Fifth Sunday of Easter: The Gospel Passage – Jesus gives some final instructions

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14: 1 – 4)

Jesus leaves himself wide open in a couple of places here. I imagine here, at the conclusion of the Last Supper, Jesus was feeling pang of leaving his disciples. They in turn were becoming more fearful concerning Jesus’ talking about what would come next.

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (Verses 5 – 7)

It reminds me a bit of a parent trying to explain to a child (of any age) why they will be apart for a time, and what to expect. Oh the patience Jesus must have had with his disciples as they struggle to understand.

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (Verses 8 – 9)

Even Christians/believers of great maturity and understanding falter at incorporating into their faith that Jesus is God and God is Jesus. Distinct and for the time that Jesus was on earth, two separate Entities/Deities, yet one and the same.

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.” (Verses 10 – 11)

It is hard for us, beloved reader, who have only known our Lord God and Jesus “from a distance.” But then, maybe for the disciples it was even more confusing because they knew Jesus as flesh, as they were flesh. They knew because they had lived with Jesus in the flesh for three years (according to some of the gospels). Eating and sleeping, and all that is part of being human flesh. How, they must have thought, can Jesus be otherwise? And if so, what does this say about the God that Jesus called Father/Parent?

But they saw what Jesus had done, and it could not be denied that Jesus had done more than any other human could have done – more miracles and more compassion. If they could not understand theologically what Jesus meant, at least they could see for themselves that Jesus was something other than just merely human.

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” (Verse 12)

And then, Jesus surprises them again. I have several times puzzled at these words – how can humans do more than Jesus? Maybe it is just rhetoric, something to make the disciples feel better. Or some reason that the writer of the gospel of John had. But I checked in with my “friend” Albert Barnes. He explained it this way – it is not that the disciples (or us for that matter) will do something more miraculous than Jesus. But what the disciples will do (did) is going to have a more far-reaching impact that what Jesus did, considering that Jesus was local; and those who are called, believe in, and act according to Jesus and the Lord God will (and have) spread the word further than when Jesus was alive. But it was not done on the strength of the human abilities of the disciples.

I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” (Verses 13 – 14)

Now, it was not that the disciple (or us) can ask for ANYTHING but those things that align with the guidance and directive of the Divine. And brings glory to the Divine. This rests on the notion of “smart sheep” that I put forth last week.

It is good that the Revised Common Lectionary places these verses after Jesus’ death and resurrection – although it comes in the story before Jesus’ crucifixion. So much is better understood after Jesus was/is revealed as the Risen Lord. The disciples understood better what Jesus meant after it was revealed to them that Jesus was Divine; of course, they had the Holy Spirit given to them to help this understanding. But, beloved reader, we have the Holy Spirit too!

May you, beloved reader, understand what Jesus has to say to you. And may you act upon so that glory is brought to the Divine. Selah!

Seventh Sunday of Easter: The New Testament Passage – “Working” our way to the end of the book of Revelation

See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work.”

In our modern times – that is, in the 20th and 21st century – the message of Revelation is that the end is coming soon, and this is how it will be. However our “modern times” have covered several episodes of end time prophecy – all with the end time not coming. So . . . how soon is “soon”? And how can we know what the reward is? And should we be nervous about how our work will be judged, and how we will be repaid? Just because the end times have not come yet, does not mean they are not coming. And while we may thing that the interpreters of Revelation have given us the answers, those answers are not absolute, and the questions remain.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

God is, an remains, God. We do not know God’s beginning; and I am pretty sure we will not know God’s ending. Boggles the mind just a little bit.

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.”

So, what does that mean? . . . if we are asking questions. From what I can gather it means that one has followed the commandments of God; the washing of the “robes” is not a washing action that we by physical might have done, but something that is conferred on us – clean robes. Or, a clean spirit. And it is because of that we have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city of God properly through the gates.

It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

If there was any question of where the inspiration for Revelation comes, it is in the declaration that it came from God. The God who has been God all through the Old Testament and New Testament . . . so it would seem. In my more cynical moments I have to wonder about the change in the representation of the Lord from the Old Testament to the New Testament. But that, beloved reader, is my own wondering and not one that need occupy your mind.

