Thursday, April 21, 2016

love in the real world John 13:31-35

If you are a follower of Jesus and he told to do something it's likely a good idea that you do it.
Even when it's hard or complicated if you follow him, his Words of guidance will be worth more than a listen. So if you are trying to walk with him as your teacher and Lord you take him seriously whatever he says,

...love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.
If your intention is to follow him you'll take his direction to love as guidance for your whole life. But we say this call to love only goes so far; there's got to be a limit. This is often when we meet the real narrow road of following Jesus. This direction, to love one another as he has first loved us, has no qualifiers or limitations. Period. We shake our heads and say, there's got to be an end point. We look in disbelief at this world and the pain of sin and evil that people deal with and create for others. We look honestly at the people who it's painful to love and the situations where love doesn't seem to be the answer and we start to wonder, "when do we get to stop loving?" But as Easter people living in a Good Friday world we hear him say these Words knowing that he would die the very next day. Jesus love has no limit and for his followers the same call to love without limit is right here in front of us,
Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.
The truth is loving like Jesus is not easy. Truth is the only one in the whole universe who can love like Jesus loves is Him. And still, as his followers we have this call to love others right now, to live in his kingdom right now. We might want to say sure, I will treat other people with love when they treat me with love. Sure we say we like to dwell in the kingdom of God but that'll have to wait until the world is ready and everybody else on this planet is ready to embrace Jesus and his commandment to love as he loves. But Jesus doesn't say that it's ok to wait. He doesn't say love those who love you. He doesn't say you get to have empathy and compassion later, or when the people who challenge you the most will agree to live in the kingdom too. Jesus doesn't give us an option of saying, "maybe later." He says,
Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.
The temptation, for me at least, is to shrug this direction away. But Jesus said these words knowing his betrayer Judas was on his way. The plan was made to hand him over


Friday, April 1, 2016

Jesus comes, and we might very well be amazed John 20:19-31

In fear we can become paralyzed—unsure what will come next or where to turn. Fears act like locks and chains on us.  Fear has no mass or form, but somehow they can hold us in bondage to mortality, our sin, and our fear of the power of the evil one.  We hold still,  paralyzed by fear; unsure what's next.  And we sit.  Fear can restrict us and limit us and worse.

So the doors were locked.  The first reports of the resurrection had come.  But the 12 were still afraid.

And to our fears and locked hearts and doors Jesus says, Peace be with you.  He says it again, peace be with you.  And it is this peace that he sends us out on a mission from the Father.

We don't go alone.  He sends the Spirit with us as we go into the world announcing forgiveness for sins and a new chance for sinners.

No we say, there's got to be a limit to God's power.  There's got to be a limit.  But in Jesus resurrection we see the truth.

There is no limit to the love, grace, mercy, and power of God who made heaven and earth and who brought the Lord Jesus Christ back to life after 3 days in the grave.

The 12 who had been in the upper room were excited.  They'd seen the Lord.  They'd heard his blessing of peace and direction to go into the world with a Word of forgiveness.  And Thomas he shock his head.  It just couldn't be.  Unless I see him with the marks of the nails and touch him I will not believe.

They met again a week later in that locked upper room.  And Jesus stepped in again.  And his first Word was peace be with you.  He quickly showed Thomas his hands and side.  And now Thomas believed.

There's much evidence of Jesus' resurrection that we haven't heard about.  But the stories we have were write that we might believe and in our faith we might have life—even life after death—in Jesus name.  AMEN

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

two things in mind 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 John 13:4-15

The Bible is a collection of accounts of God's activity in the world. People who had profound experiences of God's activity used human language to tell the story of what God had done. In the tradition of the church on Maundy Thursday we remember two wonderful and distinct accounts of Jesus' last supper.

  • What Paul said about the last supper,
  • What John said about the last supper,
Paul's words, in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, about the night of Jesus betrayal are so familiar to every week worshipers.

John's words, John 13:4-15, aren't nearly as familiar to any every week worshiper—but they are no less important.

I want to keep these two directions in mind.
Take and eat, take and drink. This is my body, this is my blood do this in rememberance or me 1 Corinthians 11:24-25.

So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you John 13:14-16.
Remember when you come to the Lord's Table.
Remember when you meet your neighbor.
Jesus directions are so different; but to be a disciple is to take both seriously
  • come and meet God present for us bread and wine, Jesus body and blood in communion.
  • serve like Christ has served us.
Disciples are found living out their faith remembering Jesus. But we don't just remember Jesus in our heads or in some high sounding spiritual place. We meet Jesus in this world in very concrete ways. We meet him in the bread and wine. We meet him in the people who we help as he has helped us.

