Posts Tagged ‘Divine’

How Is God Revealed 5-26-19

In this sermon, based on John 14:23-39, I explore a bit of Jesus’ farewell to the disciples at the Last Supper. This is, perhaps, odd here in the Easter Season, but is still fitting.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

May the grace and peace of our Risen Lord and Savior be yours, now and forever. Amen

Every once in a while, we need to toot our own horns…we need to recognize something important, or even special about ourselves. This is good to do for our own mental health and wellness…and so I’m gonna toot my own horn for a sec.

I pride myself in being pretty sharp in most situations.  I’ve got a quick enough mind that I can usually make connections and figure things out pretty rapidly…and I’m proud of that fact. (pause) But…there are exceptions to every rule…and I wonder if anyone else can relate.

Have you ever had a situation where you were utterly slow on the uptake?  A time where you just couldn’t put the pieces together? Where something that should be obvious…for whatever reason, just wouldn’t click?  If so, you are in good company.

I’m thinking back to summer of 1998…my second summer on staff up at Ingham Lake Bible Camp…and a bit of relationship dynamics.  There was a good friend that I knew from the previous summer…and I knew that she had a new boyfriend…and I also knew that this mysterious new boyfriend was on staff for the summer over at the Okoboji site…but what I didn’t know was who he was.

Now, we cycled through the first few weeks of camp, along with the subsequent weekends of free time…and I had noticed this guy from Okoboji who had spent the weekends there at Ingham a couple of times…but I had no idea who this guy was…until finally…after WAY to long I realized…OH…that’s the new boyfriend…which caused pretty else on staff to reply “DUH!!!!”  Admittedly, not my smartest moment.

But you know what, I can’t help but think that I’m in good company…and this same sense of not quite being able to realize, or to recognize the truth of what’s right in front us…it seems like the disciples share it too…in fact, I can’t help but think that just about everyone who was walking around Israel in the time of Jesus was facing this exact same issue. (pause)
Now the passage that we have shared today is a small portion of Jesus’ final words to the disciples at the Last Supper.  Following this time, he’ll be arrested…and then killed…and then he’ll rise again and appear to his followers off and on for about 40 days until he’s taken back into Heaven on Ascension Day.

And this whole batch of teaching…this back and forth exchange with the disciples…it features a few questions.  You’d think that after 3 years together and all they had seen and heard and witnessed and experienced…that the disciples would be able to connect the dots…but instead…we find evidence of ongoing confusion.

It starts off with Peter…who’s listening to Jesus talk about the new commandment to love one another…by this everyone will know you are my disciples. (Slowly raise hand) Uh…Jesus…where are you going?
(facepalm) Ok Peter…let me explain…and Jesus goes on.

A minute later Jesus tells them “you know way to where I am going.”  And now its Thomas (slowly raise hand) Uh…Jesus…we don’t know where you’re going…how can we know the way? (facepalm)  Jesus goes on…talking about how they already know the Father, because they know him…and this time its Philip (slowly raise hand) Uh…Jesus…if you show us the Father, we’ll be satisfied. (facepalm)

Suppose Jesus is getting irritated yet?  This time he carries on for a little longer, before one more question from Judas…not that Judas…the other Judas…because Jesus has been reminding them of the connection that they share through him…and through him with the divine…and that as he departs, he will not leave them alone but will send the Holy Spirit…and that through the power of the Spirit, God will abide with them…and then he reminds them of the importance of love for one another…and that in the expression of love, that’s how God will be revealed…and with that, Judas (slowly raise hand) Uh…Jesus…why do you reveal yourself to us and not the world? (facepalm and pause).

I’ll be honest…I half expect Jesus to just blow up on these guys…throw his hands up and head out to find a new batch of followers who might figure things out before his arrest a few minutes later….but that’s not what happens…and instead, we have the subtle reminder from Jesus that we are to love God and love one another…and that this will be possible because of the presence of the Holy Spirit among us and within us…that is the promise.

