Thursday, August 6, 2015

Like God John 6:35-51 Ephesians 4:25-5:2

Jesus first followers didn't call themselves Christians. That word came along a good generation later in the city of Antioch, today part of Syria (Acts 11). Instead of calling themselves Christians Jesus' first followers knew themselves as disciples. They were followers of a great teacher. But Jesus was up to more that just teaching. Instead of just passing out lists of Christian like behaviors and instructions Jesus came to heal, teach, die, and rise. And He invited his first followers, and all who have believed after them, into a day in day out relationship of trust in the God the Father who they know through the life and ministry of Jesus, God own son (John 6:44-45).

Discipleship begins with God and what God has done. It grows as we trust in God knowing we belong to the one who created and redeemed us. But discipleship doesn't end either belonging to God or believing in God. Believers are invited to be imitators of God revealed in Jesus who offered himself for the world Ephesians 5:1-2.

Discipleship is not just about Christian like behavior. Wise people have said they wished Jesus would have given us a clear set of directions rather than stories to understand how God work's in our world and how we are to live in the world. We as Christians, have been blessed with human crafted—God inspired stories—that invite us to contemplate who we are and who God is. The Apostle Paul gave advice that seems easy at first glance, “ imitators of God...” Ephesians 5:1 But the more I understand the cross as full expression of Jesus love the more weight I see in Paul's calling to “imitate God.”

The plain truth is the deeper I get into Jesus story the harder I find it to live like Jesus, to truly imitate him. All four Gospels speak of the great crowds who came for the miracles and wonderful signs of Jesus. But they also speak of the consternation in the crowd when Jesus spoke of how tough it is to follow. They struggled to understand how Jesus could be the bread of life offered for the sake of the world John 6:41-42. And I struggle too and think many others wrestle with the calling to imitate God--to live and die--like Jesus.

Paul invites Jesus followers into the full depth of their calling saying, “ in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us...” It's easy to be “all in with Jesus” if love is thought of as just a weak emotion. It's so much harder to be, “all in” if loving like Jesus means both living and dying like he did.

Today I give thanks that I belong to the one who gave himself away as bread for the world. Today I give thanks for the gift of faith to say, "I believe." And I give thanks for the calling, that I will work on everyday until I die, to imitate God and live like Jesus who gave himself away.
Peace, and thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Whad'ya Expect John 6:24-35

Jesus was a miracle worker. 5000 fed from a few loaves and fish proved that Jesus was the one people needed on their side. Crowds followed Jesus expecting more (John 6:24). More miracles, more teaching, more healing--they wanted him to do more. Truth is we all need bread and Jesus feeding 5000 revealed power beyond anyone else's. They knew he was their Messiah and they could see the signs. But they wanted more.

So why is it that we want more from Jesus. Those already miraculously fed, they wanted more bread. And Jesus called them out. He said they came looking for another fill of bread John 6:26-27—-he came not to feed them once but to offer himself as the bread of life John 6:35. People who come to Jesus seeking only material blessings miss the greater blessing he wants to give—-relationship with him and his followers that doesn't end on this side of eternity (Ephesians 4:14-16). People who came only wanting another meal miss the blessing who stood right in front of them offering himself as their way to life everlasting (John 6:35).

Jesus taught his friends to pray, “give us this day our daily bread.” Luther wrote in his Small Catechism

...God gives daily bread without our prayer, even to all evil people, but we ask in this pray that God cause us to recognize what our daily bread is and to receive it with thanksgiving.
It's easy, as a person with a full belly, to miss all the blessings I've received. It's too easy for me to call the crowd who came looking for more lazy. I sit full and comfortable and can accuse the crowd of missing the point of Jesus ministry when they came back asking for more bread. If I consider my own prayers I see the crowd and I have a lot in common. I give God lists of needs and wants all the time. And I easily miss the greater gift, God's own self given for the sake of the world, that's already present in my life in Jesus. It's so easy to miss what God gives if I don't see beyond my daily needs and wants. Jesus comes to meet our every need, he comes to be our all in all. If we only think about today's necessities we miss the promise of eternity with Jesus.

