Monday, March 29, 2010

God's not finished John 18:1-19:42 & Luke 24:1-12

There's no better point in time to see the difference between human inability and God's ability than in Jesus' death and resurrection. Preparing for Easter its good to see Jesus death and resurrection as a whole story. If you read John 19-20 instead of just John 20:1-18 you'll hear both Jesus words to his friends from the cross "It's finished" and the joy Mary finds in meeting Jesus again. If you read Luke 22:1-24:12 instead of Luke 24:1-12 you'll hear the despair of the people who met Jesus on the way to die and on the cross and you hear the joy of God's resurrecting power.

There's tension in seeing human inability and God's ability at the same time. The best word to describe what happened is δε in Greek translated in English as now or but. Luke 24:1 hangs on this word. Τη δε μια των σαββάτων ορθρου βαθέως επι το μνημα... (Matthew Black, The Greek New Testament,) This was God's now/but moment. Humanities power had stopped. But/now God was on the move, "But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came unto the tomb..." (American Standard Version.)

On the cross Jesus cried out, "It is finished."

There's nothing more anyone on earth can do for him.

He saved others but he wouldn't save himself.

He's there on the cross or at least his body's still there.

Do you still call that body by His name Jesus?

Do you still call the corpse that walked on water by name?

He cried out it's finished. Now he's in the grave.

Mary came just after dawn to pay last respects at the grave.

Somehow someway in that dark tomb he rose from dead.

He had been left dead to decay; now He's risen

He's not in the tomb or at least his body isn't there.

Mary thought someone, maybe a gardner took His body.

Jesus met her and sent her to tell the others

God's not finished, not with him and not for you,

Easter Greetings.


Monday, March 22, 2010

1 Week in Time Luke 19:28-40

Palm Sunday started an amazing week. 1 week that lays at the heart of our faith. The people rejoiced, waving Palms when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem. He came as the crowd shouted hosanna; but the powerful could have mocked him riding in on a donkey instead of in a great chariot or on a mighty steed like an earthly king would have done.

Jesus came to set people free and he soon became an enemy of the religious leaders. He spoke with authority and the crowd believed and the powerful would have him killed. The trouble is we look for glory instead of weakness when we look for God.

Christians often seek glory. We look for ways to be popular and beautiful, strong and rich; but our faith in Christ isn't about glory. Our faith in Chris isn't a faith of glory first above all it's a faith in the cross. Our faith comes down to the events of just one week. A week of preaching and teaching in the face of the religious authorities right in the middle of the temple. A week of sharing and religious ritual gathering arround fro the Passover Seder. A week of worry and trial. A week of torture and death on a cross and finally rising. 8 days changed all time after wards.

There's a tension in a life of faith. It's the tension of living in hope in all circumstances; even in the face of death. It tense to both celebrate God's presence in Word and sacrament and to see if God is willing suffer and die in our place.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lazarus: walking dead or evidence of God's power? John 12:1-8

Lent 5c
2000 years ago people were talking about a man who'd been raised from the dead in Judea. He was dead and buried. He had a friend who could have done something about it. A friend who could have saved him and kept him alive; but his friend stayed away. The man was from Bethany, a little village not even an hour's walk over the Mount of Olives from the temple mountain in Jerusalem.
The dead man was called Lazarus. He and his sisters Martha and Mary became a friends of Jesus, the rabbi from Nazareth. When Jesus reached Bethany he went to the grave where Lazarus had been buried and he wept.
Rising from the grave after 4 days, after the stench of decay had come over his body was big most especially for Lazarus and his family. In the days after Lazarus' rose people kept talking about Lazarus being dead and what Jesus had done making him live again. Lazarus in flesh and blood was evidence of God's power at work in the world through the person of Jesus.
Lazarus life was the evidence of God's power. He was exhibit A of the resurrection. And everybody knew it.
Jesus was now a beloved guest now in the home of Lazarus. Martha and Mary walked under cover of death and despair for 4 days. Now they walked in a new light. Now they were witnesses to God's power.
People do surprising things in response to unexpected grace. God's love was given freely and Lazarus rose from the dead. Now Mary, perhaps overcome with emotion, began to cover Jesus feet with a pound of nard, a rich smelling ointment. She wiped them with her hair.
Mary responded extravagantly to God's grace. Mary knew as she lived again with her once dead brother that God had power. She knew that Lazarus was alive. Lazarus' resurrection was a gift beyond measure. It was an act of God's grace that was undeserved. And now she showed her gratitude to Jesus anointing his feet with a pound of nard.
Mary learned about God's grace witnessing her brothers resurrection and welcoming him back home. When you discover that God's grace is truly a gift, not a right that you have earned or a substance that you can purchase because you are virtuous or because you are doing so many good things you truly learn the power of God to change you and the world.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

