Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Do you know what love is?

Have you ever considered what love looks like? Everyone likes to think they know what love and therefore isn’t. Many will tell you that they are great lovers and will brag about their adventures. Some like to splash what they call love all over the television and movies screens, insisting that it is about good  storytelling and in some cases it will be called art. But does it really tell us about what love is?  The gospel draws us back now to that night in the upper room where Jesus told his disciples that time was short and that he was about to go to suffer and die. We are reminded of that awful night now in the cool light of a spring morning and we are asked to consider – do we really know what love is?

 Scripture calls us to consider who it is that we are in relationship with. Every Christian will certainly claim that they are in relationship with Jesus. But why is it that we have enough religion in us to make us nasty but not enough religion in us to move us to love as Christ loves? We need to remember that Jesus speaks in his farewell discourses not to the world but to his Church, his own people, when he challenges them to love one another as he has loved each of them. And we need to remember that this love has been betrayed by Judas and denied by Simon Peter; two people who knew him best! It is a pointed moment for the rest of the Church – those early followers had to choose whether to be like the rest of the world or to begin to live and to love like Jesus, thereby being like Jesus and being united with God through not only in relationship but also in action.    

It is interesting we seem to think that there will be a time when the whole Church this side of the new creation and the new city will “play nicely” and get along in some kind of prefabricated, even forced harmony. It seems to not be recognized that there has always been struggle and disbelief and not just beyond the church but within also. We need to in our own ways figure out what it means to live the risen life in this new and global age. We need to discover how God is acting and then to move with God, knowing that this will cause conflict within ourselves as we are asked to move and will cause combat with others who will think differently.  There will be so long as this world lasts, struggles in the Church community over who we should know and be in relationship with and who we are as the people of God. God is working out his plan of salvation and God is calling us to participate in that plan to draw others into his city and into his life and relationship with him. So in this moment we experience upheaval. We are unsure of who we’re supposed to be.  Our goal is not to set the world on fire but to turn the church inside out so that it might be faithful to the commission that Christ gives to all of us. And that commission calls us to in the going and the making of disciples to live so that we can give sacrificially to others, both within the Church and beyond the Church. When we live like that we show God’s love and show God’s glory.   

But who do we need to love? Consider who it was that Jesus spent most of his time with: the power and the lowly, the blind and the deaf, the sick and the weak, the suffering and the demon possessed, the lonely and the dying ones. And we need to ask ourselves, who is missing from this table? Who should be here that is not? Who have we failed to care for? Salvation is not about what rules you follow or what church you belong to; it is not about where you were born, or what colour your eyes and skin are. It is about receiving grace and participating in the life and actions of Christ and therefore of The Father himself.  We glorify God by showing what differences he has made in our lives by loving each other in spite of the old barriers and hatreds that have so long entrapped us, even if that means living and loving and even dying in the face of betrayal and denial.
People need to know that there is a new world coming with a new heaven and a new earth. People need to know that there will be a new and eternal city and those who will live with God will live there. This is the life we live in this moment filled not only with love but also with hope and with courage. And because we believe in that and because we want others to come to that city where every tear will be wiped away, we are willing to live in such a way that they will see God’s love and glory too.  So do you you know what love looks like? Come and see! 

Friday, April 23, 2010

The work and life of the Shepherd God

Maybe by now we are actually wondering who is this Jesus? We are invited to come and see. You heard that he gave up his life on a cross, that he suffered and died yet he lives. How is that possible? Come and see. Where does he get the power and authority from to do the great things that he does? Why don’t you come and see! You have heard that if we believe we can live forever. How can God manage that? You need to come and see.

God provides life as God intends for it to be – his plan and his creation. And there are those who are skeptical about that; words leave them cold. That is why it is so very important that we do the things we need to do that show what we believe as well as saying the words that need to be said. After all it has been said that no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Believing is more than just what you know in your head – you show what you believe by the things that you do. Orthodoxy and orthopraxy go together and in glove.

God provides for life – as he needs it to be for our sakes. There are forces that act upon us: greed and covetousness, sin and death. He knows that we need food and so he provides both table and food. He knows that we need to drink and so he provides not only the cup but the drink as well. He knows that we need purpose and direction and so he provides us a path to walk and a life to live that we might, in the living of it, give him honour and glory. God gives because he desires us to be with him forever.  That is what makes him my shepherd! He provides for me, feeds me and gives me drink. He guides me in the paths of life and keeps me secure even when I walk through the “Valley of the shadow of something like Death”.

Thus life needs to be regarded as a gift and not as an achievement. We need to live lives that are full of infectious gratitude not ridiculous greed. We need to be content with our lives and free to be without. Instead of being consumers we are free to give and to offer whatever it is that God has put into our hands to offer to anther that they might live in the same way.  Moreover we need to recognize that we are forever pursued and sought by God’s goodness and mercy – every single day of life and ministry God seeks us out and calls us and leads us.  

Let us be open to hear the voice of Him who is the Good Shepherd as he calls us to follow him into paths of righteousness – in to the path of life eternal. And let us be free with God’s goodness and mercy to those who need us to shepherd them to food drink and security.  

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

stop doubting, start believing and live!

