Thursday, January 31, 2013

Just a little glory Luke 9:28-43

The kingdom of God is close to us; but it doesn't always appear that way. When Jesus came to earth the kingdom came close to everyone he met. God the Father is close to all of us; much like the father in the story of the prodigal son. We are the ones who wander far from God and his plans for our lives. But God the Father remains close all the time ready to welcome us back Luke 15:11-32.

God the Father's closer than we think. There's a very thin space between heaven and earth; and Luke tells of a moment when the glory of heaven, which had always been present in Jesus (but was often hidden), was there clear for Peter, James and John Luke 9:28-36. When Jesus taught, healed, forgave, and caste out daemons the glory shown to a few. But for the most part Jesus glory, and heavens glory with him, was hidden just beneath the surface.

Jesus revealed His glory and forever identity to 3 friends (Luke 9:28-29). They were up on a mountain top, but the view that most impressed them was Jesus transfigured shining bright as two of Israel's great heroes, Moses and Elijah joined him (Luke 9:30-31).

Mountain top moments are part of faith and hope. God gave such moments like Moses had looking into the Promised Land seeing the future that God had in store not for him but for his people Deuteronomy 32:48-52. Martin Luther King Jr spoke of going to  the mountain top the night before his assassination. Mountain Top moments allow us to see what God has still to come. They are a preview of the glory ahead. But we don't get to stay there in the glory that day of glory will come, but right now we are invited to live in faith and hope and love trusting in the promises of God. 

Peter, not sure what to do or say on the mountain, offered to make booths for Jesus and 2 prophets as a way to hold onto the moment Luke 9:32-33. God the Father's voice boomed This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him! and suddenly Jesus was there alone with his friends Luke 9:34-36.

Heading down hill they came to a Father struggling with a daemon possessed son Luke 9:37-38. The boy's father begged the disciples to help; but they could do nothing Luke 9:39-40. Jesus words expressed frustration at the disbelief; but he didn't leave the boy in the possession of the daemon. Heaven was close and the power of God was clear again as God set the boy free. Luke 9:41-43.

May God grant us mountain top moments to see the Glory of God in our days, even if only for a moment Amen.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Feedback requested: How have you sensed God through touch?

We're working in Fairmont, Minnesota toward a shared Lenten Series entitled Come to Your Senses: A Lenten Journey with God.  The idea is each preacher will share how God is sensed through our different experiences.  I've been asked to speak to experiencing God through the sense of touch.

I'm wondering how other people experience God through touch. 

What stories are you aware of that explore an experience of God's presence through touch?

I am also very curious what scripture you point to as you explain experiences of God's tangible--incarnate--activity touching you in the world.

thanks for your input. Pax, John. Published by John, an unlikely pastor at

How have you sensed God's touch?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jesus, what should we expect you to do? Luke 4:14-21

Jesus came to earth to do great things. When he stood in his home synagogue in Nazareth the people hoped for something as he read from Isaiah in Luke 4:18-19. Jesus started point to Isaiah 61:1
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind
then he made an alusion to Isaiah 58:6
to let the oppressed go free
before he turned back to Isaiah 61:2
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Reading this weeks Gospel I'm struck by word picture Luke paints of the eyes turned towards Jesus in Luke 4:20 as he announced Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
We humans have so many expectations of God. And in Jesus all our expectations find their fulfillment; but that doesn't mean we get what we demand from God. In Jesus we meet the living God and not Santa Claus. We meet the one who made all things who provides for us every deay. But the living God won't give us what we unreasonably demand. No in Jesus we meet the the Living God who wants us to follow him into the fulness of life and hope.
thanks for reading, peace to you, John

Monday, January 21, 2013

Jesus' like trust Luke 4:1-11

I've been blessed for the last 4 days to have conversations with some non-believers. It's been an online conversation at a blog I keep on newsvine So far in 170 some comments I've seen comment from believers and non believe--some non-believers are angry and insulting. Some are wrestling with the question. "How do you experience God?" and their own bitter experiences of religion, church, and theology that just don't add up to a happy life in their minds.

