Making Everything New w/ Julie Frantz
Welcome to the Gospel Reverb podcast. Gospel Reverb is an audio gathering for preachers, teachers, and Bible thrill seekers. Each month, our host, Anthony Mullins, will interview a new guest to gain insights and preaching nuggets mined from select passages of scripture, and that month’s Revised Common Lectionary.
The podcast’s passion is to proclaim and boast in Jesus Christ, the one who reveals the heart of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And now onto the episode.
Anthony: Hello, friends and welcome to the latest episode of Gospel Reverb. Gospel Reverb is a podcast devoted to bringing you insights from Scripture found in the Revised Common Lectionary and sharing commentary from a Christ-centered and Trinitarian view.
I’m your host Anthony Mullins, and I’m delighted to welcome this month’s guest, Pastor Julie Frantz. Julie is the pastor of not one, but two Grace Communion International congregations in Cincinnati, Ohio. She’s a wife, mother of four children, and the friend of many who know her.
Now, Julie, I’ve got to ask you before we go any further, since you live in Ohio. Are you a fan of Skyline Chili?
And know this before you answer, there’s only one right answer. So, what is your response?
Julie: Anthony, I’m a southwest girl and so there’s only one kind of chili, and it’s got spice. And it’s not stuff that goes over the top of spaghetti.
Anthony: Yes, right answer. So, this is going to be a fantastic podcast.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Welcome to the podcast, and for those in our listening audience who may not be familiar with you, your family, and your work in Christ’s ministry, we’d like to know you. So, tell us a little bit about your story.
Julie: My life is comprised of a faithful God who has constantly brought opportunity for me to know him and to join him.
And so, I feel like my whole life I’ve known Christ at different levels, and it’s like I get to go deeper as the years go. I was very fortunate and blessed to meet my husband at camp, and we were sharing the same passion for our life of living a life of ministry, a life in service to Christ.
And early on in our marriage, he began the journey of full-time ministry with GCI, and I was very excited to join him and help him in that and walk alongside him. And so that really is where I began learning a lot about pastoral ministry. I had the ability to travel with him on most of his trips and join him in the training and the classes that he took.
We used a lot of our evenings to just discuss and talk about theology and talk about what if this is true about God? What does that look like? And those were just like training years for me. Those were years where I see the Spirit molding my heart and creating in me a heart for his people and a heart to join him in something more than what I was doing at that time.
Several years ago, I was part of a prayer walk and journey that was several days long, and it was during that time that I really received that calling to join Christ in pastoral ministry. I came home and told my husband about it, and I naturally assumed that meant I would step up and help him in a greater degree.
Little did I know about six months later I would be entering pastoral ministry as a lead pastor at one of the GCI Cincinnati churches. And that’s where my journey began as a pastor. And it’s been wonderful. God is gracious and he is faithful along the entire path. And I am profoundly thankful for that.
And it’s been wonderful because we’ve been able to share life as family and life in ministry as family. And that’s been a blessing that means so much to me. And I think God just lets us do that because he can. And so, I’m very thankful for that.
Along the way, Jason and I had four amazing kids, and their ages are 18, 16, 13 and 7. I like my seven-year-old the most. She’s the only one who’s not a teenager. I’m just joking with that.
Yeah, it’s really amazing to be in the position where your adult child is making adult decisions and you’re seeing the freedom of choice. And, I want to have this conversation with God like, I so greatly appreciate your love and free will that you give us, but could you not give it to this one? That’s that moment as a mom, sometimes that’s tough. But no, it’s it is truly a blessing to trust God in the life of your kids. And to journey that with him.
Having teenagers has been a spiritual journey for me. But a very good one.
Anthony: Yeah. I think every parent—I shouldn’t say that—but most parents come to this place, especially those who believe in our triune God, that God truly loves our kids more than we do, and that seems impossible on some level, but it’s true, and we trust them to his care. Hallelujah. Praise God that he won’t ever abandon them at any point in that journey.
But it’s such a blessing to know, not only as a friend, but a colleague in pastoral ministry in this shared denomination. Welcome.
Friends, it’s that time. We have five Bible passages that we’re going to unpack together.
