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A God Exposed

It all started with a fig leaf.

It was literally the first (and maybe worst) cover up in the history of the world. Genesis 3:7 records that Adam and Eve, after falling into sin in the Garden of Eden, “...sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin clothes”. In an attempt to cover their shame and nakedness, they were forced to try and cover up with a fig leaf.

Of course, this is our response to our own sin as well, isn’t it? Rather than expose our faults and failures to the world we hide and cover up lest everyone else comes to know for sure that we are, indeed, sinners. We delete our browser history, look for scapegoats to blame, come up with excuse after excuse. Day after day we hide behind these flimsy fig leaves, hoping that no one will come to know the truth of who we really are.

But reading further in the Genesis account we find God doing something remarkable. Though God curses Adam, Eve, the serpent, and the whole of creation, Genesis 3:21 says, “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them”. Not often do we contemplate the implications of this single verse. But in order to cover the sin and shame of Adam and Eve, God had to shed blood. He had to take the life of an innocent creature in order to cover the guilt of another.

Of course this is just a shadow of what God has done for us in Christ. Jesus himself was exposed so that your sins could be covered. “When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts…” (John 19:23). There on the cross, Jesus was naked and alone. Innocent, yet taking on our guilt. All this He did in order to hide in Himself our shame and guilt.

He was exposed so that you might be covered.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Colossians 3:1-4)

A God Beaten

You need a God that you can punch.

Uh...what?

That’s perhaps the most impious, blasphemous thing I’ve ever written. Except it’s not. It’s true. In John 18:19-24 we read of this encounter:

19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22 When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” 24 Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

You see, a God that can’t be punched...a God whose lip can’t bleed...a God who can’t turn the other cheek is a God that can’t be whipped and scourged and crucified. And if your God can’t be beaten or killed then we all are in big trouble. A holy God demands holiness from His people. A holy God demands perfect prayer, perfect sacrifice, perfect keeping of the law. But we have sinned. We have broken God’s law. We have failed to seek Him perfectly. We need forgiveness. And as we’ve been saying in our series on Leviticus (listen to Week 1 & Week 2), “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin”.

So then. We need a God that we can punch. We need a God who will take the beating and the crucifixion and the death that we ourselves deserve. We need a God who will take our punishment for us. We need a God we can punch. Only Jesus, God-made-man, the only one who can fulfill the law perfectly on our behalf, only He can offer Himself up as the perfect sacrifice to make atonement for our sin. Only Jesus, the God that can be punched, can save us. And only this God, who bleeds and dies, can rise again to new life.

We need a God we can punch. And in Jesus, we have that God. A God who came to take the punches from those He longs to redeem.

In Christ,

Pastor Nick

Behold the Man! | A God Who Prays

In John 17 we hear Jesus speaking what we have come to call His “High Priestly Prayer”. It may be strange to say that Jesus, God in the flesh, prayed. Why does Jesus, of all people, need to pray? The really simple answer is this: Because we need it!

In the Old Testament, God appointed for His people a High Priest. The High Priest was adorned with fancy clothes, a turban, and a sash. He was adorned with such splendor not because he was better than everyone else (he has to sacrifice for his own sins, too!). Neither did he simply want to look fancy in front of his peers. No, the High Priest was dressed so magnificently in order to reflect the importance of his role as intercessor between God and God’s people. The High Priest was the go-between.

Now, however, the book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is our High Priest. The God of the Universe adorned Himself in human flesh so that He might pray for humanity and be our intercessor. In John 17 Jesus prays for His disciples and He prays for the future Church, including all those who will believe in the Gospel on account of the testimony of those first disciples. That means, He was, and continues to be, praying for you.

Jesus is the God Who Prays and, as mysterious as that sounds, He prays for us. Jesus intercedes for us and for all our needs of body and soul. Jesus prays for us when we don’t know what we should be praying for or when we don’t know how we should be praying. Jesus prays for us when we can’t pray for ourselves. And because Jesus is our intercessor, our High Priest, our God Who Prays, we too can approach the throne of God in confidence that we will be heard. Our prayers, no matter how scattered, insufficient, rambling, short, long, or unsteady are heard by our Heavenly Father as a parent listens to his or her child.

So this lenten season join me, and our Lord, in prayer. What can we pray for? Here’s a list to get us started:

Our Congregation: That we would continue to pursue our mission of, “Connecting people to the vibrant love of Jesus”

Our Community: Especially Bishop Elementary School students, teachers, and staff.

Our Country: That those who lead would do so with honor and integrity.

All Creation: That all people around the world would come to know Jesus and His love.

Do you have your own prayer request? Send it to pastor_nick@stmarksunnyvale.org

In Christ,

Pastor Nick

Join Us Wednesday Nights in Lent!
6pm - Dinner
7pm - Lenten Worship

Behold the Man! | A God Who Hungers

“Lent is the period in which, learning to abstain from adoring at the shrine of the self, we come to see beyond the divinity we have made of ourselves to the divine will for all the world” [1]

So writes Sister Joan Chittister in her book The Liturgical Year. And indeed, as we enter into this season of the church year called Lent, we do this peculiar thing of looking past ourselves to Christ Himself. It’s not often we’re called upon in this world to look beyond ourselves. More often than not we’re told to “Speak our minds”, “Look out for Number One”, or “Live and let live”. But Lent, and indeed the entirety of the Christian life, is about looking beyond ourselves and looking to Jesus.

So tonight we begin this task anew by smearing our foreheads with ashes. Again, such an odd thing, isn’t it? Sometimes it feels like being in a secret club because we go about our day and exchange smiles with those we know are “in the know”. But ashes on our forehead aren’t akin to a secret handshake. No, the ashes are themselves the entrance into the season when we abstain from adoring at the shrine of the self. They remind us each time we are tempted to gaze upon ourselves we are simply adoring what will, one day, be only dust. For “we are from dust and to dust we shall return”.

The centuries-long practice of fasting during Lent is also a clear reminder that we ought to abstain from adoring at the shrine of the self. Rather than seek self-satisfaction and or be constantly controlled by our rumbling bellies, fasting teaches us again to look past the shrine of the self and once again to Christ. Fasting, properly done, sends us to Jesus for our sustenance.

Jesus himself took up the practice of fasting. For 40 days He went without food in the wilderness and then was tempted by the devil. So this evening we will “Behold the Man” who looked past Himself, setting His eyes, from the very beginning of His public ministry, on the will of His Heavenly Father. All this He did for you. Thus, this Ash Wednesday we look beyond our human frailty to Jesus who, though He became human, could not be held in the tomb. And because He could not be held by death, neither shall we!

In Christ,

Pastor Nick

Join us this evening for Ash Wednesday!

Potluck dinner at 6pm
Worship with imposition of ashes and Holy Communion at 7pm   

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[1] Chittister, Joan. 2010. The Liturgical Year. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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