“But you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” Exodus 19:6
“…I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Is 49:6

“You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14, 16

“…like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a royal priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5

When I started seminary, way back in the day, I was very apprehensive about studying theology. This poor engineer had never even taken a single philosophy course! The professor teaching theology was infamous for dragging his students from one end of the theological spectrum to the other, then requiring us to both understand (not agree) and write intelligently about what we read. Bottom line: I read a lot of theology I really hated. But over time, I began to learn that we agreed on more than we disagreed. I often discovered the real problem was we used a different way to describe a similar idea. And sometimes, even though we started in very different places, we actually ended up with the same conclusions. I was able to find some common ground with each theological perspective I read, in spite of whether or not I agreed with that perspective. I eventually learned to look for common ground first. It opened up a whole new world for me – and expanded my ability to form relationships with an eclectic group of people.

I am very excited about our Lenten Sermon and Study Series “The Path to the Cross” by Ray Vander Laan. I was introduced to Rev. Vander Laan’s teaching videos while serving in my first full-time appoint-ment, and they blew my mind! While I do not always agree with some of the details of his conclusions, I deeply appreciate the contextual per-spective brought into the studies from top scholars in archaeological, ge-ographical, historical, cultural, and Biblical studies. It brings the Bible text to life! I think Vander Laan’s “big picture” analysis and perspective are not only fascinating, but affirming of what both Jewish and Christian faiths have consistently proclaimed over the centuries: God’s people are called to be a transforming influence in their current world.

If we cannot live out our faith, then it is not based in reality. By reading the Bible in light of the context in which it was written, as best we can, the underlying principles and ideas can more easily be identified. This which means we can more easily translate them for application in our world today. In so doing, the Bible becomes more relevant and truly livable, but it also challenges us to live out our faith more intentionally.

And now, the caveat: I want to be transparent about the fact that the publishing organizations for this Lenten study are in the more con-
servative theological camps. This may tempt some of you to avoid the material rather than to engage it. I would ask that you watch at least one of the videos before passing judgment! If we are going to seriously
embrace our diversity, then we at least need to attempt to engage the material with an eye towards learning from that diversity. We do not – and will not – all agree. But I think you will find enough common ground to learn something positive and uplifting in each of the studies as Rev. Vander Laan presents them.

See you in worship!

Yours for the journey,