Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: kingdom

My PaPa

This was the eulogy/homily I gave at the service of death and resurrection for my PaPa, Ernest Carter Stanley. Some of the stories you may have heard in a sermon or at a youth retreat, or read here on this blog. I read Revelation 21:1-7 from the small, pocket Bible that a chaplain gave him during World War II. 

PaPaI had spent most of this warm, summer day helping my Momma clean, which is exactly what every middle school boy wants to do on his summer vacation, right? I managed to do what I think every middle school boy would do, escape under the phantom excuse of needing to take a walk. To my surprise, I actually did take a walk.

With the rural Virginia dirt under my bare feet, I set out on the longer of the paths that led through the woods behind the house, over the creek, and around the goat lot to the back field.

As I walked, I came upon the first creek to cross. I jumped over – well, really just stepped over – being careful of the barbed wire attached to the tree to my right. I stepped over the barbwire, with one foot on the ground and the other foot in the air when I heard it. It was a sound I had never heard in the woods before. I froze, listening intently to discern where the sound was coming from.

Continue reading

Book Review: Kingdom Come

41gf7itj8wLKingdom Come: Why We Must Give Up Our Obsession with Fixing the Church – and What We Should Do Instead, Reggie McNeal, Tyndale Momentum, 2015.

Reggie McNeal sets out to do exactly what the subtitle suggests. The fist half of Kingdom Come explains why the church must give up fixing the church. While the second half deals with the what the church should do instead along with practical ways to do just that. The thesis of this approachable book is summarized in this statement by McNeal, which he repeats often:

“The church is not the point of the Kingdom; the Kingdom is the point of the church.”

The book is divided into two sections. One focusing on McNeal’s theory that in order for the Church to survive in this new day and age, it must refocus on the Kingdom. The second half gives practical examples and practical steps to achieve that. While the first half of the book is Pastor McNeal, the second half is Leadership Consulant McNeal.

Continue reading

Guest Post: Trust in God’s Promise

by Michelle Hettmann

washing_3262c-2Read Psalm 118:19-29.

This past fall, I studied abroad in Lugano, Switzerland, and Adigrat, Ethiopia. I was so blessed to have the opportunity to set foot in over 10 countries and experience glimpses of life in communities all over Europe and parts of eastern Africa. Being abroad was a wonderful experience, but also a challenging one. I was away from my friends and family for four months while they were here doing life together. I felt loneliness and sadness in the midst of the adventure. It was the biggest test of my faith and trust in God that I’ve experienced in my life.

While the experience wasn’t always easy, I experienced God in ways that I probably wouldn’t have if I wasn’t in that situation.

Continue reading

The Longer I Serve

NaNa & PaPaAfter visiting my grandparents (PaPa & NaNa) one day this summer, I left marveled at these two witnesses. PaPa is 92 and Nana is 87. They have lived long and fruitful lives. PaPa stationed throughout Europe during World War II. NaNa growing up on a farm in rural Hanover County. They raised three children, grandparented eight grandchildren and six plus great-grandchildren. With one more on the way.

Continue reading

Sermon: Renew and Transform


The Ten: Respect God’s Name

Do not use the Lord your God’s name as if it were of no significance; the Lord won’t forgive anyone who uses his name that way. (Exodus 20:7, Common English Bible)

The Ten - jasoncstanley.comThe other day I was at Taco Bell ordering lunch. After I ordered and paid, the woman behind the counter told me to have a blessed day and “Jesus loves you.” I was kind of surprised. I have been told by many to have a blessed day. But I think this was the first time I was told by a clerk, “Jesus loves you.” Not even in a Christian bookstore have I been told that “Jesus loves me.” But here, in the tiny Taco Bell, Jesus loves me.

When we think of the commandment of “do not take God’s name in vain,” we often think of swearing or profanity. To use the Lord’s name in vain is to use God’s name as a curse. While there is truth to this understanding, there is so much more to this commandment. God’s name is a powerful thing, and it should not be taken for granted, but held with the most respect.

God tells the Israelites that he spares them from the plagues, “to show you my power, and to make my name resound through all the earth” (Exodus 9:16). When Jesus gives the Great Commission, he tells the disciples to baptize in the “name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The name of God points to the Kingdom. It is disrespectful to use God’s name in a way that does not point to God’s kingdom.