Now, it probably makes sense that Jesus would remind them of this…that he would continue to share it at this point…just before his death…but it also important for us to be reminded of these same words here at the end of the Easter season.  This Thursday is Ascension Day…the time when Jesus’ bodily form leaves earth, before the arrival of the Spirit 10 days later at Pentecost.

We can call this a lot of things…a goodbye…a parting shot…acknowledgement of the way things are going to change…but at the same time…while many things are changing…some things are staying the same…and one of those universal things…both in this back and forth between Jesus and the disciples, as well as the countless interactions that we’ve heard in recent weeks from different people who just want a straight answer about Jesus and his identity…not to mention 2000 years of history where the church has continued to wrestle with many of these same questions.

Who is this God? Who is this Jesus…What is the Holy Spirit?  What does it mean to love our neighbors? What does the peace of Jesus look like?  Seriously…how many questions can we raise just from this short little passage today?  Tons?  And when we consider all of scripture in its entirety…the list would probably be unending.

But you know what…that’s not a bad thing…Jesus doesn’t get upset with the disciples when they fail to connect the dots…he doesn’t get irritated when they come up short, lacking understanding…because I think Jesus knows that when it comes to faith…or the divine…or the action of God in the world…we’re just not capable of making all those connections…its bigger than we are…its beyond us…but…Jesus also welcomes the questions.

And I think that’s the take away today…that faith doesn’t mean everything is cut and dry…following Christ doesn’t mean that every question is answered and can be recited in some meme-worthy sound-bite.  Faith is hard…and making sense of Jesus’ words and the scriptures and the ongoing action of God in continually inviting our reality forward…its confusing.

But can this be a place where those questions are okay…where we can ask them confidently…and together we can explore where those questions might take us?  Is that what Jesus is talking about when he says that the Holy Spirit will teach us…and will remind us of his words? Is that the sense of peace that he’s going to leave us with? A peace in knowing that its okay to not know?  Maybe…I hope so. (pause)

Its funny…because this brief little passage is one that reveals the Holy Trinity to us. Jesus is speaking of the Father…and he is speaking of the Holy Spirit…all three…but we know how confusing that three in one God is don’t we?

That was a question that kept coming up in Confirmation this past year…because Jesus is God…we learn that in the opening verses of John’s Gospel…but if Jesus is God…who’s he praying to? And does that somehow mean that Jesus is his own dad?  And how’s the Spirit of God connect into this whole thing?  We went round and round with that question…and we never came up with a satisfactory answer…even if the truth was staring right in the face…but maybe we don’t have to.

Maybe the peace of Christ is the assurance that we don’t have to get all that stuff figured out in order for it to still be true…maybe all we have to do is remember the command that Jesus gives us over and over again…to love one another.

Because that’s how he answers Judas’ question. How will you be revealed to the world?  Jesus says, love one another…that’s how you keep my word…and in doing so my father and I will dwell among you. (pause)

You know love is hard…especially in those moments when our selfishness ramps up…and the love that Jesus keeps talking about…its Agape love…which is perfect, all in, sacrificial love…and we all know how hard that is…but maybe, just maybe, when we see or feel or experience those tiny little glimmers of that agape love in the midst of our brokenness…well then we get a tiny little glimmer of the presence of the divine dwelling among us.  (pause)
How is God revealed?  That my friends…is a good…question. Amen

This Seems Significant 4-14-19

In this sermon for Palm Sunday, taken from Luke 19:28-40, I explore the celebratory nature of the day, and yet remember that celebration might seem a little premature as there are dark days coming. Through this, we find the importance of looking for the significant in the little moments.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

May the grace and peace of our Triune God be yours, now and forever. Amen.

To start things off today, I’d like to share an odd little story…may seem a bit strange, but I’ll ask you to bear with me.  Earlier this week, I think it was Wednesday or Thursday…I was home at lunchtime…just sitting in my chair watching a tv show…and I happened to look out the window at just the right time…and what I saw caught my attention.

