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.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

know fear Mark 1:21-28 Psalm 111

Mark's gospel moves fast. Right from the start of Jesus faced off with daemonic forces. Jesus power over the forces of evil comes clear. Even if people did not recognize Jesus as God there's no doubt the daemons knew, feared, and obeyed him (in Mark 1:24-29). The people in the synagogue Capernaum witnessed a human crying out. They saw him come to peace as Jesus spoke to the unseen force that possed him. They watched, not seeing, as Jesus battled cosmic forces. They only saw two human beings, but the words of the man and of Jesus revealed the whole story.

Wow, just when you think it's safe to come to church you hear about Jesus battling a daemon. You might think nothing controversial will happen after Christmas and the annual meeting (for most Lutherans at least). But this story jumps off the of page. Jesus, right from the start, battled daemons (Mark 1:23-24). Some like to think of Jesus as a wise teacher and guide who just loves everybody with a kind of bland acceptance. Jesus was more than a teacher. Thankfully He didn't come only bringing some knowledge. We need more than direction. We need a savior. The real Jesus has power that makes daemons tremble and that's the power changes everything. It calls the mind wisdom from the past read in Psalm 111:10 (NRSV)
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice ita have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever.
So we ask why, if Jesus the God/man came for the hurting, would we fear him? We learn to fear God not because he plans to hurt us but because he is the one in the universe with real power to help us. He came not because we sort of kind of need a savior but because we deal daily with powers that are greater than us. We need a God who is awesome and capable of taking on enemies that can overpower us. We need a God who can break us free from bondage--and who can and will do it again and again. David Lose wrote,
God – especially in Mark’s Gospel – regularly shows us where we least expect God to be. In authoritative teaching? Sure, but also in the plight of a man possessed by an unclean spirit. In the tearing open of the heavens...? Sounds pretty biblical, but also in the piercing cry of despair from Jesus on the cross when the only one that recognized God’s presence was the one who crucified him.

Our God is a God of the broken, and our church is a fellowship of the needy. That’s pretty much all it takes...to be a member of Jesus’ disciples then or now: recognition of your deep need and trust that Jesus has come to meet it.
Jesus didn't come to guide us so we could live righteously. He came to be our savior. He came to love the whole world--giving his very self in the end. We as Jesus followers, like Jesus, are sent into the world for the sake of the broken. God sends us to the hurting with a promise that God's kingdom is near and that God has stepped in on the side of those broken by sin, death, and evil.
Peace, and thanks for reading. John