April 22, 2018

Easter 4  April 22, 2018  Ps 23, 1 John 3:16-24, John 10:11-18, John 21:15-25 *************************************************************** Not so many of us are familiar anymore with real-life sheep and shepherding…  Yet the image of the Good Shepherd still ranks high among images for God and Jesus that we treasure most. Many still know the psalm – The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want…Many still resonate with Jesus when he tells us I am the Good Shepherd… I lay down my life for the sheep… Many still remember – We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture… (as Psalm 100 says.) We are the sheep of God’s pasture. Many of us know the words of Psalm 23 by heart…Many find deep comfort knowing –  He makes me lie down in green pastures… He leads me beside still waters… He restores my soul… We say this psalm together in our household almost every night. It’s so familiar… it can be easy to overlook the way the psalm is actually talking about life… as a journey with God. Life with God includes wonderful lying down in green pastures times, and blessed resting beside still waters times. But throughout most of life we’re in motion… following God…as… He leads us in paths of righteousness for his name sake… and… Yea though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death (and sometimes I try to walk a little faster till we get through the darker parts of the valley…) Still, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me… In the psalms, God, the Father of course is The Lord, my shepherd. Like Father, like Son, Jesus continues in the vocation of his Father… tending the sheep of God’s pasture. What wonderful, comforting images we have here, with the Lord our shepherd, and we, the sheep of his pasture… Though now as I hear…. Jesus asking and saying to Peter Do you love me? Feed my lambs. Do you love me? Tend my sheep. Do you love me? Feed my sheep. Saying it three times to make the point hard to mistake – If you love me, take care of my flock. You’re a shepherd now, like me. Follow me! Now like Peter, I’m feeling a little less comfortable…. as I recall our First Letter of John reminding us today  – we’re all going to be like Jesus – doing what Jesus does. Like Jesus, we too ought to be laying down our lives for one another…. And now as we hear Jesus saying he lays down his life for his sheep five times today… I’m hearing the repetition as Jesus’ way of telling us (along with Peter and the other disciples) – we too are supposed to do this laying down of life thing repeatedly…  In the other gospels Jesus says “take up your cross and follow me every day.” Here in John he says “I lay down my life for the sheep”… repeating himself…. repeatedly. Which is typical of Jesus, I know, but…does kind-of  make my image of the Lord, my shepherd… a little less comforting… *** Yet – here in John’s telling of the story, with all it’s discomforting emphasis on laying down our lives for God and one another – all the emphasis on following...

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April 15, 2018

Easter 3   April 15, 2018   Psalm 8, 1 John 3:1-3, Luke 5:1-11, John 21:1-14 *********************************************************** As a fisherman I find it rather amazing – that Jesus, Savior of the world, who knows all about us – nonetheless chooses fishermen, of all people – as his first apostles. How weird is that? The first disciples Jesus calls in our reading from St Luke are all fishermen – people notoriously stereotyped as habitual exaggerators, even outright liars. Yet now here again at the end of St John’s gospel, here’s Jesus – who we might think would have reconsidered choosing fisher-folk, after fisherman-apostle Simon Peter famously denies he even knows Jesus three times in one night. But here again is Jesus – not sending his fishermen back to the minor leagues, nor trading them to Cleveland for players to be named later – but instead putting together almost a re-run of his first calling of his first disciples. Again – how weird is that? St John’s gospel includes only a very little of the content of the other three gospels. And John’s gospel tells the Jesus story in a very different sequence, with some very different emphases. Yet John shares some stories, characters and situations with St Luke in ways that suggest these two gospel writers felt a close gospel kinship, in spite of their different styles of communicating. I’d guess they probably shared drafts of their gospels with each other as they wrote. Since, as any fisherman would notice– All four gospels feature fishermen disciples – but only Luke and John describe the fishermen actually catching fish. And John’s concluding fishermen-fishing story sounds an awful lot like a sequel to Luke’s earlier fishermen-fishing story. Noticing again, how – In both Luke and John disciples have been fishing all night without catching. In both cases Jesus tells them try again. In Luke they’ve quit for the day and are cleaning their nets, when Jesus asks Simon Peter to let him use his boat as a preaching platform. Call it a generous tip, call it paying-it-forward, call it whatever, but – when he’s done preaching Jesus tells Peter – “put out into deep water, let down your nets again.” Now Peter and his partners James and John are into a net-busting catch of fish. In John’s gospel the fishermen, Simon Peter again in the lead, James and John sons of Zebedee again – with last week’s disbelieving Thomas, and Nathanael of Cana who we haven’t seen since chapter one – and two others, un-named – plug-in your name and mine – seven together in the boat – John’s favorite number – seven fishermen together in the boat – likely ready to quit as day’s breaking after a long-fishless-night-on-the-water – when Jesus calls out from shore – “Cast your net to the other side of the boat.” Now in Luke and John alike, huge numbers of fish come flooding into the net when fishermen do what Jesus says. Notice in John’s account, doing what Jesus says works, even when we don’t know yet it’s Jesus we’re listening to. We could say again “how weird is that?” Or – figure there’s authority in the sound of his voice that makes fish and fishermen obey. In each case, when fishermen do as they’re told their nets...

