Monday, March 18, 2013

The Cornerstone

The following is one of the lessons for the fifth week of Lent from the small group study we are doing at our church entitled Christ in the Psalms. You can purchase the entire study for 99 cents on at this link.

Read 1 Peter 2:1-10

            Like Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts, 1 Peter also makes use of Psalm 118:22. However, 1 Peter ties this verse into an entire “stone” motif; quoting it along side other verses which speak of stones.[1] Also like the other passages we have already explored, this one in 1 Peter uses these “stone” verses to speak of Christ as a stone rejected by men but chosen and precious in God’s sight. 1 Peter, however, adds a twist.
            It is not only Christ who is a chosen and rejected stone. Christ’s followers are also living stones being built up into a “spiritual house”, “a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.” In other words, 1 Peter envisions Christ’s followers being built into a new temple. Peter declares that the churches of Asia Minor to whom he writes, not the temple in Jerusalem, are actually the temple of God. They are the place where God’s presence dwells and where God’s forgiveness is available. As this new temple, Christ serves as their cornerstone; the one who provides the basis for a sturdy foundation and serves as a guide for the spiritual building that they are.

[1] Isaiah 28:16 and 8:14

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Longing deeply
For what should be
This glass too dark to truly see
What is now like mustard seed

To feel love's warmth
Without life's cold
To hear the voices silenced
with stories untold

A life where pain is healed
Rather than repeated
Where wholeness rather than hurt
Is what's perpetuated

A place of belonging
A place of calling
A place of creating
A place of just being

Justice without vengeance
Peace without passivity
Love the only law
All else liberty

Here the future holds sway
A chance for something new
More than the past
It shapes today

Where words are less needed
Because of life already shared
Self fully present
And cherished though laid bare

Two is not enough
All flesh made one

And can it be?
Such healing from a tree?
It says so.  This groaning, such longing
For the city without the sea.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Reproaches of Those Who Reproached You Fell On Me

The following is one of the lessons for the fourth week of Lent from the small group study we are doing at our church entitled Christ in the Psalms. You can purchase the entire study for 99 cents on at this link.

Read Romans 15:1-7

            In Romans 15, Paul is admonishing those within the church at Rome to think of each other first; building up others rather than thinking only of one’s own needs. Those who are strong in the Roman church, Paul says, should not use their strength to build themselves up and put others down. Instead, they should be using it to strengthen those who are weak. Christ himself is the model for such action since he was stronger than all of us but did not use that strength to his own advantage. He laid his strength aside, becoming weak for us, so that we might become like him.

            Paul could have simply left it at that; referring solely to Christ as an example. Instead, he chooses to back up his understanding of Christ with the words of Psalm 69:9. Similar to what we saw in John, Paul understands the words of Psalm 69 as referring to Christ. He then adds an interesting word of explanation about his use of this Scripture, saying “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

            There are very few statements about Scripture in Scripture so we should take note here when Paul tells us what he believes about the nature and purpose of Scripture itself. Paul states here that whatever was written before Christ was written for our instruction. This is why Paul can quote Psalm 69 as referring to Christ in the way that he does. He believes that even though it was written by David long ago it was also written for those who came later. Paul tell us that it serves not only for our instruction but also for our encouragement and hope. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

David's Son or David's Lord?

The following is one of the lessons for the third week of Lent from the small group study we are doing at our church entitled Christ in the Psalms. You can purchase the entire study for 99 cents on at this link

Read Mark 12:35-37

            Psalm 110 is described as a Psalm “Of David.” In the lesson on Psalm 110, it was noted that this Psalm was about King David.[1] That is, someone else wrote a song praising Yahweh (“the Lord”) for sitting King David (“my Lord”) at God’s right hand. We can gather from Jesus’ words in Mark 12:35-37 that “Of David” was understood differently in the first century. Instead of being about David, Jesus speaks of this Psalm having been written by David about the coming Messiah.[2] Other writings from the time period suggest that this was not merely Jesus’ interpretation of Psalm 110 but one that was widely accepted by Jews in the first century. That means those whom Jesus is teaching in Mark 12 would have simply taken it for granted that Psalm 110 was talking about the promised Messiah.

            It also seems to have been widely accepted in the first century that this Messiah, the deliverer of Israel, would be a descendant of the great King David. When the crowds welcome Jesus into Jerusalem as their deliverer they shout “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” Likewise, the early Christians seem to have accepted this premise and spoke of Jesus as the “Son of David.” Matthew and Luke, for example, both go to great trouble to trace Jesus’ lineage through King David.

            In his quotation of Psalm 110:1, Jesus seems to accept the first of these premises but reject the second. That is, he agrees that “my Lord” in Psalm 110:1 is about the Messiah but he rejects the idea that the Messiah is David’s son. He says “David himself calls him (the Messiah) Lord. So how is he his son?” No one calls his son “Lord” so if Psalm 110:1 really is about the Messiah then the Messiah must not be David’s son if David calls him Lord.

            Why would Jesus reject the notion that the Messiah would be David’s son? And if he did, why did the gospel writers still bother to present Jesus as the “Son of David”? These are difficult questions for which there are not easy answers. However, it seems significant to me that Jesus makes this claim in the midst of his controversy with the religious leaders while he is still at the temple. Much of that controversy arises because the religious leaders do not believe that Jesus has the authority do the kinds of things he has been doing, especially his wild and reckless acts in the temple. I think that by posing this enigmatic question from Psalm 110 Jesus is communicating to the religious leaders that he is the Messiah but that they don’t completely understand what that means. They think that means a descendant of David who will rule as David did. Jesus is essentially saying that his identity as Israel’s Messiah is much greater than that. He is not merely David’s descendant. He is David’s Lord. Jesus’ authority is greater than David’s and that is why he can overturn tables in the temple and declare that its days are numbered.

[1] Or possibly one of David’s descendants. Although the Psalm is “Of David,” most scholars don’t think it was written that early. Instead, it is usually considered to be “Of David” in the sense that it speaks about the promise God made to David now fulfilled in one of David’s descendants as he fills David’s kingly office.
[2] Your translation may have “Christ” rather than Messiah. Christ is simply the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah which means “anointed one.”