One of the trees, cross-shaped, at the edge of our church’s main/west parking lot.
One of the trees, cross-shaped, at the edge of our church’s main/west parking lot.
On the opening of 1 Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1.10-4.21) by Paul Ellis …
“Paul’s argumentation in [1 Cor.] 1.10-4.21 is arranged in chiastic form, i.e., he begins with a general treatment of his problem; … then he moves on to what appears to be a digression; … and he concludes by returning to the themes of 1.10-2.5, giving practical solutions and advice … It is the same A-B-A format Paul used in 1 Thessalonians. He will use it regularly throughout 1 Corinthians …”
“… the parallel structure of 1.10-4.21 … is perhaps the most elaborate use of parallelism in all of the Pauline epistles.”
Source: Seven Pauline Letters by Peter F. Ellis (The Liturgical Press, 1982); pp.47-48.
1. See Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane … and pray.
… Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. He said to the disciples, ‘Stay here while I go and pray over there.’ When he took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, he began to feel sad and anxious. Then he said to them, ‘I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert with me.’ Then he went a short distance farther and fell on his face and prayed, ‘My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However — not what I want but what you want.’
He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, ‘Couldn’t you stay alert one hour with me? Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.’ (Matthew 26.36-41)
2. Examine Judas, and yourself, as Judas betrays Jesus and he is arrested. Who can do so and not pray?
And immediately, as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders. The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: ‘You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard.’ As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. ‘Rabbi!’ he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss. Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. (Mark 14.43-46)
3. Peer into the courtroom as Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin. God have mercy! Pray.
Then when daylight came, the assembly of the elders of the people, which included both chief priests and scribes, met and marched him off to their own council. There they asked him, ‘If you really are Christ, tell us!’
‘If I tell you, you will never believe me, and if I ask you a question, you will not answer me. But from now on the Son of Man will take his seat at the right hand of almighty God.’
Then they all said, ‘So you are the Son of God then?’
‘You are right; I am,’ Jesus told them.
Then they said, ‘Why do we need to call any more witnesses, for we ourselves have heard this thing from his own lips?’ (Luke 22.66-71)
4. Consider yourself as you behold Jesus denied even by Peter, the man who first confessed him as the Christ. Pray.
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus the Galilean.’
But he denied it before all of them, saying, ‘I do not know what you are talking about.’
When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, ‘This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.’
Again he denied it with an oath, ‘I do not know the man.’
After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.’
Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know the man!’
At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: ‘Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26.69-75)
5. Observe Jesus judged by Pilate. Pray to the only true an righteous Judge of all of creation.
Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.
‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ asked Pilate.
‘You have said so,’ Jesus replied.
The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.’
But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed. …
Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. (Mark 15.1-5,15)
6. Stare as Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns. Pray with each lash of words and whip.
Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and struck him with their hands. (John 19.1-3)
7. Gape as Jesus takes up his cross. Take all of this up in prayer.
So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, ‘Crucify, crucify!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.’ …
So they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!’
Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’
The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’
So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified. They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. (John 19.6,15-17)
8. Gaze with all the mixture of feelings as Simon is compelled to carry Jesus’ cross. Pray with all three of you mind: Jesus, Simon … and yourself.
Along the way, they met a man from Cyrene, Simon (the father of Rufus and Alexander), who was coming in from the fields; and they ordered him to carry the heavy crossbar of the cross. (Mark 15.21)
9. Notice how Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem as he bears his cross. Pray silently as you hear them cry aloud and as he answers their cries.
A large number of people followed Jesus. Some were women whose hearts were filled with sorrow. They cried loudly because of him. Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me. Weep for yourselves and for your children. The time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the women who can’t have children! Blessed are those who never gave birth or nursed babies!’ It is written, ‘The people will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” They’ll say to the hills, “Cover us!”’ People do these things when trees are green. So what will happen when trees are dry?” (Luke 23.27-31)
10. Refuse to look away as they nail the Christ to the cross, crucifying him. Pray as Jesus prays.
And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ And they cast lots to divide his garments. (Luke 23.33-34)
11. Capture with your eyes and heart Jesus promising his kingdom to the repentant thief. Pray this man’s prayer.
One of the criminals began to shout insults at Jesus: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Then save yourself! And save us too!’
