Friday, April 19, 2013

Hearing the voice, seeing the face, participating in the Life.

Jesus was walking the Porch of Judgment during the winter feast of Hanukkah – the place where people came to seek justice and the judgment of the king. They questioned him as to who he really was and demanded that he speak to them plainly. They wanted proof that he was who he said he was before they were ready to go the next step... whatever that might mean.

“I have told you and you do not believe in me,” retorts Jesus; “the signs I do in my Father’s name speak for me but you do not believe me because you are not my sheep.”

This is an interesting Sunday in that we concentrate on God as Shepherd. It is an interesting Sunday because we are again challenged by Christ to ask ourselves: do we hear him and his voice and follow him or do we only listen to and deluded ourselves with the sound of our own voices?

It is one of the struggles the Church must face from time to time – whose voice are we really listening to? The Master’s voice or our own? I have had to wait and be patient to know that I was listening and doing with my life what the Lord wanted me to do. I have encountered Christians who would, because of who they are as people, have turned me off of Church and all the other good things I have in my life precisely because they had their own form of life and righteousness. Supposedly, they had it together and they were the right kind of person and more so the right kind of Christian.

Over the years, the people who have taught me, who have helped me to hear the Lord’s voice in my life and in my heart, are people who have constantly and consistently reminded me that if I cannot hear Christ, you will not follow him. If you don’t follow him you will not leads others to him and for him. Those people on the portico with Jesus wanted to judge Jesus to see if he was a king worth following and dying for. This is not the Christian way of life. Jesus died for us that we might live with him. Therefore we need to commit to not only saying that we believe in God. We need to actively and physically participate in all that he is calling us to. Part and parcel of that life is to be a member of the Body which is the Church.

We need each other that we might discern the face and the voice of the risen Christ in one another. This helps us to see Jesus in the faces of people in the wider community where he might be harder to spot. When we fail to look for Christ in our companions, in those who are not part of the Church, we will most assuredly miss seeing him at work within ourselves. Seeing Christ at work is only the beginning of faith. Having sought him and saw what he is doing, we then must be compelled to do the same that we might remain with him. After all, our society and culture keep telling us that seeing is believing. It is even truer that they will continue to live it when they themselves have done it.

It is time beloved to move beyond the comfortable pew and into those places and spaces that God calls us to serve as individuals and as community. How will anyone else hear his voice and see his face if we have not experienced God within first?


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Will you Love me?

As I reflect on the Gospel for this Sunday (John 21:1-19), there are two things that jump out immediately at me: (1) we are living a life with “poor” fisherman and (2) there are two nameless disciples who get in the boat to go fishing with the apostles.

Like the story in Luke, John recounts that the men went fishing and though they had laboured through the night, they had caught nothing. On the edge of things, it looks like the fishermen aren’t very good at their work. They had a “waterhaul”. They throw the net in and all they draw from the lake is water. No fish.  But then there is this figure on the beach and after discovering that they had no fish, tells them to throw the nets on the other side of the boat. This was a common thing on the Lake, to have someone on a beach direct the nets. More importantly though, through listening there was a catch. And because there was a catch, there was joy and there was food for others to eat. Most importantly, the net as filled with a great number of fish and yet the net did not break.

Obedience is not an accident. Obedience, learning to hear to know what to do and when to do it is essential, whether it is fishing or it is working to build up a community of the Church through preaching and caring for people so that they can see Jesus. In hearing and experiencing the catch, they recognize who Jesus is because they have been through it before. They have caught fish and nearly sank two boats. And while that was important, in the moment they all knew Jesus. They knew that they knew it was him. Then Peter does an odd thing. He gets fully dressed to greet Jesus and then without waiting for the boat to make the beach, Peter dives into the lake and swims for shore leaving his companions to shoulder the load of bringing the catch in, sorting it out and counting it. Peter greets Jesus sopping wet  but fully clothed. Then the disciples are invited to bring something of what they have been blessed with and to share it in the meal that Jesus has prepared for them over the fire.

Have you ever stopped to consider the purpose of that meal and gathering?  Did you ever consider what Jesus and Simon Peter talked about as they watched the others finish dealing with the catch?  “Peter, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord. You know that I am fond of you.”                      

