Tag Archive: Christ

How beautiful are the feet…

Last week, we asked…What would it look like to love God with one of the most precious gifts God has given – our body.   Is this one way to embody Jesus’ command to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind?  A few days ago we said something about our eyes; then our ears, and now our hands and feet…

Those who have hands and feet let them serve

When Jesus ascended to heaven at the beginning of the book of Acts the apostles were astounded.  The man they followed for three years was gone.  He was raised from the grave, but then was lifted away from earth in a cloud.  After Jesus was gone the disciples remained standing, looking upward, until two men (angels, maybe) appeared asking, “Why do you stand looking into heaven?”  The disciples were dazed, unsure of what to do now that their leader was gone.

Perhaps Jesus’ parting words are instructive.  Moments before ascending to heaven Jesus blessed the disciples saying, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (1:8).  We may interpret Luke’s words for our own time, “We are witnesses in Louisville, Kentucky, North America, and to the ends of the earth.”

Christ’s physical body is no longer here.  But you and I, along with all Christians around the world, remain here.  The disciples, you, and I are witnesses to the power and grace of God.  Though we’re not here to remain gazing upward.  We live as the Church, Christ’s Body on this earth, in order that Christ may be known in this time and place.  We are, in fact, the continuing presence of Christ in our world and community.  We are the hands and feet of Christ.  Empowered by the Spirit of God, we continue the ministry Christ began long ago.  We are Christ’s hands today, feeding and clothing the hungry and naked.  We are Christ’s hands reaching out to touch and embrace the untouchable in our world.  We are Christ’s feet taking the message of the promise of God’s coming kingdom to all.

We, the Church, are the Body of Christ sent into the world.  What a privilege to participate in the coming of God’s kingdom, a kingdom that was inaugurated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  How thankful we are that Christ, the light of the world, has lighted the path.  As the Psalmist praises, the Lord has drawn us up from a desolate pit, and put our feet upon a rock” (Ps. 40:2).  The light of Christ has become for us a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path.

So, we clap our hands in praise of God on Sunday, and get our hands dirty with kingdom-building work during the week.  With our feet we run the good race Paul so often writes about, taking the good news into the world.  The prophet Isaiah reminds us, “How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of the messenger who announces peace and brings good news” (Isa. 52:7).

Teresa of Avila, a beautifully devoted follower of Jesus in sixteenth century Spain put it appropriately: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.  Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.  Yours are the hands with which he is to bless now.”

Those who have hands and feet let them serve.


Lent 4.5 – Energy

How are we using our limited energy resources?  How can we use them more efficiently?

How are we using our personal energy?  Our church energy?  For what purpose?

Are we ultimately following, Christ, the light of the world?

Christ as Healer and Ancestor in Africa

Tennent begins chapter five with a bold claim: African Christianity will become “the representative Christianity in the twenty-first century” (105, author’s emphasis).  While this may shock some, Tennent sees the growth of African Christianity as a natural phenomenon.  Africans are no longer simply mimicking what the missionaries said about the Son of Man.  They are forming their own Christology out of their own experience and interpretation of scripture.

Tennent highlights four distinctive emphases of African Christianity (can you sense Tennent enjoys lists and categories?):

1. Theology from below – African theology maintains a holistic integration of the person and work of Christ.  Christ is no stranger to the “practical realities of poverty, illiteracy, ethnic tensions, colonialism, dictatorship, illness, disenfranchisement, and suffering (113).  The teachings and work of Christ apply to the whole of African life.

2. Conscious awareness of traditional Christological formulations – African theologians are aware of traditional Western theology, and seek to integrate such thought into African Christianity.  Africans do not think in isolation, but are aware of global context and conversations.

3. Connecting Christ to Africa’s Pre-Christian Past – African Christianity seeks to recall and integrate past experiences.  Africans do not jettison the indigenous culture like many Western missionaries did/do.

4. An Emphasis on the Power and Victory of Christ – Africans praise Christ as: Liberator, Chief, Ancestor, Healer, and Master of Initiation (115).

Tennent further evaluates two African Christological images.  First, Tennent examines “Jesus as Healer and Life-Giver.”  While enlightened missionaries tried to de-emphasize the supernatural aspect of Christ’s healing ministry, Tennent suggests that the African emphasis on the healing ministry of Christ must be understood within a circle of meaning.  For Africans, physical healing leads to the spiritual healing of community that in turn anticipates the cosmic healing over Satan and principalities.  Tennent concludes that Westerners should celebrate this image of Christ.

