Monday, January 28, 2008

The glory shown through. Matthew 17:1-9

When you meet Jesus will you know he's God?

Peter, James, and John climbed up a mountain with Jesus and there he was transfigured. His face was bright like a light. His whole body becoming dazzling white. Then came two prophets. It was confirmation of John, James, and Peter's faith and hope. As fast as they'd seen him transfigured he was back to back to normal and they were alone.

This past weekend a member of our church died in an ICU bed. Her husband, daughter, sons, siblings, in laws and friends were close by. We prayed, sang Jesus Love Me, read scripture waiting for her ex-tubation. Moments later she opened her eyes looked straight up and smiled. My wife says she must have seen Jesus. I pray she'd just seen the 12 gate we'd read about in Revelation 21 and 22 a few minutes earlier. She squeezed her daughter's hand, a tear rolled down her cheek and she was gone.

Transfiguration happens that fast. In twinkling we see Jesus glory, and then in the next instant all is normal and the glory is hidden again.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Take a risk, go fishing: Matthew 4:12-23

Each of the 4 Gospels tells unique stories about the first people to follow Jesus.

Matthew says the first two, Peter and Andrew, were out on Lake Galilee fishing with nets in the water when Jesus called to them with his invitation,

Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people! 20 And they left their nets at once and went with him. Matthew 4:19-20 (NLT)
A little later walking along the shore Jesus saw two other brothers, James and John, mending their nets and he invited them to come along too.

Matthew tells of no prior relationship between Jesus and these men. John 1:35-42 tells us that Andrew had been one of John the Baptist's disciples and that he'd heard the baptist announce Jesus as the Lamb of God, but Matthew doesn't give any such information.

In Matthew the invitation comes as a surprise. There's risk in accepting Jesus' surprise invitation to go fish for people. Listening to the story and hearing this invitation to leave it all seems risky; but who better could Jesus have found than fisherman to understand risk. Risk for the fishermen is just a part of daily activity. Fisherman go out to sea with everything they need to make their livelihood at risk.
  • The boat is always at risk if the weather turns.
  • The nets, traps, and lines are always in danger too.
    • If a nets dropped and a line breaks pulling it in its gone with its catch.
    • When a buoy breaks way from a trap its lost to the deep.
    • When hooks break from the line a fish (and all the effort to land it is lost).
  • Fishermen live with the risk personal danger everyday out on the water. Even recreational fishermen have stories about wading in to deep or nearly falling overboard to tell.
These very first disciples to follow Jesus knew risk everyday. His invitation to fish for people is real for us too; it doesn't matter whether we are risk averse or whether we thrive living on the edge. His invitation is to leave the old behind and come with him and fish for people.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Is he calling you too? John 1:29-42

Early on in all 4 gospels Jesus called people to follow him 1 at time. Some disciples came to him after following John the Baptist. 2 of them heard their teacher greet Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:35-38). They asked Jesus where he was staying and got an invitation,

39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour. 40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). John 1:39-42 (NIV)

The church needs to learn this 1 to 1 method of discipleship again. For 15oo years the power of force was used to build the church. From the time of Constantine until Nietzsche's announcement that God was dead and forgotten Christendom grew as peoples were forced to convert. Swords can convince people to act; but they can do nothing about the human spirit. What we need to find is our own way to share the Good News 1 to 1.

Making disciples of all peoples is a great calling for the church. It's our calling wherever God might choose to plant us. And it should be getting us excited and calling forth all our creative energy as church today. John's gospel invites this week to see it happen the first time. Jesus connected with Andrew 1 to 1 and Andrew went and connected with his brother Simon. Our ministry is to help others meet and follow Christ as disciples 1 to 1 just as Andrew did, and just as Jesus had done for him.

Just about every day new informations arrives on my desk or comes more likely to my email inbox about some program that's guaranteed to help grow our church. I've tried some. I've seen the wonders that setting aside 40 days to study a book like Purpose Driven as a church can do. It's amazing to see adults raised as Lutherans and Catholics, often for the first time, talk out loud with others about their faith.

Programs can be catalysts when we and our people engage 1 to 1 on issues of faith. But there's a limit to all the programs. In The Good News From North Haven by Michael Lindvall there's a wonderful story about a pastor who sent away for a program guaranteed to increase attendance and discipleship. He was sure it would work. But in the end it is the Spirit working as we work 1 to 1 to tell the story

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Unlikely's New Blog

In January and February of 2007 I started this blog you're reading called, Unlikely Conversation. The initial idea was that I'd start to put out thoughts out there about the Lectionary for the coming week on Mondays and any other subject of interest. I used my seminary nick-name, unlikely, as a starting point and pen name. I like the semi-anonymous part of blogging. In the Summer I started a second blog where I post sermons called Unlikely Sermons. It doesn't get much attention; but I wasn't after that. I wanted a place to start posting sermons so that they'd be available in later years if anybody cared. I also like the easy access to them if needed from the web and not just a hard-drive. I even started a photo blog with some original images called Unlikely Photos.

