21 Mar - 2019 Lent
John 5: 19 - 29
19 Jesus gave to them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his father doing, because whatever the father does the son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater work than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgement to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
24 Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has lide in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
28 Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out-those who have done what is good will rise to live and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.
In this passage Jesus is professing to the Jews that God is the Father, and he, as his Father’s son has the authority to do what his Father does. The Jews believed that only God can raise people from the dead not a human such as Jesus. This is an appropriate passage to read in Lent as it is helping me understand in part why the Jews found Jesus to be so heretical. The idea that Jesus is the human representation of God, so humans can better understand the teachings of God. That Jesus himself is capable of judgement.
I question if Jesus would condemn sinners.
I choose to think that Jesus loves us all and would want to help the sinner in the afterlife to understand their evil doings. Like each Sunday we confess we have not treated our neighbors as ourselves. We are forgiven. Even if Jesus has the capacity to condemn, does he really do that in the end? The interminable evil we see in this world, the senseless murders out of hate, I hope murderers will have the opportunity when they meet Jesus upon their death, they will be able to repent and redeem themselves, perhaps returning to this earth having learned their karmic lessons and will then in reincarnation become a pious person. If this were to happen there is hope for peace in future generations.
19 MAR - 2019 Lent
John 5: 30 - 47
30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. 33 You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.
39 “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 41 I do not accept glory from human beings. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God in[a] you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”
We are in the section of John’s Gospel where Jesus is proving that he is God. Jesus has just healed a paralyzed man on the Sabbath, which was forbidden according to Jewish law. Jesus responds that the Father works on the Sabbath and therefore, he must also work on the Sabbath because he is God. As per the custom, the testimony of the accused was not accepted but must be backed up by multiple witnesses so Jesus presents five witnesses who support his claim that he was equal to God – John the Baptist, his own works and miracles, the Scriptures, Moses and God itself.
John the Baptist repeatedly pointed to Jesus to say that he was the one. John was the burning lamp that showed us the way to Jesus, that true light. The people were excited by this message and rejoiced, but this rejoicing was temporary and they went back to their old ways. How many times have we rejoiced in the message of the Gospel or been inspired by the preaching or some kind act only to do what we did before?
Jesus’ miraculous works authenticated the message that he and God are equal. No one can do what he does unless he was God. Now I am not suggesting that we try to perform miracles on the scale that Jesus did, but as Mother Teresa said “If you cannot feed a hundred, then feed just one”. We need to start somewhere, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem because we need to trust and have faith that it will be exactly what is needed by someone – it will be their miracle.
The writing of Moses predicted the failure of the Israelites and promised a Savior to lead them if they would listen to the Savior. But they rejected it because of their pride and unwillingness; they had a case of selective hearing and tunnel vision. As I look at the troubles in our world around us today, I am reminded of this same malaise of not listening is preventing us from coming together to build the true realm of God. We need to be a people who genuinely listen, who are humble and receptive. When we intentionally listen, talk and respectfully debate, we show God’s love for we are with God and want others to be with Him also. We show compassion and empathy. If we do these things, then our God, the heavenly judge, will declare us guilty of following the way of Jesus and will sentence us to a rewarding fulfilling and holy life. That is the conviction I strive for – how about you?
18 Mar - 2019 Lent
John 4: 27 – 42
27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah,[a] can he?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving[b] wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”
One benefit of getting older is you also get wiser, and I now cringe at some of the stupid things I used to say. “I am a self made man” was a proud trope I no longer drag out. Yes, I put myself through college – but it was a state school that received government support, and I commuted as an adult from the shelter of my parents’ house, on roads built with tax dollars. Similarly, I didn’t come to Christ by myself. As a child I was brought to Church every Sunday by a loving father. My parents encouraged my curious mind and my sisters ingrained in me a sense of community. My grandparents loved me unconditionally. I was ripe for harvest.
In today’s passage Jesus exhorts his disciples “I sent you to reap what you have not worked for”. He was speaking of the work of previous prophets and martyrs and of himself I am sure. We too stand on the shoulders of giants. Presumably, if we are reading or writing a mediation on a church blog we have already been harvested, we didn’t harvest ourselves. And now we must help reap. But how?