Seminaries in the south became experts as theologically reasoning why enslaving African-Americans was not only okay, but ordained by God. In the name of God, they enslaved other human people. During the Civil Rights era, church going people bombed churches and houses, burned crosses, and killed other human beings in the name of God.

The purpose of the commandment is to protect the holy and divine name of God from being used to distract others from said holiness. When we use God’s name to promote hatred towards others, we are using God’s name in vain. When we use God’s name to put down others and make them “less holy,” we become less than holy as we misuse God’s name. When we judge others and condemn them to an eternity without God, we disrespect the name of God and God’s kingdom.

God is so much bigger than anything we can say or do, decide or plan. And God’s name is meant for praise and adoration. God’s name is meant to witness to God’s kingdom. Instead, perhaps, we can be more like the Taco Bell clerk who tells us, “Jesus loves you.”

Elysium (2013)

Elysium Movie Review - jasoncstanley.comMatt Damon is Max, a man who is trying to get his life back to together and has hopes of a better life on Elysium. Turns out that in 2154, the Earth is a grime place, while the exclusive 1% live on a space station called Elysium. There they have the best of the best. Resorts. Fine dining. Beautiful landscapes. And most of all, health care.

Elysium is from the creative mind of Neill Blomkamp, who brought us District 9. Blomkamp is no stranger to using his films for social commentary. And I’m going to put this out there, but the film seems to be paying some kind of homage to Mad Max.

The Earth scenes are limited to a ghetto of Los Angeles, that is mostly a Latino neighborhood. Max grew up here, looking to the skies, hoping to become a citizen of Elysium. A nun gives him a locket with a picture of the Earth, and tells him that the view of them is more beautiful. After doing time for being a car thief, Max has gotten himself a factory job. Someone has to develop the robots that police the streets.

It’s not the best job. His boss is a jerk, and its dangerous. Max ends up being exposed to radiation, and being told he only has five days left to live. The pills he has been given will only slow it down.

In the meantime, Jodie Foster is the defense secretary who makes it her mission to protect the freedoms of the 1%, even killing immigrants from Earth who try to cross over into Elysium. She is coming under some heavy heat from the President, and plans a coup with the CEO of the company that Max works with (William Fichtner). The CEO will develop a computer program that will enable anyone else to be President.

Back on Earth, Max makes a deal with Spider that he will download information from the CEO in exchange for a ticket to Elysium. They have no idea that the CEO has downloaded the program he has created into his own brain and is on his way to deliver it to the defense secretary. The best scene in the film is possibly the one where Max and his buddies shoot down the CEO’s private jet and attempt to steal the data.

Most of the group is killed off, but Max survives. He hides out at the home of an old childhood friend who happens to be a nurse (Alice Braga). Her daughter is dying from leukemia and could use the healthcare of Elysium.

Eventually, Max allows himself to die to give Spider time to install the computer program that Max downloaded. Max’s sacrifice means that all people on Earth are now citizens of Elysium. Including his friend’s dying daughter, who longer is dying.

Max becomes Christ-like. After searching for his own fulfillment, he comes to the realization that his death (something he knows is coming) will benefit the many. Max’s actions are a vast contrast from the defense secretary’s. Perhaps Blomkamp is saying that the privilege of the 1% is at the cost to the 99%. Perhaps he is saying that universal healthcare is needed. That it is unacceptable for a child to die from leukemia when there is a way to heal her.

Elysium by definition is a place or condition of ideal happiness. The power is that elysium is too often an exclusive thing. Even in Jesus’ day, happiness was limited to a select few. The powers that be kept the weaker, poorer in their places. The wealth of the 1% was gained on the back of the 99%. Jesus broke into this system with a message and with a life that was counter to all that.

Love was for all. Justice was for all. Peace is for all. There are no outsiders. In Blomkamp’s tale, citizenship is for all. Healthcare is for all. There are no outsiders. It is an important message. We are all the same. We are all in this together. We are all citizens of the same Kingdom.

