Saturday, June 13, 2015

Stoms' Malawi Trip (June 2015)

Dear Friends and Family,
Greetings once again from South Africa! As we write we are packing for our 16 day trip to Malawi. It’s been almost two years since we were there last. We’re traveling as a family which is a challenge, but we aren’t crossing any oceans. We do have two flights 2-3 hours long and have to be at the airport by 5am.   
The semester is ending so we’re taking a break from the ‘International student ministry’ to go to Malawi. I’m scheduled to preach at two large Churches in Lilongwe. Both Kafita CCAP and Kapita CCAP are pastored by former students so it should be a nice reunion. The ‘Storyrunners School of Storying’ we hoped to host in Malawi has fallen through. They were willing to go to Malawi due to Ebola in West Africa but now West Africa has reopened so they’ve schedule trainings there.
In Malawi we hope to reconnect with old friends. Our girls are very excited to visit “home”, and we all are looking forward to visiting with many ABC graduates. We also have to move, sell or store our furnishings and other items that we have stored in Malawi.  We will be looking for opportunities to teach Biblical Theology through stories and to do our own story training. We ask that you remember us in your prayers while we’re in Malawi.
Zikomo (thanks!),
Jay, Laura, Clara, Katherine and Lauren Stoms
1)      Pray for safety as we travel and stay in Malawi.
2)      Pray for protection from malaria, and other ailments and injuries.
3)      Pray we move things, sell and store our ‘stuff’.

4)      Pray for ministry opportunities to teach Biblical Theology through stories.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The 'Resurrected Christ' and the 'Great Commission'.

We finished our last story with Mark’s account of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection (Mk 15:33-16:8). Matthew’s gospel ends with a fully account of the ‘Resurrected Christ’ and concludes with the ‘Great Commission’ (Matthew 28). Watch the video and or listen the story and then read the comments below.
This is one of the most important stories you could ever hear. It’s about real events that God uses to change hearts and to change history. It’s a dramatic story and what I really like about this story is that it is so shocking. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb expecting to find the body of Jesus. Then there’s this ‘great earthquake’ and an angel comes down from heaven and rolls the stone away. The guards see the angel’s lightning like appearance and they fall down like they were dead. The angel tells the women not to be afraid. But the real shock is that Jesus is alive from the dead just as he had said.

The story is both shocking and baffling because even people in the ancient world knew that when people die they stay dead. But in this story God does something for Jesus He had never done before. Jesus had told his disciples that he would rise on the third day but none of them, including these faithful women, were expecting Jesus to be alive. Yet the angel tells the women that Jesus is alive and they are to tell Jesus’ disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee. They leave filled with this strange combination of fear and joy. They run to tell and on the way they meet Jesus. They grasp his feet and worship him. Then Jesus sends them on to tell his disciples to meet him in Galilee.  

The soldiers are also filled with fear but they fall down as though dead. They tell the high priest what happened and the elders meet to discuss what they should do. The perplexing thing is that they plot to cover of the truth of the resurrection. They offer the soldiers money to say that Jesus’ disciples stole the body while they were sleeping. The soldiers accepted the bribe and spread the deception.  

The story shows us what we are all capable of apart from God’s grace. The guards are filled with fear; fall as though dead and they go tell the news to those who condemned Jesus. The high priest and the elders bribe the soldiers to twist the story and promote a false account. Left to ourselves we would rather live a lie than repent and admit the errors of our ways!
By contrast the women respond to the shocking news by running to tell Jesus’ disciples. On their way they meet the resurrected Jesus, they grasp his feet and worship him. The women tell the eleven disciples who go to a mountain in Galilee where they meet the ‘resurrected Jesus’. Their response, however, is also a bit perplexing because some worship him while ‘some doubted!’ Did they doubt that it was Jesus? Or did they, as worshipers of the one true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, doubt that they should actually worship Jesus?

So what does the story tell us about God and about Jesus? The story tells me that Jesus is alive and that he really is God’s King, the Messiah. The differing responses to the same story tells me that ‘genuine faith’ is not simply agreeing with the evidence. We must respond in faith but faith is not from ourselves; it is the gift of God. God must foretell, God must fulfill, God must grant faith and repentance because apart from Him we can do nothing. Then we see that all power and all authority belong to the risen Christ Jesus; who is here revealed as the proper object of worship.

So what is the appropriate response to the ‘good news’ of the resurrected Jesus? What is our respond to the one who has been given ‘all power and all authority’ in heaven and on earth? The women were filled with this strange mix of fear and joy and they are propelled to tell others. The story compels us to trust Jesus and to worship him with great fear and great joy. First we worship then we get up from our knees willing to play our part to see the ‘great commission’ fulfilled. We should not be content until the nations are baptized and taught to obey everything Jesus has commanded. We are to proclaim Jesus with our mouths and with our lives. We are to make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Triune God and we are to devote ourselves to learning, teaching and applying the gospel to every aspect of life. We are to cling to the promise that all power and authority belong to Jesus and that he will be with us always even to the end of the age.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Death, Burial and Resurrection (Mk 15-16)!

In Mark's gospel the story of Jesus' being ‘tried, mocked and crucified’ (Mk 15:16-32) is followed by the rest of Mark’s account of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection (Mk 15:33-16:8). Watch the video and or listen the story and then read the comments below.

At the third hour Jesus was crucified and from the sixth hour to the ninth darkness covered the land. Everything went dark which reminds us of the plague of darkness at the Exodus from Egypt. At the ninth hour Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus cries out in faith but in despair asking his father why. Then in anguish Jesus breathed his last and died.

The curtain of the temple was torn in two indicating that Jesus’ death opened direct access to God and ushers in God’s kingdom. A battled hardened Roman soldier heard Jesus’ cry and saw how Jesus died, and confessed, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” The way Jesus died led the centurion to confess what God had said at both Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration.

Some of the faithful women followers of Jesus who cared for him watched him die from a distance. Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Sanhedrin that condemned Jesus, but he was waiting for God’s kingdom. Joseph went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Now Joseph was willing to put himself at risk and make himself ritually unclean to ensure that this man condemned by the Sanhedrin received a proper burial.

Pilate was surprised that Jesus was already dead but the centurion confirmed that he was. So Pilate permitted Joseph to take the body down. Joseph wrapped the body in linen and placed it in a tomb. Then he rolled a stone before the tomb which Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed.  Mark mentions three women who watched the crucifixion and two who saw where he was buried. This isn’t a detail someone would make up since women weren’t even considered valid witnesses in the ancient world.

Early on the first day of the week, the women went with spices to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. On their way they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away?” They were going to the tomb to complete the burial, not to witness Jesus’ resurrection. When they arrived at the tomb the stone was already rolled away so they entered the tomb and saw a young man in a white robe. The man told them not to be afraid and that that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

Jesus had repeatedly taught his disciples that he would be killed and then rise again. Yet the disciples just couldn’t seem to comprehend this. Now the visitor in white sat where Jesus’ body had been laid and told them that Jesus was alive. The angelic messenger explained that they should go to Galilee where they would see Jesus; as Jesus had said. He specifically mentions Peter to ensure Peter that after denying Christ he would not be excluded. Bewildered and scared the women fled the tomb and while they must have passed people on the way, they said nothing.

Two of the best and earliest manuscripts end after verse 8 and actually how the text was intended to end remains a matter of debate. Whatever the actual ending, God challenges us to put our faith in the risen Jesus. So what is our response to the news of the risen Lord and of his ‘gospel of the kingdom’?