Right out here…towards the corner…there was a pickup truck right in the middle of the street…not moving…just sitting there. I have no idea what was going on…maybe the driver had pulled off to take a phone call or send a text…and due to the lack of traffic here on our street in the middle of most weekdays…they felt confident that they could just stop right there without any issue.

Now for whatever reason…as I looked at this truck facing my general direction…it put me in mind of the way a full grown bull will stand there…squaring off in an intimidating fashion…with a sense that says “you’re not gonna move me” and “if I wanted to, I’d come mess you up.” Anyone who’s spent any time around bulls knows what I’m talking about…it was weird…but that was totally the sense that I got in this moment as I looked at that truck just sitting there in the middle of the street.

But then, the moment passed…whatever had the drivers attention must have been over, and I watched as the truck starting moving, and drove off down the street. Now, I’m the type that tends to share moments when they strike me as significant…and often times its with one of my oldest friends who’s got a pretty good handle on how my mind works…and so I picked up my phone and texted him about the crazy sense that I had just experienced.

His response back to me a moment later, “Dude…you find metaphors and significance in really weird places.” And he’s right…and I’m guessing many of you have probably noticed that same tendency, as I often use odd little stories of real life situations that seem to point towards a connection with the scripture lesson for the day.

But you know what…my preaching style aside…I can’t help but think that this is a good thing to pay attention to. The little moments that catch our attention.  The images that we see in nature…or in art…or the emotions that occur when we hear a song or a familiar voice.  Those little moments that point us towards something more…those things that reveal “truth” in one way or another. (pause)

So now that I’ve got you thinking along those lines…go ahead and tuck that away in the back of your mind…we’ll circle back to it…and let’s get into the text for today. (pause) Palm Sunday…the Triumphal Entry…an oddball little moment here at the tail end of the season of Lent…the kickoff of Holy Week…an event and a story that we hear about every single year.

Jesus, finally reaching the city of Jerusalem in what he knows will be the final week of his life…a time which corresponds with the ultimate Jewish festival of Passover…he’s bringing his ministry to a close here. Now we know that Jesus has quite the following. He’s attracted enormous crowds. He’s performed miracles. And now more than 100 people fall under the category of disciples or followers.  And they are tagging along as he approaches the city from the east.

Two dudes get sent off to the neighboring village to find a donkey’s colt…Jesus preps them for a tiny bit of questioning…which seemingly gets handled without issue…they bring it back…toss their cloaks on it…Jesus hops on…and they lead him down through a deep, dark, steep valley, and then back up again towards the city gates and the temple mount.

Seems like the crowd is pretty into it too…as they spread out their cloaks over the road in front of Jesus…the other gospels telling us about the palm branches getting thrown around that gives us the basis for today’s label…a bunch of people in the crowd are cheering…actually rattling off some old school prophecy with their shouts of “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” But we also hear that some of the crowd isn’t quite so gung ho…and they try to shush things up…going straight to Jesus himself…even buttering him up just a bit. “Teacher…rebuke your disciples…order them to stop.” We hear that and then Jesus seems to give the celebration a thumbs up with his statement that “if they become silent, the rocks will cry out.”

That’s our story today…now think about it…think about our perspective of Palm Sunday and the Triumphal Entry…I think its safe to assume that we hold a sense of celebration don’t we? That this is party…that pretty much everyone is in a jubilant tizzy over Jesus coming into town like a conquering hero.

But there’s more going on than that isn’t there? First of all the donkey’s colt…that’s a weird touch…because any triumphant hero is going to be a chariot or riding a big fancy war horse…not some spindly little donkey baby…and yet that was what Jesus lined up…doing so in a way that fulfilled the prophecies uttered so many years before.

