Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Does Easter End Acts 1:1-11 Luke 24:44-53

Luke and Acts together tell the story of Jesus' followers becoming the church. The key moment when one act ends and another act is happens in Acts 1:1-11 Luke 24:44-53. The risen Jesus gathered together with his friends. He gave them instructions and then lifted up his hands to bless them. And as Jesus blessed them His Body was take up into Heaven. As Jesus rose the disciples looked up towards heaven most likely with their eyes and mouths wide open. And just then two men in white robes asked one of the funniest questions in the New Testament,

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken
up from you into heaven, come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Acts 1:11 ESV
The next act in the drama starts as Jesus followers figure out what do next in Acts 1:12-28:31.
The story sure changes in focus from Easter to the beginning of the church but we should ponder: Does Easter end?
A few years ago the poet Herb Brokering answered this question in the hymn Alleluia! Jesus is Risen with these words "City of God, Easter forever, golden Jerusalem, Jesus the Lamb." Seamlessly Brokering connects Jesus rising with the promised New Jerusalem foretold at the end of Revelation.
If Brokering is right Easter doesn't end. It's only just begun and we will see it come to fullness in the day when Jesus the Lamb sits enthroned in the new city. Funny thing is that many churches, but by no means all are about to come to the end of the "Easter Season." To be faithful to scripture our entire church year from the seasons of Advent to the time after Pentecost must all be about Easter.
In my own case my religious and even biblical imagination is shaped by these human created seasons of the church year. Reading the story of Jesus rising every year and mixing in accounts of his post resurrection appearances can really shape our understanding of Jesus story. But the best news of all is that Easter has no end and that we can retell the story at any time of year.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

with you forever John 14:15-21

Right before his death Jesus made a promise to his friends.

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18 NIV
Jesus words mattered for his first followers and they matter for us today. If God wanted to hide from humanity no one on earth would ever find him.

The Good News is that God wants to be known to us. God wants not only to be known by us: God wants to be so close to us that we can love him. He wants to enter into communion with us and show his face to us. God has made a promise to come towards us. Listen to that promise in the Gospel today. It's a promise is good today and forever:
“If you love me, you will obey what I command.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— John
the only being in all the universe who can make a forever promise is God. I can make you a promise—but as much as I might want that to be a forever promise I don't on my own have that ability.

We humans have limits. Go Monday in the United States on Memorial Day to a cemetery and you'll see the flowers, wreaths and flags left in remembrance. One nation will remember those who have served. Families will remember those who have given of their lives for others. Humans can remember and give thanks knowing both the value and the fragility of human life. But God can meet us beyond death. God can promise and keep a promise to never leave us orphaned both on this earth and in the life to come. For that I give thanks.

Pax, John.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

part of God's Household John 14:1-14

Jesus gave his friends a word of hope shortly before his death.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?1

He promised them a place in the home of his Father. There's a human tendency to think of this promise in earthly, human terms of home and property. Some even imagine our place as a "mansion" inside of the Father's house (in the KJV translation). But Jesus is promising believers more than a physical place in the home of God the Father. Jesus gave his friends a promise that they would have a place in God's household. So consider Jesus promise, the home our Lord speaks of is not just a place to go, rather he is speaking of being at home as a part of God's household or family. Life in the Body of Christ on earth is a foretaste of something greater. Believers begin to experience the family of God in this life; but there's so much more to come. Luther wrote

...when we consider what is held in store for us and what prospects we face, then we should be joyous and rather pity the poor, wretched world. For what if the world now treads us underfoot and most grievously torments and plagues us? We cannot lose. Whatever we lose is merely the sack that hangs around our neck.2

Jesus is promising believers a place in His Father's House. The question for today is how to best live here on this earth in our time when believers know that God has planned a place within his own home for all who believe. Martin Luther wrote...

For once a Christian begins to know Christ as his Lord and Savior, through whom he is redeemed from death and brought into His dominion and inheritance, God completely permeates his heart. Now he is eager to help everyone acquire the same benefits. For his greatest delight is in this treasure, the knowledge of Christ. 3

May the hope of new life permeate the church. May all who belief in Christ be eager to share the Good News with others. AMEN

1The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version, ( Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Jn 14:1-2.

2Martin Luther, vol. 24, Luther's Works, Vol. 24 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16, ( ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan et al.;, Luther's Works Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1961), Jn 14:5.

3Martin Luther, vol. 24, Luther's Works, Vol. 24 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16, ( ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan et al.;, Luther's Works Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1961), Jn 14:15.