William A. Walker III

Pastor, Professor, Theologian

Tag: discipleship

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Good Friday Sermon: Participating in the Crucifixion and Denying our Discipleship

Text: John 18-19

At the Palm Sunday service this past Sunday, we read this same passion narrative, but from the book of Mark. There were a number of different readers throughout the congregation, each one speaking out as a different character in the story. It felt very real to me for some reason. I was moved, but I was also unsettled by it, especially when we were all asked to responsively say together, “Crucify him, Crucify him!”

Because everyone takes part in the crucifixion at some level. The Pharisees, Pilate, the disciples, the crowd… they’re all committing sins that, together, condemn Jesus. And Jesus in turn takes on those sins, and absorbs them fully, on the cross, rather than retaliating, and as Christians we believe that this is what allows us to be reconciled to God.

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Thinking, Feeling and Doing: Three Kinds of Repentance for the Truly Human Life

[This post originally appeared last week on the Missio Alliance blog]

In the Christian liturgical year, Lent is a season especially dedicated to spiritual discipline and repentance. The purpose of this discipline is movement toward the resurrection life that is made available to us in Christ, and we repent because the path we naturally follow doesn’t lead to this life. But repentance is a hard thing to manufacture. If the prompting doesn’t come from a place of genuine conviction, discipline is likely to either be motivated by guilt or to produce self-righteousness. In either case, the outcome doesn’t sustain real change.

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How to Fear Not and Love Your Neighbors: Church Barriers to the Gospel and the Great Commandments

This post originally appeared on the Missio Alliance blog yesterday.

I heard it said once that the heart of Jesus’ teaching is pretty well summed up in these two commandments: Don’t be afraid, and love your neighbor as yourself. Of course, simple as this sounds, we soon figure out that nothing could be more difficult. This is all the more true given the way that Jesus defines neighbor (i.e., even your enemy), and given that fear is often more deeply rooted than we care to admit.

It starts with subtle worries about every day things from bills to pay, job security, and health to retirement, but then grows deeper into anxieties about rejection, loss, pain, loneliness, failure and the absence of purpose. The root of this fear is that as both finite and free, human beings have natural limitations, but infinite expectations and pretensions. This leads us to become self-conscious about our insecurity, which in turns produces the anxieties just mentioned. Anxiety inclines us to seek control of our own lack of certainty and security, of which there is never enough, and so we are driven to chase after these things to the detriment of others. Generally we either 1) abuse our freedom by grabbing for power, or 2) flee into our finitude via sensual indulgence (these are the sins of the older and younger brother in the Prodigal Son parable, respectively). In other words, fear and anxiety are what stand in the way of us actually loving our neighbors.

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