But what I find interesting about this whole deal is the tension that’s lying underneath it.  Luke presents this far more than the other three gospels…in each of the others, he pretty rides into the city…the crowd cheers…he gets there…and that’s about it.  But Luke reminds us of the opposition…that there are some present who aren’t quite so happy with this guy fulfilling prophecy about a hero entering the city to shouts of blessing on the king.

That distinction is present in the original language, with the plethora of Jesus’ disciples cheering for him, while the faceless mob produces the ones telling them all to hush up. (pause) Now…I can’t help but think its our tendency to just paint those naysayers as the bad guys…but reality was probably a touch different wasn’t it? Because real life isn’t always cut and dry is it?  Issues that plague us…decisions that we make…they are very rarely black and white…life’s a whole lot messier.

Keep in mind the setting. Passover is coming up…the most important Jewish festival…and not only are countless Jewish people coming in to the city…but the Roman authorities are present too. They’ve got extra patrols there just to make sure that the locals don’t get too rowdy…especially considering the history behind Passover…a festival that literally celebrates liberation from conquerors.

Now imagine what’s gonna happen if the Romans, who are the current conquerors of Israel catch wind of some random guy attracting a crowd and getting call King at a festival intended to celebrate liberation. Probably not gonna be a real popular idea with the Romans…and maybe, just maybe the Pharisees who ask Jesus to quiet down the crowd are aware of this. Maybe they’re trying to keep the peace and make sure this doesn’t turn into a bloodbath. Maybe, they actually have good intentions behind their actions…things are getting a little messier aren’t they?

But you know what…that’s life isn’t it? Life is messy.  Every aspect of it…and our own individuals situations…the troubles that we are facing…or the joys that are lighting us up…these things shape how we experience every moment…including this one…and I wonder if maybe, just maybe that’s what Jesus is hinting at when he makes the statement “If these were silent the rocks would cry out.”

I’ll be honest, that statement has been grabbing my attention all week as I’ve been working with this text…and I couldn’t really put my finger on why until I remembered that oddball little exchange with my friend about seeing significance in weird places.

You see…my first thought about the rocks crying out is the idea that all of creation speaks to the glory of God…and it does. Seriously the world is an amazing place…and if we stop and pay attention…I think we begin to experience the wonder of it all…and not only that, but maybe just maybe we also realize the truth that’s present clear back in Genesis when God takes a look as says “that’s good.”

But you know what, it goes deeper than that…because I believe that God has blessed us with amazing minds that find connection in so many amazing ways.  And often, if we allow our minds to do so…we begin to see connections with our faith…and with our God who made all of this in the first place…and there’s a word for that sort of thing…Incarnation.

Often times that word gets used strictly to describe God becoming human…and that’s not wrong…God did become human…God put on flesh…God did dwell among us…but it goes farther than that too…because once “THE INCARNATION” was over and the resurrected Lord returned to heaven, we were given the assurance that through the power of the Holy Spirit, WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST…

And that means that each of these little moments that reveal a truth to us…those images or those sounds or those interactions with one another…whatever they are…they reveal a little bit of God to us…and that’s how our faith puts on flesh…because our lives of faith are NOT just 45 minutes or an hour that we spend sitting in these pews on a Sunday morning…our lives of faith are lived 24-7…and truly ALL of creation speaks to the glory of God…even in those moments when we can’t quite understand just what that Glory actually means. (pause)

This is the sense that I hope you hold within you this week. Today is Palm Sunday…one that we usually connect with celebration…and that’s ok…even if it might feel a touch premature as we think ahead to what will happen this week…but this is my prayer for you…that you would somehow experience that which is divine within the quiet moments that you will experience this week.  I pray that your eyes and your heart are open to that which the Lord desires you to experience…and that throughout the course of this week…from the cheerful joys to the fearful rebukes of Palm Sunday…to the solemn goodbye of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday…to the horrific torture and pain of Good Friday, all the way through to the utterly unexplainable joy of Easter Morning…through all of this, may your hearts be open to what seems significant. Amen