.

There is no longer Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free – instead of separation and division, all distinctions make for a rich diversity to be celebrated for the sake of the unity that underlies them. We are different so that we can know our need of one another, for no one is ultimately self-sufficient. The completely self-sufficient person would be subhuman.” — Desmond Tutu in No Future Without Forgiveness.

Suggestions for action

In the quiet, let’s consciously let go of our self-sufficiency. Imagine the fullness of what belonging to God’s family means for your actions this day.

April 15 — growth

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read 1 Corinthians 3:5-17

So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labour of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. (NRSV)

More thoughts for meditation

From one of the pastor’s messages:

We, as a church, try to use names wisely, because they have a lot of power to elevate and teach. The other day at the monthly leadership training, we went off on a couple of excursions into Circle of Hope’s lexicon of names. We like to name things the way we see them, and sometimes it confuses people. Someone said last week at the PM that she was embarrassed when she finally found out that the PM was a public meeting, and not just as a meeting that did not happen in the AM.

We should have gotten to the subject of naming that is the question for tonight. “Why do we call it a cell?” and not a small group, or home group, or some other kind of group , or midweek service, or midweek meeting, or some other common religious idea?

There are three good reasons for why we call it a cell — and you might have more. 1) The name cell is organic. We took a look at the church and named it something that is alive. 2) The name cell is subversive. We took a look at our mission and named it something that wasn’t like what the powers that be are producing for us to conform to. 3) The name cell is transformational. The title is unusual enough to require some unpacking and that is what we need to do if we expect people to take on something that is new and to go on to be something that is always becoming new.

Suggestions for action

God is at work in us! It is a great honor to be the “temple” of the Holy Spirit, as an individual and as a body.

Spend time noting what growth God is causing in you. You may be able to notice it yourself; you might need to take what others have say about you seriously.

If you can’t hear much, maybe you could ask your cell leader or trusted friend whether they see how God is causing growth in you.