Archive for November, 2011

The Stoning of Stephen

Today’s lectionary text is found in Acts 7:54-8:1a and is the stoning of Stephen.

I don’t know if its would be considered “proper” to call this particular story exciting as a whole. After all, it is about the violent killing of a person. The fact that Stephen is a believer in Christ is irrelevant to the violence that is done to him here, though admittedly, the fact that he is a believer in Christ, and a very vocal one at that, has led to the stoning itself. Now, all that being said, there are some exciting aspects of the story. Namely a few things that jump out at me as significant and worth taking a look at.

For one thing, history tells us that Stephen is the first Christian martyr. Now, in my head this could be debatable, but it’s like a question of semantics to do so. The Bible narrative does list Stephen as the first believer in Christ to be martyred, but I find myself wondering if its acceptable to consider Jesus himself a martyr. He certainly died for his beliefs after all. But again, maybe I’m jumping at shadows when I allow myself to go down that road.

What’s more important to recognize here is that Stephen, when he is martyred, actually seems to have a lot of really amazing things happening.  For instance, verses 55-56. Stephen looks into the heavens and sees Jesus. We hear of referencing giving us clues in various scripture texts about what Jesus’ return will look like, that he will appear in glory in the clouds. It seems to me that Stephen is getting a preview here. Being a movie-buff, I can only imagine how great that feeling would be. Perhaps you’ve had it, sitting in the theater and seeing a preview for a movie that you just know is going to be amazing. But I digress.

If we fast forward a few verses, namely to 59 and then 60, Stephen utters a couple of phrases that sound pretty familiar…dare I say, almost Christ-like. He first says, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He’s seen Jesus standing in Heaven. We hear Jesus say almost the same thing in Luke’s account of the Crucifixion (23:46).  Then Stephen says “Lord do not hold this sin against them.” Sounds an awful lot like Jesus again when he says “Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

So we’ve got Stephen in a tough spot. He has spoken truth, and all too often we don’t want to hear the truth do we? Not when it’s spoken out against us. We want to keep that sinfulness, that error, that mistake…we want to keep it to ourselves. It’s terrible if someone comes out against us, speaking that which we try to keep hidden. We are enraged when someone else knows, and worse yet, they tell everyone present. Now everyone knows. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the people stoned Stephen. Where does he get such audacity?

Well, he get’s it through his faith in the man that he emulates at his death. His faith in Christ allows him to boldly speak truth, even if it means his death.

Something to think about isn’t it?

Another something new

So yesterday I started blogging about my workout life. I’m going to keep that up (at least until I loose interest in it which is, admittedly, always a possibility). However, I’m going to start up something different as well. In getting back to the spirit in which I actually started this blog last summer, I’m going to attempt something…”pastoral.”

Namely, I’m going to try and post some thoughts based on the daily lectionary which is available in the current ELCA book of worship, commonly called the ELW. If you need some help finding said lectionary, drop me a comment and I can help you find it. Actually a pretty good resource.

Now, speaking of the resource, it lists a Psalm reading (which stays the same throughout each respective week), then an Old Testament text as well as a New Testament text. As I go about this little project, experiment, whatever you might want to call it, I’m expecting to focus on the New Testament reading. Mainly because, at this moment, the church where I’m serving, Prairie Lutheran Church, is going through the Old Testament story, so I hear quite a bit about the ongoing narrative as well as personally preaching on it about every month or so.  But that being said, I might change my mind from time to time as well.

Now, here today, I’m thinking that this is going to be half reflection and half “sermon,” or at least “sermon-ish.” But we’ll see how things develop.

Today’s text is John 16:25-33.

This text is in the midst of a fairly long discourse that Jesus is having with the disciples. In fact, at this point in John we are getting close to the garden and the arrest and trail of Jesus, just to give a little reference. It could be said that this is John’s farewell discourse to the disciples. Or in the very least a way for Jesus to try and somehow begin to prepare them for what’s right around the corner. It’s been three years and for the most part things have gone pretty well, but all hell’s about to break loose. Quite literally in fact.

Some things that jump at me. First, Jesus says “the hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures (verse 25). What’s that mean? No more parables perhaps? If this was Mark I would think HALLELUIAH because the disciples NEVER seem to get the parables…but this is John’s gospel. Maybe all we need to take from it is that, here at the end, Jesus is starting to lay it all out.

Another portion that jumps out…verse 32…”The hour is coming…when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone.” Now obviously, Jesus is referencing the disciples fleeing at the time of His arrest, but as I ponder on that I see a little more as well. If we fast forward past the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, we know that “the church” scatters, but not in a bad way. More specifically, it spreads. Remember that wherever 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there I am also. It doesn’t take much of a gathering to constitute the body of Christ here on Earth. This is still true today, even after all these many years since Christ walked the Earth.

