Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: Abraham

YouTubevotinal: Trick or Treat

YouTubevotionals are designed to be used in personal devotion time, with small groups, youth groups, or Sunday school classes. To see other YouTubevotionals, click here

Introduction

In the 1952 Disney short, Witch Hazel observes from her broom as Huey, Dewey, and Louie ring the doorbell of their Uncle Donald’s house. Donald has decided to trick the boys instead of giving treats. Donald is having fun with it, but Hazel feels sorry for the three boys. She attempts to get a treat from Donald, but he only offers a trick.

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Guest Post: Sola Fide

by Rev. Adam Kelchner

Read Romans 4:1-5.

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comWhat then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.

Sola fide, sola gratie (By faith alone, by grace alone). These are some of the most important and contentious words in all of Christian history. But we’ll get back to that.

For a few more months I’m serving as the United Methodist campus minister at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m also not that far out of the classroom setting as a student myself. I think there’s something critically important that we see in the lives of students whether in elementary school or a Master’s program that opens a window into our text.

The grand narrative of the student goes something like this: the ‘good’ student pays attention, participates in the classroom, completes assignment on time, works diligently to understand concepts, proves his or her intellectual worth to the teacher or professor through rigorous academic exercises. If the student satisfies or exceeds the expectations of the professor, then an ‘A’ or ‘A+’ is rewarded. The award is based on the merits of the student. Some college students know all too well that merit can pay off in generous scholarships and that the scholarship depends on continued demonstration of achievement. It’s not all that different from the office employee who pushes the bounds of sanity for a raise or promotion. The church calls this ‘works righteousness.’

In other words, can we earn our salvation in the eyes of God?

There is a story of faith that counters the insanity that can emerge from ‘works righteousness.’ God’s salvation does not depend on what you and I are capable of; our salvation in Jesus Christ does not depend on a tightly polished resume or curriculum vitae. Sola fide. It is by faith alone that we enter into life with the Almighty God and that’s good news. There’s nothing you can do to change the fact that God already loves you. There’s nothing you can do to earn God’s love. Our relationship with God and with one another is made right (justified) by God’s grace.

When you have to prove yourself in so many facets of life, it’s good news to the weary, the burned out, and the rejected that Christ gives this grace freely for the healing of our broken hearts and spirits.

Rev. Adam Kelchner is the Pastor for Missions and Outreach at Belmont United Methodist Church

Be Blessed, Be a Blessing

“I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2, NRSV)

A commission is given along with a threefold blessing.  A great call and a greater blessing.  All in just the first three verses found in chapter 12 of the Book of Genesis.  A passage I have heard and taught on various times and places.  Whether in worship from the pulpit or in the basement of the youth building, the call of Abram and God’s blessings is a story of faith that begins to unfold.

Genesis 12:1-3 is a pivotal break in the Genesis narrative.  It begins the great ancestral narrative and begins a journey of God’s people that will continue through the rest of the book of Genesis.  For it is the call from God that sets the journey in motion, as J. Gerald Janzen points out.  And it is more than just Abram’s journey.  “For all its brevity,” Janzen writes, “this call is of immeasurable importance, for it both anchors the journey and guides our interpretation of each step along the way – Abraham’s, his descendants’, and our own steps as we join the journey.”

Walter Brueggemann suggests that the commission to be a blessing was intended for Israel to live a life under the promise to “energize and model a way for the other nations also to receive a blessing from this God.”  This theology of being a blessing to the “unqualified” is utilized through the New Testament, reflecting back to Abraham and Genesis 12.  The Gospel of Luke is very attentive to the “unqualified” through the stories of Jesus blessing the crippled woman (Luke 13:10-17) and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10).  And these are just two examples.  In Acts 3:25, Peter quotes Genesis 12:3 in his sermon to the Jewish community.  Paul, similarly, refers to this commission to be a blessing as the “gospel beforehand” in his letter to the Galatians (3:8).

I can’t help but think of the “unqualified” in Los Diques.  As we drove through the downtown/suburban community of Cartago and crossed over the railroad tracks, we seemed to leave one reality to enter another.   The promise of land, of descendants, and blessing would be received as hope in this community.  Yet, at the same time, this community takes serious the commission to “be a blessing.”

Sometimes the hardest thing in this world is to live in it. To know that God speaks in the barrenness of live, offers hope for any of us.  It reminds us that God still longs for relationship with humanity.

© 2017 Jason C. Stanley

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