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.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

New days are coming Jeremiah 31:31-34

The promises of God are light to walk towards in times of darkness. There are days when despair and fear loom large crowding out hope and threatening destruction. God's promises matter most in dark days.

  • The promises that God is God in all circumstances,
  • that God's mercy is renewed each day,
  • that God's people can count on God in all circumstances.
Those promises are a huge part of our reason to be here today as church. We are here today to speak God's Word into every life just like the ancient prophet Jeremiah. We are here to speak of God's love for his people Jeremiah 31:31-34. Speaking God's love is what matters. Speaking God's love is the difference we can make. In the face of death we can speak life. In the face of hate and rage we can speak God's life transforming love and joy. In the face of fear we can speak hope.

Some times days flow into days. It's funny how you can find yourself stuck in a place you don't want to be. You might wake up each morning to a reality you'd like somehow to alter--but you can't. I've watched with my mom, sister, and extended family these past 10 days since my dad had a stroke. I don't think any of us would have chosen for his Monday morning trip to Home Depot to end up as emergency surgery, an extend stay in a hospital, and now time in a rehab center. But that's now a part of his story and our stories.

As I was driving my mom to the hospital one morning to see my dad I asked her if it felt like the movie Ground Hogs Day. In some ways it does sure remind me. And here's where I hear God's promises made through Jeremiah and Jesus this week. In this world dealing with powers that I don't understand and can't defeat God's promises matter. My mom's been humming her favorite hymn, The Summons especially the line "you will never be the same." Meanwhile I've been humming my favorite hymn, For by Grace You Have Been Saved it's the promises of new life--of resurrection in the face of death that matter.

My hope is simple--to keep declaring this promise of hope and light.
Peace and thanks for reading, John

Monday, March 16, 2015

Crowd Sourcing: What's the New Covenant?

I am crowd sourcing today to answer this question
--What does ‪#‎Jeremiah‬ 31:31 mean?
"The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah."
What is the ‎new covenant‬?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

unnerved by grace John 2:13-22

Jesus has a way of looking at the world and seeing both today and the cosmic reality to come. John tells a story about Jesus. He stepped into the temple—the house that people built as their meeting place to be with the divine—and he saw more than just what was going on there that day right at the start of Passover. What Jesus saw was the day when he would be offered as the final sacrifice, the once and for all sacrifice to take away sin.

There in the place a prophet of old said was to be the house of prayer for all people (Isaiah 56:7) were all kinds of people. Some came for prayer and some showed up, like they did most every working day, to make a buck. Many came praying and offering sacrifice to make themselves right with God. There were merchants with all kinds animals waiting for sale and sacrifice: cows, sheep, and doves. Money changers came too who'd take money considered impure and exchange it, for a tidy fee, for money considered ritually clean to by an animal for sacrifice or to make an offering to God (John 2:14).

What Jesus did next stuns and unnerves. The one who calls believers to love enemies and pray for those who persecute wove a whip out of chords. He drove away the merchants and money changers upending tables and traditions (John 2:15).

It's unnerving to have God step into your business. It's unnerving to think God would care at all. But this is the real Jesus after all—not the one who comes to approve of everything we've done—no this is the one who loves you and me enough to challenge us and to die for us.

This is the real Jesus. The one who would die for the sake of the whole world. He is the one who would offer himself as the last and final sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:11-14). He spoke of a temple falling and being rebuilt in 3 days. His friends later realized—after Jesus rose on the 3rd day—what he really meant. (John 2:19-24)

The temple the people saw that day was a part of the world Jesus came to save. A world of hurting souls, a world of religious tradition and profiteering. And Jesus came to die for all people in desperate need of God's love. He came to be both the offering and the final temple All the sacrifices offered up to the point of Jesus weren't enough—but one sacrifice—Jesus offering himself once for all would be the only one needed (Hebrew 10:11-14). His cross would be enough. Paul says is just foolishness to the world but it makes every bit of sense to those who are being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).

Thanks be to God that I can be a fool saved by grace through faith. AMEN.
Peace and thanks for reading, John.