May 21, 2017 – If you love me

Easter 6 May 21, 2017   Psalm 119 (Portions in hymnal), 1 John 3:18-24, John 14:15-27   If you love me ************************ One of our daughter’s favorite movies is Fiddler on the Roof… (Maybe some of you’ve seen it?) There’s one particular scene in Fiddler our daughter Rohi likes to frequently reenact – in which Tevya, the husband, asks Golde, his wife, “Do you love me?” And he has to keep asking – because she acts as if this is a ridiculous question. He says: “Golde, I’m asking you a question…Do you love me?” She says “You’re a fool” He says “I know… But do you love me?” And this is a musical – the two of them are singing all the dialogue back-and-forth to each other – which sounds better than me retelling it. But I remember this scene vividly mostly because our daughter likes to keep asking, often with dramatic flair, many times a day, “Daddy, do you love me?” “Mommy, do you love me?” And after I’ve said “yes, I love you” a time or two, but still Rohi keeps asking “Do you love me?” … I tend to go into Golde-mode – and try first, ignoring the question, then deflecting it, saying: “Honey, I’ve got work to do.” Or “Rohi, it’s time to get back to your studies.” Or, “We were trying to have a nice conversation at the dinner table… Please don’t keep changing the subject…” But Rohi, like Tevye, won’t give up… And sometimes she reminds me a little of Jesus… Who we hear asking three times today, “Do you love me?” Actually he doesn’t quite ask like this… Til the end of John’s gospel, when he does ask the apostle Peter, three times, “Do you love me? Do you me? Do you love me?” Here today Jesus speaks in declarative sentences, not questions. Though I think the “do you love me?” question is very strongly implied – As Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Then, a moment later, says, “The person who knows my commandments and keeps them – that’s who loves me.” Then when a disciple asks a question, Jesus says a third time, “Those who love me will keep my word – (and) – my Father will love him– (and) we’ll make our home with them.” Adding “Not loving me means not keeping my words.” Jesus says “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” (If you don’t, you won’t.) And maybe it’s a lawyer-ly side of me… But… I have been wondering this week – what does Jesus mean by “keep my commandments?” Because I’ve been remembering how in Matthew’s gospel Jesus says he came to fulfill all the law and prophets, not abolish them. And Rabbis of old added up all the ‘thou shalt’s’ and the ‘thou shalt-not’s’ in the First Testament and came up with 613 commandments. That’s more commandments than I can track. And I know the Ten Commandments are considered a summary of all the other commandments. And we know – when Jesus is asked ‘what’s the most important commandment?’ He says “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength and all your mind… And a second is like it...

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May 1, 2016 – Navigating on the journey

Easter 6   May 1, 2016   Psalm 67, Revelation 21:10, 22-22:2, Acts 16:6-15, John 14:1-7, 25-29      Navigating on the journey ***************************************************************** Jesus is talking about traveling… Going to the Father… And Jesus also says he is the way – and the truth and the life… He’s going up the road to God the Father – going there to prepare a place for us, so we can go to be there with him… And at the same time, Jesus is the way. The way in which we travel… And we’re talking about traveling to the kingdom of God… And earthly travel is our metaphor for the spiritual journey… Our family recently drove down to Virginia Beach – Reah, Rohi, and I, and two of Reah’s sisters, together in one sister’s car, off to visit three aunts and a few other family friends. We used a GPS system loaded on a cell phone… Reah’s sister Nizzi told me you can choose either a male or female voice for your GPS; she picked the female voice. Which pretty much guaranteed I had to address the GPS as ‘Miss Direction.’ I spent a lot of time talking to the voice of the GPS – sometimes thanking her – sometimes arguing about directions. Having grown up in the old fashioned world of maps and compasses and visible landmarks, I still have issues with a disembodied voice telling me where to go… (I’m used to backseat drivers telling me where to go… but having a voice I can’t even see telling me… is more problematic…) And yet, though I hate to admit it – Ms GPS’s directions were better than the map… and my remembrances. The highways seem a bit different since I last drove I-95 south of here… The traffic’s only gotten worse…And Ms. GPS has an uncanny knack for seeing traffic jams ahead – jams she would routinely re-route us around by the best route available. Still, we managed to make a few wrong turns – some as a result of our not hearing Ms. GPS’s directions in time. (When we’d be talking loudly we’d drown out her softer voice.) Other wrong turns were due to us giving a wrong address…And once, trying to get to their brother in New York City, we found ourselves going round and round in thick traffic due to a missed turn… And finding ourselves now heading the wrong way, not yet understanding the “re-calculating, re-calculating” redirecting from our mistake which the GPS had us undertaking, I began to feel lost, like in a scene from Alice in Wonderland, that rather adult children’s story, in which Alice, the traveler, asks the Cheshire Cat: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.  “I don’t much care where–” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. “–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added….  “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.” No disrespect to Alice – or the Cheshire Cat – but if we’re followers of Jesus, of course it matters where we’re going. Random direction won’t do. As believers our ultimate destination goal is always heaven –...

