Posts Tagged ‘divinity’

Love Wins 4-13-17 (Maundy Thursday)

In this sermon for Maundy Thursday, I explore the importance of the foot washing that Jesus provides for his disciples at the Last Supper.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/4-13-17-love-wins-maundy-thursday

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

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

As we get older, I think its fair to say that bit of advice and wisdom that someone chose to share with us in our younger years tends to stick…and soon enough we find ourselves bestowing that very same wisdom or advice on to others.  I’ve certainly discovered that to be true within the various aspects of ministry that I am involved with.

Some of you have probably picked up on this. When I find myself in a situation that repeats, what comes out of my mouth probably sounds the same time after time. Its true in teaching…its true in preaching…I’ve found it to be true in the proclamation of the gospel in funerals…and I’ve found it to be true in the advice I give couples on their wedding day.

Now, perhaps this will come as no great surprise, but this wedding advice that I pass along was advice given to my wife and I during our wedding ceremony. It speaks to the patient nature of mutual love for one another…especially in situations when we start getting on one another’s nerves…those situations when we let one another down…those times when we just aren’t getting along.

In those times, as we look at each other, and we aren’t feeling a whole lot of warm fuzzies for each other…we need to remember this advice. Even though I don’t like you very much right now…I still love you.

I think that very sentiment reflects the truth about our relationships with one another…because we all fail…we all get selfish or moody…we all get frustrated and angry…and in one way or another we always end up hurting one another…I guess you could call that a true aspect of the human condition. (pause)
Now I was thinking along these very lines earlier this week as I pondered on tonight’s scripture and sermon. This is, of course a familiar passage…one featured every year here on Maundy Thursday…John’s account of the Last Supper, as Jesus gathers along with the 12 disciples to share one final meal…to share in a time of teaching and fellowship…and a time when Jesus will show his love for his disciples by setting aside the position of honor and authority as the host of the meal…and taking on the role of the lowliest servant to stoop down and wash the feet of these men that he loves. (pause)

Now admittedly…Holy Week is a time when I tend to think of all that God is doing…and because of this…when I think about Jesus…I tend to think about his divinity…that Jesus is the personification of God’s literal and physical action within our reality…and throw in the strong focus of John’s gospel on the fact that Jesus is God in the flesh…and for me…it becomes quite simple to forget that in addition to being fully divine…Jesus was also fully human.

Yes, this is God playing host to the disciples at the Last Supper…but at the very same time…this is also a Man.  And just like each one of us…Jesus…experienced the full gambit of emotions. We hear about that in various aspects of the gospels. He experiences joy. He experiences anger. He experiences sorrow and mourning…He experiences frustrations…just like us.  And even though we likely fail to realize…I think its safe to say that Jesus experienced his share of frustrations…even with those he cared about most…even the 12 disciples. (pause)

But despite that reality…Jesus invites them into the meal…and as we have heard, he serves them all.  But there’s one point that catches my attention right at the beginning of this passage. Jesus…knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands…all things. Jesus…knew…everything. (pause)

He knew what was coming. He knew the hearts and minds of those 12 men who sat at the table with him. He knew what they were going to do. (pause) If we look ahead in the story…knowing what’s coming over the course of the next 24 hours…Jesus looked at these guys and I can’t imagine the disappointment he must have felt.  Judas…well that’s a no brainer. Judas would utterly betray him. Judas would be responsible for leading the soldiers to arrest him.  He looks at Peter…knowing that even though Peter is his strongest supporter…he would ultimately deny even knowing Jesus not just once, but three times.  He looks into the face of each and every one of them…knowing that when things get ugly out there in the garden…every one of them is going to run away…every…single…one.

And I can only imagine that as Jesus sat there at the table with them…and then as he got up and filled the basin, and then knelt at the feet of each one of them…and gently washed their feet and dried off…looking each on in the face as he did so…I can only imagine the disappoint that he must have felt…knowing that he has poured his heart and soul into them…teaching them…guiding them…only to have them run away when things get darkest.  (pause) Maybe, just maybe in that instant, Jesus is thinking to himself…Right now I don’t like you very much…but, I still love you. (pause)
That’s the thing…that is what we need to remember…because that’s what this night is all about. Jesus has gathered with those closest to him…these men, who in a few short days, will take over as the core group of his body here on earth…and in spite of any negative human emotions that Jesus must have been experiencing…his love for them as individuals is on full display….and not just for one or two of them…but all 12.