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April 8, 2018

Easter 2   April 8, 2018   Psalm 33, 1 John 1:1-2:2, John 20:19-31 *************************************************** Shalom, Jesus says, Peace be with you. Shalom, he says a second time, adding now – Receive the Holy Spirit. As the Father has sent me so I send you. If you forgive the sins of any they’re forgiven. If you hold onto them – they’re held. As disciples huddle together that first Easter evening, lamenting the absence of Jesus… Here comes Jesus, walking through locked doors, saying Shalom – Hebrew for Peace be with you.  And as God breathed life into Adam in the beginning, now Jesus breathes new life into his disciples… As God has sent Jesus into the world to save the world, so too now Jesus sends his followers… Thomas, one of the original first-round-draft-choice twelve apostles, was away that night. When Thomas returns, the others tell him We have seen the Lord. Thomas tells them Unless I see and touch for myself I will not believe. Now here we are again, a week later, gathered in the same place, doors again shut tight against the outside world. And here comes Jesus again, entering without knocking, saying again Peace be with you. Shalom. Turning to Thomas, saying Put your hands here. Touch and see. Don’t disbelieve but believe. (The word Jesus uses isn’t doubt – it’s disbelieve.) Thomas blurts out My Lord and my God! The best Jesus one-liner in the bible. But Jesus doesn’t seem impressed – he just says Do you believe because now you see? Blessed are those who don’t see but do believe. *** Which has had me pondering this week… Is there really anyone – who has ever really believed… entirely without seeing? Of course it depends on what we mean by seeing. Remember, in John’s gospel seeing rarely means seeing with our eyes. In John seeing nearly always means realizing – getting – what it’s all about… Not meaning fully understanding – but realizing… Jesus is who he says he is – Son of God – Messiah – Christ (same word in two languages). Getting it – that God is good and God is love. Realizing –  trusting in God and in Jesus is the way. Getting who Jesus is – is the seeing that matters. Though for Thomas – seeing with his eyes and being invited to touch with his hands – sure seems to be what gets him on to getting it – that Jesus really is alive. Which, in fairness to Thomas, is also what our first reading from First John says is the church’s basic proclamation about Jesus – we’re testifying to you about Jesus who we have seen and touched. And Thomas doesn’t seem to me to need to see to believe any more than all the rest of the Jesus crew… All of whom except for him have, by now, been able to see and talk with Jesus, alive and risen. And when it comes to faithfully following Jesus, Thomas, if anything, has been above average.  When Jesus tells disciples earlier (in John 11) he’s heading back to metro Jerusalem where he’s almost been stoned to death a little earlier, Thomas is the one who says lets go with him so we can die with him… And of course we...

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April 1, 2018 – Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday     April 1, 2018   Psalm 116,  Luke 23:44-56, Luke 24:1-12, Luke 24:13-35 ************************************************************ Two travelers are talking with each other as they walk along from Jerusalem to Emmaus…When another traveler comes by… and asks what they’re talking about… “Are you the only one around who doesn’t know… all the things that have been happening in Jerusalem?” they ask. “What things?” he asks. “Things about Jesus, of course,” they say – launching into the story of how Jesus of Nazareth – “a mighty prophet of God – the one we had hoped might be the Messiah of Israel – the one we had hoped would deliver us from captivity and oppression… The one in whom we had hoped all our highest of hopes…” “But he was crucified and laid in the tomb. He had told us more than once that he would be executed… But… we didn’t really believe that…. He had said he would be raised from the dead on the third day…We had hoped… even though we didn’t believe, we had hoped…. But… now the third day’s almost over… And we had hoped… But now… all we have for all our hopes is just a strange report from some of the women of our group… who went to the tomb early this morning… And came back saying the tomb was empty – and they had seen a vision of angels who told them he was risen… And… We didn’t believe that…” “How very foolish…” the stranger walking with them says. “How very slow you are to remember all the prophets have said about the Messiah and how he must suffer…  before coming into his glory…” And the stranger talks with them… all the rest of the seven miles to Emmaus – opening the scriptures to them – teaching them what is written about the Messiah… And as they come near the village of Emmaus… the man walks on now a little faster straight ahead… As if he’s going to walk on to wherever he’s going by himself… But they insist – “stay with us, it’s getting dark, day is almost done…”And he does. Now at table, it’s as if he, the stranger, not they, is host – As he takes bread, blesses, and breaks the bread… And they recognize him in the breaking of the bread…. **** Try and imagine – walking with someone you consider your main teacher and guide in life – someone you have put your hope and trust in – and not recognizing him for the whole seven miles you’re walking together… (I’m a relatively fast walker…. and it takes me more than two hours to walk seven miles…) But – we should cut these travelers some slack… Probably they were so deeply disappointed about Jesus being gone… And all their hopes not fulfilled… that even his presence up close and personal… doesn’t quite register – doesn’t quite penetrate their consciousness… And… Probably Jesus had his hoodie pulled up over his hair – his ball cap pulled down over his eyes – his eyes covered with dark sunglasses… Perhaps he was also disguising his voice a little… Having a little fun, messing with his friends minds, and testing their memories. *** I expect these travelers were embarrassed when they finally recognized Jesus. But...