Revelation 21:1-6a Making Everything New
Matthew 3:13-17 I Am Well Pleased
1 Corinthians 1:1-9 Grace and Peace
1 Corinthians 1:10-18 The Foolishness of Christ
Matthew 5:1-12 Blessed
I’ll be reading from the New International Version. It is the Revised Common Lectionary passage for the first Sunday after Christmas on January the 1st.
1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.
What a beautiful passage! “I am making everything new.” It is a bold heralding of the gospel in verse 5, and I’m drawn, Julie, to the fact that God doesn’t say he’s making new things, but rather he’s making all things new. He is restoring and renewing what already exists in his good creation.
So, what should this proclamation do to how we live and share the gospel?
Julie: This is a proclamation of: behold, there is an assured hope in Christ. This is a moment of don’t lose your faith.
If I could go back to Luke 22 with Jesus is at the table with Peter, and Peter is told that he’s going to reject Jesus. He’s going to deny him, and this is very scary news to Peter. And Jesus shares with Peter that he’s said a prayer for him, a prayer that Peter would not lose his faith.
And, I see in this passage here, there is great tribulation. There is great trials and persecution that we’ve read about previously in Revelation. And this is that moment of don’t lose your faith. Contrary to what we can see in this moment, despite the evidence of great evil, there is great hope for the people of God.
NT Wright says this is the moment of bringing all creation to redeemed and fruitful life. God is truly in charge of history, and he has the final word, and what does he say? I am making everything new. This is a profound moment for us to stand in the reality of who God is, who has the final say and his final say is, I’m making everything new.
Hebrews 10:23 reminds us. It says, Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
So, it is in the spirit of great hope, in the spirit of standing before a God who says, I’m making all new. That’s my say. I’ve got the final say here. That’s my say. We stand in the confidence of that, and the hope of Christ presented before us in the scripture.
Anthony: Hallelujah. Praise God. He gets the last word. And he had the first word and he said it was good. And now look, I’m returning it to its goodness. Thank God for his final word. And we stand in that hope.
And I don’t know your experience, Julie, but I have found pastoral ministry, many things, but often it’s dealing with people’s suffering. It’s entering into that, as Jesus has truly—in his humanity and by the Spirit—enters into our suffering.
And it says, it gives us this hopeful statement, that he will wipe away every tear. There’ll be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. Ah! Wow.
What a reality to consider and something to look forward to. But what are your thoughts?
Julie: The sacrificed Lamb declares victory, eternal victory over evil and death of this world. It’s done. It’s finished. We hear John the Baptist, his declaration, behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
We stand in that place. Of beholding God, the Lamb, who has done all needed. This is the, IT IS FINISHED. All caps. Exclamation point. Exclamation point. This is that moment that we’ve hoped for, the moment that it’s done and we’re in him. It’s completed and eternal life, eternal victory in Christ.
We see the story behind the story: Jesus, the beginning, the source of all things and the end, the completion. The one who brings that full-term. And we get to see this, and we get to see that final score, and we get to see Jesus wins. That’s a good victory.
Anthony: Yeah. Amen to that. And you know this pericope ends with this line that you can get spring water of his water of life, and it hearkens back to Isaiah where, come and eat and drink and it’s free. And this just this lavishness of grace. What an amazing passage to behold, as you started out.
Let’s transition to our next passage, which is Matthew 3:13-17 [NIV]. It is the Revised Common Lectionary passage for the baptism of our Lord, which is on January the 8th.
Julie, would you read it for us please?
Julie: Yes. Starting in verse 13,
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. 16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Anthony: So, Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness according to this passage. So how should this bless us personally, if at all, and bless those that we share the gospel with?
Julie: We have to remember that in his incarnation, Jesus immersed us into our world, and he reveals a God with us.
In his baptism, humanity is included and immersed into his world where he is our representative. He is the one who responds perfectly to the love of the Father. The weight of being righteous is not ours to bear.
The blessedness of that, the blessedness of Jesus on our behalf has stood in our place. He has included us in his faithfulness. I would call this blessed assurance.
Anthony: Right on. And it says that God the Father, loves and is pleased with God the Son. I think all of us want to hear that, right? That God loves us and is pleased with us.
So let me ask you this. Are we just bystanders to this love relationship? Or participants in some way, whether we recognize it or not? And should the water baptism of Jesus lead us to baptism?
Julie: There’s some things going on in this scripture that’s really incredible. They have sat there and the people on the shore have witnessed people being baptized, and they’re observing this from a distance. And then they themselves are going in and being baptized.