I didn't expect to see so many non - believers come to deal with the question and I've tried hard to fairly answer all who have come. Some are ready to name the sins of the church past and present. Some want to talk biology or cosmology. Some just want to stir the coals. And in it all I find a moment of grace to share a little of my faith and I hope I am gracious enough that the true nature of God revealed in the person of Jesus might come through for all to see.

Looking at Luke 4:1-11 I think that Jesus can relate to the pesky and pointed questions. I sort of wish he were the one having these exchanges rather than me with my limited words and limited capacity to love. Right after Jesus Baptism Luke 4:1-11 says the Devil came at Jesus 3 times. In my own experience it doesn't take the Devil long to do a whole lot of damage--one angry conversation can be all it takes to tear a family apart. One moment of temptation can be all that's required to pull someone away from God.

When the devil challenged Jesus, "If you are the son of God..." in Luke 4:3 and Luke 4:9 the enemy made a bold assumption--that Jesus would try to prove his Divinity by taking up the dares. Jesus was the one the Devil challenged as in Luke 4:6-7 but the enemy was opening up himself to challenges as much as he was challenging Jesus.

Each time Jesus answered the Devil as one with faith in God unseen. Faith is a very curious part of a believers life. It moves people to do unreasonable things--and gives us peace this world can't give. A wonder of faith is that in Jesus we will find that same peace John 14:27. It moves men like Martin Luther King Jr and Desmond Tutu to be almost fearless in working for justice. It moves people facing great struggles to see something better even though the world says otherwise. Jesus showed us how to trust as he faced the enemy.

May the peace of God give us courage in the face all challenges. Amen. Peace to all, John

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Feedback requested: Come to your Senses or How do sense God?

Have you ever been told to, "Come to your senses" For some deep thinkers it's a common accusation, "you are being to cerebral" or "you are not in tune with what's actually going on in the world right around you";
In the next month we'll be working in churches in Fairmont, Minnesota USA toward a shared Lenten Series entitled Come to Your Senses: A Lenten Journey with God.
A possible theme verse is, The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 NIV
I'm wondering how other people experience God through all five senses. I am most curious about the way you sense God in tangible ways through touch, taste, sight, hearing, and smell.
What has been your experience: How do you sense God?
What stories are you aware of that explore an experience of God's presence?
I am also very curious what scripture you point to as you explain experiences of God's tangible--incarnate--activity in the world.
thanks for your input. Pax, John.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hope and Restoration Isaiah 62:1-5, John 2:1-11

If you can't find joy in yourself--its good to look to God. Reading scripture lately I've found great encouragement especially in the last 20 some chapters of Isaiah. Mixing the promise in the prophet's words together with the first miracle of Jesus, when he turned water into wine, gives me something to really celebrate. And at this moment in life I can say clearly that the words of Isaiah and the Good News of Jesus are good medicine for my soul.

So what's good in Isaiah today?
There's a promise that the prophet can't keep quiet about: salvation is coming (Isaiah 62:1). The prophet's message is simple and he keeps repeating this promise of salvation coming for Israel. But Israel isn't the only one God wants to redeem. Israel will be a light for the world. God will draw nations to this light (Isaiah 62:2) and Israel will be made ready by God a bride (Isaiah 62:3-5).

Isaiah's promise proceeded Jesus by 700 years; but when I read of the miracle in John 2:1-11, when water was turned to wine, I think of the hope of the faithful for the day when God would come to restore. The story deceivingly simple: a great wedding feast was underway and the wine ran out. Jesus' mother wanted him to do something--he resisted--but she told the steward to whatever his said (John 2:1-5).

