May 14, 2017 – Home on the Road

Easter 5   May 14, 2017   Psalm 84, 1 John 4:13-16, John 14:1-14 (NRSV and The Message)          Home on the Road **************************************************************** How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! The psalmist says. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places, Jesus says. “If it wasn’t so – why would I have told you– I go to prepare a place for you?”…and… All our readings today are about living with Jesus, living with God… (Even the big hairy-gorilla-questions Jesus raises – when he tells us ‘we’ll be doing even greater things than he does’ – and tells us again – ‘whatever we ask in his name for the Father’s glory will be done for us.’ Even these mysterious sayings, at the end of the day, are all about living with Jesus…) But – if it’s all about living with Jesus – all about ‘how lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord’ – why then does Jesus need to tell us “Don’t let your hearts be troubled?” Well… (to be sure…) we’re not exactly traveling in a straight line in recent weeks – as we’ve gone from Easter resurrection… back into the middle of John’s gospel…Looking again at what Jesus has said and done before Easter… but looking now in the light of his resurrection… And now as we hear Jesus say, “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” we may remember he’s giving his last farewell teaching for his followers. His soul has been deeply troubled, we’ve heard, just a few verses before where we begin today, as Judas Iscariot leaves the last supper to go and betray him. But here’s Jesus, telling the rest of his disciples not to be troubled. “Believe in God, believe also in me.” Jesus knows, though his disciples haven’t yet realized… He’s going to die the next day…The disciples don’t understand. But they must sense something terrible in the air… As Jesus says ‘In my Father’s house there’s many dwelling places… I’m going to prepare a place for you.’ The disciples may be feeling their world shaking, like in an earthquake, as Jesus lets them know he’s leaving… Even though he’s trying to be comforting, telling us he’s going before us, to prepare a dwelling place for us. “In my Father’s house,” Jesus says, “there are many dwelling places.” “There’s plenty of room for you in my Father’s home,” we hear it said in The Message translation. “In my Father’s house there are many mansions,” we have heard from of old, in the King James Version. (Noting that in the early 1600s when the King James Bible was first published, the word mansion just meant “dwelling place.”) It was only in later years that the word mansion began to mean a very large palatial residence…prompting poets to visualize heaven accordingly… I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop – In that bright land where we’ll never grow old… And someday yonder, we’ll never more wander… But walk on streets that are purest gold… Probably it’s best not to be expecting gold faucets on every sink and bathtub in our Father’s house. We really don’t know – but – it’s always good to have humble expectations. Still, I can’t help liking the sound of “many mansions in my Father’s house… and… I’m...

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April 24, 2016

Easter 5 April 24, 2016  (Ps 148, Acts 11:1-18, Rev 21:1-6)  John 13:31-35 **************************************************************** Sometimes when I’ve heard Jesus say, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another” – my first thought is – what’s new about this commandment? Isn’t love among the oldest of commandments? (As that country song older than Methuselah says – ‘Ever since time began, love has ruled the world – Even Adam set the pace, started it a whirl...’) And when Jesus is asked what’s the most important commandment, he says‘the first and greatest is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and all your mind”… And a second is like it– “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”’ Here’s Jesus, recycling some very old commandments – quoting first from Deuteronomy, fifth book in the bible, then from Leviticus, third book in the bible. What’s new about this love commandment? But this week I’ve been reminded by our reading from Revelation that God has always been into recycling the old into something new…New creation is one of God’s specialties… And I’m picking up clues to what’s new in the new commandment Jesus gives… As we hear in the last book of the bible about “new heavens and new earth” – and the new Jerusalem coming down to earth from heaven – and a voice from heaven says “see I am making all things new…”And all that’s new is because of Jesus…Risen from the dead and calling us into new life. God’s also doing a new thing in our reading from Acts. Breaking down barriers that have kept God’s people separated for thousands of years. The Jewish people, God’s chosen people, have had dietary and worship laws that have kept others at a distance. These rules all had a purpose… But now because of the resurrection of Jesus the rules are changing… Now here’s God, lowering a picnic blanket from heaven in a vision for Peter – a blanket full of kosher and non-kosher foods mixed together. And when the voice from heaven says “Get up Peter, kill and eat,” Peter says ‘no way, Lord, I’ve never eaten forbidden foods.’ But the heavenly voice says ‘what God has made clean, don’t call profane.’ And this vision repeats three times, making it hard to miss the point. God is doing a new thing. This picnic from heaven is God’s metaphor for bringing people together across all manner of social and cultural barriers. Gathering us together at a shared table. Letting us know ‘love one another’ includes everyone, everywhere. No one’s left outside the love of God.  And this is part of what Jesus means when he tells us “A new commandment I give to you.” *** And – what’s also new in this commandment – as real estate people say – is location, location, location. The original location for our gospel reading is at the last supper. We also read this gospel reading every Holy Thursday. Jesus has just washed his followers’s feet and told us to do likewise for each other. One of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, has just got up from the table, right after Jesus has served him, and gone out into the dark of night to betray...

