Tuesday, May 22, 2018

How can this be? Thoughts on John 3

A man came looking looking for Jesus—something pulled him there. There was something about Jesus. So Nicodemus came at night and called Jesus rabbi, speaking with respect. He could tell God was at work in Jesus. No one could turn water into wine, battle with daemonic forces, or heal like Jesus did if God wasn't part of the action. Nicodemus said as much to Jesus. That's when Jesus spoke about being born from above and seeing the kingdom of God.

These words didn't sit well with Nicodemus. He wondered out loud, “How can you be born after growing up?” Jesus responded with words about water and Spirit. He spoke directly to Nicodemus' astonishment.

You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:7b-8 NRSV
Nicodemus was hearing words like he'd never heard before. And he wanted to know one thing:
How can this be? John 3:9
Nicodemus thought within a human framework—he looked at the situation and pondered Jesus words.

Jesus was bringing the kingdom of God in the world whether Nicodemus was ready or understood what it meant—the same thing is true in my life and it yours. Jesus has come for us not because we are ready or because we deserve his presence in our lives. Jesus has come on purpose—for the sake of the whole world.

Jesus spoke some of the great promises of God for the world. He spoke of a plan and an promise to save. Jesus is more than just a God who came to dwell among us. He came not just to descend from from heaven Jesus. He came to offer himself to the world—and our in our violence and rage we rejected him and lifted him up on cross to die—but when he was lift healing and salvation came for the world rather than destruction and rather. Jesus offered his life for the world sake of the whole world.

For 2000 years people have been called to hear and share the Good News that Jesus has come to redeem. He came not just for the self-righteous or the holier than thou. He came for the whole. He came to save and heal—and to follow him means to spread the news-Jesus came not to condemn the world but to save.
Peace and thanks for reading, John

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Life on the Vine John 15:1-8

Jesus made some very powerful I am statements in the Gospel of John. These I am statements echo back to the ancient Hebrew scriptures to the very name of God.
A God's name in Hebrew יַהְוֶה is a verb that's well translated as I was, I am, I will be.

So the Gospel of John keys in on time when Jesus speaks these words—when Jesus says, I am...
I am the bread of life
John 6:48
I am the light of the world
John 8:12
I am the door for the sheep
John 10:7
I am the good shepherd
John 10:11
I am the Son of God
John 10:36
I am the resurrection and the life
John 11:25
I am the way, the truth, and the life
John 14:6
I am in the father and the Father is in me
John 14:10
I am the true vine
John 15:1
I am not of the world
John 17:14

Often after Jesus said I am he had a word about who his followers, his disciples are too.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven.
Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. John 6:51

I am the light of the world John
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life. John 8:12

I am the good shepherd.
I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:14-15

“I am the resurrection and the life.
Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. John 11:25-26

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:6-7

Today we key in on the last of Jesus I am statements in the Gospel of John
I am the vine,
you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

John wrote many chapters about the last night of Jesus life. It seems like Jesus had a lot to say the night before he died—and what he said mattered not only the night he before he died—it mattered for the disciples as the years went by. Jesus said these words as he sat with his friends and at at supper. But the promise matters today just like it did that night when he was betrayed.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. John 15:1 NRSV
Jesus is making a promise
a promise that you will be fruitful
but along the way to being fruitful you will be pruned—Jesus said his father is like the gardener.

A good gardener will come with pruning hooks, with saws, with sheres to cut away the dead parts of a vine—the gardners goal is not to destray the vine—but to see it thrive and bear lots of fruit. Think what Jesus promise means for you and me—that the father will be like a gardener in our lives means today. God's goal isn't to cause us pain—his goal is to help us share light and hope with the world. God's goal is to cut away the parts of our lives that are dead so that he can help us make a difference in this world. God's goal is for us to leave behind the old so that we can be fruitful witnesses to the power of God right now and in the days to come.

