On the evening of the first Easter Sunday, Jesus invaded the locked room of his fearful disciples and issued a world-changing proclamation: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And with a few simple words, Jesus commissioned his disciples to a new way of life – a life where the extraordinary and the ordinary collide. Every follower of Jesus is supernaturally invited to join the Missio Dei (the mission of God) whereby everything in heaven and earth is joined together under Jesus as Head. But, as followers of Jesus, they are called to do it in the way of Jesus. Most people gravitate toward the extraordinary out of a desire to be great. And few embrace anything ordinary. Yet when Jesus called His disciples to a sent life as the Father had sent Him, this includes a lot of normal, everyday activity. This fall we are going to explore the extraordinary/ordinary ways of Jesus. How did the Father send the Son? As a newborn baby. With 30 years of obscurity. With love for the stranger. With lots of meals with unexpected guests. With hospitality. With celebration. In an empire. With racial reconciliation. By the power of the Holy Spirit. Our sending as the people of God is no different.
As we near the end of this series, we are going to circle back to the place where we started: in the room, behind locked doors with the disciples on the first Easter evening. When we opened this series many weeks ago, we did so by listening to Jesus words of sending for his disciples. "As the Father sent Me, even so I am sending you." Which launched us into a conversation about the extraordinary/ordinary ways of Jesus- hospitality, table meals, celebration, reconciliation, work and the like. However, the first time we went through John 20, I intentionally stopped the story at verse 21. The rest of the story is essential, because within it, we discover our only hope to ever live this kind of life: the Holy Spirit. After speaking his words of sending, Jesus breathes on the disciples and calls them to "Receive the Holy Spirit." This week, as cycle back to John 20, we will explore how we are to engage the Holy Spirit as the power, source and non-negotiable Helper to our everyday. Unfortunately, so many in the church have walked away confused or discouraged about the One who is meant to be our primary spiritual assurance. The Holy Spirit has been given to catalyze our Extraordinary/Ordinary.
In 1 John 3:8, we learn that "the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil." Such language often triggers images of exorcism, possession and demonology. However, in addition to extraordinary spiritual warfare (which has its place), there is another facet to spiritual warfare that looks and sounds very ordinary. In the life and ministry of Jesus, we find numerous battles that take place in simple, understated and everyday ways. This week, by examining Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, we are able to discover the battle lines surrounding our daily, ordinary battles: the undermining of identity, temptation, truth distortions, and shortcuts. As followers of Jesus, this is the extraordinary ordinary battle of spiritual warfare that we never grow past.
As a church that is primarily comprised of white, upper/middle class Americans, we often need to be reminded that Jesus was neither white nor American. When the Father chose to send His Son to redeem the world, He did so as a 1st century Middle Eastern Jewish Messiah. And, as the Lamb from Revelation 7 who is worshipped around the throne, Jesus has come for a bride that is from every nation, tongue, tribe and language. Therefore, as people who follow Jesus, we too have been sent with a ministry of reconciliation. This week, we will learn from Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well from John 4 and talk about what it looks like to pursue extraordinary/ordinary reconciliation. Issues of race stand at the core of the gospel message and can't be ignored.
In a fast-paced, hyper-technological world, our lives spin ever faster. And amidst that culture, the church is in danger of losing one of its greatest gifts: the ministry of presence. The great writers of our faith talk endlessly about the rare ability to bring the best of who you are, offering oneself fully through attentive availability. Though often overlooked, one's ministry of presence hits at the heart of our common humanity. This week, we will explore Jesus' ministry of presence through his interaction with Mary and Martha around the death of their beloved brother, Lazarus. Not only has He saved us from our sins, but Jesus invites us to follow in His ways. This involves a beautiful balance of being present to the Father in such a way that allows us to be fully present to others.
Among the weight of sorrow, sin and disillusionment with life in a fallen world, it is very easy for followers of Jesus to become a sad and sullen people. However, as one reads the life and ministry of Jesus, one theme that rises to the top is the recovery of a spirit of celebration among the people of God. As a people of the resurrection, we are sent to celebrate. This week we will look at Jesus' first miracle (turning water into wine at a wedding) and his first sermon (an announcement of Jubilee). Jesus' miracle and His message both call us to embrace a life of celebration that is rooted in the true story of the world. If we are going to seriously follow in the way of Jesus, we need to fight for the supremacy of celebration among everyday life.
As the people of God who are sent like the Son, we are called into a life of extraordinary/ordinary hospitality. Over the years, there are few Christian concepts that have been tamed and tossed aside like this has. Rather than tea parties, bland conversation and pleasantries among friends, hospitality at its root is the radical notion of "loving the stranger." This week, we will explore Jesus' controversial words from Luke 14, calling His people to a life that welcomes the strangers among us. True hospitality is not only effective in a world languishing in loneliness. It tells the true story of God's great welcome to the world and stands as ground zero for the Christian life.
Our exploration of the first Easter evening from John 20 will set the stage for our series this fall: The Extraordinary/Ordinary. How did the Father send the Son? And what implications does that have for us who are called to follow in His ways.
In his letter written to Jewish Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire, James, the half-brother of Jesus, issues the call for a life of following Jesus that is “wholly holy.” In other words, our aim is a life with integrity that allows God to close the gap on the holes, blind spots and inconsistencies that we often ignore. Trials and temptations. Hearing and not doing. Taming our tongues. Riches and Poverty. Favoritism. Worldliness. The work of Jesus is so rich and profound that it addresses all of life, not merely getting our souls to heaven when we die. Drawing upon the Sermon on the Mount and the ancient wisdom tradition, James fires off short thematic teachings that reveal the way that God intends to put our whole lives back together again: from “holey” to “wholly, holy.”
As the final chapter of the book opens, James addresses two shortsighted ways to live that undercut God's kingdom from above: financial arrogance and everyday impatience. With two distinct thoughts, James both condemns the rich for their selfish mistreatment of wealth and critiques the people of God regarding their grumbling impatience amidst suffering. Both actions miss the mark. And both actions fail to live in light of the imminent return of Jesus. A clear and compelling vision of the coming Judge changes the way we live today until His return.
The next theme that James tackles in terms of wisdom and everyday transformation is our tongue. Following the wisdom of Proverbs, James underscores just how much our words bring life and death. Borrowing from a variety of metaphors (a bit, a rudder, a fire), James points out just how central our tongue is to the life of one following Jesus. By His grace, God intends to make our words wholly holy too.
Moving into chapter 2, James focuses on the theme of favoritism in the Christian community. Literally, the word favoritism means to "receive the face" or to judge people based on what you see. And without a doubt, James is emphatic that faith and favoritism cannot be held in the same hand. As a trusted voice of leadership and care, James exposes the way that favoritism violates several key components of the way of Jesus and exhorts us all to be a mercy loving people in practical ways.
This week we continue in James’ letter to the early church and consider what it means follow Jesus in a broken world. Where does the brokenness come from? What does it mean for us to not only hear the truth but live the truth? What should our religion, our faith, our worship be marked by? How does the life and teachings of Jesus inform all of this?