And here we have John—he’s recognizing Jesus standing before him and he is not following a hundred percent why Jesus is wanting to be baptized here in this moment. And it’s in this baptism of Christ that we see that atoning relationship. It’s where we no longer are bystanders.
The one who takes us into his own divine life brings us into perfect communion with Father, Son, and Spirit.
Yeah, and go ahead. I’m sorry.
Anthony: Can you speak to that communion? I’ve heard a theologian once say jokingly, but to make a point that, in this passage we see the Trinity, but the Trinity is not just two guys and a bird. There’s so much more going on.
Can you talk about the relationship of Father, Son, and Spirit and how we are in any way connected to it?
Julie: We’re connected to it by grace alone, by what Jesus has done on our behalf. Creation was created out of love. The Father, Son, and Spirit relationship of God says, let us create, let us do this.
And then they celebrate. It’s a celebration of what has occurred within that relationship; this creation that God declares joy over. And we have a relationship where it is for the Father that Jesus acts, he acts in response to the Father.
They’re constantly feeding one another, responding to one another, constantly that other focus. It’s really interesting. It’s a very giving love that is seeking to love, that is seeking to be, that is seeking to know.
And Jesus lays down himself that we can be included in that. So, he seeks that we would know him, other-focused, lays himself down that we would experience that perfect communion with Father. With a Father who says, I love you. A father who says, it is you that I am well pleased.
And it’s just a really beautiful moment and I think of the sacraments of baptism. There’s a book; it’s titled, In Faith Seeking Understanding, and it’s written by Daniel Migliore. And he describes the sacraments as embodiments of grace and goes on to say that “they are palpable enactments of the gospel by means of which the Spirit of God confirms to us the forgiving, renewing, and promising love of God in Jesus Christ and enlivens us in faith, hope, and love.”
This relationship of promise and love and faithfulness and grace, and mercy and forgiveness and renewing. I don’t know that there are enough words to describe this relationship of God, but I think those are some pretty good ones.
Anthony: They are. And all of our God-talk, our words about God, they’re an approximation, right? We just do the best we can, but those are very good words to express the reality of Father, Son, and Spirit and our participation in that, including baptism, which is just a beautiful expression of the gift of faith that we have in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let’s move on to our next passage, which is 1 Corinthians 1:1-9. It is the Revised Common Lectionary passage for the second Sunday after the Epiphany, which is on January the 15th.
1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Grace and peace, Julie. It’s a common salutation for Paul the Apostle, but common things sometimes can lose their meaning as we move through this experience called human life.
Should we slow down maybe for a moment and consider this greeting and what’s contained within it? What would you say?
Julie: I think that it takes me back to Acts where Paul first goes to Corinth and where he encounters the Jewish people and the synagogue. And he’s preaching the gospel; he’s sharing the transformation of Christ. And he’s doing all this and there’s just a rejection.
They’re just unwilling to hear and unwilling to respond to that. And so, to these Jewish people, he’s, hey, I’m going to move on to the Gentiles because you guys aren’t willing to hear this.
And so, when I see this greeting, we have the Greek word for grace, and then we have the Jewish word of shalom or peace. And it just makes me wonder on that connection. You know who Paul is speaking to. You’ve got Jews and Gentiles and Corinth, and I see Paul uniting. He’s calling to these people who maybe would not otherwise be united—would not be, I said may not, would not be united otherwise.
And he’s uniting them in a greeting, under the love of God. In his greeting, he puts God and Jesus right there together. He’s declaring they are God, and his way that he addresses Jesus, Lord Jesus Christ. Fully God, fully man and the Messiah. Let’s not forget that.
He’s reminding them who God has made them to be. This is, I think, intentional. I think it’s intentional to pull in, pull in to hear, pull in to be reminded of God’s word to them and remind them that you matter. And Paul’s letter is not just to one people. There’s a mix here.
Anthony: Speaking of the writing, the letter of course it was written to the church at Corinth, but it was also written for us. So, I think I can say with faithfulness and fidelity with the scripture, you, Julie, Frantz, don’t lack any spiritual gift! And that’s an astounding thought to ponder.
Paul spoke this on behalf of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the inspiration of the Spirit. So, what should we know and how should we act as a result?