“Reaping harvest” … sounds so big, too big for me. Visions of large sickles and tractors and stuff. Or dragging the unwashed to baptism. And I’m so busy. But busy doing what? Everything’s on my phone. I don’t even have to leave the house for groceries. All these time saving innovations. What are we doing with all this abundant time?
I believe that reaping the harvest can be small acts of love. Calling my mom who’s waiting by the phone for some conversation. Or making my kids some home made meatballs. Or sending the widow an email to make sure she’s OK. Smiling at the other commuters with the furrowed worried brows. Helping the lady with her overhead storage. Being a Christian. Acting like a Christian. They will know we are Christians by our love. Our love can be a tipping point for others to fall into the great harvester too. I want to be like her! Its infectious.
Lent is a time of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. I pray, Jesus help me to see opportunities for almsgiving, almsgiving of that most precious commodity — time, and that sharing my time and love might help reap your harvest that I have not sewn, for your Glory, Prince of Peace, Amen.
19 MAR - 2019 Lent
John 4: 43 - 54
After the two days he departed for Galilee.
44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.
So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.
So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.
As he was going down, his servants[b] met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him,“Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.
This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.
Let’s set the stage for a minute. Jesus had just arrived to Galilee from Judea, and word of His miracles has preceded him. Perhaps Jesus sought to return home to get a little peace and quiet. Yet, as soon as he arrives, he is swarmed by bystanders, all most likely wanting to witness another miracle. They are gawkers, not followers.
But now, from the crowd emerges the “official.” We know very little about this individual, but what we do know is enough. He is a father who has walked more than 20 miles with the hope of saving his sick son. Any parent can sympathize with him. His single goal is to convince Jesus to come back with him to Capernaum in the hope that there is still time to save his child’s life.
To me, this is one more moment where we see not just Jesus’ divine side, but also the human side. He’s tired. He’s hungry. All He probably wants is to wash His face, have a glass of wine, and get some rest. But yet, before him stands a man desperate for a miracle. Jesus has a choice here – walk another eight hours to save this man’s son, or refuse to help, knowing that the man’s son will most likely die.
And instead, he does neither. He thinks of a way to solve multiple problems at once. First, he issues a loud and forceful rebuke – “unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe!” I picture him bellowing this in order to disperse the crowd. It was Jesus’s way of saying, “sorry, folks, no miracles today. We’re closed.” Then, as the voyeurs were walking away, I picture him taking the official aside and quietly whispering to him the next sentence: “Go. Your son will live.” Jesus doesn’t need to be physically present for His miracles to take effect. He can work remotely! And now, with the crowd gone and his divine duties complete, Jesus can take a much needed break, back at home, among friends.
15 Mar - 2019 Lent
Hebrews 4: 11-16
(11) Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.
(12)Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (13)And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.
(14)Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. (15)For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. (16)Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
We are plunged into the text with a powerful exhortation to strive for rest (in the previous section of Hebrews, “rest” was a metaphor for the Promised Land or the sabbath rest of God taking Saturday off after creation). Then, we are warned not to fail as did the forefathers by lacking faith.
Grim stuff, but it is just getting started: we learn the measuring stick of our faith will be a living and active word of God — a sword piercing, digging, and twisting like a butcher filleting a side of beef; a sword sharp enough to separate the spirit from the soul! Finally, our deepest intentions and reflections will be laid bare as we are called to give an account.
There it is, the dust-to-dust-sinners-in-the-hands-of-angry-God part of Lent.
Where do we find the hope of Easter coming? Let’s look carefully at the text: translated in Hebrews 4:11 as “word” is the Greek term LOGOS — the very way the Gospel of John tries to identify, describe, and define the complexity of Jesus who was made flesh and dwelt among us. There’s our escape from swords and trials: the frightful sounding word making hamburger of our lives is really the merciful Lord Jesus who walked with us, went to our parties, dandled our children on his knee, suffered with us, survived our temptations, and finally died for us.
