Sunday, April 26, 2015

Jesus, Lord and shaper

• 4th Sunday of Easter
With Matthew 16:13-20

• People have always been drawn to caves. They are full of mystery, intrigue, darkness. Some even have underground rivers.
One of the headwaters of the Jordan River is a cave spring, celebrated as home of the Greek god Pan. When Jesus was a teenager, governor Philip II claimed this cave spring for Caesar, named it Caesarea Philippi.
Jesus chooses this place to “come out” as the Christ, the Son of God.
It is a source of life flow.
• David and Debbie got married last month (there’s a video on the church facebook page). When a couple says “I take you as my wife / husband” they are agreeing to order their lives by that relationship.
It means they’ll make decisions together, or with their partner in mind, decisions about finances and activities. It means they’ll control their urges and desires and take care to be in frequent communication with each other. They will live as representatives of each other.
They commit to each other.
Peter makes a similar life-changing commitment calling Jesus Christ and Son of God. LORD!  Re-read the above paragraph, substituting disciple and Lord…
I give myself to you, I give control to you.
• And Jesus responds with I will build my church on you…
Not because you’re so solid, Peter, (three times betrayal, anyone?) but because you have allowed me to mold and shape you. That’s a disciple. A disciple yields self to God, lets God shape.
• And then Jesus hands Peter the keys… not even the realm of the dead will be able to stand against it (and remember where we are? Source of life Caesarea Philippi).
Jesus hands Peter the keys, with a warning… I’m building the church through you because of that part of you that says “I commit myself to You, Lord,”
and the warning is this: the church you build will be like you.
If you look like you, the church will look like you.
If you look like ME, the church will look like me.
Take care to be like Jesus.
• Will your church be known for who it hates, or who it loves?
for who it serves or who it declines service to?
Will you use the keys to keep people out or to let people in?
• Finally, Jesus did not look to the Pharisees and Sadducees to build the church on, he passed ’em by (and not without condemnation!)…they lacked the living yielding faith that Peter and the disciples were beginning to demonstrate.
• Will you be shaped by Jesus?
faith to be shaped/used by God
• Hymn 385 Let Us Plead for Faith Alone

Matthew 16:13-20        (CEB)        Fourth Sunday in Easter        04/26/15
13 Now when Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi,
he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
and still others Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
15 He said, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

17 Then Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because no human has shown this to you, rather my Father who is in heaven has shown you. 18 I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I’ll build my church. The gates of the underworld won’t be able to stand against it. 19 I’ll give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Anything you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. Anything you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered the disciples not to tell anybody that he was the Christ.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


• Second Sunday of Easter
With Matthew 15:29-39 and Acts 4:32-35

• Last week Easter message about God’s power and desire to make all things new.
Today’s passage sounds like a re-run of the feeding of the five thousand, narratively just a few days ago in chapter 14.
• There are some “take-home points” but first…
• Robert Frost poem 1936 
    I turned to speak to God                   God turned to speak to me
    about the world’s despair                  (don’t anybody laugh)
    but to make bad matters worse         God found *I* wasn’t there
    I found God wasn’t there.                  at least not over half.
I find this poem both funny and haunting.
A person asked God
Why is there suffering/hunger/poverty/injustice, God?
Why do you allow it to happen? 
God’s response: Yes, why DO you let it happen?
• There’s a partnership God invites us into / expects of us / designed us for. And what Jesus has to offer is so compelling that people go hungry just to be near him.
• Last time disciples said send them away.
This time Jesus takes initiative: compassion.
The disciples have opportunity to remember or to demonstrate faith (here’s our bread, Lord, will you bless it?) but they question, instead. Jesus does not reprimand but nurtures, encourages…
And the Eucharistic formula is seen again, Jesus takes bread, gives thanks, breaks it, gives it, and the people eat and are satisfied. By the way, Matthew is telling us here that people who strive to follow Jesus (go hungry for) will be satisfied.
• And I don’t want to go too hard on the disciples – God knows there are plenty of times *I* need to be told something more than once – but we are also witnessing the disciples blooming… sneak peak ahead: in chapter 16 confession of Jesus as Messiah.
• 4K fed, 7 baskets of leftovers. Some commentators have suggested that the numbers 5K and 12 are numbers signifying the Jews, and that 4K and 7 signify the Gentiles, and that the retelling of the story demonstrates how Jesus came for all, but that’s more of an interesting possibility than main take-home point.
• Last little tidbit here… Last week was Easter, and every Sunday is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. We need reminded, and we need to re-proclaim, just like we wear our school colors on a weekly or daily basis… Disciples needed a reminder from Jesus just a few days after feeding 5K that he was Messiah, that in him the lame walk, the blind see, the mute speak, the crippled are made well, and that in him and in partnership with him, the impossible happens. And so we sing Christ is Alive…

