Barabbas – A Zealot’s Life

The life of Barabbas raises the question: “What am I zealous for?”

Matthew 27:15-26

jerusalemIf you were a pilgrim in Jerusalem during the Passover in the spring of 29AD, one of the questions that you might have heard on the lips of people as you walked around the marketplace or in the courts of the Temple would have been a question that Jews had been asking for quite some time: “How and when will the kingdom of God come?” It was a question that would have been especially relevant during the festival as people gathered from around the Mediterranean world to worship at the temple and celebrate the meal that commemorated the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt under Moses—a question about when God’s final liberation would come.

After all, those who gathered in the city knew that they were not truly free—at least not yet. The Romans had come in 63BC under Pompey and took over the city, the latest in a parade of conquering empires that had dominated or at least threatened to dominate Israel for nearly 600 years. In various ways, Jews were wondering if this was the year when the Messiah would finally come and save them and set them free for good.

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Pontius Pilate: What is Truth?

First in a Lenten series looking at six characters from the Passion of Jesus

John 18:28-38

N1204PilateStoneIn 1961, archaeologists were excavating the Roman theater that was built by Herod the Great in the seaside town of Caesarea Maritimia, on the Mediterranean coast of Israel. Herod built the theater in 30BC, along with the entire city patterned on the Roman model, as part of his tribute to the emperor Augustus. Somewhere during the fourth century, the original theater was remodeled and, as was very common in the ancient world, some of the stones from elsewhere in the town were repurposed for the construction. One of these stones was used as part of a set of stairs leading up to the seating area of the theater, the mason seeing it as simply another piece to the construction puzzle. When the archaeologists found it some 1600 years later, however, they discovered a faint Latin inscription on the stone that was a historical bombshell. The inscription read:

[DIS AUGUSTI]S TIBERIEUM

[PO]NTIUS PILATUS

[PRAEF]ECTUS IUD[EA]E

Filling in the blanks of the stone that had been weathered by the elements and trampled by centuries of Roman feet, the archaeologist recognized this as a dedication stone of a long lost building constructed to honor the Emperor Tiberias, who was the Roman ruler at the time of Jesus—but a building built by the “ Praefectus Iudeae”—the Prefect of Judea—one Pontius Pilate.

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Making All Things New

Part VII of  “The End of the World as We Know It: The Book of Revelation”

Revelation 21-22

park city snowAs most of you know, I served a wonderful seven years at Park City Community United Methodist Church in the ski resort town of Park City, Utah, before coming to Tri-Lakes. Park City is a place where many people aspire to live, evidenced by the high median housing price of $1.3 million. We lived in a church-owned parsonage

It’s a beautiful place and when we were sent there I was more than willing to go and suffer for Jesus if it meant being able to get on a mountain bike trail without needing to get in my truck first. The church was wonderful and we still have a lot of friends there.

If you live in Park City, however, there is a sense that you’ve kind of “made it” in the world. This is where everyone wants to be, even if it costs a lot to live there. The church windows looked up at the mountains, moose were frequent visitors, the snow was epic for skiing, the summers glorious. It’s no wonder that many residents and visitors to Park City look at it as a little heaven on earth.

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Fleeing from the Wrath to Come

Part VI of “The End of the World as We Know It: The Book of Revelation”

Revelation 16; Matthew 3:1-10

general rulesWhen you join the United Methodist Church, you are asked a series of questions in the baptismal liturgy like, “Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?” and “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” These are good questions, thoughtful questions, but they are also fairly easy questions to answer in the affirmative (I’ve never had anyone say, “No, I actually embrace evil” when I’ve asked them the questions!). After all, we can cognitively understand that rejecting evil and resisting it is a good thing—it’s something even our government wants to do, though more with weapons than with worship.

But if you were to join one of the early Methodist societies started by the Wesley brothers, the first question you would be asked was quite different—one that is less about our ability to resist evil than about God’s ability to deal with it. As John Wesley put it at the beginning of the General Rules of the United Societies:

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A Trinity of Evil

Part V of “The End of the World as We Know It: The Book of Revelation”

Revelation 12-13

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 2.16.15 PMI was browsing the web this week looking at some books when I came across a web site titled “Books by the Foot.” For a bibliophile, that sounds like the way to buy books—by volume! When I clicked on the site, however, I discovered that this is a site that sells fake books for use on decorative shelves—you know, like in a hotel lobby or some such place. You can literally buy fake books by the foot, whether they are designed to look like old books, modern books, or law books.

There’s something wrong with this, however. Ever tried to pull a fake book off the shelf? It’s not a satisfying experience. It’s a parody of the real thing. What looks promising fails to deliver. Personally, I’ll take the reality over the parody every time!

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