Archive for May 2011
Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 29th 2011 – Christ Lutheran Church
Acts 17:22-31 Psalm 66:8-20 1 Peter 3:13-22 John 14:15-21
We’re Not Orphans
There are several promises in our Gospel lesson today and promises are Gospel. Commandments make up the law. The promises of God made to us by Jesus Christ are the Gospel. So this gospel is really Gospel, while at times the Gospel is in another lesson. For example in Advent, when you hear that if your tree does not bear fruit, John the Baptist will chop it down. That is pure law in the gospel lesson.
What are some of the promises in this lesson? 1/ I will not leave you orphaned. That one stands out. 2/ “I am coming to you.” That Christ will come to us is a promise. 3/ Because I live, you will also live. “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow.” After reading that verse, that song kept going through my head all day. 4/ Christ will raise us up from the dead on the last day, just like he raised Lazarus from the dead, even in this life for Mary and Martha. So Christ gives us the resurrection promise. When we have Jesus’ commandments and keep them, we show our love for Jesus, and Jesus promises that 5/ the Father will love us and 6/ that he will love us, and 7/ Christ promises that he will reveal himself to us. We make all these pictures of Jesus, but wouldn’t you really like to meet him and see him?
I figure the promise that we will live is the promise of abundant life right now. But Christ also gives us the resurrection promise – that when we have heard the voice of the Good Shepherd here, then we will also hear it after we have died, and we will be raised up on the last day.
If you have counted with me, then this small lesson has seven promises, making it overflow with Gospel, that is, the Good News of Jesus Christ, who came to us from heaven above to save us from our sin.
Like Jesus says in this Gospel, at the well of Jacob to the Samaritan woman, who was a little like Liz Taylor, who had all those marriages – I will give you water to drink after which you will thirst no more. Jesus coming from God is a spring of living water gushing up, like Old Faithful, into eternal life.
Where there is water there is life. Where we receive the water of life from Jesus, we receive a life of love that overcomes death; not just natural, biological life, but spiritual life is what we receive on the other side of spiritual dying.
Jesus promised that the Father would give us the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). And out of the believer’s heart, rivers of living water shall flow. John, writing this gospel, explains that Jesus said this about the Spirit, which believers in Jesus would receive.
Perhaps as in all cycles, we could say that there are eight promises here, like when we say “eight days a week,” or eight notes in a scale, although there are really seven. Jesus promises that the Spirit of truth will be in us, and that means, Father God and Mother, Holy Spirit will raise us up to be children of God, Sons and Daughters of God, with Jesus as our big brother.
We know young folks, whose parents have died, and we call them orphans. But some of us older folks have parents, who have died a good, long while ago. Without Jesus’ Father, becoming our Father in Heaven and without the Holy Spirit, let me say, as a Mother full of love for us, we could be as troubled as orphans, who have no role models, no grown-ups intimate with them, helping them grow and mature from day to day.
As grown-up – physically, biologically, and naturally as we are, it does not mean we have grown up spiritually – until we realize that we have to know God and be known by God and God needs to bring us up and help us grow in the stature and maturity of Christ, day by day, so that we can bring living water to our neighbors and become the bread of life for them, and we can stop saying, “they” that they should do this or they should do that, “they, they, they” and say, “I” like Jesus does throughout this gospel. With Jesus we have to say, “I am.” I am responsible, I am a Christian, through whom Christ is bringing new hope and life and light and love into this dark and devastated world, this war-torn world, changed into rubble by tornadoes, whole towns covered with muddy river water. We have to get to work before a night could come, in which no one could work.
Ah, Pastor, you say, this is way too great a challenge for us. It is way beyond our capability and competence. I’m just little old me, and I’m not much of a commandment-keeper or promise-keeper for that matter. Down here on earth we break promises and commandments all the time. What are you expecting?
Ah, here is the Good News. We cannot be commandment and promise keepers by our own effort or strength, as we‘ve learned in Luther’s Small Catechism. But, through the Gospel, we can’t help keeping Jesus’ commandments and keeping our promises, because Christ is really present in us, continuing to do all the signs, as the miracles are called in this Gospel, the Gospel of John.