Remembering is uniquely human. I think my dog remembers where the treats are and where the food can be found. But I don't think he can remember Jesus' call for us serve and to meet him. My dog can remember a friend and he also steers away from dogs who he's had issues with in the past. But Jesus invites us to a deep, human level of remembering. Jesus invites us to remember what he has done and where we will find him today and throughout our live, in the Lord's supper in service to our neighbors.

Following Jesus, being his disciple today is about meeting Jesus today and following his direction in our lives today. Discipleship in the year 2016 right here and now is about worship and service. Remembering is essential to worship today. Remembering is essential to service too. Here in this room we will we gather around the table and hear the good news of his deep love for us. And beyond the walls of this building we will be Christ's body in service. We remember him when we meet our neighbors as servants. We remember him not just in this beautiful space but when we follow his example. John's story of the last supper includes Jesus taking off his cloak and kneeling down to wash the feet of his friends.

Remembering Jesus doesn't just happen in worship. Following Jesus means remembering what he did and what he taught as we come to the our own crosses and as we come to our place in the Easter story as sinner redeemed by grace through faith. Jesus cross is no mere metaphor, and his direction to meet him at the table and in service are not idle words. It's our guide into life.
Amen.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

What Kind of Disciple? John 12:1-8

The people who gathered around Jesus all had their own stories and thoughts about Jesus. People who follow Jesus today are no different. Jesus' first followers, his disciples, experienced God's power and mercy directly. They watched him perform signs that revealed his true identity. But they all lived out that experience so very differently.

This week we read a story from John 12:1-8 of 4 people who knew Jesus first hand. They all knew Jesus' power in their lives; but their actions reveal so much more. Lazarus, Martha, Mary, and Judas Iscariot could all be considered followers with close personal knowledge of Jesus. But they followed Jesus in such profoundly different ways it just stands out.

  • Consider Lazarus who Jesus raised from the dead.
    It can easily be assumed that Lazarus looked at Jesus as light and hope. He knew first hand that Jesus was unlike any other person. Who was Jesus to Lazarus? Jesus was life and hope in flesh and blood. I don't think that Lazarus, alive after 4 days in the grave, doubted Jesus power. He just knew him as his very real source of new life and new hope.
  • Imagine Martha hosting dinner for her once dead brother.
    What simple joy to serve food to her brother and his savior. Lazarus and Jesus weren't the only ones there eating; but it must have been pure joy to have Jesus and Lazarus both there. I can't even imagine the joy of sitting with a once dead loved one and the man who raised him from the dead. Sure some of Jesus disciples were there too, but Jesus and Lazarus together that was pure joy, that was hope and faith fulfilled. Who was Jesus to Martha? He was resurrection and life. He was the one with power over all things starting with death.
  • Think of Mary who covered his feet with perfume
    She came to Jesus with nard, a heavy strong smelling perfume. She didn't speak a word and told Jesus just how much she loved him. Her brother was back from the dead. He was buried four days but now Lazarus sat at the table as Martha served the food. Mary poured perfume on the feet of the man who brought her brother back to life. She wiped his feet with her hair. She loved this one who had shown great love for her brother
  • Judas Iscariot was there in the house too.
    I assume others were there too, but John very clearly names Judas. His motives on the outside look so honorable. His protest following Mary's extravagant anointing of Jesus is named out loud in the Gospel of John. The perfume was so expensive. It was worth 300 days wages--imagine a perfume valued at $30,000 poured out. What a waste, Judas protested. If it was sold and all that money given away for the good of the poor. But John hints at something more sinister in Judas character. He was a sneak, a con man, who slipped money from the common purse into his own pockets.
These people, and others, gathered around Jesus. But these four all have very different back stories. The part that matters for us today is that we can see ourselves in them. Who these four people were so very often mirrors who we are. The people who gather around Jesus today are just as varied in experience and perspective as the first to follow him. We all have surface motives and hidden motives. Many of us, like Lazaraus, Mary, and Martha have profound experiences of God's mercy. But many of us, like Judas have also known deep questions about God's actions and inaction. We have sins that linger just below the surface.