Now personally I find this notion, Christ being with us, to be encouraging as we face a reality where Christianity is facing opposition. The political climate is, unfortunately not always “pro-faith.” Many parts of the world still face tremendous hardships in terms of being a Christian. In our own lives we face our “stuff” whatever, that stuff might be. Jesus says in verse 33 “In the wold you face persecution.” This was absolute for the disciples. Of the 12, John was the only one that actually managed to die of natural causes. The rest, all martyred for their faith. The world put them to death for what they believed…but remember Jesus’ closing words in this passage. “Take courage; I have conquered the world.”

Got that right. Jesus beat everything that this world can throw at us. Yes, in the end, our lives will cease…or at least life as we know it (Anyone else reminded of the song “It’s the end of the world as we know it” or is it just me?) But life goes on in a way that we do not yet understand. In this passage Jesus tells us that he’s going to the Father. He’s going to prepare a place for each of us. Jesus is the light of the world who overcomes the darkness of sin and death, and much like those old Motel 6 commercials…He’ll leave the light on for you.


Starting Something New

I haven’t written here in a long time. Long enough that I had to actually google my own blog page to find it.

Sad, I realize it.

I’m starting something new here to document something new that I’ve been doing lately. I’ve been working out for the past month. My first day was October 17th, which I can remember because it’s my wife’s birthday and we went to the gym together. Lifetime fitness. There are many locations nationwide and quite a few in the Twin Cities, though I learned the hard way that there are different “levels” of locations. I’ve got a gold membership…take note…don’t try to go to a diamond level…at least not more than once.

They’ll make you feel all inadequate and pathetic.

Well, not really, but they do go out of their way to let you know that your membership does not apply here.

Anyways…when this whole journey started (and I realize that I just sounded like every single person on The Biggest Loser when I call it a “journey”) I weighed 188 pounds.

Now granted, I’m 6’0″ and 188 pounds actually isn’t terrible. I’ve always been really skinny and I’m blessed to have had an uber level metabolism. I could eat anything and not gain weight. I still do okay but I have, noticeably, put on a little sogginess around the midsection over the past couple years. A couple of pictures snapped from odd angles keyed me into this…one was taken about a year and a half ago, the other about a month and a half ago. Additionally, I’ve noticed a sense of lethargic-ness and all around, just not feeling as good as I have in the past.

Personally I think this realization came with hitting my 30’s.

Some additional background. When I turned 31 I went in for a yearly physical. The doctor said my weight was okay, but that my cholesterol was a touch on the high side. He gave me 6 months to bring it down.  At that point I started working out…nothing major…just using my wife’s workout video at home. I also tried to watch what I ate. Fast forward 6 months and I had brought my levels down.

Score one!!!

But my healthy habits were short lived and over the course of the past year and a half I’ve slacked off.

A month ago, I decided to turn that around and so, as I mentioned earlier, I joined the gym.

My normal workout routine…admittedly it’s pretty basic, but so far it works for me.  Some stretching, mainly on my legs as my workout is aimed at running, and 2 sets of situps and pushups…15 reps per set. Then I head upstairs (from the stretching area as well as the locker rooms…and yes that is important in a bit) and hit one of about 5 different treadmills that overlook the gym.

I use a specific type of treadmill because I can put in my weight for a calorie counter and there’s a computer screen that shows me a 400-meter track and how many laps I’ve done, as well as the speed I’m going and the total distance as well as a timer.  All in all, a pretty complete readout…you can even play solitaire on it, though I’ve only done that once.

I run for awhile…I shoot for 30 minutes on the treadmill although it’s usually a little more than that now. Then I head back to the stretching area…yes back down the stairs and man that hurts…to stretch out my legs and do 2 more sets of situps and pushups. And that, is a typical workout for me.

I’m trying to remember how far and fast I went the first couple times being there, but admittedly it wasn’t impressive…but at least I started. And again…the weight was 188 when I started…actually a little less as I weigh myself in full workout clothes and shoes on…I shouldn’t but that’s what I do.

Now, I won’t bore you with a months worth of work outs…but gradually I’ve built up my ability, both distance and speed.

Today, I hopped on the scale and it was 183 on the dot. The lowest I’ve been was about 182.1, but that was in the morning with no breakfast…this measurement is likely a little more accurate as its my normal workout time in the afternoon. Running…I ran the first mile at 7.0mph. After that I switch back and forth between walking a lap at 4.0 and running a lap at 7.0. I do this for the next 2 miles…bringing me up to a total of 3 miles. I’m running the final lap of the 3rd mile and to finish it up I continue running and build up the speed to 8.0 till I hit 3.05 and then jump it up to 10.0 till I hit 3.1. That my friends is a 5k. The time, right at 33 minutes.

This matches my time for a 5k on the last 2 workouts, yesterday and last Friday.

Now speaking of yesterday, for the first time my legs didn’t hurt. I’ve been noticing a LOT of soreness in my shins both while running and after. Yesterday it didn’t happen. I was a little sore, which is to be expected, but it didn’t HURT.  I thought maybe I’d crossed the boundary and the “hurt” wouldn’t be happening anymore.

This is not the case.

Today, the legs hurt again.

I think I need some new running shoes. Mine are, admittedly, old.