One of my favorite movie trilogies are the most recent Batman movies. I have always loved Batman, but these movies are all quite profound. Here is a scene from the first movie which I think captures the theme for this week:
As Christians, we use a lot of words. We have sermons and Bible studies and read blogs (ouch) and talk about our theology and the way things “ought” to be. Yet this alone is does not do a whole lot.
God is in the business of restoring the world into the way things were always meant to be and the way they will ultimately be again. And we are invited into this process.
But the process of partnering with God is one that requires action. It is not about what theology we have or what doctrines we hold, it is about following the cruciform way of Jesus in order to bring about the Kingdom of God.
Are we willing to act like Jesus? And what role does our thinking play in our actions? What does our sense of who we are contribute to how we act in the world?
These are things we want to explore this week.
When Jesus returned to the Temple and began teaching, the leading priests and elders came up to him. They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?”
“I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,” Jesus replied. “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human?”
They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask us why we didn’t believe John. But if we say it was merely human, we’ll be mobbed because the people believe John was a prophet.” So they finally replied, “We don’t know.”
And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.
“But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.
“Which of the two obeyed his father?”
They replied, “The first.”
Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.
Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
Then another message came to me from the Lord: “Why do you quote this proverb concerning the land of Israel: ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste’? As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, you will not quote this proverb anymore in Israel. For all people are mine to judge—both parents and children alike. And this is my rule: The person who sins is the one who will die.
“Yet you say, ‘The Lord isn’t doing what’s right!’ Listen to me, O people of Israel. Am I the one not doing what’s right, or is it you? When righteous people turn from their righteous behavior and start doing sinful things, they will die for it. Yes, they will die because of their sinful deeds. And if wicked people turn from their wickedness, obey the law, and do what is just and right, they will save their lives. They will live because they thought it over and decided to turn from their sins. Such people will not die. And yet the people of Israel keep saying, ‘The Lord isn’t doing what’s right!’ O people of Israel, it is you who are not doing what’s right, not I.
“Therefore, I will judge each of you, O people of Israel, according to your actions, says the Sovereign Lord. Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you! Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel? I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign Lord. Turn back and live!
O Lord, I give my life to you.
I trust in you, my God!
Do not let me be disgraced,
or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat.
No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced,
but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.
Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.
Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love,
which you have shown from long ages past.
Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
for you are merciful, O Lord.
The Lord is good and does what is right;
he shows the proper path to those who go astray.
He leads the humble in doing right,
teaching them his way.
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
We often get lost in our words.
We have a genuine desire to follow you, but we so often don’t follow through.
Give us the courage to do the things we talk about.
Give us the courage to be the kinds of people who take on the attitude of Christ,
and to partner with you in the renewal and transformation of the world.
Give us the courage to see ourselves and those around us through your eyes.
Empower us to live our lives in ways that reflect who we truly are and who you truly are.