He washes the feet of the men who will abandon him in the garden…He washes the feet of the 3 guys who fail to stay away and pray with him, even though he asks them more than once…He washes the feet of Peter, the one who will deny him…and he even washes the feet of Judas…the one who will betray him…he knows all of this is about to happen and he serves them anyway.

Why would he do that? I think its safe to say that is any of us were in his position….we’d probably err on the side of condemnation…or in the very least shooting a guilt trip at each person for the failure that they will ultimately endure…But Jesus doesn’t do it?

Because for Jesus…who is fully human in this moment…and yet is also fully God…love wins.  Love trumps everything.  We hear this…having loved his own…he loved them till the end…he loved them in the midst of their failures…he loved them through his own death and resurrection…and he still loves them…because we haven’t reached the end yet.

This is the amazing thing about the God that we serve…about the God that we worship…that ultimately…even though this world is dark and broken…and even though we ultimately end up failing one another with startling regularity…God still loves us. And just as he washed the feet of his disciples knowing what was in their hearts, he took the cross for all of us, knowing what is in our hearts.

Now there are times when that amazing news seems so clear…and its so easy to hold on to…to believe…but there are also times when it seems so unrealistic…but you know what…Jesus knew that too…and as he says to Peter…what I am doing you do not know now…but later you will understand.

This gospel that we profess is so utterly and completely mind blowing…that it should come as no great shock that we experience moments of doubt and disbelief. Likewise, it should come as no great shock to us that express this belief that there are many in the world who can’t wrap their heads around the gospel.

This is the reality that we live in…but there is a promise that we can cling to in the midst of all this. Remember the exchange between Jesus and Peter.  When Jesus offers something to Peter…at first he tries to refuse…and then in his lack of understanding he asks for more than he needs. But Jesus assures him in the end…Peter, you are clean…

The amazing thing that we need to remember from this night…is that salvation is not up to us…its not a choice that we make ourselves…because God offers it to us freely…and at the same time…its not difficult…and in the end…salvation is simply about what Jesus has said about you…and what he has said is that you are mine.  This action of action…and this declaration of Christ is not up to you…but it is for you.

And tonight, we begin the final journey that Jesus will endure in order to show you just how far he is willing to go to prove this amazing sacrificial love for you.  Despite any and all failings on our part…he still makes the choice to do this…because when it comes it comes to God…our failures don’t matter…and in the end, love wins.  Amen.

God WILL Be Seen 2-15-15

This sermon is based on Mark 9:2-9, which is the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. In the sermon I explore the confusing nature of this story, and go on to talk about how God will be revealed to humanity just not in the way that we might expect.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/god-will-be-seen-2-15-15