Imagine that! When you read through the Gospel, there are seven signs and wonders. Jesus’ 1/ turning water into wine: this was the first of his signs…and his disciples believed in him. 2/ healing an official’s son, who was a great distance away. 3/ helping that poor blind, lame, and paralyzed fellow lying there for 38 years beside the Pool of Bethesda, with everyone elbowing him out of the way all that time. Jesus healed him by stirring up the living water of the Holy Spirit and sending him on his way. 4/ then healing the man who was born blind, by sending him to wash in the Pool of Siloam, which means “sent.” That puts a song in my heart. What about yours? “This one thing I know. This one thing I know. Once I was blind but now I see. This one thing I know.” 5/ Jesus’ feeding the five thousand with two fish and five loaves of bread, like manna from heaven. The sixth sign: Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead, and 7/ because Jesus was no orphan, as he said, “the Father dwells in me and does these heavenly works,” Jesus is raised up from the dead and leaves empty the old, musty tomb, after we lifted him up on the cross.
“Because the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never end; they are new every morning – great is thy faithfulness” (say the Lamentations of Jeremiah 3:22-23) and Oh Lord, you are greatly to be praised for raising Jesus!
Jeremiah continues, “God is our portion, saith my soul, and therefore I will hope in him” (24).
In no way are we orphans. God is our portion and the way Jesus is in the Father and we are in Jesus and Jesus is in us, because of the Holy Spirit, we have a marvelous relationship that far surpasses that of a mother and father and whatever an upbringing they can give to a child. In my case, I usually say, when my parents got to me, their upbringing ran out. Ah, but here we’re not talking about our natural parents, because many of them have been natural disasters, as bad as tornadoes and Mississippi floods – well, they weren’t that bad. I just had expectations they could never have fulfilled. What we are really talking about here is actually being inside the loving relationship of the Blessed Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In our mutual in-dwelling, we become whole in order to be sent on God’s mission, and as John says, those “whom God sends, speak the Word of God, for he gives the spirit without measure” (3:34).
Wow! Are you beginning to grasp the Gospel promises and how they can carry you in your life before God into the love of your neighbor? Back in the sixties – hold it. I’m now in my sixties – we used to say: “That blows my mind!” We usually now say, “That blows me away!” Do you know that the Spirit of truth that Jesus and the Father sends us (filioque) is compared to the wind? So we are “blowin’ in the wind” – the wind of the Holy Spirit, who fills us with new life, love, and light, new thoughts, and drops us into a particular time and place of God’s own choosing, wherever God wants us to speak God’s Word, that word which accomplishes the good things, the signs and wonders, which are the saving work of God here among us.
After the Vacations Church School and Day Camp Leadership training in Cincinnati, I remember that two of us hitch-hiked back to the seminary and we couldn’t stop witnessing. I was even playing my trumpet in their car! My good friend in Brooklyn, Pastor Dick Miller, while some pastors were moving a piano, played it in back of the pick-up truck, while they were stuck in traffic, I think it was on Flatbush Avenue!
When we are in God’s Word and when we are being sent by God, then we are like a leaf blowin’ in the wind. We say, “Whatever your will, O Lord, here I am, send me.” Like in Acts, God places Philip right where Christ wants an Ethiopian to understand the Prophet Isaiah and become baptized. Then the Spirit took Philip and put him down right in another place with God’s Word on his lips for lost and hopeless people there.
In the story about when Jesus was walking on water and they tried to get him into the boat, suddenly they were right at their destination spirited out of the storm and onto the shore that they were sailing for. Receiving Jesus in, makes the Spirit put you right where you are going, where God wants you to be.
When I was traveling in India, it was a day before Christmas and I had gotten really tired of all the religiosity of the Hindus. Idolatry is pretty much part of their common, popular religion. It really started turning me off, and I prayed to God that I might spend Christmas among Christians. Well, I knew of Mother Theresa in Calcutta, but she was perhaps five or six hundred miles away. So I prayed that I might spend Christmas with her. There did not seem to be much of a chance of getting there by the next day. Marvelously, every bus, train, train, and bus connection worked and I was in the Howrah train station in Calcutta early Christmas morning. I walked into the Mother-House of the Sisters of Charity and she was coming down the stairs to start her Christmas program. I walked in the door and she was coming down the stairs! She told me to bring my bag-pack to my YMCA room and meet her at the service for the dying and destitute behind the Caligula Temple.
I first went into the wrong door and found myself stepping around the huge statue of a god, with people swaying, and chanting inside very thick incense. I said, “This can’t be it.”
