Professor Jeff Bingham, Chair of the Department of Theological Studies, spoke on "Listening Christianly." Two points from his message stand out in my mind. 1) There is an order to the Christian virtues, and if we get the virtues out of order, the result is destruction. The disciples could not understand why Jesus had to suffer and die because they got the virtues out of order. In their mind, the Messiah would bring in power, dominion, authority, and abundance. That was true, but he must first suffer and die. But the disciples could not "hear" what he was saying. They were so fixated on the dominion and the abundance, they wanted to skip right over the cross. That's why they spent so much time arguing about who would sit on Jesus' left and right. And that's why we crave power and position and authority ourselves. We're all for dominion and power, and the sooner we get it, the better. But the Jesus Way is always the way of the cross. We want to skip the cross and go right to the empty tomb. But there is no resurrection without a crucifixion. Unless we listen carefully to what Jesus says, we will fall prey to the siren calls of the world--money, sex, power, abundance, wealth, dominion. Dr. Bingham pointed out that these things are not wrong or bad. In their proper place, each can bring glory to God. But out of place, they lead only to destruction.
2) The cross should not just do something for us; it should also do something to us. That's why Jesus said that in the kingdom of God, all the values are reversed. The way up is down. If you want to lead, be a servant. The cross ought to turn your life upside down so that you end up walking on your hands. This touches the most intimate areas of life, such as how a husband and wife treat each other, how we relate to our children, how we honor those around us.
The sermon dealt with lofty themes but came to a very practical conclusion. "The next time you pray for a parking space, and suddenly before you, right in front of the store, you find the most perfect parking space in history, the one you've been waiting for all your life, and you know God has answered your prayers, don't take it. Drive on, and let the person behind you have that space." We can talk all we want about servanthood and denying ourself and taking up our cross, but the real test comes in the parking lot.
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