Easter first forces us to encounter the dark but empty tomb. There is no Jesus to be easily seen. No flashing arrows with lights to point to the bodily risen Saviour. No early morning fireworks to set off to announce that the transforming work of the kingdom has begun. Not even the blast of a single trumpet to announce that the stone is rolled away. All that there was for noise, was silence. Does that prove the resurrection all by itself? Probably not, though the beloved disciple, when he saw the tomb believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Mary had seen him and spoke to him. The other apostles had seen him. He came to them behind locked doors and shared his peace and presence with them. But not just yet with Thomas – he wasn’t there when Jesus came to them. Thomas remained doubtful in spite of what others were telling him. He could dare to hope that what they were telling him was real. After all he had been there and had seen what had happened. He was willing to do what Peter said he was willing to do. He had been stopped, even paralyzed by fear.

Thomas had been the ideal disciple: quiet, thoughtful, considerate, and committed. He didn’t bumble into anything and was willing to follow Jesus to whatever end. Failure to follow had somehow separated Thomas from the others and so he was not with them to see Jesus when he came on that first Easter Day.  And because of this wonderful news and incredible hope that they offered him he wasn’t content to “just get over it” He wanted for himself what others had been given. He wanted the chance to experience the presence of the risen Jesus like so many others had received. He needs such an experience to help him move from just existing to being really alive.

Faith ceases to be faith when it can be explained. Faith is for those things that are not seen and yet are still so very real. Jesus drives this point home in his encounter with Thomas. Stop doubting and start believing. Thomas was challenged by that and so are we. Believing and having faith is more than an exercise of the mind – it must also move the rest of the body to action. To fully believe one must participate in the life that is to be lived. And that believing comes with the invitation to each of us that we can come and see those wounds and scars. And once we have done that then we can actively proclaim, my Lord and my God!

So are you still paralyzed? You like Thomas are called to come and see. You are free to stop doubting and start believing. You are free to participate in the peace and freedom that Christ offers and you are free to  live the life that he offers you. Come and see it. Then stop doubting, go and move away from the locked doors and empty tomb and go believe it in Jesus’ name.

He is not here. He is risen.

He is not here. He is raised from the dead! Don’t you remember what he had told you while you were with him in Galilee? Luke is the one gospel where angels act as messengers to move people along to the next thing. In this particular case, graveyard angels came to move the people back into community to begin something that was very important to what was going to happen next. The community needed to remember what they had been taught so that they could go to proclaim it. But they needed to remember and to discover that Jesus was faithful to his word. After all, isn’t that why Peter went running to the tomb – to see if all this nonsense was really happening?

If there is something that we need to do in today’s Church, it is to experience Easter all over again for the first time. And we need to stop minimizing the reality of what happened that morning to discovering that Jesus was not in the tomb. We need to make it know that he was not there, he is raised from the dead and that he is with us and that his real and bodily presence with us makes all the difference in the world.

From that moment in the darken tomb and then walking out into the early morning light – there is a change. The old has gone and the new has come. Yes there is still evil in the world and there tragedies along with violence and disease. And at the same time we note that there is now something different going on. Suddenly, at least from our perspective, the dead don’t stay dead anymore. The dead can live again. The things which had been cast down are being raised up and the things that had grown old are being made young and again. Most importantly all things are being drawn again to God and being perfected through Christ, through whom all things were made. And most of all there is hope – a holy certain hope that we will live with God in his kingdom.

Where do you see the risen Jesus this morning? Where do you see him in this community, this Church, this congregation? Can we not see him in one another and thought he breaking of bread? No church can survive by hiding behind lock doors and drawn curtains: we need to be reminded as often as it takes that Jesus in not in the grave – he is risen! And because he is risen there is more to come in terms of life, identity, and creation. All we need do is go and live it with Jesus and in Jesus. Let us do so in his name.   

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It is finished!

It is finished. It is finished and it is accomplished. There is nothing more to do, to offer, to sacrifice, lay down. It is all there. And it is finished! Isn’t that something we like to say – it is done and over with. It really doesn’t matter what it is we think we have done we like to be able to say that it is finished.  A while back a parishioner made a beautiful table which was paid for by another family. The table has been placed in one of the churches of the parish to place offering plates and other gifts on for worship.. I never did see the table being made with my own eyes but I remember the excitement when I was told that it was finished. There were many people who were proud to see it and there was great happiness to see it. But who has ever take the time to consider what it took to get it there.

It is no different with us.  And that’s why Peter is so bold in declaring that he will go with Jesus. He wants to see things through and get things done. His own personal reasons and motivations are only somewhat clear. He wants to be with Jesus to be certain and at the same time he wants to be strong and powerful. The strength and desire he in one moment so boldly declares will in the next moment quickly evaporate because of the possibility that he might expected to follow through on his promise and actually follow Christ to the cross and die beside him.

And Judas wanted to make sure that Jesus used his power and authority to do what he (Judas) wanted. If he is arrested and threatened enough with pain and suffering; if he realizes that his will lead to his death then he will act. Jesus will be forced to use the power God has given to save himself and thereby saving the city and all the Israel. Judas had not let it enter his mind that Jesus might possibly accept and embrace what was going to happen and use it in another way. Like Peter, he was bound and determined to have things go his way. He wanted the Romans gone and to be powerful in his own country. Unlike Peter, Judas was not able to subordinate himself when Jesus expected him to and he chose his own path which would lead to his own destruction.  

And then comes those great words: “It is finished.” No a cry of the dejected man but the triumphant shout of the victor. Everything that needed to be accomplished has been done. Everything that needed to be offered has been given. And so there is one last act to perform and that is to let go into the hands of the Almighty Father, surrendering one last time. This is the moment not of sorrow but of victory. All attempts to justify one’s self have ended. All games to try and perfect one’s self have been rendered to nothing. Here at the end of the road, is the love of God for all of us on full display. What will we do with this King for a day?