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Day 3 through the Book of Hebrews

betsy ahoPay attention!

That’s how this chapter opens. We are reminded of the relevance of God’s message, as revealed through Jesus Christ, and instructed to stay focused on the greatness of what is offered through God without straying.

Most Bibles have headings before each section of text. The Bibles I looked at have this section labeled as, “Warning to Pay Attention,” or something similar. These headings are not part of the original text but are added by the publisher. And, while sometimes helpful, I think that in this case the heading is misleading. The first verse and a half sound a bit like a warning, but the rest of this passage is more a celebration of God’s redemption as declared by Jesus Christ, perpetuated by those who heard Jesus, and validated by the distribution of gifts of the Holy Spirit.

ICON hebrews 2017What strikes me in this brief passage (besides that it is not so much a warning but an affirmation) is that the author acknowledges the importance of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and humanity when speaking of salvation! We often think of salvation as being wrapped up completely in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. While this is not an incorrect understanding, the author of Hebrews broadens the scope and invites us to stretch our thinking as well.

This passage opens with a reminder to hold fast to the message of justice and salvation, then quickly reminds us that justice and salvation can be best understood when we recognize the work of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and recognize the gifts bestowed upon humanity as well.

As you read this passage, I encourage you to think about how you understand salvation and redemption, and to reflect on what gifts the Holy Spirit has gifted to you? How do you use those gifts to move toward redemption in the world?

 

http://thepeopleschurch.com/lent-2017/180-hebrews-2-1-4-warning-warning

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Day 2 through the book of Hebrews

HEBREWS 1:5-14: PAY CLOSER ATTENTION

Written by Drew Filkins

We had recently moved to a new town and were getting to know all the little shops and restaurants. One day I was having lunch at a little restaurant and was chatting with the server about all that they had to offer. The server was very knowledgeable about their food and drinks, when the restaurant had opened and all of its operations. It was a great pleasure to talk with him. A couple weeks later, Holly and I were in the same restaurant for dinner. I saw the server but this day, he was not serving tables. He was on his cellphone ordering food and merchandise and making schedules because he was the owner.
The first day I was there, the restaurant had been slow and I didn’t realize the actual role this man had. I should have paid closer attention to who this person was. He had given me enough clues to make it out but I wasn’t paying close enough attention.
This is what the author of Hebrews is doing in this section. The author is calling our attention to see Jesus as he really is. There are seven different quotations from the Hebrew scripture in this section of this letter. They come at us fast and furious. The author is using these texts to make a very important point. Some thought that Jesus was simply an angel sent from God and not God’s son. They had missed the very nature of who Jesus is and the author wanted to set them straight.
The author points back to the Torah and Psalms to say that God never spoke of the angels like God speaks of the Son. God claims Jesus as God’s Son and the angels are called to worship him. This Jesus, which the author will spend most of the letter talking about, is the one who is called to be on the throne at the right hand of God. And this one who is seated on the throne is the one who is going to bring about God’s justice.
As we study through Hebrews this Lent, pay close attention to the way the author describes Jesus. What are the new things being revealed to you about Jesus? What parts of Jesus’ nature are being revealed to you?
– Pastor Drew

http://www.thepeopleschurch.com/lent-2017/179-hebrews-1-5-14-pay-closer-attention

Lenten Journey Through Hebrews – Day 1

andrew

The author of Hebrews comes out of the gate swinging.

Unlike some of the other New Testament letters we encounter before Hebrews, this missive does not contain a familiar greeting, an identification of the sender/recipient, or any of the more personal touches that one comes to expect from the books of the New Testament. Instead, we hit the ground running with four verse of intense theology, a high Christology, and confessional statements that make most seminarians’ heads spin. It is a dense four verses we are given to start the book and it is appropriate for us to dwell a bit in the language, the assertions, and the tone that is being set for the chapters that follow. The author insists that Jesus is king, prophet and priest and he is far above and beyond our wildest expectations of Emmanuel (God with us).

First, we should acknowledge the historical, theological and literarily contextual debate surrounding the authorship of Hebrews. It is unlike any other text we have in the New Testament. It contains a complicated structure from start to finish. It is full of Old Testament references and allusions. The title of “Letter to the Hebrews” was a later addition, coming sometime in the 2nd century after the text was already being touted as having been written by Paul. It’s unlikely that Paul is the author since the words, the themes and the history of Paul do not seem to match up with anything we see in this book. In Chapter 13, we will get some personal references from the author, but nothing so definitive as to make us believe Paul is behind this book.