“Feed my lambs.”

“Peter, do you love me?”                                                             

“Yes Lord, we are friends and I am fond of you”

“Shepherd my sheep.”                                                                  

“Peter, do you really love me?”

“Lord, you know it all. You know that we are friends and that I am really fond of you.”   

“Feed my sheep.”

The reconciliation was not just for Peter with Jesus, it was to make clear to the witnesses that Peter was restored to his position and ministry for what lay ahead. Peter wasn't just restored, he was given back to be effective amongst his brothers in terms of ministry and leadership in the community. Peter has been supported, supplied and sent by Jesus.

Where does this leave you and me? Imagine us as those two disciples. We have been blessed through the support of those around us including Jesus. We have been supplied with what we need for the ministry that we need to fulfill in this community. We have been sent by the Master to make disciples and baptize and teach the lambs and guard each other against the wolves and other dangers.

Do you love Jesus enough to put what you say you believe to the test? Will you live the love you have within you for Christ and with others? Will you agapaos Jesus in others?


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Its Eucatastrophic!

Every group and community seems to have one. You know the one I mean... the realist. Sesame Street has Oscar the Grouch; Snow White and the other dwarves had Grumpy; The Peanuts Gang have Lucy. The apostles have Thomas. These folks kept every one else grounded and real with what was going on around them. And I can remember going to church and hearing sermons that would come down on Thomas for having doubts about what he was being told and demanding the same kinds of proof and experiences that everyone else had when Jesus came through the locked doors.

Thomas wants what everyone had already had – the chance to meet the risen Lord Jesus face to face. When he gets that chance Jesus challenges him by telling him that “Blessed are those who have not seen but yet still believe.” It is a reminder that there is more to faith than knowledge. We can know something. And that knowledge can make us feel secure because we think we know all about it. We are called to more than just knowledge and proof: we are called to faith and to hope. We can trust the things that have been revealed to the Church by God. There are things that we can know. And for the things that we don’t know yet, and for the things we cannot be sure of, there is hope because God is here.
That very thought helped me to learn a new word this week from my favourite author, J.R.R. Tolkien. The word? Eucatastrophe. Now you are probably wondering what that is or what the word means. It is maybe better if I use Tolkien’s own work to help me describe what a eucatastrophe is. In essence it is the unpredicted redemption in the face of an unimaginable loss. Throughout the tales of “the Hobbit” and “the Lord of the Rings” there is on group that constantly comes to the rescue of those who are trying to make things right. So whether it is the eagles rescuing Thorin Oakenshield and his company from the trees as the goblins and wargs attack or as Aragorn and his friend battle the orcs and other monsters at the Black Gate in the great final battle to destroy the Ring and Lord Sauron with it. Sam and Frodo waited for the end of all things when Gandalf comes in with the eagles to rescue them from the Mountain of Doom after the ring is destroyed. Surrounded by molten lava they were redeemed after completing a task that was supposed all along by those who sent them to be fatal.

The disciples hadn't understood that Jesus was going to rescue them after the crucifixion. They believed that with Jesus dead, their ministry shattered and their hopes gone of a Messianic age, they would be next to be sought and killed. There was a lot of “shock and awe” at Jesus’ appearance precisely because they thought no one was going to get in. Or at least they weren't going to get in easily... Jesus arrived undetected and unexpected amongst them in that upper room. It’s the same upper room in which Jesus washed their feet. It’s the same room from which Judas went to betray Jesus and had him over. It’s same room where Jesus commanded them to love each other as he loved them.

And as for Thomas and Peter, neither of them was there for that moment. Each where dealt with in their own way and in a time and manner that was of the Lord’s choosing. Thomas needed to learn to rejoice at what he was being told and Peter will need to learn the price of denial. Both will be brought back within the fold, but on Jesus’ terms.

Perhaps, some of the best news out of the Gospels is that the original followers are shown to be as clueless as we feel at time. They did have it all together and didn’t understand it all. They understood enough that there was a need to have faith in what they could know and hope for the things that could not, at least for the moment, be comprehended. So it is true, “blessed are you who choose to trust even when you have no proof, for your faith will be proven soon.” So go and live the risen life with Christ, for Christ and in Christ.