Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Jesus wept, do you understand? John 11:32-42

Jesus wept: do you understand?

A wise man in our church told me that he's ready to preach a sermon if I ever ask him. He said the text for his sermon would be two words from John 11:35 “Jesus wept.” He said his sermon would be two words long too, “I understand.”

Reading this week's gospel reveals something very human about Jesus meeting with Martha. Jesus' friends knew that he would have had the power to keep Lazarus alive. Still with all that power over death Jesus came to the family of his friend Lazarus he wept.

Maybe there are days when you understand why God in flesh with all power in his hands would weep. Yes Jesus had the ultimate power and as people of faith we know it's true; but death has some power too before Jesus calls for a resurrection to new life. Yes Jesus could overcome it; but he knew the sorrow of the situation just the same. Our faith doesn't take away the grief; but it gives us hope that in Jesus all who believe will rise again.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Totally Free John 8:31-36

Reformation Sunday 2009

You're free right now because of all that God has done.

You're free to go right now ... or to stay. I hope you'll stay and keep reading; but if you don't want to you are free to go. You are free because of what Jesus has done for you and me and the whole world by dying and rising.

Jesus came to set us free; radically and totally free. Free from sin, free from death, free from the Devil.

Most people don't believe that they need to be set free. Jesus came and died in order that we might be free, completely and totally free, forever. He didn't come to set you free by giving you a weekend pass. He came to get you and me ought of the jaws of sin, death, and the devil. Many people hear these words about true Christian freedom and they scoff. Its been that way when the truth has been spoken for 2000 years. John writes that,

Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

For 2000 years Jesus has been setting people free. In Jesus own day the people who heard him speak told him that they didn't need freedom. In our day its the same. We think we are free and we tell God just as much. God isn't a fool. 2000 years ago Jesus turned to the scoffers,

34Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:31-36 NRSV

Jesus came to set us free from darkness and bring us into the light. What's in the darkness is often hidden and take's the most help from God to overcome
... isolation ... loneliness ... temptation ...
these things often aren't seen, but they are very real and the evil one works in them.

Jesus comes to set you free to live and to have a full life. He comes not because you are perfect but because he is in the process of remaking imperfect people in God's image. Maybe you think that you need to have it all together to be free in Christ. Jesus didn't come for the people who knew everything or who could do everything on their own. He didn't come for the perfect. He came for the imperfect. He came to help and you qualify.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Who did it? He has... Isaiah 53:4-12

"He did it." "Did not, she did it."

Parents witness their shifting blame and passing accountability. One kid blames another. One hits another. The cycle keeps rolling.

Yesterday morning, the children's choir lined up to sing. Right in front of the Altar Rail our twin 6 year old girls started pushing and shoving. I sat 15 feet away (in that uncomfortable cushy throne-like-chair reserved pastors) and watched them tussle. They faught over who could stand next to another girl. Pushing and shoving ensued, one fell to the ground. Whining and crocodile tears flowed. I stepped over, trying to be a dad, and asked them to stop. The choir director chimed in, mom came up with the baby in her arms, and sat down next to me.

The girls wanted us to be referees. The wanted to tell us just who did what to who. Neither one wanted any accountability. We just wanted them to sing about God's love and mercy.

God knows that the real hurts we cause in the world. God knows we shift blame pointing to another's sin and culpability rather our own. Isaiah responded, on God's behalf, to the nation of Israel that in it's troubles started to take account for it's wrongs. He told them of the one to come who would be accountable. Isaiah didn't argue to get out of trouble or get another into trouble. He's told Israel God's plan of one who will come to take on all sin.

We want to justify ourselves. We are still the same kids even as adults. We conservatives act like our belief in God's revelation makes us good enough to earn the price of eternity, Jesus' life poured out. We liberals like to act like our love for our neighbors makes us good enough to earn Jesus' life poured out for our passage into heaven. Read Isaiah 53. Come to terms with who did what for who.

"...he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." Who did this? Jesus did. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

For God this is possible Mark 10:17-31

This Sunday's Gospel reading has me wondering about the rich and their place in the Kingdom of God. God's kingdom, Luther says, comes on its own, but we pray "Thy kingdom come" in hopes that it comes into being among us. God alone knows the needs of the world today. God alone sees the desperation

It's been trendy, this past month, to make observations about the super rich and their role in our current culture. Michael Moore released a new film and Ralph Nader published his first novel and each of these two appear to be pointing, in their own way, to the unique place that wealthy individuals have in our economic world.

The rich have been present as long as the church has existed. In Jesus days wealth and poverty coexisted, just the same as they do in our days. Questions of God's blessing, human sin, justice, and fairness have been with us all along. A man with many possessions wanted to get into heaven. He came to Jesus and asked what he had to do to get into the kingdom. Jesus response was deceptively simple. Sell everything, give away all the money to the poor, the come and follow. The man went away devestated. Jesus was simply answering the man's question.
The people were stunned. This "good man" was told he had to be even better. Then Jesus told them that relying on human strength alone won't get this man to heaven. "For mortals this is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible." This is the gospel plain as it gets. This is hope for the hopeless. This is where turning to God and God's strength matters.