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March 29, 2018 – Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday March 29, 2018 ************************** Reflection Lent began, Ash Wednesday – with the sign of ashes on our brows in the shape of a cross – and the taste of ashes in our hearts – the cries of those slain that day in Parkland, Florida ringing in our ears – with tears of families, friends and people everywhere joined with them in weeping and prayer… Reminded so starkly of our human condition… And the depths of our need for God. Others, around the world, also suffer… just as deeply… But there is something in the loss of a child… that breaks our hearts beyond words… If life lately sometimes feels as if we’re at the end of the world – with the world in disastrous breakdown and perpetual crisis… Probably this is how life felt for Jesus and his first disciples also… that first Holy Week… As if time flowing in all directions – past, present, future all intermingled – as if the world has already ended…  With God our Father’s beloved child… dying on the cross… Yet, Jesus and the apostle’s tell us – this is not the end – this is the birth-pangs of God’s new world coming into being… and… We’re not even formally at the cross till tomorrow – though Jesus has been talking about himself on the cross all the while we’ve been with him… We have see him there already… from many angles… As we’ve journeyed with Jesus through his wilderness temptations and testings… As we’ve journeyed with him vicariously through his years of ministry in Galilee, Judea,  Samaria… And into the holy city, Jerusalem, where Jesus spends his last week, Holy Week, teaching – making ready disciples – to continue his work when he is taken up – lifted up – from among us. Now, tonight, we’re with Jesus at his last supper – hearing again his last instructions – as he prepares to return to God the Father. Jesus reminds us – eat this bread, drink this cup. Eat my body, drink my blood. Do this in remembrance of me. We’ve been reminded by John the gospel writer (as we’ll be reminded by other apostles) – the good Shepherd of the sheep is also the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – also the bread of life who came down from heaven to give life to the world. Mixed metaphors abound with Jesus. Eat this bread, drink this cup. Come to me and never be hungry. Eat this bread, drink this cup. Trust in me and you will not thirst.  The Word of life is also the bread of life. We need Jesus in our heart, mind and soul. We need Jesus bodily also. We need his life, his teaching, his presence with us in our flesh and blood… Jesus has prayed to God the Father we’ll all be one. (He’s even told us we’ll do greater things than he’s done, together. Which is only possible because he will still be with us…) Together we are the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood. Called and blessed to keep making Jesus real for all the world that God still so loves… despite the world’s denial of God and Jesus… Tonight again we’ve renewed our vows...

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March 25, 2018 – Palm Passion Sunday

Palm-Passion Sunday    March 25, 2018   Psalm 118, John 12:12-16, Mark 14-15 ***************************************************************** If we remember just one thing today – I hope it will be – Stay with me – remain here with me – watch and pray – watch and pray. We’ve sung these words spoken by Jesus. Stay with me. Remain with me. Watch and pray with me. One of the simplest things Jesus asks us to do. Yet it can be difficult to stay close to someone suffering. Keeping company with people suffering didn’t come naturally for me. I’ve had to learn by doing over the years. Being willing to share in the suffering of others (of course) is part of our job description as Christians. Jesus tells us love one another. It’s his first commandment. And I’ve learned… being there for people in the midst of difficulties and suffering is a very big part of what it means to love. And what Jesus asks from us is really not so hard, in perspective. Even though I’m a slow learner, I do want to spend time with those I love when they’re  hurting. And the vicarious suffering Jesus asks us to share with him in Holy Week is small indeed compared with his own actual experience. Jesus has been through the worst imaginable for us… And – we’ve already accompanied him to the cross and the grave today. Remaining with him through the rest of this holy week ought to be less difficult. Especially as we understand… The worst pain for Jesus is not being beaten and whipped… nor even the nails of the cross. The worst pain for Jesus…. is his friends denying him and fleeing away… and being left alone. That’s why he asks us – Stay with me – remain here with me – watch and pray – watch and pray. Last week I came across a meditation by Pastor Anne Jernberg (written for Christian Century magazine) about a retreat in a monastery she participated in.  She writes, “I was on my knees in a monastery…. imagining being in the garden of Gethsemane as the brothers and other worshipers and I gathered and sang the Taize refrain “Stay with me – remain here with me – watch and pray – watch and pray” over and over again. It was then that I realized that Jesus needed me to walk with him…” (She continues–) “I had come to the monastery that evening for a brief respite from my studies. I left four hours later with bruised knees, an aching back, a raspy voice and a growling stomach. To top it off, I felt guilty because I didn’t stay through the night. (The brothers began singing that night and continued to sing in shifts until the Good Friday service the following afternoon.)” But, she says – …“I experienced something that night. [As–] Someone read the words Jesus prayed in the garden, “Father if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done”… we were instructed to get on our knees and begin singing. That was it – one brief scripture followed by 18 hours of singing four simple phrases.” “Some sang the phrases through a few times and then got up and left… others lasted longer…. The length...

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