Books: The Jesus Way

November 28, 2016

A couple of years ago I started a book by Eugene Peterson, author of The Message (a popular paraphrase of the Bible), Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, the first of a series of five books on spiritual theology. I also purchased The Jesus Way, the third book in the series, then set it aside until I had finished at least the first book.

But somehow the first book wound up in a pile of books I’m in the middle of reading, and hasn’t moved from that spot in a while. Then last month, when looking for something to read on a trip to a conference in Indiana, I noticed The Jesus Way and decided to read it. I read half of it during the trip, and finished it recently.

The subtitle of the book describes it well: “a conversation on the ways that Jesus is the way.” Evangelical Christians are familiar with John 14:6, where Jesus says “I am the way” (and “the truth and the life”). But what it means for Jesus to be the way is not usually explored, simply assumed: Jesus is how we are made right with God, how we get to heaven.

Peterson says, “Too many of my faith-companions for too long have been reducing the way of Jesus simply to the route to heaven, which it certainly is. But there is so much more.” Peterson emphasizes the meaning of “way” as a road to follow, not just for getting to the right destination, but for how to travel along the way.

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March 28, 2013

Yours is the glory. Ours is the shame,
that made in Your image, we turned away
and acted so unlike You.

The Word made flesh, Jesus came,
bearing Your image. He showed the way
(made the way, is the Way)
to life as Your people.

Humbly grateful, we come in His name,
restored to Your image, to walk in Your way.
By grace we become holy.

The meaning of salvation (part 3)

December 25, 2012

Several months ago, I purchased and read Simply Jesus by N.T. Wright. I had read reviews of some of his books and had been wanting to read at least one. When I read the description and reviews of Simply Jesus, I “simply” had to get it.

I did not immediately write a blog post about the book, partly because there is so much meat in the book that it is hard to do it justice, and also because I wanted to wait and see what long-term impact – if any – the book would have on me. Sadly, it’s very easy to be excited about a book that seems to change how you think about things, but then pretty soon to go on with daily life much as before.

I’ve been thinking about rereading the book, and then writing a blog post on it, but it was only reading another book that pushed me to do so. One morning at church when I had little to do (being a pastor’s wife means getting to church early and sometimes staying late afterward, and occasionally I forget to bring a book to read while I wait), I found an interesting book in the church’s small “library” (two bookshelves in the room used for fellowship and coffee hours).

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Fourth Sunday of Advent: Love

December 18, 2011

Why is it that I have more trouble thinking of something to say about the theme of Love at Christmastime, compared to the previous three Sundays of Advent? It was easy to think of something to say about Hope, Peace, and Joy. But Love? It seems almost trite to say that Christmas is about love.

I try to think of Scriptures related to Jesus’ birth that mention love, and realize that I can’t think of any. The angels talked about joy and about peace, and all the prophecies about the Messiah imply hope. But I can’t think of any that mention love.

Is that because love is so basic to the idea of God that it hardly seems necessary to mention? Is it because, at the time, the events surrounding Jesus’ birth induced feelings of fear and confusion more than love? Is it because the meaning of Jesus’ birth only made sense long afterward?

I’m guessing that Joseph loved Mary, but all Matthew 1 actually says is that he “did not want to expose her to public disgrace.” After the angel appeared to him in a dream, “he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” How many women would want to know that their husbands married them because they were commanded to do so? Yet acting out of obedience doesn’t mean one is not also acting out of love.

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Parable of the talents

November 14, 2011

Yesterday’s sermon was on the parable of the talents (Matthew 25). It’s a familiar story to many churchgoers, about a master who entrusted three of his servants with different amounts of money based on their abilities. Two of them doubled the money by the time their master returned to settle accounts. The third buried his in the ground.

The thrust of the sermon was much the same as most teaching I have heard on this passage: we are responsible to use the resources we have been given, not to just hold onto them. One thing the pastor said surprised me though – that the man who buried his talent acted not out of fear but laziness, and used fear only as an excuse when confronted by the master.

I suppose that’s possible. Lazy people tend to develop the ability to come up with all sorts of excuses, and while the excuse of fear clearly didn’t keep this man out of trouble, he may have thought it would result in a lesser punishment than if he admitted he just didn’t want to bother.

I’ve always thought his explanation of fear made a lot of sense, though. This was one of the Bible stories I didn’t like as a child, because I easily identified with the man who buried his talent out of fear. I had plenty of abilities: I was good at reading, math, spelling, art, music – just about everything except sports. But I disliked taking risks.

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What does God look like?

October 18, 2011

“What does God look like?” That was the question asked during the children’s sermon at the church my son and I attended Sunday (where our family often visits when my husband is not preaching elsewhere, though on this occasion he was filling in for a pastor who does two services on Sunday morning, at different locations, which is why we didn’t go with him).

It’s a question I imagine most children have wondered about, at least those who grew up with some kind of religious faith. I don’t remember ever having a specific mental picture of God, because one of the earliest lessons I remember learning was that “God is everywhere.” I don’t know if I also was told that God is invisible, but I know I always thought of God that way – after all, if a God who is everywhere were not invisible, how could I possible see anything else?

I don’t know what other children think when being told God is everywhere, but I concluded that it meant God inhabited every cubic inch of the universe. As a young adult I puzzled over what meaning there could be for the Holy Spirit to live in the hearts of believers in Jesus Christ. If God was already everywhere, how could He not be in every person, as well as every tree, rock, and single-celled organism?

Because I had been taught that God is specially present in believers, I believed it, but I couldn’t make logical sense out of it. My husband was the one who finally pointed out that saying God is omnipresent does not mean He is literally present everywhere. It means that there is no limit to where He can be, no place too far away or too hidden for Him.

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To Jesus, on Good Friday

March 21, 2008

My hand held the hammer
My sins were the spikes
That punctured and punished

You stretched our your hands
(That had beckoned and blessed)
Enduring the torments

To your comrade in death
You pledged admittance
To your paradise-kingdom

Two thousand years later
I beg your forgiveness
Impart your redemption