So I went outside and walked around the temple and there was her chapel where she had gathered up a group of the dying and destitute from the streets of Calcutta – just to give them a friendly face to die under. And you know what? They didn’t die, because that friendly face and the love of Christ made new life well up inside them and rejuvenate them. And later I thought. I know I took transportation, but I had been spirited right where God wanted me to be, to witness the wonderful things that the Holy Spirit could do through Mother Theresa.
Let me warn you, however: when we are raised, when we get an up-bringing, from the Heavenly Father to become children of God, it means undergoing our own passion story. We have to carry our own particular cross and we know they are going to nail us on it! There I go saying “they” again. “I too was at the cross.” The late William Sloan Coffin, the Pastor of the Riverside Church in Manhattan used to say, and he asked himself, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” and answered, “Yes, indeed, with hammer and nails in hand!”
But when you are going through hard times for the sake of Christ, you say, “The only way through it is through it.” And we used to say, “My Momma never said it was going to be like this!” It gets very painful growing and maturing into our Christhood for others.
But remember the last promise in our Gospel lesson, which is overflowing with Gospel for today. Christ is going to reveal himself to us – the beautiful Savior! As the Psalm says, “When we awake, we’ll be satisfied gazing at his likeness (17:15), because like a flower to the sun, we will rise up beholding the face of God, in the streaming glory of God’s new day! Amen.
The Prayer of the Day and Lessons:
Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 29th 2011
Prayer of the Day
Almighty and ever-living God, you hold together all things in heaven and on earth. In your great mercy receive the prayers of all your children, and give to all the world the Spirit of your truth and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
First Reading: Acts 17:22-31
In Athens, Paul faces the challenge of proclaiming the gospel to Greeks who know nothing of either Jewish or Christian tradition. He proclaims that the “unknown god” whom they worship is the true Lord of heaven and earth who will judge the world with justice through Jesus, whom God has raised from the dead.
22Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him — though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,
‘For we too are his offspring.’
29Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Psalm: Psalm 66:8-20 (read responsively)
8Bless our God, you peoples;
let the sound of praise be heard.
9Our God has kept us among the living
and has not allowed our feet to slip.
10For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us just as silver is tried.
11You brought us into the net;
you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.
12You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water,
but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.
13I will enter your house with burnt offerings
and will pay you my vows—
14those that I promised with my lips
and spoke with my mouth when I was in trouble.
15I will offer you burnt offerings of fatlings with the smoke of rams;
I will give you oxen and goats.
16Come and listen, all you | who believe,
and I will tell you what God has done for me.
17I called out to God with my mouth,
and praised the Lord with my tongue.
18If I had cherished evil in my heart,
the Lord would not have heard me;
19but in truth God has heard me
and has attended to the sound of my prayer.
20Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer,
nor withheld unfailing love from me.
Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:13-22
Christians have a zeal for doing what is right in God’s eyes no matter what the circumstances because in baptism we are saved and made alive. Thus our Christian beliefs and behavior are to be a matter of public record just as our baptism is.
13Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?
14But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 15but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. 17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.
18For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you — not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
The assembly stands to welcome the gospel.
Those | who | love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them,*and we will come to them and make our | home | with | them. (John 14:6)
Gospel: John 14:15-21
In final words to his disciples on the night of his arrest, Jesus encourages obedience to his commandments and speaks of the Spirit, who will be with them forever.
15If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
18I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
The gospel of the Lord!
Notes on a Rereading of the Gospel of John
May 26th 2011
There is so much in the Gospel. I am only noting some things that stood out for me this time.
Jesus is a dove not a hawk; not a lion, but a lamb!
Chapter 1: 32: The Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove, not a hawk; and he is not the Lion of Judah, but the Lamb of God!
Jesus was called a rabbi by his disciples (38).
It seems as if Peter is the only one for whom Jesus changed his name (42): Cephas or Kephas in Aramaic, Petros, in Greek, Rocky in English. Could it be because Simeon, one of Jacob’s sons had been a real bad guy? “Simon” and “Simeon” may be different names, however.
The heavens opened and angels of God will be ascending and descending on the Son of man (51).
Chapter 2: Jesus, his mother, brothers, and disciples remained in Capernaum a few days after the marriage of Cana (12), the first of Jesus’ signs (11), packed with so many facets of the Gospel. I’m noticing the role Jesus’ brothers play this time.