Where are you being pruned—
where's God at work digging at the roots of your life. Where's God using the fertilizer and the tools. I believe God's always working on us—through the Word that comes from outside of us—and through the Holy Spirit that writes that Word on our hearts and that moves us out into the world.
Abide inn me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5 NRSV
He's the vine-
you are the branches
There are times when Jesus words echo through the years. And I think this is one of those times where the promise impacts us every time it's heard.
I am the vine you are the branches. Jesus is saying something about himself and about the people who follow him in this world.
He's saying He is the source. And he's saying that his people—you the church—you are the branches.

The church is not an institution – no it's God's body. The church is made up of people sharing a message of love and redemption that starts with Jesus cross and resurrection. The church is Easter people branching out into the world sharing hope and forgiveness in the name of Jesus the one who died and rose. Our message is resurrection—hope and new life are found in Jesus.

you as the church you don't go out alone. We are God's people connected by the Word, connected through the water of baptism, connected through the bread and wine of communion back to God. We are witnesses lead by the Holy Spirit to share hope and forgiveness.

Abide in me he says
—have you place in me.
This call to abide was such good news for the early church. They faced persecution. They faced grief and loss all because of the faith—but Jesus was making them a promise—they have a place that can never be taken away.

In our age there's a false gospel of prosperity. There's a false gospel that teaches that God's people will have no trouble and that God's people will get whatever they want just for the asking.

The first people to read these words from John's Gospel didn't have it easy. The real history of the early church—from the fall of Jerusalem to the martyrs who died in the Colosseum for the entertainment of the crowds who wanted blood that's the first church who read these words. The real history of the church teaches us that God is giving us a promise that goes far beyond today. Trust him—trust him to answer prayer—not always as you want or when you want. Trust him not to give you every earthly desire—no trust that he has a place for you forever.

Jesus spoke of the glory God receives when we bear fruit. And I think this is a great place to renew our imaginations to think and see what it means to be fruitful in this world. We are invited to join the creator of the world in the work of redemption. We are called to be co creators with God—to join God in the renewal. He is the vine—abide in him and you will bear much fruit.
Peace, and thanks for reading. bear much fruit.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Is it finished? thoughts on John's Passion

It is finished.
Jesus said these words as he gave up his spirit and died.
That's how John says Jesus' life ended.
The cross was the end—or at least it was supposed to be the end for him.

This story of Jesus' cross has been in the air – it's been sung and spoken, painted and sculpted. Jesus cross has been portrayed in great dramas of stage and screen for 2000 years. It's been translated into more languages than I can count.

It's a story of such hope; but it's a story of hope that only comes after the deepest kind of pain. Jesus is the man of the cross. He is the God who would die for us—he is the one who would be killed both for us and by us. He is the God who came to the world revealing the full depth of God's love—only to be rejected by people like us. He came for us; he was rejected by us—and in our rejection we didn't just turn our backs on him—we called for his death.

And as he hung from his hands and feet on the cross he called out, it is finished. And for us that word of finality is really the beginning where we end and the power of God begins. Jesus didn't just lift us up from our pain—he entered into it completely. The cross is no model for self-improvement. The cross is actually failure. The cross is death, and sin, and the power of evil run full on into the world. The cross is ugly to look at and even worse is to look at Jesus, the man of the cross.

We like to make our crosses of gold and precious gems. But think of Jesus beaten and crowned with thorns, he is no stranger to grief and loss dying on the cross. He was pushing against the spikes for every breath now as his lunges likely filled with fluid. The last night he had so much to say. Now every word was a struggle. He called out, “It is finished” and then he gave up his spirit—the old king James said he gave up the ghost. We can relate. We have all had times when giving up was the only option.

The gospels tell us who killed Jesus and how it happened. And our lives speak about why he died and just what it really means today. The power of resurrection isn't to be underestimated—but neither is the place that the cross has in the story of new life.
The cross is the end.
But the cross for us remains a sign of hope because God would move and could move and does move. Christians aren't people who try harder and do better and get it all done on our own. Christians are people who walk in the way of the cross. We are people who stumble and fail. We are people who as hard as we try still need a savior.