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May 10, 2015 – Family and Friends

Easter 6   May 10, 2015 (Psalm 98, Acts 10:44-48) 1 John 4:19-5:5, John 15:12-17   Family and Friends ************************** As a teenager I remember once saying to my mother “Friends are more important than family – because we don’t have any choice about family – and we get to choose our friends… ” I really don’t remember why I said this – other than that I was a teenager, and didn’t know any better. Maybe I didn’t even realize saying this would be hurtful to my mother… I may have even actually imagined I was simply stating the facts, like ‘this is how it is, in the real world, mom. Family’s ok – but friends are what really matters.’ And my mother, God bless her, didn’t act offended. She heard me out patiently… as if to say, ‘Well, dear, that’s an interesting thought…’ And maybe on some level she agreed with me…Thinking… “Well, yes – sometimes friends are more helpful than family – especially when one’s eldest son is being a rather difficult teenager…” Happy Mother’s Day, and Happy Sixth Sunday in the season of Eastertide. By happy synchronicity, our bible readings today focus on family and friends… Our reading from First John tells us we are the family of God, as soon as we believe in Jesus. And all God’s family – all who love God – must love their brothers and sisters in Christ also. Love the parent. Love the child. Love our siblings. No matter what. And if we prefer the ideal of friends to the concept of the family – not to worry, Jesus has that base covered too. Jesus says “I don’t call you servants any longer – servants don’t know what their boss is doing… I’m calling you friends now, because I’ve let you in on all I’ve heard from my Father.” As a teenager I was perhaps half-right. Being friends with Jesus ranks right up there with being his family. Of course I was also at least half-wrong – in that Jesus makes his friends part of his family. And his family nearly always seems to end up as his friends also. And unlike my teenage concept of free choice in friends, Jesus says we don’t choose him – he’s the one who chooses us. And Jesus says “No one has greater love than this – to lay down their life for their friends… You’re my friends if you keep my commandments…” Even when I was a clueless teenager who didn’t know Jesus yet, I would probably have agreed – there’s no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends… Not that I was at all eager to do this myself. And then there’s the part about – “you’re my friends if you do what I command you.” Which perhaps raises questions, like, if we’re friends, really good friends, shouldn’t that mean friends forever, through all kinds of weather, even if the sky should fall? But then again we remember Jesus also said – “This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.” And the way he has loved us surely does look to be… in all seasons and all kinds of weather… Through it all… And now that I have become a believer and...

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May 25, 2014 – Sixth Sunday of Easter

Acts 17:16-33 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” At that, Paul left the Council. Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others. *** Easter 6 May 25, 2014 Acts 17(1-5):16-34 Making known the unknown God ************************************************ Athens was a challenging place for the first Christian evangelists. Athens had been the cultural capitol of the Western world for more than 500 years by...

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