What Jesus Thought Was Most Important

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We are the Church.
You and me.
Trinity Lutheran
Notre Dame rose window inside
Whatever our stage of life or economic status, whatever bits of theology on which we might differ, whatever our politics or race, we are the Church.
When the world wants to know about Jesus, to know what He thought was most important, they look to us.
What did Jesus think was important?
Well, He said that loving God with all of your being was the most important thing of all, followed by loving others. In fact, the Bible teaches that one of the main ways you love God is by loving others.
Jesus thought that this loving others business was so important, in fact, that He named it as the main way that the world would know we follow Him.
Would the world know that today’s church follows Jesus?
Church light
Arched ceiling
If you knew you were going to die in the next day, what would you pray for? Trivialities and side issues, or would you pray for whatever was paramount in your heart?
When Jesus was about to leave His disciples and head toward the cross, what did He pray for? What did He think was most essential?
He prayed for His followers to love each other. He prayed for unity. He prayed that His followers would be one in the same way that He and the Father were one.
We are the Church.
You and me.
Is that what the world sees?
Dome St Peters
Jesus is no longer on this earth. His Spirit is inside of each of us, but we the Church are now His body to bring God’s kingdom to this world.
Are we acting like a body or is the hand slapping the head in the face? Is the right foot kicking the left leg?
Jesus pleaded with God to make us one. Why? So that we could be happier and have easier lives while treating each other more kindly?
So that the world would know God’s love.
This is how those in the world can know that God loves them – by the way that we love each other.
What does the world see when it looks at the Church?
That question makes me want to weep.
What does the world see when it looks at you?
Whatever has come before, I implore you now. Love each other. Be unified.
Invite someone from another faith tradition to go along with you the next time you head out to serve the hungry and the orphans.
Find someone who grew up in another culture or another part of the country or even just a different side of town, and take them out to lunch. Listen to them. Ask questions.
After this particularly nasty election is over, invite someone who voted for the other candidate over to your home for a meal.
St Peter altar
We are the Church.
You and me.
I entreat you to show the world what Jesus valued. Astound the little piece of your world with your love for other Jesus followers nearby.
Our world needs some astonishment. And it is up to us.

Art credit: Photos of various cathedrals by Kirk Sewell

Layers of Meaning in Scripture

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.


I am often astonished at the beauty of Scripture.
Not only astonished at the beauty of individual books or passages, although that happens too.
What often takes me aback is the elegance of how the entire Bible fits seamlessly together, flowing in and out of itself like a river flowing into the sea.
The Old Testament points toward the New Testament, while the New Testament points back to the Old as well as forward into the future.
There are layers of meaning to everything – the personal inside the theological inside the historical – and every layer is truth.
Everything that Jesus said and did points back to what God did for Israel and forward to what He was going to do for all the nations.
Look at the Crucifixion.
It was certainly historical and political. It happened to one man in one place on earth at one particular time, a man caught between two powers struggling for supremacy.
It was theological. When Jesus died, He took upon Himself the sins of the world to atone for them once and for all.
It was personal. Jesus paying the penalty for your own sins is about as personal as it can get.
Look at the meeting between Jesus and the disciples after the resurrection. The one after the disciples had been out fishing and Jesus called them to shore for breakfast.
Jesus spoke to Peter and told him, If you love Me, then feed My sheep. That is a very personal calling.
A calling which is nestled inside of the layer of Jesus as the Passover Lamb and all of the theological meanings implied therein.
The theological meanings that are nestled inside the first Passover and Israel overthrowing Egypt in their escape through the Red Sea and all the historical and political pieces of those events.
Personal meaning burrowed inside theological meaning burrowed inside historical meaning.
You see? Go look for it. Find it everywhere and be astonished.
See the Word as beautiful.

What Should We Truly Fear?