I've been blogging for 11 months now and I'm still planning to keep at it. Over time I included a few postings and thoughts about things beyond the Lectionary on Unlikely Conversation. One blogger, Bobjots, even has my Lectionary thoughts posted weekly as content in his blog right along side daily prayer from Taize and an order for daily prayer. I'm definitely honored, I'm not in that league; but its not right to keep putting other things up where some might be looking for scripture based content, I still want a space to put out my occasional thoughts beyond the Revised Common Lectionary. So it just seems logical that I should separate the thoughts about the Lectionary from the banter, babble, and blather that I might want to share on any and every other subject that's interesting.

So feel free to check out my new blog, Unlikely Banter. Please check out the others blogs if you like. There will still be a post at Unlikely Conversation every week (almost every time on Monday) after this post only with the Lectionary in mind.

John, a.k.a. Unlikely.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Jesus: God's Pride and Joy Matthew 3:13-17 & Isaiah 42:1-9?

Jesus was God that Father's pride and joy. Just listen to the words in Matthew 3:17 as Jesus came up from the water. Heaven opened as a dove descended upon him,

a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”(NIV)
There's no doubt. The Father made his choice clear, saying from heaven, this one pleases him. The voice from heaven is brief. God is most pleased, but no case is made to explain why. Heaven opened up so that the dove could come down and bring the Good News but we don't know why.

Our brave Lectionary points us back to Isaiah 42:1 and the prophets words from God about one in whom God would delight. Isaiah declared for God, "I gave/put on נָתַתִּי this one my spirit/breath/wind רוּחִי ." As I read Matthew I hear that a dove, a symbol we use for the Spirit descends upon Jesus. Is he the one God gave his רוּח Spirit/Breath to?

I'm finding it very hard to read Isaiah 42:1-9 in the same setting as I read about Jesus' baptism in Matthew 3 and not be convinced that Isaiah is talking about Jesus. Some might say I am too focussed on Jesus and miss the point that Isaiah was trying to make. After all God made a promise to Israel through the prophet long before Jesus. Who says that he would have waited all that time to fulfill it. People with lots of theological training might say this interpretation is too "Christocentric" But, maybe that's the point. Jesus is the hope of the hurting and those who thirst for righteousness. Go on and search for another but I doubt that you'll find one.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Meet Your King Matthew 2:1-12

Happy New Year...
in case your are wondering, this post is late because we took some time off at home as a family after Christmas. We did some work in the basement and dog and I made the most of the final days of bird huntin'. This isn't a picture from this past week but you get the point.

The story of the Magi arriving in Matthew is well known in cultures around the world. It's read widely on Epiphany.

The story has taken on a life of its own in each culture.

Matthew tells his readers that an an unknown number of Magi μάγοι came from the East following a star to visit the new born king of the Jews. The plot twists; their first stop in Judah wasn't to see Jesus. They met first with king Herod the man who had the title, king of the Jews. They came bearing gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh, χρυσὸν καὶ λίβανον καὶ σμύρναν, to offer the new king. Only after meeting and agreeing to return and tell Herod about the one they found did they head on to meet the future king. Matthew says they fell down and worshiped him, πεσόντες προσεκύνησαν αὐτῳ̂.

Herod wanted them to come back and tell him where and when they met this would be king. Herod didn't want to bow down to him or anyone. Herod wanted to eliminate this infant threat to his power. The Romans had granted him, Herod, the title King of the Jews and no one would take it from him. A angel came in a dream to the Magi and they headed back in a different direction staying away from Herod.

Artists have imagined scenes in this story for years. Matthew doesn't say the race, nationality, or creed or even the number of those who came to meet Jesus and family. He says that they were Magi from the east who followed a star and he tells us what they brought. The possibilities are wide open. Each of us can easily interpret this story and provide our answer to the question: Who would come to bow down and worship this child?

Herod feared this infant. Those who love power more than other people always fear Jesus. In the story we find ourselves and others from different cultures worshiping the same God revealed in Jesus. Danger and darkness are real. Herod was ready to unleash death; but Jesus came to bring light and life. And this is our moment as church to share the light and life that he has brought to each of us.