And this account we are called to give? The word translated in Hebrews 4:13 as “account” is, wait for it, also LOGOS! The account is our own marvelous complex of meaning–it is our story. It is our narrative, not the sorting through a battered life looking for bad bits. Jesus hears our direction, our journey, our Exodus.
Hebrews is a wonderful complicated sermon with all sorts of priestly theology that can crank up a hundred discussions but the core shouldn’t be displaced: the logos Jesus who knows our true heart, welcomes our bold approach, and always gives grace and mercy when we tell him our story.
16 MAR - 2019 Lent
John 4: 1 - 26
Jesus and the Woman of Samaria
4 Now when Jesus[a] learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” 2 —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— 3 he left Judea and started back to Galilee. 4 But he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)[b] 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you[c] say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he,[d] the one who is speaking to you.”
One of the more fascinating things about the Bible is how timeless it can often be.
Samaritans and Jews despised one another. Their aversion ran so deep that most Jews would detour long distances over land and water to avoid engaging with a Samarian. But in true Jesus form, Jesus not only went through Samaria, but had the fortitude to approach not just any well, but Jacob’s well. Even more, he even spoke to a Samaritan woman with a questionable reputation.
In today’s world a Samaritan and Jew would avoid speaking with one with one another; they would not consider being Facebook friends; and, when confronted try desperately to illustrate the errors of one another’s view. Personal, and now political differences can be visceral.
So when Jesus approaches the woman, she is understandably shocked that he has the audacity to speak with her. When the conversation turns metaphorical, speaking of living water, and she is drawn in and wants more. In true Rabbi form, Jesus continues to teach. He draws her into a conversation only to come upon the one thing they agree on; the Messiah is coming.
Today’s environment is chock full of differences between ‘us and them’. For many, the feelings are just as visceral as those between Samaritans and Jews. It is difficult to find common ground. But do we even look for common ground? Jesus does not try and convince the Samaritan woman of his Jewish perspective. Jesus does not challenge or condemn the Samaritan woman’s personal beliefs. Rather, he speaks with truth, ‘I am he’. Jesus speaks only for himself with love and generosity of spirit.
What would today be like if we could find a kind spirit inside someone with whom we had a different political perspective? Would living water refresh our souls whether or not we could change another’s heart?
13 Mar - 2019 Lent
John 2: 23 - 3:15
23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.
Jesus Teaches Nicodemus
3 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
One of the most interesting parts of this passage, for me, is that Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night. He must have known what he was doing had an element of risk to it. Questioning, curious, and hopeful – Nicodemus had questions that required a certain element of courage to ask.
Often times, I find myself asking similar questions – taking scripture somewhat literally, as Nicodemus did.
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Looking for answers in scripture and the meaning in Jesus’ teachings that are read with the eyes and mind of human! We, like Nicodemus, listen to the words of Jesus and we may even know some of them by memory. But do we ever question it a bit more? Do we ever need more clarification? Are we trying to get too intellectual with scripture as opposed to leaning into our faith and trusting God?
In addition, when reading this passage, I noticed the patience that Jesus had for Nicodemus. Had he not been the son of God, he could have easily blew him off and said something to the effect of “If you don’t know, then I don’t know what to tell you.” Instead he answers Nicodemus – even when Nicodemus did not pose a specific question.
During this season, I think it is important to be like Nicodemus AND Jesus. Reaffirm your faith, trust in God, lean into your beliefs and believe your instincts – when you feel your heart strings being tugged, notice that it is God. And also be like Nicodemus – ask questions, search for answers if you need them, and remain hopeful, curious, and courageous.
14 MAR - 2019 Lent
John 3: 16-21
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
Wow, of all the passages, I hit the jackpot. This passage begins with the powerful verse 16, a verse that has become something of a cultural phenomenon — you see it on bumper stickers, t-shirts, signs lifted in football arenas (or so I’ve been told), etc. It’s among the most beloved verses in the Bible, and it’s worth re-stating:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
It’s one of those verses that I’ve heard my entire life, often as a sort of summary statement of the entire New Testament — a quick encapsulation, in a sense, of Christianity and the promise of salvation. It’s all there.