Julie: I think we can probably understand this a little deeper as you get further into 1 Corinthians. Paul actually addresses spiritual giftings, and when he’s referencing “you,” we have to remember that he’s speaking to the church. There’s a body here, there’s a community here. And even though we like to individualize everything, that we hear a lot. I think there is a community here that Paul is talking to. And he addresses the spiritual gifting of that community.
You could say that every congregation has every spiritual gift. I’m not sure that I’m confident to go that far, but what we do know, based on what Paul has given us, is that all these gifts are the work of the one and same Spirit. We know that he distributes them to each one just as he determines. And that’s out of 1 Corinthians 12.
So, every congregation has been gifted with all the needed and necessary gifts according to the Holy Spirit’s designation for the common good. So not one person has all the gifts. We’re required to work together, allowing the diversity of gifts to build unity within the body and to encourage and uplift one another.
So really not a place to boast or a place to feel inferior, but just a place to sit and rest in the reality that we have just what we need as far as God has determined.
Anthony: Many of the listeners today to this podcast that will be preparing sermons using the worship calendar. And of course, we’ve entered into the season just after Epiphany.
I know I’ll be putting you on the spot here a bit, but anything you want to say about the season of Epiphany? Epiphany-tide, the days following Epiphany? And ultimately what we see being revealed in Jesus?
Julie: I always look forward to this time because even though I prep and I’ve got an idea of where we will be journeying, I feel like God is constantly giving us a fresh season of Epiphany, a fresh season to see again. And so, that’s something that I try to have a posture of—new sight and a place to receive afresh the word of God.
Because I know that a lot of scriptures—as pastors, as you’ve been pastors for many years, these are scriptures that you’ve journeyed through multiple times. So much so that you may even remember the last sermon that you gave in relation to this scripture. But I would just challenge that we would sit and posture ourselves to see afresh and to experience anew this beautiful time of seeing and a beautiful time of revealing.
Anthony: Yeah, I once read how theology and the work of biblical interpretation is a human, fallible activity aimed at articulating the perfect infallible logic of God in Christ. And therefore, all of our God-talk, theology, is ultimately rooted in Christology which is the study of Christ. For He alone sums up God’s self-revelation to mankind, which is so true as Hebrews 1 tells us, he’s the exact representation of God. And that’s how God is speaking to us in the word, the living Word, Jesus Christ.
And so, Epiphany is a beautiful season to be, as you said, reminded afresh of just who God is and what he is revealing about himself in the person work of Jesus Christ. And I’m so thankful that we can just ponder Jesus during this season, to say he continues to reveal himself. It’s not a one and done. He, by the Spirit, is continuing to reveal the unbelievable and matchless nature of our God.
Our next passage is 1 Corinthians 1:10-18. It’s for the third Sunday after the Epiphany in the Revised Common Lectionary, which is on January the 22nd.
Julie, would you read that one for us please?
10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Anthony: Hallelujah. Paul appeals to us to have no divisions and to be perfectly united in mind and thoughts. And I go, Whoa, wait a second. We live in a time wrought with division disunity and quarrels and we see it not only in society, but it rears its ugly head in the church.
So, what should we do? Pastor Julie just threw up her hands in despair. Help us understand.
Julie: This message is difficult today for so many, and it was difficult back then. God’s message and his mission does not rely on human approval. The gospel’s not logically sound. Who would do this?
And we have some who are thinking the cross was a shameful death, and it’s a cursed man who died upon that. This is absolute ludicrous that somebody would die upon a cross. You want to follow someone who’s died upon a cross? This is sounds crazy. The great thinkers and the profoundly educated, they couldn’t come up with a way to save themselves.
And yet, Paul presents that God’s love, grace, and mercy does not make sense. And I would say thank goodness for that. Because rejected and denied, God turns toward humanity and lays down his life.
It doesn’t make sense and yet it is. It’s not a place of despair. It’s a place of hope because God did something that no one else would do. God has done something that makes no logical sense, and yet it is. It’s a place to stand in awe and wonder of our God.
Anthony: And you said it, it makes no sense. And that is true. And it tells us that, the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. And maybe you want to talk about that—what this means, this “perishing” word. But to those of us who are being saved, it’s the power of God. Amen. And amen. Tell us a little bit more about this. Help us understand.