It reads more like a sermon or theological essay than a letter. I think that is why I enjoy the notion of studying this book together this Lent. It is full of callbacks to the law and prophets, along with numerous eloquent and convincing theological concepts about the identity of Jesus Christ.

ICON hebrews 2017This Lent, we are preparing to be confronting by this same Jesus at the cross and again at the empty tomb. But who do we think, know, believe and hope Jesus is? When we describe him, what language do we use? What truths do we lean upon? I would challenge you to consider three questions throughout this study through Hebrews. Ask these questions each time you read the passage and see what God reveals to you through your interpretation.

1.) Who does the text say Jesus is?
2.) Who do I believe Jesus is?
3.) How do the answers to these two questions impact my life?

I look forward to your comments, questions, thoughts and wonderings as we read Hebrews together this Lent.

Peace be with you!

 – Pastor Andrew

 

http://www.thepeopleschurch.com/lent-2017/178-hebrews-1-1-4-an-exalted-and-lofty-view-of-christ

Looking for something to do this Lent?

How about reading through the book of Hebrews? One reading every weekday, a blog post with commentary each day, and a video to start and end the week to recap and motivate. Sounds good?

http://thepeopleschurch.com/lent-2017

 

 

Days 4&5 – All the animals

  • Ugandan Kob – many
  •  Birds…so many birds
  • I think that was a pair of lions?
  • Hippos!
  • Baboons on the car

And those are what my notes resembled from day 4 and early day 5 of our recent trip to Uganda. Because the schools were not open on the weekend in Nyaka and Kutamba, we spend Saturday and Sunday morning touring Queen Elizabeth National Park before arriving in Nyakagyesi at our accommodations for the week. While this isn’t a ton of time to tour this gorgeous part of the country, we certainly made the most of it.

The lakes, craters, savannah, jungle, forests, and everything in between are truly stunning. It is an impressive section of Uganda with two growing seasons, an abundance of wildlife, and the opportunity see a variety of African ecosystems in only 24 hours. As the day began, I started writing down what animals we encountered. My list quickly disintegrated after the first flurry of furry creatures astounded my Michigan eyes.

img_5247  I know this one is kinda hard to see but that is a pair of lions, male and female, walking across the road in front of our car the same way we might notice a couple of whitetail deer. Amazing. What is even more amazing? The fact that we had just passed a young man on a bicycle with two gigantic bunches of bananas. He was riding on this same stretch of road on his way to the lake where he would sell the fruit, use the money to purchase freshly caught tilapia, and then ride back to his village to sell the fish and begin the whole process over again the next day. I was impressed by his entrepreneurial spirit but shocked by his willingness to ride on a road that had honest to goodness lions waiting in the wings. That was early in the day and truly set the tone for the next 12 hours of travel. We were in a strange and beautiful new place.

In addition to the lions, we say water buffalo, Defasssa Waterbuck, Savanna Elephants, Warthogs, a Leopard (see the previous posting…crazy…https://multidenominationalthoughts.com/2016/12/09/day-4-what/ ), Nile Crocodiles, Topi, Baboons, Vervet Monkeys, Mongoose, Monitor Lizards and Black and White Colbus Monkeys, just to name a few species that crossed our paths. img_5307img_5413

We started and ended our day at the Enganzi Lodge ( http://enganzilodge.com ) just offer the Kasenyi Savannah Plains of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Our drive took us to the Mweya Peninsula on a boat cruise through the Kazinga Channel. It was a stunning and overwhelming day. I’m delighted we took the time to have this experience. It truly was once in a lifetime. Pictures, stories, and lists of animals will never do justice to what we actually saw and experienced. All I can say is thank you to Kasozi Robert, our guide from Bic Tours who kept us safe, happy, and healthy throughout the whole trip. He exceeded expectations in all ways possible.

Our lodge included private yurts for each couple or individual. The walk to the each cottage was down  steep hill where we overlooked the beautiful Savannah Plains. The views couldn’t have been better.

The next morning, Day 5, was a travel day to get to Nyaka. On the way, we drove through the Ishasha Sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, an area especially known for the tree climbing lions. We were never promised we would see anything but sure enough, we did! Again, this stuff felt like something out of a movie. I’ve worked and lived in Alaska an even then, surrounded by wildlife, I never experienced anything like the great Ugandan outdoors.img_5594img_5602img_5616img_5623

The other highlight of the drive to Nyaka was the troop of baboons. They were everywhere while driving but this particular group was interesting because it stopped when we stopped and one very curious baboon jumped up on the car and began to lick the windshield. Enjoy the video!

