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To Know Christ and make Him Known

They lie as two half-crumpled sticky notes on my desk.  One reads use John 17:3; the other simple records – Acts 20:24. Somewhere in my wanderings they came to me as messages from God.  They’ve sat as notes on my desk for at least a couple of months, if my dim memory is correct. Now, I’m not sure how or why, it’s time to pick them up. “This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent” (John 17:3). “But nothing, not even my life, is more important than my completing my mission. This is nothing other than the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus: to testify about the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). Last night I finished my part of this year’s Missional Academy (a class I teach with young adults from the UT Arlington and TCU Wesley Foundations).  We have been working through Alan Hirsch’s The Forgotten Ways Handbook.  Unknowingly, the class called me back to a quote from Hirsch’s original work, The Forgotten Ways. I have the quote stuck inside my Bible as a self-reminder.  It reads:  “The desperate, prayer-soaked human clinging to Jesus, the reliance on his Spirit, and the distillation of the gospel message into the simple, uncluttered message of Jesus as Lord and Savior is what catalyzed the missional potencies inherent in the people of God” (Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, p. 87). I think the impetus in my mind and heart for picking up the two biblical quotes and the powerful witness to their truth by Hirsch comes from a collision in my heart and mind of two events.  The first event concerns the actions of a colleague, Bishop Mel Talbert.  Bishop Talbert, despite the request not to by both the resident bishop and the Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops, recently performed a same-sex wedding in violation of church law.  Tomorrow I fly out for the Council of Bishops annual fall meeting.  As a group we are in uproar over how to respond to Bishop Talbert’s actions.  A huge principle of our covenantal life together is that a bishop does not perform ministry in another bishop’s area without their permission.  A second huge issue revolves around our vow to uphold The Discipline of the United Methodist Church. (I covet your prayers for the Council, for Bishop Talbert, and for my participation in our meeting.) Stay with me because this blog is NOT about the Council of Bishops or the actions of any particular bishop.  It is about Christ – to know Him and make Him known. The second part of the collision in my heart and mind took place at the Central Texas Conference Clergy Time Apart retreat.  Dr. Stephen Seamands Professor of Christian Doctrine at Asbury Theological Seminary shared three lectures and a moving sermon on the subject of his excellent new book, Give them Christ: Preaching His Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and Return.  I was deeply blessed by his thoughtful and stimulating presentations.  He opened reminding us of the four cries of the Reformation.  Most of us remember the first two.  1. Sola fide – by faith alone; 2.  Sola gratia – by grace alone.  It is the other two we tend to forget, 3. Sola scriptura – by Scripture alone and 4. Sola Christus – by Christ alone.  [There is actually a fifth “battle cry” of the Reformation – 5. Sola Deo Gloria – to the glory of God alone.] Professor Seamands called us back to the heart of the gospel reminding us of the Wesley’s Aldersgate experience – “I did trust in Christ and Christ alone for my salvation.” In his reminder he called us back to the main task before us through a deep theological presentation of the heart of the Christian gospel, Good News!, message.  He noted a quote by Bishop Will Willimon – “Preaching is always revived and carried forth on a rising theological tide.” His lecture on the importance of preaching on the cross (surely a great, truly great, Lenten theme) was a brilliant reminder of not just the “what” of Christ’s death but the “so what,” the meaning for us in this day of the death of Christ on a cross.  I am still thinking about a number of things he said.  For example, “The cross for human suffering means Christ can take our scars and make them radiant too.”  And, “Many have brought their sins to the cross but never understood they can bring their suffering to the cross.” I commend a podcast interview with Dr. Seamands, which will go up on the website next week.  But even more, whatever you think in the midst of our current trials and tribulations as a church, I call us together back to Christ.  Our call and glory is to know Christ and make Him known.  It is no more and no less than John 17:3 and Acts 20:24. “This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent” (John 17:3). “But nothing, not even my life, is more important than my completing my mission. This is nothing other than the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus: to testify about the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).