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
For any of you sitting out there today that have spent more than about 5 minutes with me…it will come as no great shock that I’m extraordinarily extraverted. I love people…I love interacting with people on many different levels…but on the flip side, there are moments when I also need to be by myself…just to sit and be.
Some of you have heard me talk about this as well…how my daily ritual involves taking the kids over to school and then before crossing the parking lot to the office I grab a cup of coffee and sit in the living room for a few moments. Now over the course of the past couple of months, with the days shorter and the sun far to the south, my spot in the chair has been pretty dim. But just the other day, I sat down in my chair and discovered to my delight…that as we inch towards spring, the sun is moving back into my line of sight.
As I sat down in my chair…I looked out the big picture window that faces east…and got the full blast of the sun in my face…and it…was…glorious. I instantly felt my face warm up…and I just felt content…but…I couldn’t see anything. Because as wonderful as it felt…I was blinded by the light…that life giving light from the sun. (pause)
And in that moment, as I was basking in the blinding glory of the sun…I felt like Peter…basking in the life giving glory of God’s son in today’s story. (pause) Today’s story features the transfiguration…a moment in the gospel when three of the disciples catch a glimpse of the divine within the man. (pause)
Now our story starts off with a bit of a strange comment…that its 6 days later…ummm okay…well 6 days later than what? And actually, this is a really important question to ask…because if we shift backwards in the story, we find an important exchange between Jesus and Peter…Jesus has asked who the disciples think that he is…they’ve been together for a long time at this point…and in a Spirit-inspired moment…Peter makes the ultimate confession…Jesus…you are the Messiah…but up to this point…all anyone knows about Jesus is that he’s human…truly he’s got some remarkable God-given abilities…but he’s human. (pause)
And now 6 days later…Jesus heads up the mountain…and he brings Peter along with James and John…and in this unique moment…they discover the ultimate truth about Jesus…about the one that Peter has called the Messiah…when Jesus is transfigured before them. (pause)
Now here’s the thing…the transfiguration is kinda hard to figure out….what does it really mean anyway…when Jesus is transfigured? Honestly we don’t get a ton of detail…the original languages gives us just a tiny bit of insight…as we hear the word metamorthey…or metamorphosis as we commonly know it…Now metamorphosis indicates change…a new form…a new appearance…and anyone who has seen the change of a caterpillar into a butterfly knows that this is a permanent change…but just what it is that changes about Jesus’ appearance we don’t know…we don’t hear…and really the only other notion of just what’s happening that we hear about is that his clothes become dazzling white…such as no launderer on Earth could make them. Umm…okay…so apparently this is a white that goes far beyond our comprehension of bright….but that’s all the detail we get.
And so, if you’re anything like me…and you try to wrap your head around just what it is that the three disciples actually witnessed that day…perhaps you find it a bit of a head scratcher…this moment when the divine shines through the human. (pause)
Now I’ve heard a lot of different sermons on the transfiguration…I’ve even preached a few myself…and often times preachers will try to explain it away…they’ll try to help people understand just what’s happening…just what’s being revealed…but you know what…maybe…just maybe we aren’t supposed to understand just what’s going on here…the three disciples sure didn’t…and they were the ones who saw it…maybe what they saw goes far beyond our human ability to comprehend…because not only was Jesus changed…and his divine spotlight turns on….but in the same moment Moses and Elijah show up…the two men that tradition tells us represent the law and the prophets…the guiding principles of Jewish life and tradition are standing here in conversation with the messiah who’s ultimate nature is blinding the very people that he brought with him to see it. (pause)
Crazy huh? That Jesus had actually invited these three guys to come along…and witness this event…this event which did nothing but confuse them…and we know it confused them…because Peter…the very person who had made the ultimate confession of Jesus’ identity, calling him messiah…is now unable to comprehend just what the heck is going on…and promptly puts his foot in his mouth. (pause)
But as Peter makes this statement…Lord its good to be here…let me throw up some tents for you and Moses and Elijah and we’ll all just camp out here for awhile…he’s simply trying to allow himself the time to figure out what’s happening…I’m guessing James and John were probably thinking the same sort of thing…but they don’t get that chance do they…because the instant that Peter starts blabbing…God interrupts…with a cloud that envelops them…that utterly surrounds them…what I can only imagine to be the thickest fog that any person has ever experienced…and their vision is cut off…and the blinding nature of Jesus’ divinity shining through…is cut off…and only then, does God reveal the truth of Jesus identity. This is my Son, the Beloved.” (pause)
And in that instant…when the truth of his identity is revealed by God, the vision is over, but Jesus remains. (pause) Now we don’t know if the transfiguration…the change…the metamorphosis is permanent or not…does he still look different? Are his clothes still blindingly white? (pause) We don’t know…the gospels don’t tell us…and so we come back around to the confusion of the transfiguration…and so maybe, just maybe its okay if we give up on trying to explain it…to understand it…and simply accept that it happened. (pause)
But if we’re gonna do that, then we have to ask the question of just where do we go from here…and perhaps the best answer to that question is to follow the direction that God gave us…This is my son…listen to him. (pause) And what does Jesus say? (pause) Don’t tell anyone about this until the Son of Man has risen from the dead. (pause)
Weird huh? These three guys have just seen something amazing…something that they can’t comprehend…that they can’t understand…you’d think that the first thing they would do would be to talk about it…to try and makes heads or tails of what they have just experienced…but they can’t (pause)
And they can’t…because God hasn’t really been revealed yet…yes it seems as if the divine nature was shining through the human…but we can’t comprehend it…its too much for us…we’re blinded by it just like I was blinded by the sun the other morning as I sat with my coffee cup…the divinity of the Son is blinding to our limited human understanding. (pause)
But if the story of the transfiguration teaches us anything today…its that God WILL…be seen by us. God WILL be revealed to humanity…and the truth of Jesus’ identity…of Jesus’ divinity will also be revealed…but not by sight…because its too much for us.
Peter James and John learned the truth…once the fog rolled in and their sight was cut off…because we don’t see the identity of Jesus…we don’t see God in plain site…its too much for us. (pause) But God will be revealed through Jesus…just not quite yet. (pause)
Today is the last Sunday of Epiphany…three days from now is Ash Wednesday…the beginning of Lent…as we embrace the darkness and begin the dark journey towards the cross…and that is where we find Jesus…that is where we discover God.
Jesus told the 3 disciples not to talk about this experience until he had been raised from the dead…because the truth of God…this God who WILL be seen…is revealed in the darkness that fell as Jesus was hanging on that cross…the darkness that fell as he died. (pause)
This God…our God…this God who WILL be seen is not revealed in plain site…our God is revealed when he shows us that there is no length that he will not go to for us…even to the point of death…and even beyond it. (pause)
So today remember this…we have a God who chose to set aside all traces of divinity and take on flesh as one of us…and there were moments when that divine nature came blasting through in ways that blind us…that go far beyond our ability to understand. So don’t look for the divine to be revealed in plain site…rather, we find the divine…we find the presence of our God in the midst of the darkness…in the midst of pain…in the midst of suffering…and in the midst of death…because our God chooses to enter into it to in order to reveal himself to us.
And we need only to look back at our story today to confirm this…because in the midst of all that happened on the mountain…every confusing bit of it…every blinding instant…Jesus was with them…and when it was over…and they were trying to make heads or tails of what just happened…Jesus was still them…and when they journeyed towards the cross…Jesus was with them…and then after he died, he rose again…and he did this to show them that in the midst of everything, even death and whatever lies beyond it…that Jesus…that God…is with them…and we hear it today so that we know the same truth…that God…is with us. Amen.

