For the past 3 months I've posted something every Monday to get myself thinking about the text. Friday's have been my day off for 7.5 years as a pastor. But tonight I have no thoughts to share. I took my beloved to the Dr. today. She had one of those stupid accidents that is just to freak to try and explain and the antibiotics should help keep down the scarring. I think she's all right; but she's beat so I am on dad duty for a while.
p.s. I do plan to have something that will be posted in the morning.
Monday, April 30, 2007
Monday, April 23, 2007
Jesus stands out in the Gospel of John as a bold teacher who attracted crowds filled with those who believed what they heard and those who hated him for saying it. Look at how carefully the anger is detailed in John 10:31 as some in the were ready to take up stones against him. They tried to arrest him after he finished teaching but he slipped through their grasp in John 10:39.
Jesus greatest offense was declaring the love of God that had come to earth in him. He came to be the shepherd. Many in the crowd believed that he was sent from heaven. They'd seen blind people given sight. They'd seen daemon possessed people set free and they heard him speak words of hope like no one before. But others in the crowd grumbled deep in their souls as he spoke boldly about his calling to be the Shepherd and about his mission. Their rage grew when he declared that God the father had sent him. Of greatest offense was his claim in John 10:30, “The Father and I are one” Those in the crowd who wanted him dead were ready to grab stones at that moment and pelt him.
They wanted to stop Jesus' teaching because he threatened them like no one ever before had done. He didn't threaten them with swords or clubs. He threatened them with words of healing and love. Ideas ultimately are more powerful than any weapon. But power itself has always been intoxicating for human beings. We want it. We fight for it, its as old as original sin and the fight between Cain and Able. Power can bring out the worst in us. But Jesus revealed a new way to use power; as a servant of all. Jesus possessed all power but he chose to be shepherd who would us his power to protect and to heal.
Those who function from a position of power based in violence and force can do their worst to suppress those who serve a higher cause than power. But time has repeatedly shown us that power only works for so long. Fascism and communism have risen and fallen around the globe. But no powerful group have found a way to repress a people for ever. Ideas break through. And even more powerful than ideas are grace and love that come from God.
There is no doubt in my mind that if Jesus had been a quiet simple, unoffensive and politically correct teacher who said nothing against those in power in his day he would have had a quiet and remarkably unmemorable ministry. The Good News is that even Jesus' death didn't silence his rogue ministry of love and healing. He came to earth with a mission. He is the one who came from heaven in search of the lost. He said his sheep knew who he was. He He didn't come for those who knew they had earned a place in the Kingdom. He came for the ones who doubted that they could ever sit with God.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
There's been some awful news this week from around the world and here in the US. Sometimes its good to remember that humor and joy still exist for many in the world and that God is still in the business of creating and recreating. The hard part is to get enough fresh perspective to see that something new might be happening.
Once in a while something pops up that reminds me how powerful getting a different perspective of things can be. The season after Easter is a great time to start looking at situations and people in a new way. To that end I want to encourage people to look at wonderful video by the Zimmers. I just saw a great music video by a band that pushes the envelope of perspective even harder than any I've seen in years by redfining classic rock.
Maybe its the humor or maybe its the joy in the people singing. Or maybe its the fact that I get a chance to see older people in a different light, with a little bit of edge that helps to see their humanity. Yeah I'm part of a generation who's seen the Matrix and grown up with all kinds of questions about truth and reality and maybe once in a while its time to just laugh.
Monday, April 16, 2007
We function in a world with rules and expectations. Death and taxes, we hear (repeatedly in mid-April), are unavoidable. There's fatalism in this kind of world view. It limits us only to things as they are and not as they could be. Such earthbound eyes see hurting people and see no possibility of hope. A person mired in sickness or addiction would be expected to stay in the muck in a world without reconciliation and resurrection. It's a brutal way of seeing life that ultimately says once we are dead we are supposed to stay dead. It's a tough way to live; to live like completely nothing new ever could happen.
The Good News breaks in on our earthbound views. Jesus rose and because he rose death isn't the end. His resurrection signals more than just the possibility of new beginnings. His rising announces that the new beginnings started 2000 years ago.
In John 20:19-31 Jesus comes to see his friends and reveals his new form. They tell one of their own, Thomas, who was missing and he dismisses them. Jesus came again and this time Thomas was there and Jesus didn't chastise him for his disbelief. Instead he invited him to come and see the marks from the nails and the speer.
In John 21:1-19 Jesus came to his friends again and this time he sat with them and ate fish. Then he sought out a moment to speak to one of them, Peter, who in the night of Jesus betrayal, had denied that he even knew him just hours after promising that he would go with him even to death if needed. Jesus sought Peter ought and he didn't dig into him or rip him apart with venomous words. He came with a question for his soul, “Do you love me?” Jesus asked him 3 times. And the first two times Peter said, “Yes.” But the Third time Peter spoke as a hurting soul who anguished in the question, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” John 21:17 (NRSV). Jesus chose to offer him a mission and not judgment that day. Peter was commissioned to feed the sheep and the lambs. Here the resurrected Christ offered reconciliation to Peter. He did not wipe away the past but offered something new to Peter, a new mission to proclaim the resurrection.