C.S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain about the paradox of good and evil. God can use our evil acts and still make good happen. It's not hard to see a paradox between Judas' idea discipleship and Mary's idea discipleship. Both if asked, "are you a faithful follower of Jesus?" would likely have answered, "yes." But there is something so different in how they are following. Lewis wisely observes,
For you will certainly carry out God's purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John. C.S. Lewis The Problem of Pain 1940. Harper Collins 2001 Page 111
Our stories as believers are complicated. Our motives are often layered thick with love and devotion for God interspersed with sin and egregious selfishness. And here's where the Word of God meets us. Here is the mirror that God holds up to us. See your sin and your motives.
peace and thanks for reading, John

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Fear Less? Psalm 27

There's lots to fear. And in faith we find not that our fears go away—rather we find God's present with us as we face our fears. And here's where Psalm 27 hits me. In my fears the Psalm writer says trust in God as light and salvation.

I heard a man who lost parts of both legs to bone cancer in his teens say this psalm had helped him go through some hard times and knew right away that there's a Word from God for all of us. Just in this first verse,

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1 NRSV  
There's a whole lot to fear in this world. Cancer, war, death, economic ruin, loss of relationship and more. There's a whole lot to fear. But the Psalm writer speaks a word of hope and promise.

Fear yeah it's there and it's real. But one of the gifts of living in faith is know God is with us as we confront our fears.

The Psalm writer calls God by name—he says יְהוָה אוֹרִי God is my ora, my light and וְיִשְׁעִי my yasha my salvation. This personal. The Lord is the stronghold of my life who shall I fear.

I look at this Psalm and think of all the calamities that have overtaken God's people. And here is a promise and a hope that's personal even in the middle trouble. Evildoers can asail God's people, armies can encamp against God's own, and in that moment faith can remain because God remains faithful.

Here's faith, the psalmist says, “Yet I will be confident.” In the face of fear we can fear less knowing not that what we fear goes away but that God's light shines even in the face of whatever we fear.

One this I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after, to life in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. Here's trust and faith in the face of fear. Here's cofidence in God faithfulness in God's steadfase love. Even when we can't see God's faith faith trusts faith hopes faith believes and fear diminishes. Fear less. Wait for the Lord.

Talk to your own heart and your trembling hands. Speak a Word of hope to other troubled souls Remember even in the face of evil and the forces of sin and death that God is faithful. Take courage and trust.
Peace and that for reading, John

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Mountain and Valley Faith Luke 9:28-43

About 8 days later,
this seems like there's a throw away line right at the start of this weeks Gospel. But this little line is really important. 8 days before Jesus transfiguration on the mountain top he had openly talked with is friends about his death and resurrection. He said some would see the kingdom of God before they died.

I don't want to jump past this too fast. Jesus was on a mission. He had a mission to die and to rise. And along the way to the cross and the empty tomb were many stops. Some were so glorious and so wonderful and some so heart breaking. Today we hear the story of Jesus transfiguration followed by a miracle for a desperate father and child

This is exactly what our lives as Jesus followers is like. We have lots of stops along the journey as we walk daily with God. And there's good reason to take stock of the moments when we see God's glory both on the mountaintops and in the valleys. There's good reason to drink deep of those moments when we know God's real and ever present love. There's good reason.

Luke says Jesus took his closest 3 friends, Peter, James, and John and went up a mountain. I'm not sure what happened to the other 9 of the 12—but I know about these 3. And they went up a mountain with Jesus. Jesus was there to pray.

In the middle of praying Jesus changed. His face just shined. God's glory was clearly in him or on him I don't know how to explain it. Two men showed up. Great men from old. Moses the prophet who led the people of Israel from slavery to freedom the one who gave them the law. Elijah the prophet who confronted queen Jezebel the man who stood for God in a season when many said God was gone or just didn't care.

While Jesus was visiting with these two greats of old Peter, James, and John were getting very sleepy.

Luke says Jesus spoke with Moses and Elijah about His departure. Jesus was on a mission. His friends thought he was here on earth to do many things but I don't know if they understood the part where Jesus was going to die and rise. But Jesus knew the mission lead not to a throne but first to a cross. In their sleepy state Peter, James, and John saw glory. But the conversation in the glory between Jesus, Moses, and Elijah was about death and resurrection.

I imagine Peter thinking for a moment. This is big. Jesus, Moses, Elijah talking all together. This is big. I want to hold onto this moment. Peter turned to Jesus with a plan,

Master it's a good thing that we're here. We can build booths for you. We can an build you, Elijah, and Moses each a shelter—a little tent a tabernacle. You can sit down each of you in your shelter and we can come to visit with you.
In the middle of Peter's planning God spoke clear as day.
This is my Son, whom I have chosen. Listen to him!
And Just that fast the glory was gone. Peter, James, and John stood there with Jesus.

