Sermons on John
God’s word, the logos, speaks to us each day. Our challenge is to allow Christ to lift the veil for us to see and articulate the truth that is within us and each other. May we see within our relationships the presence of Christ’s healing balm, our salvation, and may we be moved along on our journey, that wild roller coaster of a ride with God, toward a generosity of spirit, which was in the beginning.
There are moments in our lives, sometimes fleeting or seemingly nearly beyond our grasp, when we catch a glimpse of something beyond the ordinary, when everything lines up and everything seems right. We may describe these moments as “being in the flow”, or of a sense of wholeness or peace that overcomes us, or experiencing a surge of newness, or a spark of creativity, or a place of deep and holy nourishment, or stumbling into a thin place. These come to us by grace, for we can never orchestrate them, but only enter into them when they are revealed to us. While in these states, we are experiencing what this Forest Season of Creation is all about – that living place where nourishment abounds, where both birth and death happen, where the life-force is strong, where there is a sense of being held as part of a greater whole.
Jesus made an audacious living promise to the disciples. It still sparks hope, leaves us breathless and wondering – could this be true? In these few words of John’s gospel is the pearl of promise pointing to how we can claim a full life in the face of the fear, terror, panic, isolation, loss, and grief that comes to us. The strain and struggle that comes to us simply from living, that comes simply from the very nature of our being alive in this world.
For the piece we know about God from our passage today is that God has chosen not to be God without us. God’s promise, through this statement in the gospel of John, is that God has promised to love us, to make room for us, to know and be known by us, and that promise never ends, and, with that certainty, there is no reason for our hearts be troubled. When we look within, through the doorways that lead into our hearts and souls, may we find the place of God, the place we have set aside for God, so that our lives may be touched with a peace that passes all understanding, for it is only God who can offer us that comfort. And the challenge to us is to match God’s preparation for us with our preparation for God.
And Peter exhorts them not to give into fear. He suggests rather, in the midst of trials and persecutions for “doing good”, for living as Christ did, to prove themselves faithful to the essence of Christ, with the deep belief that people will recognize that, and lives will be changed. His model for evangelism was, in my summary, “live a good life, by a quiet and steadfast witness to what you believe to be true, and people will want it too and people around you will be changed.”
There are an infinite number of meanings for it. Faith is the foundation for which everything is built upon. I am sure if I were to go around the church today and asked everyone here what your definition was I would get a different answer from everyone and that’s ok. The question I pose…..does your faith continue to grow…….are you open to other views and definitions of what faith means to others and do you respect them? To me faith means being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. It is knowing that I am loved unconditionally beyond my ability to grasp and comprehend it. Let me explain BEING SURE OF WHAT WE HOPE FOR……. I trust our Father to provide everything I will ever need, I remind myself from time to time that God knows me best and what I need. It has been my experience over the years that when God gives me a gift or answers my prayer it is always far greater than I ever could have imagined.
It is noteworthy that Jesus does not come back looking as he did before death. Mary didn’t recognize him until he called her name. Coming back to what we were before is called resuscitation, or being restored to a previous state. That’s not what Jesus was or is about. Jesus is about that continual process of being made anew. This means not changing for the sake of change alone, not changing only to circle around and return to a previous state, but to continually allow to die that which is not of God within us. A spiritual death that leads to spiritual resurrection. For Peter that might have been the shame, or guilt, or anger at himself, which is so easy to hold onto. Peter needed that to die in order to see the new path Jesus was placing him on, of meeting him again, and being filled with a renewed sense of purpose. He wasn’t ready to see or embrace this when he ran into the tomb, but the story didn’t end there.
Within this action is a statement which says that following Jesus is not an onlooker sport, but one which calls us to participate. We must know it and live it. We can’t just be happy that Jesus presented a different kingdom, one of God, one of love, without dedicating ourselves to presenting that same different kingdom to our world today. We must be servants to each other. This is how oppression and systems of injustice are torn down, not through violence, but through service and love. This is Jesus’ message. This is why he died on the cross, to invite us to go there too, into the death of the world as we know it and the resurrection of the world as God dreams.
Jesus had to make a very hard choice four days ago: he could have come to Bethany. He wanted to come, he wanted to heal his beloved Lazarus, he wanted to give this family who had taken him in as a brother the gift of health, but he chose the gift of delay, for now. With the death of Lazarus, he entered into grief in a way which means that he knows our depths of grief, and that means everything to us. It is what makes our tears and heartache holy, the fact that Jesus knows it too, and is inseparable from it.
Lent is a season in which we move past the expected, the conventional, the easy answers and trust that God is drawing us out of the shadows of complacency or comfort and into the brightness of discipleship, so we may see the glory of God around us.
Dialogue happened, lives were changed, and the living water began to flow more freely. This all seems to be a part of God’s plan.
I pay attention to those who come last, for often some of my most important conversations are with people who come “at night,” people who are afraid or feel unworthy to come to me or to our church in the light of day. It is often from the darkness of night, don’t you think, that we bring our deepest questions, or search for some purpose to our lives, other than our mundane existence or routines.