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Archive for August, 2014

A Covenant Made of Blood

We are currently in a sermon series at Wellspring that is about a journey that is built entirely on trust. It is the journey of the children of Israel delivered from Egypt and moving toward the land of promise. It is the story of Moses’s call, the deliverance of God’s people from Pharaoh’s oppressive hand, and the journey that follows. It is finally a story about a sacred relationship between the people of God and the God who loves them and has called them.

As we gather for one combined service this week, we will be gathering at tables as we recall the sacred meal of Jesus that is based upon the passover feast. We will be hearing about Moses and the plagues, and we will remember the night of the first passover. This is when the people of Israel were instructed to put lamb’s blood on the door posts and the header over the top of the door, and with that, the angel of death that came to take the first-born from every household passed over the houses marked with lamb’s blood.

While this ancient way of thinking about blood and sacrifice are foreign (if not repugnant) to us, the idea of blood for sacrifice and deliverance made their way into the life of Christ. Jesus was faced with the understanding that blood was required for people to be saved … to be passed over by death … and in order to shut the door finally on death, Jesus offered his own blood that we might be saved. This image brings to mind a God whom we do not understand or necessarily worship today. After all, a God who is love surely would not demand a blood sacrifice just to be appeased.

But there is another angle on this that I want to explore. And this new understanding is based upon what the ancients believed about blood.

We have a very scientific view of what blood is and how it contributes to biological life. Blood is the vehicle that carries nutrients to the muscles and tissues throughout the body. Blood is the vehicle that cleanses the body of impurities and delivers those impurities to the liver and the kidneys to be filtered out. Blood is essential to our biological life.

To the ancients, who did not have a scientific understanding about the nature of blood, however, blood was quite simply … LIFE! They understood, as do we, that when blood leaves the body, the body dies. What that meant for them was that the essence of life was in the blood itself. When we bleed, we are pouring our life out of our bodies.

It is with this understanding that I have come to understand the nature of the sacrifice of Jesus. My understanding of the death of Jesus wasn’t that it was necessary in order to appease some sadistic, blood-starved deity; rather, the death of Jesus was necessary in order to share the gift of his life with us. The sacrifice of Jesus is itself the sharing of life and the invitation to share in life that is more than just living and breathing.

The life to which we are called is to be lived wholly in God. It is a life where we live in sacred relationship … covenant … with God and with one another. It is a life that is abundant and eternal. And it is made possible because Jesus gave his own blood … his own life … as a gift to us.

So as we hear the story of the Passover and the deliverance of the children of Israel … the people of the first covenant … I pray that we will consider how the blood of Christ … the life of Christ … is offered at our own doorposts. That is the covenant of blood that brings us abundant life. Stop and take a look … does the life of Christ adorn the doorpost of your own life? When it does, you will experience the sweetness of deliverance and the joy of a life lived in love!

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What’s in a Name

Recently, we read in Genesis 32 the story of Jacob wrestling with God. It was in that story that we hear that Jacob has been given the name Israel. While we focused on a deeper theme in the story, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about names.

Our grandchildren are 13 months old and 10 months old, and they are at that age where speech is just beginning to take shape. While all of the grandparents have been using grandparent names, only our granddaughter’s paternal grandparents have other grandchildren who have called them by their names. Our grandson is the first grandchild for all of his grandparents, so we are not exactly sure what our grandparent names will be!

The reality we learned from watching our own children grow up is that they accept the adult prompt for grandparents’ names only some of the time. And even when they do accept the prompt to call grandparents a specific name, there is still nothing quite like hearing your name spoken by that little voice just learning language.

Then there are nicknames … typically given us by people we love, as well. When our children were very small, our daughter, Layne, had trouble saying her older brother’s name. When she couldn’t say “Philip,” she called him “Phuppy,” which the family still calls him from time to time. A name given by a little sister instead of a parent is just as meaningful.

Our┬áson-in-law, Jeff, is an air force pilot, and we learned early on that his call sign is given to him just when we finishes the basic course for his particular aircraft. It can only be given to him by experienced pilots who are his instructors. It’s a sacred rite of passage for a pilot to be given his call sign.

Earlier in my ministry, I learned a good deal of American Sign Language, and when asked my sign name, it had to be a name given to me by a deaf person. I had all sorts of lofty signs for myself that had to do with my calling and position as a pastor, but when my deaf friends gave me my name, it had only to do with my beard by forming a J around the lower part of the chin. While I might have been momentarily disappointed, there is nothing quite like being given your sign name by deaf friends.

Our name … our real name … is always something that is given to us. It is not something we give ourselves. Yes, I know of people who didn’t like their name and who had it legally changed. I know of celebrities who have chosen stage names that sound better on marquees than the names given them. But when it comes down to it, those who love us most still know us for the names we have been given.

Which brings us back to the story from Genesis! We are people who have all kinds of names for ourselves. Some of those names are negative names based upon our poor self-images and low self-esteem. Some of those names are little more than propaganda as we attempt to mold more positive, sometimes false, images we want others to see.

In our contemporary worship service, we sang “Hello, My Name Is” on the Sunday we read that story, and it came as a reminder that we may have many names, but the our real name is “child of the one true king.” As I’ve reflected more and more upon my name, I have come to the realization that the only name that matters is “child of God.” The name God gives me will never be taken away, and that’s the name that brings we hope … of course, I am still a little excited about what Mason or Mackenzie will call me in the coming months!

So as you go about your daily lives, pause just a moment to reflect upon your name. Think about how people who love you most say your given name (or perhaps a nickname). Remember that, no matter what you are called or think you should be called, you will always be a child of God. Remember your name … remember who you are!

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