Next, Tennent looks as “Jesus as Ancestor.”  Many Africans believe in a distant, vague Supreme Being.  However, religious life in Africa is concerned with a ‘second tier’ of power that is inhabited by a pantheon of various divinities (122).  This ‘second tier’ includes ancestors.  Ancestors must have lived a virtuous life, upheld the moral fabric of the clan, and “died well.”  Many view ancestors as the bridge or mediator (not barrier) between God and humanity.  Tennent cautions that this view of Christ as ancestor is only helpful so far.  In fact, the Christological image is so culturally conditioned that it lacks a faithful appeal beyond Africa.

I greatly appreciate Tennent’s discussion of African Christology.  Like in other places in Tennent’s work the issue raises the question: To what extent should our evangelistic outreach adopt the language, culture, and metaphors of the indigenous community?  Is the uniqueness of Christ lost in translation?  Do we diminish the universality of the theological and scriptural language God has given us?

This is the fifth review in an eleven-part series looking at Timothy Tennent’s Theology in the context of World Christianity.

Tuning in to God

The other day someone asked me, “Where do you come up with your ideas for a sermon?  Where do you get all those illustrations?”  Maybe you’ve never wondered yourself, but I actually get asked these questions quite often.  People are always curious, “Where did you get that?”  While I sometimes feel compelled to offer a sermon on sermon illustrations, I usually refrain, keep my answer simple, and say: “Just look around.”

A lot of people probably think there’s some book or website that preachers turn to when in need of a sermon illustration.  And yes, those resources certainly exist.  However, my best and favorite illustrations of God, Christ, His love, etc…come from my daily experiences.  Indeed, just take a look around your own daily routine.  Look at the scenery on your drive to work.  Pause to observe the people sitting in the restaurant, cafeteria, or grocery.  Listen and reflect on a conversation with a family member or colleague.  God’s presence permeates these places and situations.  God’s love for you and your neighbor is at work in many different places and in many different ways.  God reveals himself to us in these ordinary, mundane, and seemingly simple tasks.  It’s our responsibility to take the time to notice.  It’s our joy to experience Christ constantly in our day-to-day living.  Once you open your eyes and ears and tune in to God’s activity in your life, you’ll be surprised at all the noise God is making.

“A New Family in Christ”

It is quite difficult to grasp this lectionary pericope without first reading Jesus’ words in vv. 17-39.  In fact, Jesus’ words in vv. 17-39 lay the foundation for vv. 40-42.  In the larger context, Jesus is preparing his disciples for persecution during their mission.  Interestingly, Matthew gives us no clear account of the disciples actual mission.  Where did they go?  How long did they stay?  What were their experiences?  We are left without a historical report or description of the disciple’s mission.  Therefore, as contemporary readers we can be confident that Jesus’ words of instruction were intended not only for the Twelve, but for other hearers and readers at a later time, including ourselves.

Despite the lack of details about the actual mission, we can paint a picture of the mission based on vv. 40-42.  That is, the mission had/will have both success and failure.  In v. 40 Jesus speaks of those who “receive” the disciples and Himself.  Since Jesus describes those who “receive,” we can infer that there will be those who do not receive.  In fact, we learn earlier in Jesus’ speech that those who do not “receive the disciples and Christ,” will include: governments (v. 18-19), other religious people (v. 17), and family (v. 21).  The quarrels, rejections, and fights among family members over the issue of Christ seem quite severe.   Jesus claims that there will be hate, rebellion, and death on account of Him.  Jesus recognizes that families will be split and relationships severed because of Him.  Yes, the “mission” contained, and will contain, both success and failure.

However, this “family” idea serves as the hinge of  vv. 17-39 and vv. 40-42.  While the first section of Jesus’ speech portrays the destruction of family, vv. 40-42 appear as Christ’s creation of a new family.  This new family which Christ describes is a family of those who “receive” Him.

This new family includes (v. 40): 1) “He who welcomes”; 2) disciples; 3) Christ, and God (“the one who sent me”).  With the conjoining of these four entities Christ creates a new family.  This new family of those who give and those who receive are bound by the ultimate Creator and Sustainer, “the one who sent.”  In fact, God is the one who serves and works as the source of this new creation (v. 31).  However, this new family does not replace the old family.  Rather, the new family finds its identity in its reception of God and shared desire for Christ’s mission to the poor, defenseless, hungry, and thirsty (v. 42).

Christ desires for all who receive Him to join this new family.  Christ urges for the disciples and later readers of the gospel to give and receive the Good News, and share in His newly created missional family.  For in this fellowship of the new family does one find, and not lose, the reward.

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