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May 3, 2015 – We are the branches

Easter 5 May 3 2015 (Ps 92, Galatians 5:22-6:2, 1 John 4:7-16) John 15:1-11 We are the branches ***************** Back when I was in high school, one of my best friends lived in the Grapevine Cottage, so-named because it was once the residence of Ephraim Wales Bull, hybridizer of the Concord Grape (in 1849). There’s a historical plaque outside the house, and every year a few Concord grape historians would knock on the Laire family’s door and ask if they could see the original vine (which, Wikipedia says, is still there, bearing fruit, a hundred-sixty-some-years-after-it’s-planting.) My friend Chuck was a drummer who played with a rock band that rehearsed in Chuck’s family’s basement. Before they finally picked a name, Ephraim Wales Bull and the Concord Grapes was a semi-finalist candidate for the band’s name… We’re talking today about the fruit of the vine. And the idea behind the Concord Grape was to get a good tasting grape that could flourish in New England’s cool climate… And the grape was a great success. It was never a contender to go up against French fine wine grapes – the Concord grape is not something you’d ever try to turn into Cabernet Sauvignon. But with a little sugar added, it became a hit. And today and every Communion Sunday, we Methodists have been drinking Concord grapes in our communion juice, ever since a Wesleyan Methodist named Welch started bottling his grape juice, initially for the temperance movement-influenced Methodist market. But backing up just a little… The Concord grape came into being through hybridization of cultivated grapes with indigenous wild grapes. Which is a bit like what’s happening here in Jesus’ hybrid saying – “I am the true vine, you are the branches.” Jesus combines imagery found in the psalms and prophets of Israel – holding together different strands of the bible in his own unique identity – and here’s Jesus, Son of God, in the center of his hybrid mixed-metaphor. Jesus brings together voices from Israel’s wisdom traditions, which affirm the beauty and grace of God’s created order and the rational nature of human order – and the wild, untamed voices of Israel’s prophets, who spoke in judgement on Israel and the nations. The word of Jesus here is simultaneously blessing and judgement – with Jesus in the middle, mediating layers of meaning. Vine and vineyard are prime biblical symbols. In Psalm 80 Israel is called God’s vine which he brought out from Egypt and planted in the land. Israel laments that God hasn’t duly protected his own vine from its enemies. Meanwhile, in the scroll of the prophet Isaiah (ch 5) God says to Israel, ‘Yes, you’re my vineyard, Israel – I planted you and nurtured you. And I expected good grapes – but you’re giving me nothing but sour grapes.’ And according to the book of the prophet Ezekiel (ch 15) non-productive branches of the vine of Israel are heading for the fire, much like in John 15. (Jesus recycles.) And here’s Jesus, drawing on all these parts of tradition – saying I am the true vine. You are the branches. Abide in me, as I abide in you. Bear fruit befitting the grace God gives. And bearing fruit only happens through organic connection with Christ. Jesus gives this metaphor...

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May 18, 2014 – Fifth Sunday of Easter

1 Peter 1:3-9 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be found to result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:10-21 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. 1 Peter 2:1-10 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable...

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