Bible’s Major Players: Potiphar’s Wife

Slide2The Bible is filled with some major players. Potiphar’s wife is one from the Old Testament.

The story of Potiphar’s wife is a part of the Joseph narrative found in Genesis 39. Joseph was sold in slavery by his jealous brothers. Through a series of fortunate events, guided by the hand of God, Joseph was purchased by Potiphar, the commander of Pharaoh’s royal guard, and an Egyptian. Joseph was quickly put in charge of the household. The Mr. Carson of Potiphar’s house (Genesis 39:6).

The Bible tells us that Joseph was young, handsome, and smart. He was a natural leader. No wonder he was in charge of the whole household at such a young age. So, here is Joseph the young, handsome, smart leader of the household. He has been rejected by his family, sold into slavery, and sent to a foreign land. He spends the bulk of his day in charge while his master is at work.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Potiphar is at home too. She was an older woman home with her servants most of the day. Maybe she was neglected. Maybe she was needy. Maybe Mr. P worked long hours. Maybe she needed attention.

Mrs. Potiphar is the original Real Housewife. She is attracted to Joseph and makes passes at him. And even though he denies her invitations, she doesn’t stop asking.

One day when Joseph arrived at the house to do his work, none of the household’s men were there. (Gen. 39:11, CEB)

Anyone else think this should cause a red flag?

She grabbed his garment, saying, “Lie down with me.” But he left his garment in her hands and run outside, she summoned the men of her house and said to them, “Look, my husband brought us a Hebrew to ridicule us. He came to me to lie down with me, but I screamed. When he heard me raise my voice and scream, he left his garment with me and ran outside.” (Gen. 39:12-14, CEB)

Joan Collins as Potiphar's wife in Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat

Joan Collins as Potiphar’s wife in Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat

You got to give her an A for effort. We quickly switched channels in this story from the Real Housewives to Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. When Mrs. P didn’t get what she wanted, she cried rape. A serious accusation, then and now.

There is no telling how many other housemen she had tried this with. Imagine the Real Housewives anger she must have experienced. Angry enough to blame her husband AND insult Joseph. “Look what this Hebrew my husband gave us did,” she says. But, let us not forget that she still had Joseph’s garments in her hand. But in Joseph’s case, clothes don’t make the man. God does.

But she is still part of the rich and powerful. She pleads her case to her husband, and he sends Joseph to jail. Some have suggested that if Potiphar really truly believed that Joseph had attempted to rape his wife, he would have had Joseph sentenced to death. Perhaps there is something special about this Hebrew.

Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann, in his commentary on Genesis, suggests that the two main characters in this episode symbolize a tension between the Kingdom and the empire. (Notice the upper and lower case letters, I did that on purpose). It is the tension between living as a faithful disciple and living as the world demands us to. It is the tension between living as called by the power of God and living as called by the power of society.

Potiphar’s wife represents the empire and those in power. Joseph is a symbol of the faithful. The faithful will be faced with moments when they will be asked by those in power (sex aside) to do something that goes against the Kingdom. Joseph’s response was to not do it, and to remain faithful to his God.

It should be noted that it was in jail that Joseph meets the men who tell him about Pharaoh’s dreams and interprets them. It because of these men in jail that Joseph rises to power as a Governor. Crappy things happened to Joseph, but God was with him through it all, and Joseph was faithful through it all.

What will your response be?

Resources: Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis. John Knox Press, 1982.

What, Then, Should We Do?

Read Luke 3:7-14.

John has been preaching in the wilderness calling for people to “prepare the way for the Lord.” An important part of this preparation is to repent and turn back to God. John’s preaching is so moving that the people ask him, “What should we do?”

John’s answer is pretty straight forward. If you have two coats and  your neighbor has none, share with your neighbor. It is probably one of those things we learned in preschool or kindergarten. This mandate to share is also a mandate to prepare. As we share with our neighbors, we are preparing for the coming Kingdom.

When the tax collectors and the soldiers ask, “What should we do?” John tells them, basically, to not abuse their power. Unfortunately, we live in a society where the abuse of power is all too common place. All too often the oppression, persecution, and injustices we see are at the hands of those in power. How do we as people of faith respond? What, then, should we do?

© 2018 Jason C. Stanley

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