• Hymn 318 Christ Is Alive

Matthew 15:29-39        (CEB)        Second Sunday of Easter 04/12/15
29 Jesus moved on from there along the shore of the Galilee Sea. He went up a mountain and sat down. 30 Large crowds came to him, including those who were paralyzed, blind, injured, and unable to speak, and many others. They laid them at his feet, and he healed them. 31 So the crowd was amazed when they saw those who had been unable to speak talking, and the paralyzed cured, and the injured walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
32 Now Jesus called his disciples and said, “I feel sorry for the crowd because they have been with me for three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry for fear they won’t have enough strength to travel.”
33 His disciples replied, “Where are we going to get enough food in this wilderness to satisfy such a big crowd?”
34 Jesus said, “How much bread do you have?”
They responded, “Seven loaves and a few fish.”
35 He told the crowd to sit on the ground. 36 He took the seven loaves of bread and the fish. After he gave thanks, he broke them into pieces and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 Everyone ate until they were full. The disciples collected seven baskets full of leftovers. 38 Four thousand men ate, plus women and children. 39 After dismissing the crowds, Jesus got into the boat and came to the region of Magadan.

Acts 4:32-35        (CEB)        Second Sunday of Easter                      04/12/15
32 The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. 33 The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all. 34There were no needy persons among them. Those who owned properties or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds from the sales, 35 and place them in the care and under the authority of the apostles. Then it was distributed to anyone who was in need.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Divine Dialog

The Divine Dialogue: A Possibility

Jesus: Look at ’em down there, Pops. Don’t you just love ’em?

Father: I DO love them, Son. 
They’re some of My favorite things in all Creation!

Jesus: You’re smiling, Pops, but I know You… 
something’s bugging You, too. Tell Me what it is.

Father: Oh, Son, I love you. You know Me so well. 
Yes, something IS ‘bugging Me’…
My people, they just don’t seem to GET it.

Jesus: Get what?

Father: Oh, You know… LIFE. 
I’ve put them in a world of possibilities
and given them endless potential,
but they are usually distracted by shiny things.
And they focus on themselves way too much.

Jesus: I know what You mean, Pops.
It’s just like You said: They just don’t seem to GET it.
But I’ve been thinking…

Father: Go on…

Jesus: I’ve been thinking, 
what if I were to go there and SHOW them how to live?
SHOW them righteousness and right priority and right relationship?

Father: Oh, Son, I think it’s a GREAT idea… But…

Jesus: …Yes, Father?

Father: You know. We’ve sent people. We’ve INSPIRED people.
But things haven’t always gone well for them.
I’m thinking… They might kill You.

Jesus: I’ve thought about that. They might.
And I’m thinking… that’s a risk I’m willing to take.
Like I said, I just love them to pieces.

Father: You’re the best. And You know what, Son?
I love You, and there’s nothing You or anybody in the world can do about it!

Jesus: Aw, Pops, I love YOU, and there’s nothing You or anybody in the world can do about it!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Lord's Feast

• Resurrection Sunday / Easter
With Isaiah 25:6-9 and Matthew 28:1-10

• We meet again. Resurrection Sunday (aka Easter) is on the one hand the holiest of days (it set the standard) and yet should be like other days. Or rather other days should be like Easter.
• Today’s message is not your typical Easter message. If today weren’t Easter I might talk about what’s been going on in Indiana or Kenya or Iran, offer some reflection about where God is and how might God be working in these events but you’ll just have to ask me directly ;) (or maybe I’ll talk about that next week. Come back!)
No, today’s is not your typical Easter message… I’m not dwelling centrally on the gospel text, rather on the Isaiah text that Jesus himself was likely familiar with, from 700 years before Christ.
Likely his disciples were familiar with it, too. Put yourself with them in Holy Week, in the highs and lows of the week culminating with the death of Jesus just before the Sabbath day and during the week of Passover…
Listen to the text, let it speak your hope…
On this mountain, the Lord of heavenly forces will prepare for all peoples a rich feast… (v.6)
A rich feast, yesss, now we’re talkin!…. And Oh, that God speaks to all peoples!
We like to think of God inviting others to the feast, the like-minded, yes, and those who have died… How good to feast again with them!
Who do you want to see at the Lord’s feast?
Yet, as Religious Freedom Restoration Act of Indiana has shown, there is much diversity and disunity among those who call Jesus “Lord” … they might be at the Lord’s feast, too.
If Jesus embraces one you oppose, what will you do?
The Lord will swallow up the veil that is veiling all peoples… swallow up death forever. (v. 7-8).
Instead of Death swallowing up everything (as we generally hold)… it is reversed!
Oh, that by the power of God, fear & sorrow would be wiped out, and divisions cease because God’s kingdom priority is the celebration of God and not “what’s in it for me?”
The Lord will remove his people’s disgrace from off the whole earth. (v.8)
Oh, that God would remove disgrace. Isaiah’s talking about how the people have been shamed, but I also hear it as God removing how shameful the people have been. Removing the shame I’ve endured, and the shame I’ve inflicted.
The Lord will restore right relationships.
• In the life and death of Jesus (life & death & resurrection) (recall children’s sermon, in which Jesus chooses to become incarnate to demonstrate life as God intended, in spite of the possibility of being rejected and killed)
God says I remove disgrace and death and disunity
In the midst of your darkness confusion and chaos
I make all things new, I restore & reconcile, inspire & complete.
• Oh it sounds good…
This is our God, and he has saved us… Let’s be glad and rejoice in his salvation! (v.9)
It sounds good. And it’s true. Will you be a part of it?