Resurrection didn't take away Jesus scars, nor does reconciliation hide ours. But we do, in Christ, have a chance to see new things happen. Jesus' rising from a tomb redefined everything. He rose and immediately started living boldly. He announced forgiveness and even sought out those who doubted and denied him. For what purpose? Only God fully knows; but in the love of the risen Jesus for Peter and Thomas we see the love that God chooses to reveal to all of us.
Monday, April 9, 2007
For as long as there's been a church there's been a struggle with Thomas. Some bad mouth him as 'doubting Thomas'. Other's indentify with him in their own doubts and faith. Still others type caste him as the first modern man, the one who demanded proof for everything he heard.
A few years back Cuba Gooding Jr. and Tom Cruise brought the phrase, "show me the money." to life on screen and we are still living in that same kind of culture. We still value evidence more than words. Rhetoric has a bad reputation these days. The church is not alone in receiving criticism for using words that have no substance. The challenge as people is to remember what we can show.
What sign can we offer? Even in Paul's day the world wanted to see something to prove our faith. What Paul wrote in First Corinthians still applies today. You can swap out different names for the groups but the argument is the same.
The message about the cross doesn't make any sense to lost people. But for those of us who are being saved, it is God's power at work. 19As God says in the Scriptures,
"I will destroy the wisdom
of all who claim
to be wise.
I will confuse those
who think they know
20What happened to those wise people? What happened to those experts in the Scriptures? What happened to the ones who think they have all the answers? Didn't God show that the wisdom of this world is foolish? 21God was wise and decided not to let the people of this world use their wisdom to learn about him.
Instead, God chose to save only those who believe the foolish message we preach. 22Jews ask for miracles, and Greeks want something that sounds wise. 23But we preach that Christ was nailed to a cross. Most Jews have problems with this, and most Gentiles think it is foolish. 24Our message is God's power and wisdom for the Jews and the Greeks that he has chosen. 25Even when God is foolish, he is wiser than everyone else, and even when God is weak, he is stronger than everyone else. (First Corinthians 1:18-25 CEV)
So what can we do to show our faith? Love. What we in the church can show is love. Love for God and love for all our neighbors. It is the most powerful kind of witnessing that can be done today. Maybe people will reject a carefully crafted speech about God's love; but it's hard for someone in need to turn aside the love and compassion shown by believers who serve in Jesus' name.
So what should we do with Thomas?
1) Don't beat him up anymore. He was a close follower of Jesus and yet he didn't believe what Jesus' close followers told him. So what. There's little new about disbelief among the disciples. In Luke the women who went to the tomb told Jesus' followers that they'd seen an empty tomb and the men didn't believe, Luke 24:11. They thought the reports of the resurrection were an idle tale.
2) Take occasion to admit your own doubts and to watch Jesus come for Thomas and you with open arms. Whatever has been said about Thomas be thankful for the love of God who came back in Jesus with arms open. Jesus was ready to welcome one who doubted like Thomas and one who denied like Peter. Jesus return with scarred hands outstretched proving his love all the more. He didn't leap out of the tomb ready to settle a score from the cross saying, "Boy am I pissed." He came with arms outstretched revealing his scars and his new life for many to see.
Monday, April 2, 2007
We have the best story in the world to tell. It's a story about life, and love, and God's triumph over sin, death, and the devil. It's a great story that has been handed down to us as gift. And my hope is that we don't hoard this gift; rather my hope is that we find new and unexpected ways to share this gift with the people around us.
The story of Jesus dying and rising has been told through twenty centuries. For me, and I hope for each of you who read this, this story is about hope and about what God can do. But for a third of the people who live around us in 21st Century America the Good News of Easter isn't a source of hope; because they don't know the story. (If you want to debate these numbers please read George Barna's work.) We live in a nation that is ready for open dialog about the story of God coming to earth. The hard part for the institutional church is learning trust the people of God to tell the story rather than in our institutions.
We who serve in churches have to assume a position of humility in discussions of faith. Bishop and priest and pastor aren't respected professions these days. So we have to rely on a different kind of authority when we speak. Its a grave mistake to try and claim some old authority of power that's been removed by history, sin, and scandal. Humility is tough to swallow; especially if 2 generations ago people thought you were infallible. That's the real rub that's challenging the church. We need to have ideas and be able to articulate them in a language that works beyond pulpits or pastoral letters to believers. We have to figure out how to speak in the market place. And that's where the people who hear an Easter sermon come in. They are the ones who God has placed in all kinds of different vocations and gifted with unique abilities and relationships. They are the ones who can best tell the story.
The challenge as preachers on Easter is not just to tell the story, that's easy on Easter, and besides almost everybody in worship on Easter wants to hear it. Our mission is to help our people find their own voices so that they can tell the story too.
Jesus was killed and his body was placed in a tomb. A few women who cared very deeply for him planned to anoint his body with oil and spices. What they found that morning frightened them.
The details of how it happened are unclear (unless you want to speculate on Deutero-Canonical gospel accounts including the Gospel of Peter.) But what is clear is that the one who was dead was raised and that life will never be the same for him or those who believe that he is Lord.
There's a story to tell. There's a world ready to hear some Good News. Jesus was dead and he is risen. And all who believe will have life after death in him. This is the best story.