And so we gather round the cross—to remember his death. And in remembering his death we remember the power of God that moves in our lives way beyond our power and our limits. Resurrection can come only after the finality of death. God's full power can only be known in your life when you have nothing left.

Peace, and thanks for reading, John

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A holy God has come for you? Mark 9:2-9

God is holy. If ever 3 peopled knew that first hand it was Peter, James, and John. There's a story in 3 of the gospels, sometimes called the Transfiguration, about a day when these 3 went walking up a mountain with Jesus.

Up to that moment they knew that Jesus had power like nobody else—but on this mountaintop they saw Jesus' majesty and glory. They knew Jesus was a great teacher and healer; but what they knew of him up to that moment was blown away by what they saw and heard when God's glory was revealed. Their rabbi, Jesus, was front and center as it all happened. Jesus was glowing. 2 men of great significance in the history of Israel, Moses and Elijah, met with Jesus on that mountain top.

Peter, not knowing what he was doing, said something to Jesus about building a space for Jesus and the two great heroes of ancient Israel. And then a voice called out from a cloud. “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” And just like that everything turned back to normal.

At the start of the day Peter, James, and John knew there was just something holy and awesome about Jesus. On the mountain top they experienced God's glory and power like never before. Just as fast everything was normal again, and Jesus told them on the way down to say nothing about what they'd witnessed.

This story of Transfiguration makes God's holiness so clear. But it also reveals who we are as people. We are not holy and here is good news: a holy God has come for us. Jesus, holy and awesome God, came to save us. Jesus came so that we could be freed by his cross and resurrection from sin, death, and evil. He came not so we could work harder to become holy too. He came so that unholy and imperfect people like us might be free.

As church our mission is to share the story of a holy God who loves the world. Our mission is not to tell people to work harder to be more like God--no its to tell of a glorious God who would step into our world and our story. Our mission is to tell the world of new life and freedom for all who believe.
Peace, and thanks of reading, John

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The look in her eyes? Luke 1:26-28

An angel came to Mary with words of greeting. Hey Mary blessed/favored by God. The Lord God is with you.

I wonder what the look was in Mary's eyes. Luke says she was silent—but he says she was pondering perplexed by this heavenly messengers words.

We know there's a whole lot that we communicate with out words. And I wonder what Mary's face said to the angel that day as he spoke these words of heavenly messenger.
++Did her face show surprise or maybe fear?
Did the look in her eyes reveal confusion or wonder.
Maybe her face revealed a questions like “Who me?”

Mary didn't utter a word after that initial greeting and the angel continued talking to her—don't be afraid. The messenger called her favored and spoke of God's glory breaking into the world in a baby who she would carry into the world in own her body.

The angel spoke of a plan—hidden for all time—that was about to be revealed. A secret the world has long waited to have made known was about to become reality.

Mary's response to the angel was simple: how?

Maybe you can relate to this question. How God?
We people look at our inadequacies and failures and how seems like a really great question to be asking. Trusting God isn't easy—it means seeing beyond what we think is reasonable or probable to the far horizon of God's limitless possibilities.

The angel came to Mary becuase God was on the move. We need the plan of God to be realized—we don't just need to hear words about love—we need to experience God's love and all the way that great love transforms our lives. And the angel's words for Mary was all about hope breaking in.

Jesus doesn't come because we have it all together—he comes because we have broken places and spaces in our beings. Faith sees past today to the promises of God. For Mary that meant looking beyond her circumstance and the impossibility of her becoming a mother and accepting this word of promise.
Peace and thanks for reading, John

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Looking for a savior? John 1

I'm Reading the gospel of John this year with a group at a local assisted living. Right at the start this man John the Baptist stood out. He came calling people to get ready because the savior is coming. But the people, much like us, have certain expectations of what the savior will look like and act like.

John came announcing a promise on God's behalf. And people thought he was the savior. He kept telling everyone that someone even greater is coming. And many people, hungry for a message of hope, ran to John. People started asking him if he was the one God had sent. And John said plainly no. One greater is still to come.