Julie: I thought it was interesting that Paul doesn’t use eloquent language, attractive language to entice people to this. The gospel message, centered on Christ, is a powerful, transformative message.
There is no need for added fluff. It is a place where the hopelessness of humanity discovers the love of God and great hope. God uses the gospel message to bring salvation to those who would believe. It is a place where things are not as they should be.
There is gratefulness and thankfulness for that because if things were as they should be, we would all be in a lot of trouble. And yet God presents something really beautiful. It’s like the dawning of a new hope. Years ago, Anthony, I heard you give a message, and you used the Lord of the Rings in your message. And there’s a great battle in the Lord of the Rings, where hope is nowhere to be found.
You know the doom of what is happening. We have these people and they’re in a kingdom that is falling, and their stronghold is crumbling right before them. And all they can see is a sea of army approaching and encroaching upon them.
All of a sudden, when all hope has faded, there’s a light that shows at the top of the hill, and it is the great Gandalf. He’s arrived, and he has arrived with the strength to overcome all that has been against them.
And it is foolishness that we would put so such hope in Christ. To this humanity, it’s like, this is crazy talk! But to us that are saved in the power of God, it is life itself. It’s that abundant life. It’s that place of rest. It’s that place where we can just exhale and be. Be saved. It’s a great place of peace for us. And it does not make sense to humanity. It does not make sense to the brokenness of this world.
Who would do that? Who would do that?
Anthony: I’m drawn as I look back over this passage to verse 13 and Paul says, was Paul crucified for you and were you baptized in the name of Paul? Clearly the answer is no, in Christ, in Christ alone.
My thought goes to the work of ministry, being heralds of the gospel. As pastors in the church of Jesus Christ, it’s really easy to get a savior complex. We’re out saving the world, trying to rescue people. But nobody’s crucified in your name and my name, and that’s good! That’s reassuring because if it’s on me, if it’s on you, woo, we’re in trouble.
Anything you want to say to that? Any affirmation in that? Just any thought that you have about how that shapes your participation in ministry.
Julie: Yeah. I think it’s easy for us—sometimes as pastors you can receive a lot of really good feedback sometimes. And it can make you feel pretty good about things, and you think, oh, I’m doing a pretty good job here, or whatnot.
And what’s funny is those come, and then the criticisms come, and you be tore down a bit. But the reality of joining Jesus in ministry is that it’s not our ministry. This isn’t our ministry. I think this is what Paul’s getting at—this isn’t his ministry.
The proclamation of hope has nothing to do with Paul. The proclamation of hope has to do with who? Jesus. That’s it. That’s it. And any one of us who would declare otherwise or to take credit otherwise, we’re missing the point. And I think in a lot of churches, sometimes those who are very gifted in certain things can present a place where people jump on board with that person. It’s like they’re drawn to that person.
And I think as pastors, we want people to be drawn to Christ. We want people to see Christ. And doesn’t mean that we can’t be gifted, doesn’t mean that we can’t give good sermons, doesn’t mean that we can’t be a good pastor. It’s just it’s not about us. It’s not about us.
And sometimes our congregations—and I don’t know, I haven’t experienced enough of other cultures and stuff, but here in the United States, the culture can be very pastor-centric. It can be very focused on the pastor and the speaker and how well they do things and whatnot. And I think that is detrimental to the church. It’s detrimental to the body of Christ. And I think it’s good for us to be aware of that and to constantly point to Christ.
I don’t want anyone to come to me and think this is in me. It’s not. And I thank God that he reminds me of that. And I think this is a good reminder from Paul of, no, it’s not about us.
Anthony: Yeah. I often think of John the Baptist in this way from that imagery in John 1. He’s teaching his disciples and Jesus walks by, and he points to him, look the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. And the disciples get up and leave him. And if John wanted to make it about himself, he’d be like, hey, where are you guys going? I’m not done with my sermon.
He knew what he was there for, and we are to do the same, to point people to our Lord Jesus Christ. And in participating in pastoral ministry, I’ve discovered that 80% of it is proclaiming and sharing the gospel. And it seems like the other 20% is setting up chairs, right?
It’s just rolling up your sleeves and going to work and in doing so, we are embodying the reality of who Jesus is. But thank God, it’s his ministry and it’s in his power and strength that we act. Hallelujah.
Julie: And let’s not get frustrated if that temptation gets there. If that temptation comes, let’s just be aware of it and continue to point to Christ.