We come to God asking for more and Jesus points to more than material gifts--Jesus offers his very self. (John 6:35). Preaching on John 6 Oscar Romero wisely said,
Christ can do that which people are unable to do. Christ can raise us up to God.
Here's the promise of Christ's Incarnation. Jesus came to be God with us and for us. He came to give his very self away. He is the bread of life. He came to offer bread that will never be taken away or lost to decay (John 6.27) And Paul invites us to be part of his body Ephesians 4:15-16. We come to Christ not just looking for bread but for life and in sharing our gifts, whatever they might be, we find new life too. Amen.

Monday, July 6, 2015

What God's already done Ephesians 1:3-14

I read Ephesians 1:3-14. What a great blessing for me this week. I'm reminded of all God has done. The reality of God's grace and what God already did through the cross of Jesus just overwhelms. Many say it's too good to be true--they look for something to do to earn more of God's grace and more of God's love. But Paul says God's grace and love have already been revealed fully and completely in Jesus cross and rising. Human religion says do this and you will earn God's love or merit more grace--Paul invites our attention to what God's already done.

Grace as a gift unearned and undeserved. Wow. In the middle of this week's joys and struggles, hopes and frustrations comes word from Paul of God's grace for us--and more personally for me a sinner. Grace for a real sinner like me is always undeserved. For a righteous person God's favor makes sense--but for a sinner struggling daily with sin in every dimensions of my life it's way beyond comprehension. I've heard many qualify or limit the reach and power of God's grace. But Paul declares what God has already done for those who believe. God's grace in Jesus just stands out as the greatest gift of all time. Listening to Paul's words is like salve for my soul. Paul declares the news of what God's ongoing activity is on behalf of believers.

Paul isn't making a list of requirements to earn grace. Instead he's declaring what God has already done. Just listen to all that Paul says God's already done and is still doing...

  • God blessed us: God gives us spiritual blessings in heavenly places Ephesians 1:3
  • God chose us: God chooses to see us holy and blameless Ephesians 1:4
  • God destined us: God made us his children through adoption Ephesians 1:5
  • God bestowed on us: God in his glorious grace has freely done all this Ephesians 1:6
  • God lavished on us: God forgives our sins, a lavish gift, bought at the cost of his Son's death and rising Ephesians 1:8
  • God has made known to us: God revealed this mystery of his will to us Ephesians 1:9
The things God has done through Jesus Cross and resurrection: wonderful. The gift is free but the price was everything. For God's grace undeserved and unearned this sinner gives thanks.
Peace, and thanks for reading, John.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

seeds and faith Mark 4:26-34

Jesus compared God's kingdom to seed. First seed simply scattered (Mark 4:26-29) and next a mustard seed (Mark 4:30-32). In Southern Minnesota's prairie, where I live, people think about seeds in spring. My girls and I planted vegetable seeds in the garden a few weeks back. After planting comes waiting.

Jesus compared the kingdom of God to seeds scattered. But, as Jesus says, we don't know how the seed grows. Even in a "scientific age" with so many mysteries explained mysteries still remain. As a person of faith I often see God's hand at work in the mysteries of life in creation and in the re-creation of believers. Science explains how things grown but not necessarily why. Faith says look to God, the creator who made it just so. Jesus wasn't talking about seeds thou to give a lesson on gardening. He's using seeds to get us to consider the mystery of God's coming kingdom.

Jesus taught powerful truths through seemingly simple stories. He told parables about seeds that invite us into the joy and the wonder of God's work in creation, redemption, and renewal. Jesus told a story of seed scattered. In some ways I can see what he's saying as I look at our garden. The first plants: beans (both wax and green), sugar snap peas, spinach, zucchini, corn, and carrots sprouted quickly. The tomatoes and peppers, started in advance, have taken their place next to the onions that over wintered. Our planting time passed a few weeks ago--but the power in each little seed comes clear right now. It amazes me watching as seeds, no more than a fraction of an inch in size, grow into plants. First green shoots pop with a few embryonic leaves. More substances comes for each plant, many more leaves, branches, flowers, and hopefully fruit will grow from those seeds.