Jesus cleanses the temple and replaces the temple in Jerusalem with his body (19).
“Jesus did not need anyone to testify about anyone, for he himself knew what was in everyone” (25).
Chapter 3: Jesus tells Nicodemus about the Holy Spirit (8). One has to be carried by the Spirit, like being caught in the wind, completely swept off your feet, completely moved by the Holy Spirit. It is not a spatial thing. You are sent where the Spirit takes you. It is being completely involved in the campaign for the Beloved Community. Born of the Spirit can also mean carried by the Spirit. John mentions flesh, water, and Spirit. Like the wind, the Spirit is moving air, God’s breath inhaling and exhaling heavenly love.
What a metaphor for Christ! Who is like lifting up a serpent in the wilderness, to save the sinners condemned by Moses (15). I believe it has to do with doing our deeds in the light. We do all kinds of evil deeds unconsciously. When Christ is lifted up on the cross, we suddenly see what we have done. Christ says, “Father, forgive them they know not what they do.”
One would think that Jesus also baptized according verse 3:22. But in 4:2, John says, only the disciples baptized, Jesus did not. John said that he was sent to baptize with water, “but He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (1:33).
John the Baptist says, “Jesus must increase and I must decrease” (3:30). He feels that he is like the best man at Jesus’ wedding (3:29).
“Those whom God sends speak the Word of God for [God] gives spirit without measure” (3:34).
There’s a father and son parallel like Pharaoh and Joseph: the Father loves the Son and has placed all things into his hands (35). With Jesus, however, it also includes the throne and does not except the throne as with Pharaoh.
Chapter 4: Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well, on the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph (5). The city Sychar (4) is Shechem, which Jacob had renamed Bethel.
Instead of Jacob’s Well, Jesus provides a spring of living water gushing up to eternal life (14).
The place and buildings of worship are now not the important thing for we worship God in spirit and truth (23).
Jesus says “I am,” i.e., really calling himself by the name of God (26).
When the Samaritans come because of the witness of the woman, Jesus begins winning people over into the Beloved Community, that is, the Kingdom of Heaven (35). It is a harvest where the reaper overtakes the sower of the seeds, so that the sower and the reaper rejoice together (36). The people harvest is a peculiar agriculture that grows people to be food and drink (4:36). The witness of the woman who talked with Jesus, becomes their own (42), Just like John’s wonderful witness has to become our own.
In the second sign, Jesus heals the official’s son. At the very hour Jesus spoke the Word, his son was healed in a distant place from Jesus (52-53).
Chapter 5: So first Jesus changed the water into wine, then 2nd sign/ he healed the official’s son, then for the 3rd sign/ he heals the poor old blind, lame, and paralyzed fellow lying there for 38 years beside the Pool of Bethesda, with everyone elbowing him out of the way the whole time.
He heals him on the Sabbath, which gets Jesus into trouble. But he says, “My Father is still working and I am working” (17). On the Sabbath we rest, so that God can do God’s work in us. Jesus’ Father is healing the man, because the Father works while we rest. That is how Luther understood Sundays as God’s justifying work taking place in us as we passively receive God’s changing us, justifying us with divine righteousness (5:17).
Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes (21). “Amen, amen, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life” (24). The dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live (25).
About John the Baptist, Jesus says, “He was a burning and shining light, and you were willing for a while to rejoice in that light (5:35). He testified to the truth (33).
Moses wrote about me (46). Abraham saw my day and was glad (8:56). “Before Abraham was, I am” (8:58). Jesus is the long awaited Son of Promise, and he is speaking through the eternal Father.
Chapter 6: The next sign, that of the Kingdom of Heaven: the feeding of the five thousand with two fish and five loaves of bread, like manna from heaven. Twelve baskets of bread, the twelve tribes are gathered after the feast and they want to make him king (15), because they understood the sign. He withdraws from them to a mountain by himself (15).
The wages for the labor for half a year are 200 denarii (7). So people must have been able to earn 400 a year.
The Sea: Jesus walks on water, ordering the chaos of the sea (19). 25-30 stadia are three or four miles (19). Thus it must be seven or eight stadia per mile.
The “I am” approaches the disciples’ boat walking on water (19-20). A miracle occurs, because when they wanted to take him on board, they immediately arrived at the shore of their destination (21). It seems they were spirited there.