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Fear is a powerful force.
I have done things of which I am not proud out of fear. I have done things that were good from the same motivation.
The Bible speaks often about fear.
Fear God. Don’t fear anything else. Simplified, perhaps, but that is about the sum of it.
Yet we are also told that in Christ, we do not need to fear God. We are instructed to come boldly before His throne. We are told that perfect love casts out fear. How are these reconciled?
Fear the Lord thy God
Come boldly
It is certainly true that God tells us to fear nothing but Him. We are told that we will have trouble in this world but that we can take heart because Jesus has overcome the world.
Jesus tells His disciples not to fear those who can harm only the body but to fear only the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell.
He had, however, just been speaking about the Pharisees who had the power to cast them out of the temple which, for a first century Jew, was about the worst thing imaginable. The temple was an integral part of who they were. If they were cast out, not even their family would be allowed to associate with them. They became untouchables.
Jesus reassures His followers, though. He tells them that the Pharisees truly are not to be feared and that to be cast from the temple is not the worst thing imaginable. He warns them that the worst thing would be for God to cast your soul into hell.
Frightening words.
Then come comforting words, as Jesus is wont to do.
He then reassures them that if you trust in God you don’t have to fear the worst (being cast into hell) because God cares even for the tiny sparrows and you are worth so more than a sparrow to God.
So fear God. But don’t fear God.
Clear, yes?
I find clarification in the writings by John, one of Jesus’ disciples. He was there when Jesus spoke of fearing God rather than one who can harm only the body. Perhaps he was thinking of that moment when he wrote about fear in one of his letters.
John, speaking to those who have confessed that Jesus is Lord, says that there is no fear in love. He says that fear has to do with punishment, which has no place in those who are in Christ. Matthew Henry, in his commentary, speaks of this kind of fear as a dread arising from feelings of guilt. And perfect love drives out dread.
Perhaps it is a bit like our feelings about fire.
We all treat fire with caution and care when it is contained in our fireplace or firepit, but perhaps do not fear it. We have a healthy respect for it when checked by the confines of the fireplace, but I venture to guess that if a raging wildfire were headed straight for us with no way to escape, we would feel just a smidge of fear.
Perhaps fire truly is a good example in its limited way. If we follow the rules of caring for fire, it is beautiful and bestows many benefits upon us but if we disobey those rules it can consume us.
In the same way, if we obey God, if we accept His gift of Jesus’ blood covering us, we need not worry about punishment from God, and in that sense we do not need to fear Him. We should, however, still have fear in the sense of reverence and awe of what He could do if He were to choose, what He will do to those who reject Him.
So if we are in Christ, we do not have to be afraid of anything at all: nothing in this world, because Christ has overcome the world, and not of God, for we are in Christ who has taken on Himself the punishment for our sins.
So let us fear God out of awe and reverence rather than out of dread, for He is, in Scripture’s own words, a consuming fire.
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. ~ Hebrews 12.28-29

Art credits: Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo; Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Jan Vermeer

What Is the Gospel?

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Our culture is passionate about the importance of the individual.
We believe deeply that each person (especially our own person) should have all they need to be happy.
Pursuit of Happiness
We are also quite certain that anything which claims to be good news must primarily be about benefiting us as individuals.
Even the Good News.
Many of us in the church were taught that the word gospel means good news.
It does.
The word gospel is translated from the Greek word evangelion/evangelizo which means good news or one who brings good news.
But what is the Good News?
Many of us in the church were taught that the Good News is that Jesus died to rescue us.
It’s not.
Don’t get me wrong. Jesus dying to rescue us is good news, indeed.
But it’s not the Good News. It’s not the best news.
The Good News of the Gospels is not that Jesus saved the world; it is not that He died so that we can be with Him forever, although these certainly are pieces of very good news.
The Good News of Scripture, rather, is that the Jesus who died and rose from the dead is Lord of all.
He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and because of this He has power over all of creation, even death itself, power over Satan.
Within that is a personal good news, of course, but a personal good news is not the primary Good News.
The primary Good News is not just good news for the individual person. It is not even good news for all of mankind. The primary Good News is good news for all of creation.
This is so much bigger than us and is so much more excellent than our attempts to confine the Gospel by our tiny definitions of what is good for me.
The news that Jesus is Lord of all is news that can be celebrated by the singing of mountains and the clapping of trees.


This is true Good News for all.

Art credits: page from a 1769 German Luther Bible; Rembrandt’s The Three Crosses; final photo of mountains and trees by Kirk Sewell; all other photographs copyright by Elizabeth Giger

Never! Said I

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.


I would never do that.
No, never! Said I.
Horrified, confident, righteous within.

Never? He said
with a gleam in his eye.
Perhaps, yes perhaps, and yet.


This little thing?
What about this small little thing?

Oh, that? That’s nothing.
Said I with a grin.

That surely won’t matter
in the vast scope of life.
So yes, I’ll do that and enjoy.


Well, what about this?
Just a teensy bit larger.
And the pleasure is much larger still

Oh, that? That’s still nothing.
Said I, standing tall

This too, doesn’t matter
it surely won’t hurt
those around me or go against God’s will.


Said he with the gleam
You’re so close, just look
at what could be savored and gained.

I turned ’round
and suddenly saw with despair
my righteousness lying quite stained.


I did it, yes did it.
How could I? Said I.
with shock and confusion within.

Your confidence blinded.
Said he with the gleam.
You trusted in self not in Him.


copyright 2012 by Elizabeth Giger

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