It’s pretty natural for a congregation to love, and they want to be respectful to their pastors and stuff. And we have a bit of a culture of that in some congregations, and that’s not a bad thing, but it is Jesus. It is Jesus that we are here for.
He is the one who gathers. He is the one we worship. He is the one who builds the church. He is the one who grows us. Our spiritual giftings come from him. We couldn’t do any of this without him. And it is his ministry. And I think, as pastors, we can point to that, and just remind in case that temptation does come.
Anthony: Right on.
Sister, we’re up to our final pericope of the month. It’s Matthew 5:1-12. It is the Revised Common Lectionary passage for the fourth Sunday after the Epiphany on January the 29th. And it reads:
1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. He said: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Julie, Jesus said, blessed are the poor, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger, those who are merciful. Sometimes that seems truly at odds with our world and the self-help, “get ‘er done,” get ahead society, “dog eat dog.”
These statements seem so out of sync to what we might call quote unquote reality. What should we learn and embody from Jesus our Lord?
Julie: I think that we have to look at these statements and realize that this isn’t a to-do list for Christians as if we could even do it ourselves.
It’s not that. This is a place where it’s actually not about us. It really is like the indicatives of blessing. And so many would read this and think if I am meek, then God will bless me. If I am merciful, then God will show me mercy.
But it’s more of a proclamation of who he is. This is who God is. He’s a God of blessing. To know him, in whatever circumstances you find yourself in, is to be blessed. This is what it means to be drawn into the communion of God. A place of blessing.
And when you think of people who are meek, you don’t think of them being blessed. You think of people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, you think of them lacking, right? You think of those who are merciful, it’s like they’re weak. What are they doing?
These are things that we may not look at as a good thing. Or we may look at as less than, and yet God reminds us that this is a place where we can participate in the blessing of him, the blessing of who God is. It is a place of blessing to know God and to be in that place of relationship with him.
And if we follow down through this scripture passage, we see in verse 12, here is the imperative. Here is our response: rejoice and be glad. And so, this isn’t a how-to. How to humble yourself enough to receive a blessing. Because I think that it would be discouraging to those who want to be strong and whatnot, but also it could become an idol for those who [think] I’m going to tear myself down enough to be this, so that I can get a blessing.
And it’s just not—this is not how God has relationship with us. This is just outside of who he is really. It’s not, if I do this, then God will do this.
Anthony: Yeah. I think in a truly Christological reading of this passage, we know that Jesus himself said it. The scriptures are about him.
And so, who was merciful? Who was pure in heart? Who was the peacemaker, who was persecuted because of righteousness, who was insulted and persecuted and falsely accused? Well, it was Jesus! This is him.
Like you were saying, this reflects the very essence and nature of God. He is the one who we see all of this in, and of course, in the very generous, giving nature of God that we experience blessing, as you pointed to.
And I also think that there is, in our following of Christ and being conformed to Christ, there is an act of participation in this. And so, I did want to ask you, verse 9 talks about the peacemakers are blessed, and I’ve thought about this, and I’d just like to ponder it with you.
It doesn’t say, blessed are the keep peacekeepers. Am I making too much of that? Is it semantical or is there a difference between a peacemaker and a peacekeeper? Is there something we should consider?
Julie: I don’t know if we’re reading too much or too little or anything there. But I think to realize that both exist in Christ and Christ alone, it’s in a life of participation.
When I look at this, I don’t really focus on the difference between a peacemaker and a peacekeeper, but that it only exists in Christ. This only exists in Christ. This is the One that we participate with who has done all things and continues to do this through the Spirit.
So, in this way, Jesus reminds us, he’s the sole mediator. He’s the one, he’s the only one. He’s that high priest. So, I can’t step in and be a peacemaker or peacekeeper. That’s outside of my willpower.
But I can sit in the reality that in my life, there is opportunity for me to respond in participation, as Jesus is our high priest. And that this is not dependent upon human effort, but I do have a participation and response.
And it is a gift for me to be in that participation. It is a gift. And I think it was James Torrance—he wrote, “The gift of participating through the Spirit in the Incarnate Son’s communion with the Father…” to ponder that gift.
And I think when we look at these things, we see the giftedness and blessing of participating in who Jesus is. And this verse, this describes him.