New creatures and ambassadors 2nd Corinthians 5:16-21

4th Sunday of Lent Year C
Paul calls believers new creatures and ambassadors in his 2nd Letter to the church in Corinth. He viewed the world as both old and new all at once. For him Christ's dying and rising means new life is breaking in through faith into the old world. Some debate if Paul had a conversion to a new faith or a new call to serve the same God in a new way. What's clear in this reading, and in Paul's letters as a whole, is that he announced that life in Christ means we must die in order for God to make all things new.
So how does it happen, this death and rising new life. God's work began before our birth and continues in creation today. By sending Jesus God reached into human lives working in us through the Holy Spirit. Today God's at work in the external Word, what Luther called alien because it's not naturally part of us. The Word of God isn’t in me just by birth or by nature. The Word that saves me is a gift given to me from God carried in the spoken and written words of other human beings who shared the Word they had been given.
The Word is what makes us new it's the Word is what kills us by convicting us of sin and then raises us up anew in Christ. The work of the church, the fruit of the new Creation, is to carry the Word as ambassadors for god. Isaiah 53:7-8 isn’t just beautiful poetry. It’s the honest truth,

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see the return of the Lord to Zion.

The church has recieved Christ’s commission to Go and teach as he commanded. We would do well to ponder the question Isaiah asked Israel, “Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1 NRSV)
Isaiah's question prompts me to look at my neighbors today. Isaiah invites me to imagine the Word making a difference. He challenges me, who has heard the Word, to reach out with the word into the world.
Some interesting thinkers who have made contributions to this discussion in the last 100 years or so are Gerhard Forde THEOLOGY IS FOR PROCLAMATION, Gustaf Wingren’s THE LIVING WORD, and Regin Prenter SPRITUS CREATOR.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Living in Faith in a Dangerous World Luke 9:1-9

Luke wrote down some of the questions people asked Jesus as they searched to better understand the tragedies of their day. We are no different 2000 years later. We want and seek out reasonable answers that satisfy our human sense of justice when tragedy happens. And Jesus responded to the questions not based in a human understanding of justice but by naming, out-loud, our need to repent of our sins and our simple mortality. The crowd looked for a reason, like a sin of the victims, that caused such tragedy; and Jesus offered no reason and named no such sin.

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Luke 13:1-5 NIV.

Jesus challenged his first hearers to respond to tragedy by repenting of their sins, acknowledging their humanity and their need for a savior. Jesus offered no explanation why such tragedies happened. Still some claim to know why tragedy happens even when our Lord doesn't offer an easy causal explanation.

I'm reminded visiting with folks from church and listening to news reports from Chile and Haiti that we are fragile. Calamities still overwhelm humans as they did in Jesus day. A favorite radio host sometimes plays a somewhat fatalistic soundbite saying, "Life is dangerous." He's right, it is and it always has been. Knowing how precious and precarious our existence is we still look for sin as the explanation and the cause of tragedy. When confronted directly with the question, "Who sinned ... that this man was born blind?" Jesus challenged those looking for a sin as the cause of tragedy saying that this man's blindness would help reveal the glory of God. He challenges us to look both for the glory of God that can be revealed in tragedy and to repent of our own sins as we face our own mortality.