After all of these adventures, we were finally on our way to Nyaka. We arrived at the Kigezi Forest Cottages in the afternoon and quickly settled in for the night. Jamie, Robert and I went for a 5k run out to the school and back. I COMPLETELY forgot about the hills. That was more than I was prepared to do. I felt like garbage during but great afterwards.

With all of the traveling we had experienced the first 5 days, I was quite ready for a break and a bit of stability. I fell asleep easily and quickly that evening! I was ready to see the Nyaka students again and truly looking forward to a great week with this amazing organization.

On our way to Uganda…

And so the journey begins…ug-lgflag

We leave for the Pearl of Africa this morning and will return on December 3. I’ll be doing my best to blog while away with pics and updates of the trip. Until then, please pray for our safe journey to the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project.

This is my second trip to work with, visit, support, and advocate on behalf of this outstanding organization. There are few international non-profits that do as much good with the limited resources they have at their disposal. I would encourage you to give generously to this project. To my Peoples Church people, THANK YOU for all you have done for the children, teachers, grandmothers, and communities who benefit from your good work. It is an honor to have our congregation be such an active participant with Nyaka and I am so happy to see this relationship continue, grow, and flourish.

Peace be with my fellow travelers and please remember us in your prayers as we journey to the center of the African continent! uganda-04

 

We’re leaving the country

My wife, Rachell and I are leaving.

Some people just make threats. We follow through. Later, U.S.A.

 

Yep, on Wednesday morning, we are embarking on a 30+ hour journey to Kampala, Uganda…and we’re staying until December 3.

 

No, we’re not permanently abandoning our county of origin. This is a work/mission/tourist/vacation excursion as part of our ongoing partnership with the Nyaka Aids Orphans Project (more on that tomorrow!). We have been planning this for the past few months and we are extremely excited for this amazing opportunity. It promises to be an exceptional time spent working, learning, growing, and experiencing my favorite African nation.

 

But what about those who have, are in the process of, and plan to leave from one country to another in the past, present and future?

 

Forgive my overly simplistic approach to the nuanced and complicated notion of immigration from one636035188213974932-627964414_giphy-2 place to another but I am struck by the magnitude of any person who “went.”

 

Very, rarely does one simply choose to go to another country…and the reasons, process, and risks are far from universal for each immigrant, refugee, asylum seeker, or traveler.

 

Some are forced to leave by war, poverty, political instability, and fear.

 

Some are encouraged to leave by work, family, religious liberty, or broken relationships.

 

Some are escaping and some are hiding.

 

Some are longing to return home and some are leaving behind a long to be forgotten past.

 

Some want adventure.

 

Some want love.

 

Many, many want hope.

 

By virtue of my place in this great American experiment, I am the product of generations before me who “left.” While I’d like to assume I understand their reasons and experiences, the reality of my narrative is one shrouded in mystery and wonder. Why would my foremothers and fathers leave Scotland, Australia, Germany and France? Did they want to be here? Did they long to be here? If the choice was available, would they have returned home?

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Rachell and I have experienced an incredible amount of privilege in our lives that has translated to opportunity. We have had choices at nearly every turn of our lives apart and together. We were then and are now able to “decide” to stay or go. And that is a rare position to be in…the realm of opportunity…especially when the vast majority in our world do not live with such extravagant prospects.

 

So why is immigration discussed, debated, and imagined in such myopic, narrow terms? I don’t believe I’m speaking anecdotally on this one, though my own experiences do shape these thoughts.

 

No two immigrant stories are the same…especially not the many faceted travel logs in the Old and New Testaments. Each person, each family, experienced good, bad, and indifferent events that led, called, encouraged, and forced them to go.

 

So, let’s stop viewing immigration through such a narrow lens.

 

I’m utterly intrigued to hear Ugandan perspectives on American election politics, especially as they relate to immigration. Though I would pose the same question to my American, Scottish, German, Indian, Aram and Latino friends as well – what comes next in this discussion?

 

I hope you’ll follow our journey over the next couple of weeks as we travel across Uganda. Pray for our family who will remain behind and pray for a safe, eventful, and glorious adventure for Rachell and me!