Wednesday, March 23, 2016

two things in mind 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 John 13:4-15

The Bible is a collection of accounts of God's activity in the world. People who had profound experiences of God's activity used human language to tell the story of what God had done. In the tradition of the church on Maundy Thursday we remember two wonderful and distinct accounts of Jesus' last supper.

  • What Paul said about the last supper,
  • What John said about the last supper,
Paul's words, in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, about the night of Jesus betrayal are so familiar to every week worshipers.

John's words, John 13:4-15, aren't nearly as familiar to any every week worshiper—but they are no less important.

I want to keep these two directions in mind.
Take and eat, take and drink. This is my body, this is my blood do this in rememberance or me 1 Corinthians 11:24-25.

So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you John 13:14-16.
Remember when you come to the Lord's Table.
Remember when you meet your neighbor.
Jesus directions are so different; but to be a disciple is to take both seriously
  • come and meet God present for us bread and wine, Jesus body and blood in communion.
  • serve like Christ has served us.
Disciples are found living out their faith remembering Jesus. But we don't just remember Jesus in our heads or in some high sounding spiritual place. We meet Jesus in this world in very concrete ways. We meet him in the bread and wine. We meet him in the people who we help as he has helped us.

Remembering is uniquely human. I think my dog remembers where the treats are and where the food can be found. But I don't think he can remember Jesus' call for us serve and to meet him. My dog can remember a friend and he also steers away from dogs who he's had issues with in the past. But Jesus invites us to a deep, human level of remembering. Jesus invites us to remember what he has done and where we will find him today and throughout our live, in the Lord's supper in service to our neighbors.

Following Jesus, being his disciple today is about meeting Jesus today and following his direction in our lives today. Discipleship in the year 2016 right here and now is about worship and service. Remembering is essential to worship today. Remembering is essential to service too. Here in this room we will we gather around the table and hear the good news of his deep love for us. And beyond the walls of this building we will be Christ's body in service. We remember him when we meet our neighbors as servants. We remember him not just in this beautiful space but when we follow his example. John's story of the last supper includes Jesus taking off his cloak and kneeling down to wash the feet of his friends.

Remembering Jesus doesn't just happen in worship. Following Jesus means remembering what he did and what he taught as we come to the our own crosses and as we come to our place in the Easter story as sinner redeemed by grace through faith. Jesus cross is no mere metaphor, and his direction to meet him at the table and in service are not idle words. It's our guide into life.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

What Kind of Disciple? John 12:1-8

The people who gathered around Jesus all had their own stories and thoughts about Jesus. People who follow Jesus today are no different. Jesus' first followers, his disciples, experienced God's power and mercy directly. They watched him perform signs that revealed his true identity. But they all lived out that experience so very differently.

This week we read a story from John 12:1-8 of 4 people who knew Jesus first hand. They all knew Jesus' power in their lives; but their actions reveal so much more. Lazarus, Martha, Mary, and Judas Iscariot could all be considered followers with close personal knowledge of Jesus. But they followed Jesus in such profoundly different ways it just stands out.

  • Consider Lazarus who Jesus raised from the dead.
    It can easily be assumed that Lazarus looked at Jesus as light and hope. He knew first hand that Jesus was unlike any other person. Who was Jesus to Lazarus? Jesus was life and hope in flesh and blood. I don't think that Lazarus, alive after 4 days in the grave, doubted Jesus power. He just knew him as his very real source of new life and new hope.
  • Imagine Martha hosting dinner for her once dead brother.
    What simple joy to serve food to her brother and his savior. Lazarus and Jesus weren't the only ones there eating; but it must have been pure joy to have Jesus and Lazarus both there. I can't even imagine the joy of sitting with a once dead loved one and the man who raised him from the dead. Sure some of Jesus disciples were there too, but Jesus and Lazarus together that was pure joy, that was hope and faith fulfilled. Who was Jesus to Martha? He was resurrection and life. He was the one with power over all things starting with death.
  • Think of Mary who covered his feet with perfume
    She came to Jesus with nard, a heavy strong smelling perfume. She didn't speak a word and told Jesus just how much she loved him. Her brother was back from the dead. He was buried four days but now Lazarus sat at the table as Martha served the food. Mary poured perfume on the feet of the man who brought her brother back to life. She wiped his feet with her hair. She loved this one who had shown great love for her brother
  • Judas Iscariot was there in the house too.
    I assume others were there too, but John very clearly names Judas. His motives on the outside look so honorable. His protest following Mary's extravagant anointing of Jesus is named out loud in the Gospel of John. The perfume was so expensive. It was worth 300 days wages--imagine a perfume valued at $30,000 poured out. What a waste, Judas protested. If it was sold and all that money given away for the good of the poor. But John hints at something more sinister in Judas character. He was a sneak, a con man, who slipped money from the common purse into his own pockets.
These people, and others, gathered around Jesus. But these four all have very different back stories. The part that matters for us today is that we can see ourselves in them. Who these four people were so very often mirrors who we are. The people who gather around Jesus today are just as varied in experience and perspective as the first to follow him. We all have surface motives and hidden motives. Many of us, like Lazaraus, Mary, and Martha have profound experiences of God's mercy. But many of us, like Judas have also known deep questions about God's actions and inaction. We have sins that linger just below the surface.

C.S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain about the paradox of good and evil. God can use our evil acts and still make good happen. It's not hard to see a paradox between Judas' idea discipleship and Mary's idea discipleship. Both if asked, "are you a faithful follower of Jesus?" would likely have answered, "yes." But there is something so different in how they are following. Lewis wisely observes,
For you will certainly carry out God's purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John. C.S. Lewis The Problem of Pain 1940. Harper Collins 2001 Page 111
Our stories as believers are complicated. Our motives are often layered thick with love and devotion for God interspersed with sin and egregious selfishness. And here's where the Word of God meets us. Here is the mirror that God holds up to us. See your sin and your motives.
peace and thanks for reading, John