Jesus wants us to see how his kingdom grows. Someone, who Jesus doesn't name, scatters seed, maybe God or maybe a person of faith. And without our knowledge how or permission God's kingdom sprouts and takes root in our lives and our world. He compared the kingdom with a mustard seed--so tiny--but as a plant prolific in all that comes from one seed. Jesus' stories about the scattered seed and the mustard seed are rich in imagery encouraging thought and imagination. What is God up to today. Look at the seeds sprouting to life and you'll see something akin to the inner workings of God's kingdom in his time, our time, and in the world to come.
Peace, and thanks for reading

Thursday, May 7, 2015

living in Jesus love John 15:9-19

Over the past couple month's I've been reminded once again life's fragility. It's been a blessing to hear again the great promise Jesus offers believers in John 15: believers can abide in him. This promise comes from Jesus in John 15:9-19. John writes of a great teaching moment when Jesus explained so much to his friends of how his kingdom really works. Jesus Last Supper had ended. The betrayer headed out to find the temple guards to would come to arrest him. And in the time at the table that remained Jesus shared a vision of how his followers would live. There's so much packed in Jesus' word in John 13:31-17:25. In this night Jesus taught them about his kingdom and prayed for them. He laid out a vision of his friends living on earth while remaining connected to him and his kingdom. It was in the middle of this night that Jesus told his friends,

καγὼ ὑμα̂ς ἠγάπησα· μείνατε ἐν τῃ̂ ἀγάπῃ τῃ̂ ἐμῃ̂
and I you love stay in this love this of mine John 15:9
I love you now abide in this love of mine. What a promise. You are loved. Stay in this love and you will find life. It's life here and it's life after this world is no longer your home.

The word that catches my eye is μείνατε abide, stay, remain. It's such a great invitation, stay in my love, abide in my love,remain in my love. In all circumstances each believer has a place to be--it's in God's love. This probably looks unwise to people who only see this world and think this is it. This is all there really is. It's easy to think of buildings as places to stay but the love of the God you just can't see that seems way to flimsy to rely on--except to the eyes of faith. Jesus isn't offering his friends a permanent house on this earth built of wood and stone--no he's offering his friends a connection with God today and a place in the very heart of God for all time. That's where believers are invited to abide--to live--in God's love. Believers hear this promise of a living place in the middle of this life with all it's limits and struggles. This is good news for us still. Jesus' friends have a place to be that can't ever be taken away.

In the past 5 days I attended 2 funerals and officiated at 2 others. It's been one of those stretches in time where it's clear that abiding in Jesus is a matter of death and life. Abiding in Jesus means having a place today and a place for every tomorrow that doesn't lose value and can't be taken away. Abiding, living in Jesus means lives matter both today and for every tomorrow to come to God. Knowing a future home allows believers to bear fruit today in this world. Jesus made it clear--abiding in his love isn't only about this world. He's just as interested in us abiding in his love for all time to come.
Peace to you and thanks for reading, John

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Jesus' promise he is the vine John 15:1-8

Jesus made a promise when he called himself the vine and named his disciples as branches in John 15:5. I read these words of promise and hope 2000 years after the resurrection and see hope for believers. John wrote of them as coming straight from Jesus, the night before his death. Hearing this promise, in the context of his death, makes the hope it gives in tough times all that much clearer. He is the vine--he is the source of life and hope. And we, because we are connected to the vine, have a source of hope in any and all times.

