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Visibile Salvation

Sometimes we can give the word salvation a narrower meaning than it deserves. If we’re using the word, we’re likely talking about the afterlife. But in Acts 16, when a jailer in Philippi asks Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” he’s not inquiring about his status in the afterlife. In fact, he’s trying to stay away from the afterlife. He’s just come near to attempting suicide after the prison over which he presides, and in which Paul and…

Clean

In Acts 10, we meet a Roman military officer named Cornelius. For reasons we’re not told, he’s a big fan of the God of Israel, being a “devout man who feared God.” He’s simply one more example of how God is reaching into every nation and finding people who are open to his love. We’re also told he keeps a regular practice of generosity and prayer. And this practice of prayer opens him up to a vision. An angel appears,…

Hesed and the Table

In Acts 9, Ananias shows us that baptism is where fear and hostility go to die. We say the same for the table. It’s hard to remain fearful and hostile toward someone when you’re eating together. There’s something disarming about sharing good food. In 2 Samuel 9, we find David encountering one who could be considered an enemy, but choosing kindness over hostility. And how does David show this kindness? With the table. By the time we get to 2…

Brother

To be a Jesus follower is to allow Jesus to put us into relationship and community with people we might not have chosen for ourselves. Baptism and table fellowship are not places where we wield great power to include and exclude as we choose. They are places where we submit to the infinitely expansive love of God. And nowhere does this infinitely expansive love of God challenge us more than in Acts 9. The murderer Saul, a rising star in…

The Middle of the Action

A discussion of the importance of table fellowship will eventually bring us to the Gospel of Luke. Luke is where all the important stuff seems to be happening during a meal. The table becomes the location of forgiveness and repentance, of preaching and calling. In Luke 6:6-11, amidst several other stories about Jesus creating controversy, comes a story about Jesus healing a man with a withered hand. This happens in a synagogue during Sabbath worship. The scribes and Pharisees present…

The Proclamation of the Water

At the deepest part of our humanity lies the question, “Where do I belong?” Much of our lives are spent finding answers to this question. We want to belong to a family, to friends, to a spouse, to a church, and of course, to God. But we don’t stop there. We find belonging in ideas and the people who share them with us. We find it in the fan base of our favorite sports teams. We experience it when a…

The Water and the Table

The New Testament consistently emphasizes the importance of both baptism and table fellowship. But their importance is not separate from one another. Scripture has a clear trajectory from the waters of baptism to the table. In Acts 2, Peter delivers a masterful sermon in Jerusalem during Pentecost, claiming that the Holy Spirit is pouring itself out on the whole world, claiming that Jesus is in fact everything God has ever wanted for his people and that Jerusalem responded not by…

Steadfast, Enduring

Hunger and thirst are bad enough no matter who or where you are. But on top of that, Psalm 107 places a group of hungry and thirsty characters in the wilderness, in a desert waste. Dirt and dead grass as far as the eye can see. There is no town on the horizon, no refuge. One by one, these weary characters are fainting out of consciousness. The body has no energy left, no more strength to carry on. What is…

It’s Just Who He Is

Something incredible is happening in Psalm 85. First, the poet speaks with a bluntness that makes our expectations of God perfectly clear. In response to God’s anger the poet says to God, without hesitation or embarrassment, that it’s time for God’s anger to subside and for joy and forgiveness to take its place. Second, Psalm 85 paints for us a portrait of a God who is not only willing to forgive, but eager to forgive! This God is so far…

The Judge

Psalm 82 brings us into a courtroom. We get to witness a trial. The judge is none other than God himself. Something about a courtroom drama resonates with us on a deep level; it’s why so many movies and television shows are made about it. It’s deeply meaningful to us to see justice fought for and enacted. We want to see the innocent vindicated and the guilty appropriately punished. Psalm 82 knows this about us. So it begins, “God has…

I Will Give Thanks

Psalm 30 takes us on a roller coaster of joy, praise, hubris, panic, prayer and gratitude all in the span of just twelve verses. It begins at the end, letting us know that everything has turned out for the better. God has come through for the Psalmist, providing healing and restoration. “O LORD my God, I cried to you for help and you have healed me.” (30:2) And this personal testimony overflows into a public call to worship. “Sing praises…

Memory

The apostle Paul tells us to pray without ceasing, which could mean reaching a spiritual maturity in which prayer comes as natural to us as breathing. Or maybe sometimes it means we can’t stop praying until God has proven that he’s heard us and bothered to do something about the hurt we find ourselves in. That is how Psalm 77 prays. “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God that he may hear me. In the day of my trouble…
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