People today are looking for someone or something to make things right. We have this desire to find a savior. Fact is we people run to many different less than God saviors rather than trust in God. Some have wisely called them functional saviors. We run to so many other maybe could be saviors rather than let God come for us.

If you think about it you can name some of the less than Jesus saviors you've turned to over the years. We turn to functional saviors when fear is real and worry seems to overwhelm us. Think about what you run to when time is tough. We look for a magic bullet to make everything better for us. Money, relationships, alcohol, drugs, we can all name the less than God saviors we've turned to—and I think everyone has a list. History is full of leaders nations have turned to like Messiahs. We look for someone or something to make everything better. But nobody and nothing less than God can save us.

We can learn a lot from our friends and family in recovery—about naming the less than God saviors we've turned to—and we can also learn from them about the power of God to transform our lives once that functional savior we thought would help us inevitably fails.

John came announcing light. He came to announce Good News. Jesus comes for us when we need him to the most. He comes to give rest for our souls and to teach us again what it means to be loved by the one who made everything.

The truth is I want God to come—but I want God to come on my terms.
I want to domesticate God—telling God where to go and what to do.
And here comes John telling me and everyone that the light of the world is coming to illuminate everything and everyone.

Somehow hearing John's words about Jesus being greater than him makes sense. All the other saviors we can turn to just don't work. And John the Baptist has this great promise to share. He isn't the savior but he has great news. Jesus is coming and the promise isn't dependent on our problems all being solved. Jesus is coming to bring us healing and new life.
Peace and thanks for reading, John

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Thanks for tomorrow Luke 17:11-19

So thanksgiving's coming soon. And I've heard people talk about thanksgiving as a duty—as a sort of civic responsibility. Giving thanks often starts with remembering—looking back at a day, week, month, a year, a lifetime with gratitude towards God for all the good that's come. But sometimes looking back isn't going to provide much reason for gratitude.

In the gospel of Luke there's a story about 10 men; the gospel writer called them lepers. These men were considered contagious. They were feared, even thought of as dangerous. They had to stand back at a distance from their neighbors calling out in warning announcing they were coming. They had to yell “unclean, unclean” as a warning for others to stay away, far away (Leviticus 13:45).

When I hear people talk about thanksgiving as a duty and then I think of these ten hurting people it doesn't seem so easy to be thankful. These men wouldn't have been welcome to join the rest of the community in the thank offering. The were forbidden to go up to the temple or to sit at anyone's table. No one would invite them to join the congregation to give thanks. It's easy to tell someone they have to give thanks; but it's whole lot greater blessing to come alongside of a hurting soul and walk with them in their pain.


Jesus crossed paths with these 10 men. They called out in faith to him, “Jesus, Lord, have mercy on us” Jesus heard the deepest prayer of these hurting people. He called to them to go show themselves to the priest. And along the way—walking in trust that they would be healed—they were made clean.

Faith looks not at things that are—but trusts in the ability of God to transform. Faith in God means there is nothing in our situation in our stories that is beyond redemption. See there are some years thanksgiving is easy. Some times it's easy to look back at the recent past with thanks for the blessings of the past. Maybe your family is healthy—that cancer scare is fading away, the business is going good, you've reconciled restoring a broken relationship. Those days it's easy to look at the blessings right in front of you today and look ahead with joy and say thanks. It's easy to see reasons for gratitude when everything is going great and you've feel like everything has fallen into place and everything is just coming up roses.

But I think of these ten men—they weren't welcome in town. They couldn't gather with family and friends. They had to stay by themselves on the outside far enough away that they couldn't even look in on the celebrations.

Jesus travels, like our own, bring us into contact with all kinds people in every kind of circumstance. You will meet some in their most desperate moments and you will encounter some in their time of greatest joy. And here's where the good news of Jesus meets us—right here in this world. These ten men knew they needed help and in Jesus they saw hope for a different kind of future. In Jesus they saw the possibility of a future beyond their disease and isolation. Faith is about seeing God's unfulfilled promises and still trusting that God's at work.

All these 10 men had was faith. And in the end that was all they needed. Amen.
Peace and thanks for reading,
John