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.” (Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21)

We come then to the end of the book of Revelation . . . questions answered or not. It is like a triathlon, I think. First, believing that the writer of Revelation actually was taken in body or spirit to see, witness, and write about these things. Second, to understand and discern what is meant by the symbolizes, metaphor, or straight prediction of what will happen. Third, to apply it to our lives. I see this because each time I work my way through Revelation, either the whole book or passage by passage, I feel like I have gone through a “work out.” It is my hope and prayer, beloved reader, that each time you engage in such a worker it leaves you stronger in your faith. Selah!

The Holy Spirit: Re-directing the mis-directed

“And when he comes, he will convince the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is unbelief in me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more.” (John 16: 8-10 )

There was something strange going on with my computer today. When I “woke it up” I just sensed that something was not right. So I poked around at a few things, and “lo and behold” I was right! It took a while for it to get back to “normal” and I had to prod and remind it of what it is supposed to do and how. I am not sure how my computer “goes astray.” It is not deliberate – unless you want to assign a live personality to the computer. (Actually, I am not sure how unlikely that might be!) It could be some update knocked out some of the settings. Another possibility is that something went tiptoeing across the keyboard – things have been suspiciously knocked off my desk lately, and I suspect our indoor cat has been trying to get my attention.

But whatever the reason, it provides a good pragmatic metaphor for today’s article of faith and the accompanying scripture passage. The Confession says, “The Holy Spirit calls people to repentance, convicts them of sin, and leads into the way of righteousness all those who open themselves to the working of the Spirit.” While I was not the “Holy Spirit” to my computer, I did correct it and get it to act the way it should have. And as I said, it was not that my computer broke down, it just was “off”.

How many of us commit little sins, small imperfections? Basically we are good, we just need to make small corrections to be better, to live up to our best potential under God. This is the task of the Holy Spirit. To prod us and remind us of what we are supposed to do – to remind us of the “program” that Jesus brought to us which was written by God.

May you gentle reader be prompted by the Spirit to keep God’s laws and Jesus’ example ever before you. Selah!

Sharing all things with all of creation

“So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us. “ (1 Thessalonians 2:8 )

We had a major event in our household a few days ago. It had its beginnings last spring actually. A cat that had been roaming around our large apartment complex adopted us. Over several months she grew used to us, and finally let us pet her. She came to depend on us for food and affection. She became our “outside cat”, our “porch kitty.” We bought her food on a regular basis, and my daughter and I even put together an outside cat house where she could stay warm and dry during the cold wet winter months. And we grew to love her dearly.

When she first started coming around, we noticed she had a stumpy tail. At first we thought she had had an accident and had lost her tail. But we discovered that there is actually a breed of cat that has a very short tail. Well, after several months we noticed the tail was a bit longer. It was not that it grew, but that having “people” that cared for her made her carry herself and her tail proudly. She was not “homeless” any more, but had people who looked out for her and cared for her. And her tail that had been just a mere bump on her hindquarters “grew” into a respectable cat’s tail.

Well, around the middle of the day I wrote this my daughter went out to catch the bus and saw our dear porch kitty by the side of the complex driveway, apparently a victim of a car. I did not see it myself, but my daughter said it was not pleasant. I rushed home to comfort my children and be comforted by them. There were many tears shed, and even my son, who is usually stoic and taciturn, was moved to tears. It would be hard indeed to face the coming days without our porch kitty.

Imagine our shock, coming back from errands that late that same afternoon to see our porch kitty, alive and well, strolling out to met us. Lazarus himself could not have been more warmly greeted. My daughter said she was sure it was our poor kitty she saw. But as I said, the death was not a kind one. It is sad that a helpless animal met such an end, and I would not wish that on any creature. But we are overjoyed that our porch kitty is still with us. She is now our “resurrection cat.”

I hope seeker you can find the message and the meaning in this, and how it relates to the scripture passage. Compassion and caring for others is not just confined to humanity, but applies to all creation. Shalom!

Now it is ready – Are you?

“God’s plan was to make me a servant of his church and to send me to preach his complete message to you. For ages and ages this message was kept secret from everyone, but now it has been explained to God’s people. [God did this because he wanted you Gentiles to understand his wonderful and glorious mystery. And the mystery is that Christ lives in you, and he is your hope of sharing in God’s glory.] “ ( Colossians 1:25-26 [verse 27 added])

Several days ago seeker (Sept 9th to be precise) we read verse 27 of this passage and I added verse 26 to identify the context out of which Paul was speaking. Now we have both verse 25 & 26, and so we are coming back to complete the considering of what was started 4 days ago. To recap: Paul was saying that Christ is in the Gentiles, and is their hope of sharing in God’s glory. I put forth the idea that the Jews were to be the first believers, and this would lead to others coming to belief. But rather than the whole Jewish nation being corporate evangelists, only a select few (such as Paul) are teachers and missionaries of God’s plan.