The Father God sets his seal on the Son of Man, Jesus. Just believe in him (27).
The true bread of heaven comes from the Father (32). The bread of heaven is that, which/ who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world (33).
They say: “Give us that bread always” (34).
The woman says, “Give me that water” (4:15).
I am – the bread of life (6:35). I am the living bread come down from heaven (51).
We are drawn by the Father to Jesus (44).
Jesus will raise us up on the last day (40).
As the prophets said, they shall all be taught by God (45).
The bread I give for the life of this world is my flesh (51).
Jesus insists on the eating of it. The living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. My flesh is true food, my blood true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood, abide in me and I in them (56). My words are spirit and life (63).
N.B. I wonder if I could go from speech-acts to speech-life in the theology of language?
Because the part about eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood offended many, they turned away from following him. Then Jesus turns around and confronts his disciples with the choice: do you also want to turn away? Peter answers: where can we go? You have the words of eternal life (68).
In chapter 7 Jesus is in Galilee, evidently in hiding because they are looking to kill him. About to come is the Festival of Booths and his brothers say to him: “Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples may also see the works that you are doing. For no one who wants to be widely known (famous?) acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” (4) “(For not even his brothers believed in him)” (5). They almost seem to want to get him killed. He tells them: my hour has not yet come, which means the hour of his death. He lets them go and then follows them in secret (10).
The Pharisees wanted to arrest and kill him because it was on the Sabbath that he had healed the fellow – who waited there for 38 years! Jesus argues with them, don’t you do circumcisions on the Sabbath, why not such a healing? (23) “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment,” he reminds them (24).
Jesus stands up in the middle of the festival and says, “Out of the believer’s heart, rivers of living waters shall flow! (38) John explains that he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him would receive (39). Thus the Spirit is received without measure! (3:34)
The temple police come back without arresting him. “Why didn’t you arrest him?”
They answer, “Never has anyone spoken like this!” (46)
Because he came from Galilee (52), he could not be the messiah, they argue. (I guess no one told them he was born in Bethlehem.)
Chapter 8: I really wonder what Jesus wrote in the sand of the ground to stop them stoning the adulteress? Was it their sins? “Go your way.” he tells her. “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way and from now on do not sin again” (11).
I am the light of the world, from me you have the light of life (12). When you have lifted the Son of Man (me) up, then you will realize that I am (28). (I think he is referring to God’s name again. Jesus identifies completely with “I am”. To his disciples, if you continue in my word, you will know the truth and the truth will make you free (32).
I came down from God and now I am here (42). I did not come on my own, He sent me (42). The devil lies. He is the father of all lies and speaks according to his nature (44). Jesus shows their preparing to murder him relates them with the devil and all his lies, just like loves and life issue from truth.
“Amen. Amen, I tell you whoever keeps my word will never see death” (51). Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad (56”). Amen, amen, before Abraham was, I am. (58).
Chapter 9: wash in the pool of Siloam, which means “sent” (7).
Healing the man who was born blind: “This one thing I know: once I was blind but now I see (25). He is born blind, but he receives faith. Seeing and blindness are played off against each other, the blindness of the Pharisees remains at the end (39-40).
Chapter 10: It seems that the Pharisees were torn whether Jesus was crazy or not. (19-21). They say that he has a demon, because that was their diagnosis for insanity in those days.
The Father and I are one (30). I am God’s Son (36).
Chapter 11: John says Mary, the sister of Martha is the woman who anointed the Lord with expensive perfume and wiped his feet with her hair. The perfume used to anoint Jesus cost 300 denarii, that is, the wages for ¾ of a year’s work (12:5).
Mary studies at Jesus’ feet meaning she was also learning theology. But Martha speaks like a theologian, when she goes out to meet him (20) after Lazarus her brother died and Jesus is coming into Bethany to raise him.
Chapter 13: John uses the same expression from the Epistles of John: “little children” (33).
Peter is identified a liar by the crowing rooster (38).
Chapter 14: the Father who dwells in me does his works (10). (That is analogous to Luther’s saying, faith is Christ working through us.)
Only in the Word will we see Jesus (23). Those who do not believe, Christ and the Father will not come to them. It seems to be internal experience. Jesus reveals himself to those who love him and keep his commandments, not to those who don’t (23).