Jesus has a way to make something out of nothing. He has a way--and we by faith live today celebrating this living promise that he who can make water into wine can work miracles in our lives. Jesus protested a bit to his mother that it wasn't His hour yet (John 2:4) but she was certain he could change the situation. Mary's faith can be a model for our faith--for our trust in God to work. She didn't say exactly what Jesus would or should do: but in faith she knew Jesus could take the problems and find ways forward that are beyond human reach. Coming to Jesus in faith opens us up to the possibility of miracle and new life: but in faith we know God is the one who chooses the way forward. Coming in faith means grabbing hold of the promises of restoration and hope that we meet together in the person of Jesus. This story of Jesus first miracle is a great reminder in our times of doubt of the joy and possibility for new life that we find in Jesus.
thanks for reading. Pax, John.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Heaven's open for business Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 Isaiah 43:1-7

Jesus came on purpose—on a mission devised in the council of the Triune God. And the day he was baptized (Luke 3:15-17,21-22) God's glorious plan came to light for all the world. This world changing plan of God was clear the night Jesus was born. Angels sang to shepherds about it. The shepherd left their flocks to come and see how this plan had come to life (Luke 2:1-22). It was clear as the magi came from the east to find Jesus, the new born king, that God's plan had come in flesh and blood (Matthew 2:1-12).

Except for a few moments scripture is quiet about the next 30 or so years of Jesus' story. Suddenly John the Baptist came reflecting the bright light of God in this world's darkness. He came baptizing (Luke 3:15) calling people to turn away from what was hurting themselves and their families (Luke 3:7-9). He was calling them to get ready to meet some one even greater sent by God.

John's message started with a call to turn away from your sins and be baptized. Baptism is the starting point for God to move. It's the starting point where new identity and new life starts. Baptism is God's way of moving us back toward the life that God intended from the very beginning. Reclaiming our baptismal identity is essential to every Christian's story.  In sin our true identity is hidden--but in repentence and forgiveness it's seen again and again.

John's ministry culminated as Jesus came forward asking to be baptized. It was the plan Jesus came to fulfill. He came as key figure in a restoration plan for the whole creation. Jesus came to start things over relationships and families, nations and even the relationships between warring nations: Jesus came to make us and all things new.

God the father rejoiced as Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit came down like a dove and voice echoed from heaven, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:22 Jesus came to be God with us and God for us; and in this God the Father rejoiced. This is a plan built in love and grace. 

Jesus would transform baptism from the beginning of faith—to the beginning of new life itself. In baptism we join Jesus in his death and the rising. Isaiah wrote powerfully of the way God walks with his people (Isaiah 43:1-7). In Jesus we see exactly what God meant to do. No matter the depth of the river or the (Isaiah 43:1-2) or the great distance we might find our selves from God (Isaiah 43:5-7) God has a plan to restore his own. God's plan includes a call away from our fears towards the light (Isaiah 4:1-2,4-5).

The image of the dove coming down from heaven in Luke 1:22 ought never be overlooked as mere dramatic prose.  God was speaking then as he does now in often subtle signs of the new and better life he has planned.  Corrie ten Boom wrote in Tramp for the Lord of a morning when a fellow concentration camp prisoner collapsed during early morning role call.
In a moment a young woman guard was standing over her, a whip in her hand.
“Get up” she screamed in rage. “How dare you think you can lie down when everyone else is standing.!”
“I could hardly bear to see what was happening in front of me. Surely this was the end of us all, I thought. Then suddenly a skylark started to sing high in the sky. The sweet, pure notes of the bird rose on the still cold air. Every head turned upward, away from the carnage before us, listening to the song of the skylark soaring over the crematorium.”  ten Boom, Corrie and Buckingham, Jamie Tramp for the Lord (Revel, Old Tappan, NJ 1974) p83
Christian joy comes with us in faith and for us in the Word and presence of God in the darkest moments. In faith we hear God's voice of pleasure in his son and in us who have been baptized into his death and rising. In faith we trust that the Holy Spirit will come to give us strength for today's trials. Amen.
Peace and thanks for reading, John.