Jesus and his 3 friends head down the mountain. He met desperate man who shouted to get his attention. His son was possessed. Jesus followers were unable to caste out this one daemon.

Jesus response to this desperate father sounds harsh. He named the lack of faith and I hear Jesus' deep frustration—but his action show love. He called for the boy and set him free. And all were astounded by the power of God. There in the valley of this families pain, just like on the mountain, God's was there. Even when it's unexpected it's there.

There's such power in seeing God in the glory. But today I give thanks for faith to trust that God can move in the dark times. And this is exactly where we live as God's people today. With fear, love, and trust knowing that God is with us faithful both in the mountains and the valleys all the way to the end.
AMEN.
Peace, and thanks for reading. John.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

best for last John 2:1-12

Sometimes I think there are limits separating possible and impossible, private and public. And when I read this story about Jesus at a wedding in Cana (John 2:1-12) those lines disappear.

John told this story of Jesus' first sign of power. Jesus, his mother Mary, and some friends were in attendance at a wedding feast.

The wine ran out. For the host it was a private personal social catastrophe. But what was it to Jesus?

Mary turned to Jesus to tell him the news. Jesus asked back, “Woman, of what concern is that to us. It's not my time yet.” I've heard these words read over many years now. I've thought sometimes as I listen that Jesus was terse and disrespectful. But Mary wasn't deterred by Jesus' response. She directed the servants to follow her son's instructions.

Some commentators, like Roy Harrisville III, think this was a private miracle. But I'm not so sure Jesus would have cared if it was public or private. Harrisville writes,

This is a private miracle, subdued and quiet. It is not some flashy show of divine power. Only a few people, including the reader, know what actually happened. Jesus was even reluctant to do anything at the event. It was not meant to happen, but the persistence of his mother led him to perform what has become one of the most famous of his miracles.
Harrisville's right, the story changes when Jesus moves. It's the same today. When God moves the lines of possible and impossible disappear. But the lines of private and public vanish too. God took on the problem. It was no longer the hosts problem alone. It happened at Cana and it happens in the lives of God's people far beyond Galilee. When we think we're alone God's movements remind us that we are not alone.

I wonder what God thinks when we say somethings impossible. I also wonder what God thinks when we think we're alone with our troubles and problems. And then I remember that for God all things are possible (Mark 10:27). For Jesus all situations and people are redeemable. This is how God works. This is as David Lose argues how grace works.
...I’m grateful for John to remind us that grace isn’t only about making up for something we lack, but also providing more than we’d ever imagined or deserve. 2
John tells us six stone jars were there. Each jar had a capacity of 20 to 30 gallons. Jesus directed them to be filled. The water was drawn out and tasted by the chief steward. He didn't know where it came from but what he tasted, wow.. What he tasted wasn't water—it was was wine. More than just wine it was the good stuff even better than what was served before. If God hadn't moved the party would have ended. But Jesus stepped in bringing abundant blessing. The host's private disgrace was now a miracle that everyone could savor.

We often think faith is private, between, just” me and God”. But when God moves in our lives the lines of private and public disappear right along side of the limits of possible and impossible. For Jesus there's always power to transform our world and grace that transcends our limitations.

This is how God works. The signs and miracles are God moving revealing himself. Jesus gives not just enough but plenty. Mike Rogness says,
Surprise and shock always accompanied Jesus' signs and miracles. Here he surprises everybody—Mary, who probably wasn't sure what he would do; the servants, who were baffled when Jesus told them to fill the jars with water; the steward, who was taken aback at the excellence of the wine; no doubt the host, who was facing acute embarrassment upon hearing that the wine was running out; and finally the entire assembly, when suddenly their next goblet of wine was far better than anything they had drunk so far.

How often we lifelong Christians lose that sense that Jesus intends to remake us. We have come to expect that being a Christian is a good way to live, a rather acceptable and comfortable brand of vin ordinaire, as the French call their table wine. But just when life is going rather well, Jesus means to shower us with the really good stuff
Rogness, Michael. "'You are my son, the beloved': the Epiphany gospels." Word & World 24, no. 1 (2004 2004): 86-94. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 12, 2016). page 87-88
The steward was surprised the best wine had come out at the end of the feast. He didn't know about the miracle—all he knew was that the best wasn't usually saved for last.

But God often works this way revealing presence and power when we think God is absent or powerless. When God moves we often see the best is saved both for last and for the least. Jesus says
  • the last someday will be first Matthew 20:16
  • the servants among us will be the greatest Matthew 23:11
  • he came among us to servant John 13:12-17
Peace, and thanks for reading. John