But the other criminal stopped him. He said, ‘You should fear God! You are getting the same punishment as he is. We are punished justly; we should die. But this man has done nothing wrong!’ Then this criminal said to Jesus, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom!’
Then Jesus said to him, ‘Listen! What I say is true: Today you will be with me in paradise!’ (Luke 23.39-43)
12. Take in Jesus entrusting Mary and John to each other. Pray by means of, and through, your tears.
Jesus’ mother stood beside his cross with her sister and Mary the wife of Clopas. Mary Magdalene was standing there too. When Jesus saw his mother and his favorite disciple with her, he said to his mother, ‘This man is now your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘She is now your mother.’ From then on, that disciple took her into his own home. (John 19.25-27)
13. Watch Jesus breathe his last on the cross. Hang your head … and pray.
It was about twelve o’clock when the sun stopped shining and darkness covered the whole country until three o’clock; and the curtain hanging in the Temple was torn in two. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Father! In your hands I place my spirit!’ He said this and died. (Luke 23.44-46)
14. And finally, witness Jesus’ body laid in a tomb. Walk silently away from the tomb with Joseph, praying as you go … praying with the groans of your spirit.
That evening a rich man named Joseph, a follower of Jesus from the town of Arimathea, came to Jerusalem. Joseph went to Pilate and asked to have Jesus’ body. So Pilate gave orders for the soldiers to give it to Joseph. Then Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. He put Jesus’ body in a new tomb that he had cut out of a wall of rock, and he rolled a very large stone to block the entrance of the tomb. Then Joseph went away. (Matthew 27.57-60)
He is our hope. So then, like him, let us daily die to ourselves so that our hope is anchored in him, not ourselves, and so that our imitation of him be truly cross-shaped and cruciform.
“I suggest that we see the achievement of the cross in three expressions: Jesus dies ‘with us’ – entering into our evil and our sin and our suffering to subvert it and create a new way; Jesus dies ‘instead of us’ – he enters into our sin, our wrath, and our death; and Jesus dies ‘for us’ – his death forgives our sin, ‘declares us right,’ absorbs the wrath of God against us, and creates new life where there was once only death.
“Not only is this death saving, this same death becomes the paradigm for an entirely new existence that is shaped … by the cross. A life shaped by the cross is a life bent on dying daily to self in order to love God, self, others, and the world. And a life shaped by the cross sees in the cross God becoming the victim, identifying with the victim, suffering injustice, and shaping a cruciform pattern of life for all who would follow Jesus. The cross reshapes all of life.”
Scot McKnight, A Community Called Atonement; p.69
Change & habits: How to Form a Habit, a Scientific Approach
“… habits are reinforced by a three-part loop: trigger, behavior, and reward. The trigger tells you—consciously or unconsciously—to start the behavior, the behavior is the habit or action, and the reward is the benefit that you get from that action. You can see the loop: That coveted reward teaches us to continue the behavior, over and over again, until it turns into a habit.”
Christ, Ephesians 4, Psalm 68 & nonviolence: A Christological Reading of Psalm 68 [required reading]
“… what is startling about this imagery is how Jesus wins his victory over his enemies non-violently. On the cross Jesus is disarming and defeating his enemies–sin, death and the Devil–and taking them as captives in war.”
Churches of Christ, humility, leadership & the Spirit of God: Fix Me, Jesus: Jesus’ Plans for the Churches of Christ
“If God answered the prayer, ‘Fix me, Jesus,’ at the congregational level, what would a congregation under repair look like? what stories might we be able to tell?”
History, Middle East, politics, President Obama & Vietnam: Will Syria Be Obama’s Vietnam?
“War has a forward motion of its own. Most of Johnson’s major steps in the escalation in Vietnam were in response to unforeseen obstacles, setbacks and shortcomings. There’s no reason the same dynamic couldn’t repeat itself in 2014.”
Learning & study: Better Ways to Learn
“‘Most of us study and hope we are doing it right,’ Mr. Carey says. ‘But we tend to have a static and narrow notion of how learning should happen.’ … The first step toward better learning is to simply change your study environment from time to time. … “
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us—because it is written, Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed. He redeemed us so that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, and that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3.13-14 CEB)