Paul says that he was specially chosen, but he was not the only one chosen; Christ’s disciples also spread the word. But beyond that, and beyond Paul’s lifetime – only he could not see it – others would be called and preach in Christ’s name.

On Sept 9th I asked the question, “Have we failed to show forth the light that God gave to us?” If we can honestly say that God’s plan was to have Paul be the servant of God’s church and that Paul alone was sent to preach the complete gospel message, then “no” we have not failed because it was never our calling or mission to begin with.

What a burden Paul must have had, spreading the word of God and Christ as far and as wide as he could. And added on to that, Paul had to ensure that the churches he established continued on, because who would nurture them after Paul had moved on to the next village or town? But if you know anything about Paul’s mission, you know that he taught others how to teach. The two letters to Timothy are ample proof of that, and the number of people he commended to others in his letters is proof also that he wanted the people he taught to continue his mission.

Yes, Paul takes on a great amount of responsibility; but he also seeks to instill into others the importance of passing along the good news. May you seeker find yourself within God’s plan and may you preach the complete message as it was given to you. Selah!

Secrets revealed, Plans unfolded

“For ages and ages this message was kept secret from everyone, but now it has been explained to God’s people.
God did this because he wanted you Gentiles to understand his wonderful and glorious mystery. And the mystery is that Christ lives in you, and he is your hope of sharing in God’s glory. “ (Colossians 1:26-27 [Contemporary English Version])

I included verse 26 because I was having a hard time making sense of the context of verse 27, and I thought it might be helpful to you too seeker. And the CEV seemed to be the clearest translation that I could find.

The writer of Colossians wanted the Gentiles/the Colossians to know that the fact that Christ is within them as well as within God’s people (the Jews) was a great thing. So great in fact that it makes the Gentiles as much God’s people as the people whom God had set apart in the Old Testament.

But I have to wonder, if Christ is in them now, was God not in them before, in the Old Testament? That is, did God mean for the Divine’s presence to be in all people from the very start, and not just in the Hebrews turned Israelites turn Jews?

Oh seeker! This is delicate and volatile stuff! If the Jews were to be the light unto the world, did the “light beams” go astray? We could point fingers, but as the saying goes with one finger pointed outward, three are pointed back at one’s self. Have we, seeker, failed to show forth the light that God gave to us?

Perhaps we should just sit with that question for a time.

May find within yourselves Christ, and may you share the Christ you know with others. Selah!

That was then; this is now

“Remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. “ ( Ephesians 2: 12-13 )

At one time, there was no one who believed in God. Then came Abraham.
At one time, there was no one who knew about Jesus Christ. Then came John the Baptist.
At one time, there was no call to Christian mission. Then came the “Great Commission” and Paul.
And since that time, there has been a lot of preaching, praying, and proselytizing.

Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, is reminding his readers that at one time they had no real hope in their lives. But the ironic thing is that until they had that hope, they did not know they did not have it. You can’t miss what you have not been told about.

At the risk of repeating myself (because I have said this before) we transmit more of the news of the gospel than we suspect. Our actions, our words, our attitude when we interact with others is evidence of what Christians are like. And when those who are “aliens” and “strangers” find out we are Christians, they will asks themselves, “do I want to follow the God this person follows?”

By watching us, they will form their opinion of God, and whether our hope in God and the promise of God are something they want for themselves. They will decide if they want to be strangers and aliens to God, or followers of God. So we need to ask ourselves, what are we “telling” people about God?

May you missional seeker live in such a way that you draw people in, encouraging to leave behind the “then”, and come into the “now.” Selah!

Treasure Found

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. “ (Matthew 13: 45-46 )

What is it that makes us want what we want, and precisely when we want it?

Again the writer of Matthew has Jesus explaining the kingdom of heaven by using the parable of finding something precious, and using all other resources to obtain this one item. In this instance the searcher is one who would be able to discern the true worth and value of the items he came across. Like a jeweler who can spot a rare diamond amongst cubic zirconium, or an art historian who knows a masterpiece amongst copies, this merchant knows the value of what he had found. And this merchant does not want to settle for multiple pieces of lesser value, but desires the one and only that is the best. That is what has always fascinated me about this passage, that is was worth all the merchant had to obtain this one single piece.