The revelation of Jesus comes through faith and the Word.
Chapter 15: I am the vine, you are the branches.
Chapter 16: Jesus is speaking the truth in love: I have many things to tell you, but cannot bear them now (12). It reminds me of “A Streetcar, Named Desire” where Stanley takes away all of Stella’s defenses and she goes mad. He tells the truth with hate. But then how can it be the truth?
Not only does “my hour has not yet come” refer to death, but Jesus uses the expression to refer to a woman’s giving birth to a child (21). One set of contractions brings a birth and new life, those of death, give entrance into eternal life. “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (22).
N.B. Reading the Gospel of John again and going as deeply into my understanding of Jesus, that is my checking him out all the way, I find that the truth is in him. He speaks out of the truth. But Jesus turns the tables on me and I am checked out and tested by him, his love, however, overcoming me.
Chapter 18: Such irony: they did not want to become defiled by entering the Roman headquarters: yet how defiled they were already bringing the innocent Jesus to Pilate and getting him crucified! They were uptight about missing the Passover. Maybe they had to hurry to slaughter the Passover Lamb of God (28).
These were just a few notes from this reading. There is way too much in it to note everything.
Dear President Obama,
It is time to respond to the devastation in our Mid-Western and Southern states caused by flooding and now the tornadoes. Look at all the construction companies that are finding no business and all their workers who are under or unemployed!
What about an Operation Makeover, where groups of consultants with the home-owners, architects, production managers, contractors, and designers go in and rebuild the houses and business-buildings of those who have lost them?
Place the Extreme Makeover that we see on TV with Ty Pennington into motion and put it into overdrive. Imagine it as a whole new level of reality-TV. The work of their show could be like a feeler into fast response and their experience could be used to build on and like a good Blitzkieg, put those devastated areas like Joplin and the others, back together in short order.
Imagine the boost to the housing industry the new jump start to our economy it would represent! Bring tears of joy to our whole country.
Pastor Peter Krey
The Wagons of Egypt: Peter Krey, June 23, 2008
Christ is the wagon God sent us hereafter
to carry us
into the land of laughter.
I’ll work the poem above twice to capture its two meanings:
O God, of you it’s said,
“You weigh us on a blessed balance.”
Your grace is baffling,
because Christ takes us,
to the place, we’re forever laughing.
O God, of you it’s said,
“You send us Christ,”
the sacred wagon,
in whom we hide
and safely ride,
into the Land of Laughter.
Got, von dir sagen
kan rihten ûf der saelden wagen
der uns sol tragen
da man sol iemer lachen.
Lobges. 77. Middle High German
I revised this poem for my Joseph Book for Genesis 45:27 and I hope you like it. peterkrey
Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 15th 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Alameda, California
Acts 2:42-47 Psalm 23 I Peter 2:19-25 John 10:1-10
The Table of the Lord
It is so good to be serving you with the Word of God once again, the way I did for you three months several summers ago. Now Pastor Bruce Johnson is taking you through your intentional interim period. I also took the intentional interim ministry training recently and I learned that the interim period between pastors is a crucial time for your congregation, for facing realities, preparing for new leadership, and taking commitment to new directions in mission and ministry. I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide and direct you in all that you do. Amen.
“I was glad,” when Pastor Johnson asked me to come and preach for you, “to come into your House of the Lord,” because your name, Immanuel, tells why. It means “God is with you,” “God is among you,” Christ, the Good Shepherd is really present here. As the text for this morning says, the Good Shepherd knows each one of you by name. In the words of the Prophet Isaiah:
“But now, thus saith the Lord, who created you, [O people of Immanuel], who formed you, [O, beloved of the Lord, all of you in this little flock]; do not fear for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name. You are mine” (43.1).
Yes, the Good Shepherd knows each of us by name, knows all our faults, all our troubles, and still gladly calls us his own, still forgives us, calls up ahead to swing wide open the gates of righteousness, opens the door to let us out and let us in, to be nourished with the provisions for God’s abundant life.
What we have to remember is that Christ is our Good Shepherd, even here in the interim period between pastors. Right now Christ is our door, our entrance into the abundant life, the great feast, the great end-time banquet that takes place in God’s House. Christ calls out ahead of us and the gates of righteousness swing open and we get to have the freedom to go in and out to drink of the still waters and feed in the lush green pastures.