The passage continues with verses that underscore the choice we have before us: believe and avoid condemnation, and live in the light and presence of God, or turn your back, continue living in darkness, and perish. It’s heavy stuff.
As we read yesterday, what’s interesting is also what comes before this. This passage doesn’t exist in a vacuum — Jesus is speaking here to Nicodemus, who is described as a “member of the Jewish ruling council”. Nicodemus comes to Jesus with questions during the night, as he fears being seen and discovered by his peers. They discuss being “born again” of “water and the Spirit”, they discuss salvation, and Jesus even foreshadows his own resurrection, “just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
And then we get to our passage, which lays out our choice. I find it reassuring that it starts with a statement — the first six words of verse 16, in fact — that is firmly grounded in love. How much does God love the world? So much that he sent his only Son to offer light, and an alternative to living in darkness.
It’s an offer of profound, all-embracing love that is made to everyone, not just a chosen few or those with seemingly flawless track records. God’s love doesn’t depend on boundaries, language, race, gender, or any number of other qualities that we might think define and distinguish us. The love is right there — as is the offer of living in the light. And that love is there even when we come confused and afraid in the darkness of night.
11 Mar - 2019 Lent
John 2: 1-12
The Wedding at Cana
2 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days.
After opening with the awe-inspiring poetry of the Word, John’s Gospel takes a rapid detour to describe Jesus’ first undeniable miracle. He is depicted almost as a mischievous youth who enjoys telling his new friends and admirers (Peter, Andrew, Phillip, and Nathaniel) that he’s going to show them some really cool stuff. How did he decide that it was time to show himself? It seems to have just happened. He probably enjoyed pulling a surprise on the wedding guests. We don’t know who got married. Presumably the couple were relatives or friends of the family. In those days everybody in a small town like Nazareth would have been at least distantly related. He didn’t go to the wedding planning anything. He was surprised when his mother came to him with her concern that the wine was used up. She must have already seen, or known, of his talents. Who better to solve the problem? Maybe she was teasing him, challenging him, saying, “You think you’re so smart? Let’s see what you can do about this.” The water is still water when the servants pour it off for the steward to sample. Somehow the change occurs at that point, before the steward tries it.
Why does Jesus say to his mother, “My hour is not yet come?” It sounds as though he is refusing. He calls her “mother”, suggesting that he is still very much part of the family. He has not yet stood up independently to claim his destiny. Jesus apparently was not ready to claim authorship of the miracle; he let the bridegroom take credit for serving the best wine last. The bridegroom took credit without hesitation. In those days wine was stored as a kind of sludge that was mixed with water when it was time to drink it. It probably wasn’t unusual for people to hoard the good stuff and dilute the wine as the guests got progressively drunker. The story shows us that Jesus didn’t just appear one day as the Son of God. He had to grow into the role, a prophetic soul struggling to find his voice for himself, amid the clamor of skeptical friends and relations.
12 MAR - 2019 Lent
John 2: 13 - 22
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this? ’Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
I never read this passage without hearing the “The Temple” from Jesus Christ Superstar playing in my mind…
Roll on up, for my price is down.
Come on in for the best in town.
Take your pick of the finest wine.
Lay your bets on this bird of mine.
Name your price, I got everything.
Come on by, it’s all going fast.
Borrow cash on the finest terms.
Hurry now while the stocks all last.
This scene in the rock opera ends, of course, with Jesus screaming at the top of his lungs, “Get out, get out” and then, in a weary and resigned voice, singing, “My time is almost through…” While singing every word of those memorized lyrics myself (!), I fail to think about the actual passage from scripture which ends with Jesus’ exchange with his disciples about destroying the temple and his raising it up in 3 days. Just what is he actually referring to?
The passage speaks of the temple of his body and seems to refer to a very literal interpretation of the resurrection. I see something more.
Yes, I recognize that a physical temple – our church – is holy space, and we should make no room within it for the greed and materiality and theft (of all sorts) that are rampant in this world. Even more importantly, though, we are a community of people who embody Christ within us. We ourselves are a “temple” of sorts. We honor the Christ in us to the extent that we practice love and learning, generosity and healing, care for one another and for all God has created. We too can be raised up – indeed, that’s the promise of those 3 days leading to the resurrection – so that we can become a holy presence of Christ’s body in this world.