I read once a children’s story that illustrated this scripture passage. In the book the pearl was enormous, almost larger than the merchant in the picture could hold in his hands. Interesting to me is that no one else in the book seemed to put the same value on the pearl as the merchant did. That puzzled me too; won’t a pearl of such size be desired by many people? And why would the person who sold the pearl to the merchant be willing to give it up?

And after thinking about this, I conclude that each one of is a merchant, and we judge for our own selves what the “pearl” and what its value is. And the seller of the pearl is the Divine. For who but the Divine would have such a magnificent pearl and be willing to sell it? But in exchange for this pearl we must give up all other things that we think are of value – our own agenda, if you will.

Or perhaps missional seeker, we are the pearl, and it is Christ who has given up his life and divinity to ransom us back from the evil, and the powers and principalities, that hold us hostage. That thought may not fit into your theology missional seeker, but it is interesting nonetheless.

There are many beautiful things in this world missional seeker, and many of them have a high price tag. Our paper and metal money can buy treasures and delights, but these things do not last. May you find the treasure or the pearl that has value that lasts from this world into the next, and may our Lord God use your value to further the Divine’s missional goals. Selah!

Treasure Sought

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” ( Matthew 13: 44 )

There is along the highway past Florence, OR an expanse of beach that I am particularly enamored with. I have written about it before. It is across a wide stretch of bush and grass, and mounds of ground. It is what I consider a perfect of beach. There is no treasure there but sand and surf. I am sure if one would dig in it, nothing would be found but more sand and shells. But that is just part of its perfection.

I have memory of myself as a young child digging in the sand on a Florida beach. I was perfectly content to dig and dig, until water welled up. I would unearth shells and examine each one. Again, perfection and perfect treasures. I desire no fields. I want beachfront property! That is all the treasure I seek. Would I sell all that I have in order to buy it? Don’t tempt me!

But I understand this analogy. When one finds something that is so perfect and completes one so well, the natural impulse is to take any measures, perform any tasks, abandon all other things in order to possess that perfection. There are many “earthly” treasures and possessions we might want. But truly, there is only one thing we should be willing to possess to such an extent.

I have never tried to find out who owns that beach, or even if it would be for sale. And I never intend to. But I am positive that when I reach heaven, I will find there such perfection as that beach – perhaps that beach will be replicated in heaven.

May you missional seeker find everlasting treasure in your life, and may you possess it – and it possess you – completely. Selah!

Shining and Listening: Two examples of missional tasks

“Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”( Matthew 13: 43a )

I want to start with some basic facts about the sun, which is actually a star. The sun which is at the center of our solar system (“solar” meaning sun) is 91 million to 94.5 million miles away from earth. The sun is 4.5 billion years old and has a mass that is 330,000 times of the earth. In wattage power the sun has a brightness of 380 followed by 24 zeros. That’s bright!

Now image each righteous person shining forth with that brightness. And having wisdom that has been accumulated over 4.5 billion years, and having the power and presence that the sun represents. That would be impressive! It would be impossible on earth, but in heaven the righteous will be such a presence.

Let me tell you missional seeker, in the verses preceding this one it is made clear that the “righteous” in this passage are those who have believed and stood firm in God. This passage comes at the end of the teaching on the parable of the sower. So the righteous are not those who have surpassed other believers, but are simply those who have believed. According to this, you, missional seeker, are righteous. You, in the kingdom of God, will shine like the sun! Think about that. Let it soak into your being. Whatever you think your worth is on the earth, in heaven you will be a star! You will be like the sun that is in the heavens now!

“Let anyone with ears listen! “ ( Matthew 13: 43b )

This is a phrase that is used on multiple occasions in the New Testament. At first thought, the implication might be that simply having ears will allow someone to hear what is being said. But hearing and understanding demands a little bit more. Several times the disciples asked Jesus to explain further what he meant. Through more explicit explanation, or by virtue of divine inspiration, Jesus taught his disciples some truths for the coming kingdom.

You, missional seeker, have ears. But do you have understanding? We can hear with our ears, but we can also hear God and Christ with our hearts, souls, and spirits (to cover all the possible options). I pray missional seeker that you might hear with both you physical and spiritual senses. Selah!