In the commentary, that we pastors listen to in our Tuesday morning Bible studies to prepare for our sermons, because of our lesson in Acts, they said, don’t speak of economics. Why? Because it says that they shared everything in common; gave to each according to their needs and from each according to their gifts. How foolish can they be? We are in the House of the Lord and that does not mean these striking white buildings of this church, it means the reign of God. The House of the Lord means the reign of God. When we refer to the White House in this country, it stands for the rule and reign of the present administration. The name “Pharaoh” in the Bible means “the house of the king” in Egyptian and the Table of the Lord stands for the economics of the House of the Lord.
When we are baptized into the name of Christ, we drown and die to our old selves and are raised back up into our new Christ-like selves. We leave our society and enter the church, which can be understood as a way of life.
Entering that new way of life is what the resurrection is all about. Through the death of Christ we enter the abundant life, eternal life. Now, what happens when we die? All our earthly possessions, all our money, everything we had, become an inheritance for those we have left behind; not a tithe, not ten percent, nor one or two percent, but 100 percent goes to others, because we can’t take it with us. The more we believe in the death and resurrection of Christ, the more we suffer our baptisms, the more we leave an economy of scarcity and enter an economy of abundance. That move is accomplished by faith, which is the power of God, beginning to get to work in and among us.
That is why the first Christians shared all they had in common, because they had already been baptized. They had died with Christ and were raised up into the new fellowship called the church, where they lived out their faith in the newness of life as new selves, who could give and give, because they could go in and out of the House of the Lord and receive God’s body and blood, which is far more precious that money, from the Table of the Lord. Luther says that believing means having this abundance and not believing, leaves you with nothing. Seek first the kingdom of God, that is, the House of the Lord, and all these things will be added unto you. Make yourself number one and live selfishly and all these things will be subtracted from you.
In our society almost everything militates against a genuine Christian way of life. Mostly we are here on our own. Do you remember the silly B-movie, the “Attack of the Fifty-Foot Woman”? The actress, who was considered so beautiful in those days, died in her Beverly Hill home. She was only discovered about a year later! That is the gruesome nature of what we call rugged individualism. But Luther writes that we may have all been born from the womb of a woman and come into this world with a cry, breathing our first breath of common air. Whether we are kings, queens, celebrities, or poor people; we entered life the same way and we will all have a common departure when we die. Yet and still there is a great deal of inequality here and very little mutuality.
If I don’t take care of my own needs in this society, then I’ll go down the tubes, because we watch out for each other so little. We all have very heavy burdens watching out for ourselves, making a living, staying afloat. Those who don’t watch out for themselves soon get trampled underfoot.
As Christians, however, we follow Christ, who lived by faith. Therefore, we also have to grow in self-giving and sharing what we have in common. When we take our faith seriously, we soon find out that we go under. But that is the baptism of experience, the baptism of suffering, how the old Adam and Eve, our old selves die day by day and our new selves arise, our Christ-like selves rise up into being blessings for our neighbors, contributions to our world, those who renew our church and society by becoming ever more self-giving.
I’ll be the first to admit that that I have a lot of growing to do in this area. Perhaps you have to admit it too. I’ll give a beggar only a few quarters or perhaps a dollar. Luther says, if we really gave and shared in the abundance that our faith and baptisms freed up, there would be no beggars amongst us. Once or twice a year, I’ll put ten or twenty dollars into envelopes for Native Americans and I’ll drown in requests throughout the year for more. We get huge stacks of address labels, Native American blankets, (made in China), tote bags, cards and envelopes. “Didn’t you receive our free tote bag?” comes a reminder, because they expect a donation.
We have to share for those who live in the Tornado Alley states and all those who are under water, not because they can’t pay their mortgages, but who are literally seeing their houses go under water! Let’s rally ourselves like the singer, Hank Williams, Jr. and help out all those poor people who have lost their houses and all their possessions! I usually give through Lutheran World Relief, but this time I would designate it for those southern states and for those being flooded by the Mississippi. I don’t believe that the world will come to an end on May 21st according to the Family Radio fellow, but mother earth has certainly become more hostile lately.
Our faith needs to grow so that we become more self-giving. Our churches need to grow so they can give more to instigate the mutual love that helps us share more things in common. We are speaking of the House of the Lord and the Table of the Lord and the common life in our country, whose economic realities do not at all reflect the abundant life promised us by the Good Shepherd.
