Encouragement, which comes in many forms, is necessary for healthy and faithful relationships. We have the ability to encourage another by offering affirmation. And yet, sometimes we should not be affirmed. At times, our encouragement needs not to show up as affirmation, but to show up in the form of exhortation, where we are encouraging others to live more faithfully.
Through acknowledgment of what is, by naming sin that exists, by naming our participation and benefit from sin, freedom becomes possible. Because of God’s love in Jesus Christ, we can claim our sin, we can be made new, and we can have a new life that exemplifies God’s love.
Build your homes. Live in them. Plant gardens. Go for an isolated walk. Enjoy the sunshine. Seek the well-being of the community in which you live. Learn to live as Easter people in a time of exile.
This is a different season for us all. We will be faced with a new normal for the coming weeks, perhaps months. And yet, even as we socially distance ourselves, as a people of faith, we have a witness of faith in Jesus Christ that teaches us to ensure we are no isolating ourselves from the needs of the community. In the feeding of the multitudes, Jesus teaches us that what we have to offer is sufficient, and that with our provisions, God will care for us all.
“Jesus wept.” Such a profound and compact Biblical witness to the faith of Jesus Christ. But Jesus’ tears may surprise you. These divine tears are not just a witness to Jesus’ deep love for humanity, but are a reminder of the depth of Jesus’ faithfulness to his calling as Savior.
Before he performs the miracle of calming the storm, Jesus rebukes the disciples for their fear and their lack of faith. We tend to skip over the rebuke so that we might marvel at the miracle. But skipping the rebuke is just our way to try and tame the story. Jesus isn’t a circus act to be observed, he’s the manifestation of God’s love in flesh, whose faith is a model for faithful discipleship.
Why do we go to church on Ash Wednesday? Surely it’s not to be reminded we’re broken. The world is good to telling us how broken we are, do we really need the church to do the same? We go to church on Ash Wednesday not simply to proclaim, and to be marked, as a broken and sinful creation – but to remember that we have something better to proclaim.
When Paul says that we are saved by “the faith of/in Jesus Christ,” what does he mean? Paul believed this faith was a faith that tore down walls, not a faith that built walls up. Paul believed this faith removed the demarcations that had divided the community, instead of being a faith that further splintered communities. This was not any faith, this was the faith of Jesus Christ – it is the Lord’s faithfulness that offers righteousness and claims us as God’s children.
To understand Paul’s writings, you have to understand the art of letter writing. Paul wasn’t writing a collection of instruction books for the whole of Christianity, he was writing as an apostolic leader to communities of faith he planted. How we understand his writings will be wholly dependent on how we understand why he wrote.
Labor Day is not a celebration of how great our workforce is, it is a reminder that we are called to be something greater than we have been before. Hebrews 13 offers a similar call to the faithful. It is not a text of how great we are at living our faith, it’s a call to how much greater we should be as a people of faith.