08 Mar - 2019 Lent
John 1: 35 - 42
John’s Disciples Follow Jesus
35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”
They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”
So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.
40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter[g]).
The Gospel writer, John, not to be confused with John the Baptist, begins his telling of the Jesus story differently than the other three Gospel writers. The first chapter of his Gospel is divided into four overall themes beginning with a new creation story in which The Word (Logos, or Blueprint) comes into Being. In this new cosmology The Christ is present from the very onset of creation. This concept of the Christ figure being integral to and part of creation is set up from the onset of the chapter as John’s overarching theme. Immediately after presenting a new Genesis- the writer introduces John the Baptist, as part of the divine plan- a key “witness sent from God” .. to the TRUE identity of Jesus.
In the second part of the chapter John the Baptist is questioned by the religions power players (the Jewish Taliban of the day) as to who he is and why he is out in the wilderness baptizing in the first place. The Baptist claims not to be a prophet but a witness to “One who stands among you.” John gives a testimonial to the religious authorities of the day, and in the third part of the chapter John testifies to his own disciples telling them of his personal encounter with Jesus and seeing the “Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.”
In today’s reading, the 4th part of the chapter, we see the response of John’s own disciples. This is the climax of the chapter and the closing argument for the witness. Andrew and his unnamed friend drop everything to get closer to Jesus. They stalk him, following awkwardly behind him trying to get a better look at this person their leader, their guru has pointed out as greater than himself. Jesus, clearly aware of being closely followed, confronts the two. Their nervous response in the form of another question, shows their curiosity and desire to know more. Jesus’s invitation to “Come and see” is all that we know of their encounter.
I feel cheated that we aren’t given more of a window into what was discussed, how they felt in the presence of Jesus? I want to know what did they see that changed their hearts from curious on-lookers to true believers? Of course I’m curious too about what a 1st century bachelor pad must have looked like, but regardless, it must have been better than John’s wilderness abode and eating wild locust. All we know is that after spending a few brief hours in the presence of Jesus the disciples of another master were also completely smitten. Andrew was so taken with Jesus he rushes to tell his own brother who must have listened to the excited tale and have been curious enough to return to see for himself.
This is a story of Witness to higher Truth, the testimony of a revealed truth about the creation of the world and Christ’s living part in that, of John the Baptist’s account of his calling and what he saw, and of the response of the first disciples feeling drawn, attracted to be in the presence of Jesus. These are first hand accounts meant to convince future readers- not through auspicious birth tales, or even miracles, that God was and is materially, physical present in the world. The mystery of what was said in that afternoon spent in a 1st century bachelor pad resulted in radically changed perspectives and lives. This is, I believe, what John wants us to discover. The Christ is alive, in all of creation, and continues inviting us to “Come and see” and to be a witness to that encounter with our very lives.
09 MAR - 2019 Lent
John 1: 43 - 51
Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”
44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”
48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”
51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you,[a] you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” -Nathaniel on his way to meet Jesus.
I am curious if Jesus purposely picked Nathaniel or, if any ordinary person would have worked?
I am going with Nathaniel being a deliberate choice for the very reason that he was an ordinary person. Nathaniel is in dis-belief that this Jesus of Nazareth, is the ONE, the one that Moses and the prophets have been speaking of, simply because Jesus is from Nazareth.
(Who knows? Maybe Nathaniel is a runner and his nemesis is from Nazareth. The Nazareans always have the best sandals and it is obnoxious!)
I try hard, really-really hard not to be judgmental. Alas. It gives me great comfort and a giggle that Nathaniel judges Jesus based on his hometown.
This is us. Perhaps our flaws are our super-powers. Recognizing our own humanity, while accepting with compassion our own flaws and those of our pals. Let us go easy on the judging of ourselves and one-another during Lent. It is a mere acknowledgement of our human-divisiveness. We all have a unique spark. As we breath into our divisiveness, let us shine and be extraordinary in our ordinariness.