Confirmation Questions 4-13-14

The sermon from Sunday was based on Philippians 2:1-11 along with a smattering of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. You can find that sermon here.

The confirmation students posed some excellent questions on their sermon notes, and I will attempt to address them here.

-How can you (or in this case Jesus) be human yet still be God? Is it a 50/50 situation or something else?
This is an absolutely spectacular question, and one that has been hotly debated in scholarly circles since the first century. In fact, it was even being debated while Jesus was still alive. This is why the religious leaders of the day took such offense with Jesus, because he claimed to be God (particularly in John’s Gospel where Jesus repeatedly called himself “I am,” or often translated in English as “I am he.” This is the name of God given to Moses in Exodus).  To answer the second question, it is not a 50/50 situation. Jesus is fully God and fully human. Now just how this works is a great question. Admittedly, I’ll claim the divine mystery answer here. But this passage from Philippians does offer us a glimpse of an explanation. Jesus himself, who was equal with God…fully divine…chose to empty himself of that equality and become human. So during his time on Earth, we could possibly say that Jesus was less than God, because he was obedient to the Father…but I believe this is a mistake to say. I’ve heard it explained that Jesus was fully human “in time” (or while in our present reality) and he is fully God “outside of time” (meaning in the realm where God exists). That being said, I don’t really like that explanation.  I find it most helpful to consider the notion that as a human, Jesus suffered from self preservation and did not want to experience his passion (trial and death on the cross). We see this in the anguish he feels while praying in the garden. Yet, Jesus was obedient to the will of God the Father…a will that Jesus shared…and so he put aside his own desire for self preservation in order to accomplish the will of the Father, which reconciled mankind to God.

-What causes God to love us so much, because He doesn’t have to?
This is another great question…and honestly I don’t have a good answer for it. I can only say that I am humbled by God’s love for me…because He certainly doesn’t have to. Nothing that I (or anyone else) does can earn God’s love…that’s why His gift of forgiveness is grace, its a free gift. But while acknowledging that, I also recognize the incredible blessing that is God’s unconditional love offered to us anyway.