Digging in Deeper: 2 Corinthians 7:8-10

“For even if I grieved you with my letter, I don’t regret it. And if I regretted it – since I saw that the letter grieved you, yet only for a while – I now rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance. For you were grieved as God willed, so that you didn’t experience any loss from us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

In a world without God, we are haunted by death. Let me be more specific: In a world without Christ, we are haunted by death. In his letter to the Thessalonian believers, the apostle Paul wrote encouraging them to grieve for their lost loved ones who died in Christ like the people of faith they were and not as those who had no hope. There is indeed a difference between the two. And if last year’s hit Disney+ series, Wandavision explored the process of grieving (something I wrote about here), this year’s latest Marvel movie, Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, helps to highlight the difference. Absent time to go see it in the theaters, the film final released on Disney+ this week, I have watched it from start to finish, and am at last ready to offer up some thoughts. If you haven’t seen the movie, this review is going to be full of spoilers, so proceed with caution. If you’ve already seen it, here’s what I think.

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Digging in Deeper: Hebrews 5:11-14

“We have a great deal to say about this, and it is difficult to explain, since you have become too lazy to understand. Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the basic principles of God’s revelation again. You need milk, not solid food. Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature – for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Did you ever have a bad teacher when you were in school? I don’t just mean a teacher you didn’t like or who wasn’t particularly kind. I’m talking about a teacher who was genuinely not good at teaching. He stood there and lectured endlessly about things no one really understood and never really explained them or entertained questions. He tried so hard to be cool that he never really got around to the teaching part of his job, but then tested you anyway. He covered a difficult subject that he never quite unpacked sufficiently that anyone was following along with him. Bad teachers are frustrating. But sometimes our lack of understanding isn’t a teacher’s fault…it’s ours. We just don’t want to own it, so we blame someone else. The author of Hebrews has been covering some tough stuff so far. He’d like to go further with it, but he knows his audience won’t understand because they’re just average students. He challenges them on this here and leaves us with something to think about in our own lives. Let’s take a minute this morning to do that.

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Digging in Deeper: 2 Corinthians 3:7-11

“Now if the ministry that brought death, chiseled in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites were not able to gaze steadily at Moses’s face because of its glory, which was set aside, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry that brought condemnation had glory, the ministry that brings righteousness overflows with even more glory. In fact, what had been glorious is not glorious now by comparison because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was set aside was glorious, what endures will be even more glorious.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

What is the relationship of followers of Jesus to the Old Testament? Let me put that another way. What does the old covenant have to do with members of the new covenant? That sounds different and probably would generate different responses, but it’s the same question. And it is a question that has generated no small amount of response and debate over the centuries of the church. It is also a question we aren’t going to be able to answer rigorously in this one post. But Paul’s words here do afford us the opportunity to do something thinking about it. Let’s take a few minutes together today and do just that.

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Digging in Deeper: Matthew 5:8

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Have you ever seen a movie that didn’t know what it was trying to be? That can be a frustrating experience. You want to enjoy the film, but you only want to enjoy one film, not three or four at the same time. Writing a story (or much of anything for that matter) can be tough. I can speak to this rather personally as I write a few thousand words every week. Not many of those words are for the purpose of telling a story, but writing a sermon requires the same kind of discipline. Too many potentially good sermons have fallen victim to the curse of not knowing what they are trying to be. The preacher starts out making one point, but then just can’t quite restrain himself from making two or three others. The jumbled mess that results from this may feel very inspiring in a moment, but doesn’t often stick beyond that. I recently finished watching a movie that suffers from this very thing. It’s too bad too, because I really wanted it to be good. Let’s talk this morning about the latest offering from the wizarding world of Harry Potter: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Secrets of Dumbledore.

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Digging in Deeper: Hebrews 5:1-4

“For every high priest taken from among men is appointed in matters pertaining to God for the people, to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he is also clothed with weakness. Because of this, he must make an offering for his own sins as well as for the people. No one takes this honor on himself; instead, a person is called by God, just as Aaron was.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Being a pastor can be confusing. It’s not necessarily confusing for me. I know who I am and what I’m doing (well, at least the first one most of the time). It’s confusing for everyone else. For instance, what should I be called? In my particular faith tradition, there are several options. Which one gets used depends on the circumstances and who’s talking to me. I have at various times been called “pastor,” “preacher,” “reverend,” and even “father” or “priest” by someone who was raised Catholic and really didn’t have a frame of reference beyond that (although, admittedly, my favorite has been a man who unfailingly calls me “Rabbi”). Which is right and what do they mean? What got me thinking about all of this is a description of the high priest here at the opening of Hebrews 5. Let’s talk about it.

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