Text of the Day 10-27-16

Each Tuesday and Thursday I do a short reflection on a Bible verse from a devotional and social justice perspective. You can sign up to get a prompt via SMS here: 
Text Of The Day

Today’s text is Matthew 16:24:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.

I think this is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied scriptures in the gospels. In Luke’s gospel, the phrase is “take up their cross daily,”and so Christian commentators speak generically about self-denial as part of discipleship.

But the cross had a specific meaning. It was reserved for rebels and traitors to the Roman Empire. If you were hung on a cross, you were a billboard for the power of Rome. It wasn’t just execution—it was advertising. Public execution is a demonstration of power. It’s meant to intimidate and terrorize people into submission.

So when Jesus tells his followers to “take up their cross,” he is essentially telling his followers, “Do the kinds of things that will get you labeled a traitor to the Empire.” Denying yourself means abandoning the selfish quest to move up the ladder of power, status, and respectability. Jesus is saying, “Kick the ladder over.”

His statement also stands in contrast to what revolutionaries usually say: “Take up your sword and follow me.” Jesus rejects violent revolution in favor of the nonviolent way of love.

When the organizers of the Civil Rights Movement began encouraging people to actually get arrested, they were flipping the script: Being arrested was not shameful; it was a badge of honor. It exposed a broken system for the sham it was. So likewise, when I see Colin Kaepernick choose to kneel rather than stand for the National Anthem, I understand he has chosen a cross to carry precisely in order to flip the script.

I believe this scripture goes hand in hand with the one I shared on Tuesday: “My yoke is easy and my burden light.” The more I have come to understand what it means to address systemic injustice, the more I realize that living under the power of authoritarian religion and coercive Empire is a far heavier burden than the cross of Christ.

Text of the Day 10-25-16

Each Tuesday and Thursday I do a short reflection on a Bible verse from a devotional and social justice perspective. You can sign up to get a prompt via SMS here: 
Text Of The Day

V0045282 A man carrying Holy water with his wife. Gouache drawing.

Credit: London, Wellcome Library, Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Today’s scripture is Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.” (CEB)

So much of religious practice seems to be about gritting your teeth and striving for something hard. People interpret “take up your cross and deny yourself” to mean that following Jesus is about doing something difficult or contrary to your deepest desire.

But Jesus seems to be saying that following The Way is not about heavier and stricter interpretations of scripture. The Way is about letting go. In Eugene Peterson’s translation, he calls it “relaxing into the unforced rhythms of grace.”

Living this Way will certainly put you at odds with the Kingdom of Busyness and Death. But there is peace and rest in it.

Text of the Day 10-20-16

Each Tuesday and Thursday I do a short reflection on a Bible verse from a devotional and social justice perspective. You can sign up to get a prompt via SMS here: 
Text Of The Day

Today’s scripture is Proverbs 24:10-12:

If you show yourself weak on a day of distress,
    your strength is too small.
Rescue those being taken off to death;
    and from those staggering to the slaughter, don’t hold back.
If you say, “Look, we didn’t know about it,”
    the one who weighs hearts—doesn’t he understand?
    The one who protects your life—he knows.
    He makes people pay for their actions.

“We didn’t know about it” is the excuse most of us use to ignore injustice. It sounds a lot like the hapless goats who say to Jesus, “When did we see you hungry, or sick, or in prison?” in Matthew 25:44.

The author of Proverbs doesn’t buy it.

We see that this excuse has been around for a long, long time. God holds us accountable for a basic level of social awareness. If we become aware of someone being taken off to death, we have an obligation to the one who weighs our hearts to do something about it. You’ve probably read the poem by Martin Niemöller, “First they came for the Socialists.” This passage says basically the same thing.

Recently, I watched 13th, the Netflix documentary about how our criminal justice system has continued the slave system in our country. Prisoners themselves are trying to get our attention. Because I am now aware of it, I cannot ignore it. That’s one reason I’m part of Faith in Action Alabama and will be helping to lead the District Attorney Forum on October 27 at 7PM at Sardis Missionary Baptist Church.

When you become aware of injustice, do something. God made you neither weak nor blind to injustice, but in God’s image: powerful, creative, insightful, and capable of helping on the day of distress.

Text Of The Day

Sometimes you just need a prompt, maybe a couple of times during the week, to read the Bible and reflect on it. You’re not crazy about syrupy-sweet devotionals and you want something that will tickle your brain as well as challenge you to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8).

If that describes you, you can click the link below to sign up below for a SMS-based Bible study prompt.

Text Of The Day

Discipleship Series

I’ve created a Vimeo album so you can see all the messages from our Discipleship series in one place. There are six videos which address our five areas of discipleship:

  1. Introduction
  2. Worship
  3. Devotion
  4. Compassion
  5. Justice
  6. Witness

If you use these videos in a Sunday school class or small group, please let me know! I’d also like to know what you find helpful or what could be improved. And if you’d like to help me make more of these videos, you can always support our church here. Thanks!

Discipleship 1: Invitation from Dave Barnhart on Vimeo.