In 41 years on this planet I've seen great confusion about how God's love works and how we are connected to God. I've watched people try to earn God's love. I've tried myself to earn it too. But the promise of the cross is that we are already loved--in fact I can't think of a way that we could be loved any more than we are already loved today by the one who gave his life for us. And Jesus words here sound to me like a sweet promise. Yes there will be pruning, yes the parts of my life that don't bear fruit will be taken away. But I know that even in the midst of change and loss that I have a place on the vine. I didn't earn my place on the vine--if anything my sins and choices have pointed me away from the vine time and again--but in truth God has remained faithful. Every time I've been separated from God I have been the prodigal who wandered away (see Luke 15). And this is right where God's love meets us--here in this world as debris is pruned away we find a sure and certain hope--that God's love abides and in that love we find shalom wholeness and peace

Jesus made a promise to sustain his friends. That night was heavy for Jesus. He knew what death would come. It was no surprise to him. But Jesus' friends didn't see betrayal, trial, humiliation, and death coming in just the next day--but they heard a promise. This night as they met for a meal of remembrance Jesus made this promise to sustain and give life to those who are close to him.

Jesus made a promise of deep abiding connection knowing full well that the next day, full of confusion culminating in death and burial was coming fast. There's no doubt Jesus' friend experienced profound disconnection and confusion. It all happened in the hours right after their rabbi and friend promised to be their vine--their sustenance. This night he spoke to them of the deep connection that would sustain them and sustain believers still. He's the vine his followers are the branches. When we abide in him we are fruitful and have a future.

A branch disconnected from the vine can't survive. When Jesus said he's the vine he made a promise--he's the source and sustenance for believers. His promise still gives us hope--we can survive because of who he is. He is the vine. Even as the world grows dry and the environment around us grows inhospitable we can survive--Jesus is the vine giving us life and hope. He is the vine who brings renewal for our souls.

Jesus invited his friends to see the world over and over again from God's eyes. His earth bound metaphors come as bold I am statements. Each metaphor tells volumes to his followers about God's works with and through us. When he said, I am the vine, he invited his friends to open up their imaginations and see every believers deep capacity and need for connection back to Jesus.
May Jesus promise to be the vine sustain us today and beyond.
Peace and thanks for reading, John

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Jesus' blessing of peace John 20:19-31

Easter changed so much. The rules of life and death, the power of sin and hell, Jesus changed all that at Easter. Jesus, remember, was God in human flesh. He overcame sin, death, and the devil, once and for all time dying on the cross and rising from the tomb. His death atoned for sin, his rising overcame the power of death, and the devil lost his two greatest weapons in the process. Jesus' followers are new creations--free from sin, death, and the power of the evil one. Jesus first words were so encouraging.

εἰρήνη ὑμι̂ν peace/shalom to you all John 20:19, John 20:21, John 20:26
Sometimes, living on this side of the resurrection, people still live like Easter never happened. Death is still feared, the uncomfortable reality of sin remains hidden but present, and people pretend that evil and the evil one just don't exist. Meanwhile all these 3 very present forces still challenge. Pretending sin, death, and evil aren't real doesn't work--it never has. And into our realty the risen Jesus comes offering peace. This promise of peace is Jesus first gift after resurrection.
εἰρήνη ὑμι̂ν peace/shalom to you all
2000 years ago Jesus' friends struggled with faith and doubt. Thomas was so open about it, he said plainly if he didn't see and touch Jesus he just wasn't going to believe John 20:24-25. When Jesus met Thomas he didn't chastise his lack of faith--no he blessed him and all Jesus friends peace you all John 20:26.

As a person the promise of peace that starts with God and not inside of me matters a whole lot. This world sometimes offers us anything but peace. I've seen enough uncertainty and doubt to last me for quite a while. And here's where Easter meets me this year with Jesus blessing for his friends peace. Jesus comes seeking to reconcile the people of this broken/fallen world to himself. He comes that we may have

  • fellowship with the Father, 1 John 1:3
  • joy 1 John 1:4
  • forgiveness 1 John 1:10
  • an advocate with the Father 1 John 2:2
Jesus first Easter blessing was peace. May we hear that same blessing and promise today.
May we live in His peace today. AMEN.
thanks for reading and let me know what you think.