Anthony: Yeah. I probably should have worded that question differently. I hear people sometimes talk Julie, and yes, I know this is about God, but we do actively participate in him. And yes, I know folks like to say, let’s keep the peace, and what they mean is, let’s avoid conflict.
The peacemaker that we see in Jesus went right into the heart of conflict. He assumed it into himself and dealt with it directly through the Cross. And so, I sometimes wonder if by making a distinction between peacemaker and peacekeeper, that truly as followers of Jesus that we need to be active in making peace.
Even as we wait for the fullness of the kingdom to come, that the kingdom is emerging. It is inaugurated. And even though it’s hidden, that we have this chance to bear witness to the reality, that we are active in moving toward peace, which means moving toward Jesus. And sometimes that means it’s uncomfortable for people, that it’s not the avoidance of conflict, but it is reconciling.
Because reconciliation is God’s idea, and it’s good. It’s a great idea. It’s the best idea. And sometimes I think we have to move toward that. That’s really what I was driving at. But thanks be to God that Jesus is the one who ultimately has done that at the Cross. Amen.
Julie: Yes, definitely. And I think that peacekeeper—when we encounter Christ and we live in relationship with him, there’s a hard truth that comes with the gospel. And it’s a truth that is refining, and it penetrates.
When we talk about being a peacekeeper, it’s that moment of maintaining the right to be right or prioritizing the person in whom Christ is sitting in relationship with. It’s that moment we are participating in the peacekeeping.
And so yes, sorry. I didn’t fully grasp what you were asking me before. But yeah, I think that’s a place where we do encounter the hard truths of the gospel. We do encounter that refinement and that double-edged sword that divides what is life-giving and what is not. And Jesus calls us to participate in that which is life-giving, that which is restoring, And if we look at the nature of Christ, it is a restorative nature.
And so yes, we can be peacekeepers as we participate in the restorative nature of Christ. It’s not a nature to condemn others, but a nature to restore. And that’s a very beautiful place that God invites us into.
Anthony: Amen. And what is the result of that making peace? Verse 12, rejoice and be glad.
What is the result of theology? What is the result of encountering this scripture passage? Rejoice and be glad. This is the gospel. Good news. And if we’re not rejoicing and being glad, we’re doing something wrong. Right, Julie?
Is there anything else that you want to bring out of this passage for those who will be preparing to proclaim it?
Julie: I think that we can rest and rejoice in the blessing of who Jesus is. We can do that. And maybe we don’t give ourselves permission to do that enough. Maybe we don’t give ourselves permission enough to really sit in that place of blessing with the Lord. But he is a God of blessing. And to know him is to be blessed.
Anthony: Amen. Amen and amen. Sister Julie, it’s a joy to know you as a friend, a sister in Christ, as a fellow pastor. I’m so grateful that you said yes to the invitation to join me in this conversation around Scripture.
We call it Gospel Reverb. And as is our tradition, we like to close with a word of prayer. So, would you, as our guest, be willing to pray over our listening audience? And let’s celebrate this blessing that we have in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Gracious and faithful Lord, thank you that we get to come and walk through this scripture together. And Lord, it is such a blessing to sit with you and to be in your word and to have your Spirit pour upon us. And Lord, you are so good and so faithful to us.
Lord, I just lift up the pastors who are right now preparing, preparing to deliver your word to a beautiful congregation. Lord, I pray that you will be clear and that you will be directive in helping them to prepare this message.
Help them to rest with confidence, Lord, in you. Rest that you are the one leading. You are the pastor of these churches; it’s not us. Thank goodness for that. We are joining you. And Lord, we just thank you for that faithfulness.
We know your faithfulness is true in all circumstances—that we can trust, and we can rest in that. And so, in the preparation of these messages, Lord, pray that we will truly trust your lead in preparing those. Lord, I pray that you will help us to see these things afresh in you. Help us to see what you are revealing. And help us, Lord, to present those in your will, in your timing, and in the way, Lord that they need to be heard.
And God, we give you all glory. None of us could do this without you. I don’t think any of us want to do it without you, Lord. And thank goodness that is not the case, that we have to move one day without you, Lord, in this ministry. And so, to you, be the glory, Lord.
Thank you again for my brothers and sisters who join me now in proclaiming the gospel and pointing to the goodness of you Lord. And it is in Jesus’ name that we pray. Amen.
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