But Christ is the door, the entrance into that life. The Kingdom Christ proclaimed will come. God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. That’s the promise and God’s Word will not return empty.
This life on earth is certainly not heaven, but we needn’t make it hell. We can only have pre-figurements of heaven. It takes our faith to receive a foretaste of the kingdom of heaven, the House of God. Perhaps a movie metaphor is more helpful. We can’t experience the feature presentation of heaven here on earth, but we can surely see the previews of the coming attractions. Our faith can give us a preview of the coming attractions of the Kingdom of Heaven.
The only trouble with heaven is that you have to go through hell to get there. I used to say that and then I found that Luther had said it too. But what good is it, if your whole life goes through heaven and you end up in hell? For example, look at Bernie Madoff, who “made off” with tens of billions of dollars and who stole so much misplaced human trust as well. He had his high-life, but now he has had to watch his son commit suicide, while he chirps like a jail-bird in prison.
When we live our faith it is the power of God working through us. Just a little faith could make Immanuel start jumping, change this church inside out, and bring renewal with its abundant life.
But it’s paradoxical. That means that God first fulfills God’s promises in the form of their opposites. That means it gets right into our passion story. A little bit of faith brings a great deal of suffering right with it. That is what St. Peter is getting at.
What good is it if you suffer because you have done wrong? If you are only a consumer, if you just want opportunity and are filled with selfish motivation that our society enflames, then before Christ we are really thieves and robbers. To follow Christ means self-denial. It is the passion story. Pick up the particular cross that belongs to you, the one they are going to nail you on, and follow Christ.
Thus we too will suffer; but we rejoice in our suffering. It’s by the stripes inflicted on Christ that we are healed. All the blows and insults and injuries, all the abuse that we receive, when it is for the cause of righteousness, when it is for the sake of Christ, God will marvelously change it into the healing of this church, the renewal, the resurrection of his body.
Wow! You really have had to go through a lot here in this congregation. On your way to Emmaus, Christ tells you, “Don’t you see that the body of Christ has to endure all these things to enter through the door into resurrected glory?”
Not having to go through it, because of having done wrong, of having lived selfishly; but having to go through it because of having had a little faith, even as tiny as a mustard seed, that faith is the power of God working through you. Look, if by the stripes, the whip-lashes on the back of Christ, we are healed; then by his death on the cross, we receive life, abundant, everlasting life.
It is true that sometimes we feel beaten into the ground. But in no way will Christ break the bruised reed, nor will he quench the dimly, burning, flickering candle wick (Isaiah 42:3). No, with a little bit of faith, Christ cups his hands around your candle, lets your flame recover, so you can hold your candle burning brightly up in the darkness of this world once again.
It was in the night in which he was betrayed, that our Lord remained completely faithful to us. Because of his death on the cross, even when we die, we will go through the valley of darkness, the valley of the shadow of death, through that wonderful door, through the heavenly gate of Christ and be with God. The wonderful feast in the House of God around the Table of the Lord awaits us. And even here on earth, God allows has to experience the previews of the coming attractions.
Let us pray: O Lord, we thank you for your holy Word, Jesus Christ. Help us go in and out of it in good faith, beside the still waters that quench our thirst and into the rich and lush green pastures that feed us. Thank you for the tiniest bit of faith, because it is your almighty love working through and among us. Help this congregation and change its suffering into a deeper quality of your love and let it all add to the music of Immanuel’s witness.
To you, O precious Lord, our Good Shepherd. You, who have called us by name; You to whom we belong, you, who have swung open the gates of righteousness for us; you, the door, the entrance into the abundant life: we praise and thank you, that by your grace, we have been saved and we ask that day by day, you add to our number, those whom you are saving. Amen.
 Luther is quoting the Book of Wisdom 7:1-6. I render his words quite freely. Here they are verbatim. “Were we not all born from a woman’s womb, and were we not all cast wailing upon the earth, as is stated in the Book of Wisdom? There we read, ‘And when I was born, I began to breathe the common air, and fell upon the kindred earth, and my first sound was a cry, like that of all. I was nursed with care in swaddling clothes. For no king has had a different beginning of existence; there is for all [hu]man kind one entrance into life, and a common departure.’”
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