• into Holy Communion

Isaiah 25:6-9        (CEB)        Resurrection Sunday                                                                                               04/05/15
On this mountain,
    the Lord of heavenly forces will prepare for all peoples
        a rich feast, a feast of choice wines,
        of select foods rich in flavor,
        of choice wines well refined.
He will swallow up on this mountain
       the veil that is veiling all peoples,
    the shroud enshrouding all nations.
He will swallow up death forever.
The Lord God will wipe tears from every face;
    he will remove his people’s disgrace from off the whole earth,
        for the Lord has spoken.
They will say on that day,
“Look! This is our God,
    for whom we have waited—
    and he has saved us!
This is the Lord, for whom we have waited;
    let’s be glad and rejoice in his salvation!”

Matthew 28:1-10        (CEB)        Resurrection Sunday                         04/05/15
28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the tomb. And there was a great earthquake, for an angel from the Lord came down from heaven. Coming to the stone, he rolled it away and sat on it. Now his face was like lightning and his clothes as white as snow. The guards were so terrified of him that they shook with fear and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He isn’t here, because he’s been raised from the dead, just as he said. Come, see the place where they laid him. Now hurry, go and tell his disciples, ‘He’s been raised from the dead. He’s going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ I’ve given the message to you.”
With great fear and excitement, they hurried away from the tomb and ran to tell his disciples. But Jesus met them and greeted them. They came and grabbed his feet and worshipped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Go and tell my brothers that I am going into Galilee. They will see me there.”

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Word on Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday... the day after the death of Jesus, and the day before God raised him from the dead.

Church tradition holds that on this day Jesus "descended into Hell" (as proclaimed by the Apostles' Creed). 1 Peter 3 tells us that Christ suffered for sins, in order to bring the unrighteous to God, that he was put to death and that he "went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey..." (verses 19-20).

How great the love of Jesus, who just yesterday on the cross prayed that the Father would forgive those responsible for his death... even now Jesus seeks to reconcile even more to God.

Consider the original Holy Saturday. Jesus died on Friday afternoon. Before sunset his body was sealed in the tomb. The Sabbath day began at sunset... a time reserved for God, no work to be done. I can hardly imagine the range of thoughts and emotions experienced by the disciples, by Mary on that day... Did they recall the times Jesus had said he'd rise again? I wonder if they thought of King David, who worshiped the Lord when his newborn son died (2 Samuel 12).

Whatever happened, we know that when Sunday morning rolled around, several were prepared to return to the tomb... to minister again to the hastily-prepared body... or to witness God's greatest of deeds...

Sunday's coming.

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Word on Good Friday

Why's it called "Good Friday"? What happened, and why's it matter?

The short answer to the first question: we're not really sure. It might have to do with the language similarity between "God" and "good" -- "God's Friday" -- or it may have to do with "good" being substituted for "holy" or "pious", or it may have to do with the ultimate result of Good Friday: Resurrection Sunday (which is very good).

Regardless of the common English term, the events are simple to describe, but harder to signify. Jesus has been handed over to jealous authorities who conspire to have him brutally executed. I won't go into the details here -- there's plenty of detail available out there -- but it was physically brutal (yet designed not to take life quickly) (by the way, the word "excruciating" derives its origin and meaning from the kind of pain inflicted from crucifixion) and emotionally and spiritually brutal as well, embarassing and degrading. By the scripture accounts Jesus endured several hours on the cross, and died before sunset on Friday. He received a hasty but kind burial in a rock-hewn tomb.

I do not intend this quick post to fully address "why it matters," except to say that somehow, either through the crucifixion or in spite of it, Almighty God chooses to offer new life to all the world. And that is good news.

Sunday's comin'

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Word on Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday.

From the same word as "mandate", or command.

On the night he would be betrayed, that is, the day before he was crucified, Jesus had a holy meal with his disciples, a meal we've come to call the Last Supper or Holy Communion.

And Jesus said "A new command I give to you: Love one another as I have loved you. This is how they will know you are my disciples."

Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray for strength on this night. When he had finished, Judas identified him and he was arrested.

In the wee hours of Thursday night and into Friday morning, Jesus would be abused and falsely tried and sentenced. And Friday day would be even worse...