Monday, April 28, 2008

Jesus' prayer for us John 17:1-11

Our reading, John 17:1-11, retells part of Jesus' prayer the night before he died. Jesus had just finished a great discourse with his friends as they sat together after supper. He spoke words of comfort. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me." (John 14:1) He offered insight, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6) He unveiled mysteries, "I am in the father and the Father is in me" (John 14:10) and he even explained his friends place in salvation telling them they are the branches and he is "... the true vine" (John 15:1).

As he finished speaking he looked up to heaven. He spoke to the Father with his friends listening in as he prayed. Jesus spoke of what he'd done, said, and taught. He named the dangers we face, even the world's rejection his teaching. Jesus asked that...

  • he might return to the Glory he shared with the Father before the world was made (John 17:4)
  • his followers be protected through the power of the Father's Holy Name (John 17:11)
  • we might be one as he and the Father are one (John 17:11)
  • we have his joy in us (John 17:13)
  • we not be taken out of the world but that we be protected from the Evil One (John 17:15)
  • we be ready to serve God in truth (John 17:17)
  • others might believe through the teaching of his followers (John 17:20)
  • we be one so that the world can come to know the Father(John 17:21-23)
  • we might be with him and see his glory (John 17:24)
Jesus spoke directly to God the Father asking for help for our sake. Listening in reminds us of all the help we need to live out our faith. We needs the Father's protection, unity, joy, hope, truth, teachings, and love to make it. These great gifts don't grow from with in us; instead Jesus asks that the father bless us with these gifts. We might try to fake it pretending that we have it all together; but all these gifts come not from with in; but from God who gives them freely.

After praying, the Gospel of John tells that, Jesus' next stop was the garden across the Kidron Valley where he would be arrested. This prayer, the night before Jesus died, gives us a moment both of deep insight into the relationship between Jesus and the Father and into all that Jesus asked for us.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

preaching promises John 14:15-21

The text for this week starts with an "if".
This is dangerous territory for any preacher who decides to declare a condition, a limit, to God's love based in this text. If you listen closely to Jesus' conditional statement you'll find that God isn't limited by our love or lack of love. Instead Jesus says if we love God we will show it by following his commands. God's love isn't limited by us following or not; ours love for God might be limited, but his love towards us isn't.
Instead of proclaiming a great big "if" in John 14 Jesus proclaimed promises, Listen to John 14:18. "I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you." There's no limit based in us here; instead there's a promise based in the love and mercy of a God who acts freely and independently.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Troubled hearts and incredible things John 14:1-14

Just believe and incredible things can happen.

"I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the." Father. John 14:12
It sounds simple. Just believe and God will work miracles. It seems to be a formula. But some days something in us struggles to believe. We want to believe and then we don't. Or even worse we do believe and no miracle happens. Sometimes involuntary forces shake us from our easy faith. Powerful emotions like fear and rage can overwhelm and overpower. Our old enemies: sin death, and the devil can do their worst to us. Faith sounds so easy at first; but then it gets so complicated.

Still Jesus told his friends, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me." In John 14:1-14 there's a real sense promise in the face of the unknown. Fear can rise up in uncertain times; and God can have place for you even in the uncertainty. Fear is a powerful emotion; but God's love has a power all it own. Fear is one of the basic emotions that leaves physical manifestations in the people it effects. Troubled hearts, upset stomachs, all can be manifestations of basic emotions. And God's providence can be present even when we are to worried or sick to see him at work.

Jesus says believe and incredible things will happen. Believe and you will do great things that he did. There's no way around fear in this life because emotions exist involuntarily with in us. But God isn't stopped by our fear or even our unbelief. Instead he makes this promise, that he is with us and even better that he is going to prepare a place for us his fathers house.

Monday, April 7, 2008

I am glad to be a sheep John 10:1-10 and Psalm 23

I am glad to be sheep. I am glad to put faith in Christ and know that eternity is in His hands and not mine. Christians have a unique blessing in the world. We don't have to become little gods because we have a God. Or rather God has us; and we are free to be creatures. We are sheep with a shepherd and a door, a way to eternity. God's care for the world, revealed in Jesus, opens up eternity because it rests in Jesus and not in ourselves. Sarah Dylan observes wisely,

...if Jesus is Lord, then the position is filled; no others need apply. If Jesus is not Lord, then there are countless others who will try to take that position in your life: bosses, politicians, parents; acquisitions, ambitions, causes; always just one more favor to do, one more promotion to get, one more enemy to defeat, before you can rest secure.

Jesus' telling us that he is the shepherd and the door for the sheep helps us see God, our need for God, and God's compassion.

Jesus' poetic sounding claims of power and significance frustrated the religious establishment in Palestine 2000 years ago. He was killed, in no small part, because of what he said. His death ended all his earthly claims until the morning when he rose from the dead.

Is it real or is it metaphor.

Jesus' story-telling revealed glimpses of God's hidden dimensions through what Pat Keifert called the poetry of metaphors. If anybody else spoke like Jesus I wouldn't trust them. The difference between Jesus, and another story teller, are his cross and rising. Jesus' words might sound like any other poetic metaphor; but dying and rising changes everything. Gehard Forde used to say, “Jesus didn't look down from the cross at his friends saying, 'Don't worry its only a metaphor'”.

The Psalms, much like Jesus' teachings, invite us to glimpse God at work. We see God in Psalm 23 as the Shepherd who makes us, leads us, comforts us, pours a cup overflowing before us, annoints us and allows us to dwell in his house forever. Some might say these are mere poetry; in these words are glimpses of God at work in the person of Jesus Christ.

  • I am the Messiah John 4:26

  • 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

Christians, who live with Jesus as Risen Lord, have a promise from God in Christ. In Christ we behold our Messiah; bread of life; light of the world; door for the sheep; Good Shepherd; Son of God; resurrection and life; the way, the truth and the life; one who is in the Father, true vine, and ultimately the one who is not of this world. In this life we catch glimpses of the hidden God; and then he fleets away.