Is faith a house of cards? Nope – It’s a Royal Flush.

Royal-Flush.SpadesLet’s call a thing what it is.

Living out our faith is difficult. Sometimes we get caught in a bluff; other times the cards fall just right. We may feel like our faith is a house of cards, ready to fall over and reveal what frauds we truly are. Consider these 5 faith cards as a spiritual inventory for having a good hand when it comes to following Jesus on a daily basis. Take a deck of cards – and pull out a Royal Flush in Spades (10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace) to take along as you go about your business, get back to school, manage your household, and enjoy other activities…

10

spades.10The 10 reminds us of the 10 Commandments to love God and serve others. The 10 keeps us attentive to, “the way things ought to be and…the way things are.” [1] The 10 also reminds us of our need for forgiveness and the gift of God’s grace – what we call Gospel (or Good News). It is Good News that Jesus calls us to be disciples, but that call is not to be taken lightly. To follow Jesus costs us something – our old cards in exchange for Jesus’ life that he offers for the world.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes costly grace:

“It comes to us as a gracious call to follow Jesus; it comes as a forgiving word to a fearful spirit and the broken heart. Grace is costly, because it forces people under the yoke of following Jesus Christ; it is grace when Jesus says,       ‘My yoke is easy, my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:30).” [2]

The 10 asks us – what does following Jesus cost him; and what does it cost you?

JACK

spades.jackThe Jack reminds us that we love God and serve others everywhere –as JACKS (or JILLS) of all trades. Spiritual or religious activity doesn’t just happen at church – but everywhere, in every activity – especially in the most mundane and even in the humiliating.

Martin Luther said of faithful service:

“What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, despised, and distasteful duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels…Now you tell me, when a father goes ahead and washes diapers or performs some other mean task for his child, and someone ridicules him as an effeminate fool – my dear fellow, you tell me, which one of the two is most keenly ridiculing the other? God with all his angels and creatures, is smiling – not because that father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith. Those who sneer at him and see only the task but not the faith are ridiculing God with all his creatures as the greatest fool on earth.” [3]

The Jack asks us – where are we being foolish for others in faith?

QUEEN

spades.queenTheology used to be considered the Queen of all the Sciences. Over the course of last few centuries science and religion have parted ways. “One could coherently acknowledge scientific findings or religious faith but not to both. To be a modern, educated person was necessarily to be without religious belief, because science reveals a natural world without God.” [4] In the modern age – religion and science were at war over “fact.” Today, we have started to realize the growing importance of story, conversation, and partnership. Thesis and antithesis are forming new synthesis. Do we know our story of faith? Can we tell the story of Jesus, and of the Bible? Could we articulate a faith perspective into the complexities of living in a digital age? The Queen reminds of our need grow in the story, to learn from others, to be in conversation with people both inside and outside our traditional religious lines.

The Queen asks us – What story will we tell?

KING

spades.kingThe King reminds us of Jesus on the road to Jerusalem. The Kings shows us both the fanfare that excited crowds to wave palm branches only to be surrounds by shouts to crucify him later. The King shows us it is from the resurrection that Jesus meets his disciples – at the grave, in their hiding spot, on the road, at the beach, and on the hillside. We live in the unfolding kingdom of God; to be a people in the world but not of the world as God restores the world. The king reminds us of the false kingdoms of this world; the passion of Christ for this world, and the new life we are promised at his resurrection. In word, sacrament, and community we are sent as Christ’s Body in the world – hands and feet for the kingdom, that is here, but is not yet.

N.T. Wright outlines Jesus’ rescue project:

“This is why several New Testament writers make a direct connection between Jesus’ rescue project, climaxing in his crucifixion, and the renewal of the human project. Jesus rescues human beings in order that through them he may rule his world in the new way he always intended…This, then, is how Jesus put his kingdom achievement into operation: through the humans he rescued. That is why, at the start of his public career, he called associates to share his work and then to carry it one after he laid the foundations, particularly in his saving death. It has been all too easy for us to suppose that, if Jesus really was king of the world, he would, as it were, do the whole thing all by himself. But that was never his way – because it was never God’s way. It wasn’t how creation itself was supposed to work. And Jesus’ kingdom project is nothing if not the rescue and renewal of God’s creation project.” [5]

The King asks – Will you join me in my rescue project?

ACE

spades.aceOur Ace in the hole is prayer. With an Ace we feel like we can ask for the cards we don’t have. Jesus himself prayed, and invites us to pray boldly. While we receive the promise of grace, forgiveness and restoration through Jesus as a pure gift; prayer strengthens our relationship with God and calls us into God’s will at work in the world around us. Luther said of the Lord’s Prayer in his Small Catechism, “In fact, God’s good and gracious will comes about without our prayer, but we ask in this prayer that it may also come about in and among us.” [6] Our prayer need only be, “Your kingdom come.”

Karl Barth said this of prayer:

“Prayer is an altogether simple act by which we accept and use the divine offer; an act in which we obey this command of majestic grace that identifies itself with the will of God. To obey grace – to give thanks – means that prayer is also an act on the part of human beings, who know themselves to be sinners and call upon the grace of God…When we pray, our human condition is unveiled to us, and we know then that we are in this distress and also in that hope.” [7]

The Ace asks: Where do you call upon God’s kingdom to come through you?

CHANGING SUITS

Keep your Royal Flush close. Put it in your pocket, wallet or bag – you never know when you’ll be called to play your hand. The 10 reminds of the 10 Commandments; the Jack reminds us that we are called to serve; the Queen reminds us to tell the story; the King reminds us to see the cross and resurrection; the Ace reminds us to call on God in prayer. royalflush.heartsRemember to call a spade a spade. Do one more thing – place a Royal Flush in the suit of Hearts on top of it. The Spades reminds us that the work we do is never complete; and we can never achieve anything without the constant love God gives us in Christ. This is no gamble. The love of God is a wining hand; and Jesus deals it – to you.

Peace,
Pastor Geoff
__________

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.” (1 Peter 5:6-9)
__________

[1] Fredrick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC. (New York: HarperOne, 1993), p. 61.

[2] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 4. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001), p. 45.

[3] Martin Luther, “The Estate of Marriage,” (1522), Faith and Freedom: An Invitation to the Writings of Martin Luther. ed. John F. Thornton and Susan B. Verenne. (New York: Vintage Spiritual Classics – Random House, 2002), pp. 249, 250.

[4] Brad S. Gregory, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society. (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012),  p. 26.

[5] N.T. Wright, Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters. (New York: Harper One, 2011), pp. 212-213.

[6] Martin Luther, “Small Catechism” (1530), Evangelical Lutheran Worship. (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), p. 1163.

[7] Karl Barth. Prayer. (Louisville: John Know Press, 1952, 2002 50th Anniversary edition), p. 18.

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About geoff sinibaldo

Follower of Jesus, Husband, Father, Son, Friend, Change Proponent, Goofball, Seeking Faithfulness in the 21st Century
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