February 25, 2019 – The Light and Life of the World- John 8:12-20, Psalm 118:19-24

LightofWorld

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.”  Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.  You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.  Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”  They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”  These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come. John 8:12-20 (ESV)

The Pharisees had a hard time wrapping their minds around Jesus. They were so concerned with the finer points of the Law that they missed the purpose for the Law and the Scriptures.  They were so busy navel gazing and worrying about tithing their mint and spice that they missed the very one who they claimed to be waiting for.

Jesus and His Father (two Persons of the Trinity) both testify to who Jesus is, and the Pharisees couldn’t stand the fact that when Jesus says that He and His Father are one that Jesus is claiming to be the promised Messiah, the Son of God. To the Pharisees, Jesus was a blasphemer of the highest order.  The thought that the lowly son of a carpenter that many of them may have known when He was younger, was claiming to be God was purely offensive to them.

As offensive as some may find Jesus, the cross, and the cosmic truth that there is nothing we can do to dig ourselves out of the situation we inherited from our first parents, the fact remains, He is the light of the world. He is the only way to salvation.  Nothing came into being apart from Him. Apart from Him there is no light, no life and no truth.

We can be a bit harsh on the Pharisees, but sometimes we miss Jesus too. We fail to see Him in our unforgiveness and hardness of heart.  We fail to see Him in the suffering of our neighbors.  We fail to see Him beyond the brokenness of our world.

Jesus did not come with glitter and gold and fanfare. Jesus did not come surrounded by conquering armies.  He came as a simple human to all outward appearances, but also as God clothed in human flesh.  Save by the gift of faith, we cannot see Jesus just as the Pharisees could not see who He really is.  The Father must draw us to Jesus.  We pray for the eyes to see Him, a mind to know Him, and a heart to love Him.

Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. 

I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:19-24 (ESV)

March 19, 2018- Show Me Jesus- Psalm 4, John 12:20-25

show me Jesus

Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

How long will you people turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?  Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.

Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord.

 Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?” Let the light of your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound.

 In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4 (NIV)

 

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival.  They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”  Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:20-25 (NIV)

The human condition is such that we have all experienced the “dark night of the soul.” People who live with anxiety especially know the fear that seemingly comes from nowhere and grips one in the middle of the night. Panic attacks and night terrors are not logical, nor are they pleasant, but in the midst of them we can cry out to God and cling to Him, knowing that He does hear our prayers and He does have mercy on us. The Good Shepherd we learn of in Psalm 23 truly does walk with us through the valleys, even through the valley of the shadow of death.  Even though we can at times be terrified, (with rational explanation or not) Jesus is with us, in us, and through us, even in our terror.  He has defeated the things that terrify us.  Death no longer has power over us- let alone the lesser things that vex us. See 1 Corinthians 15:54-57.

There is a prayer (St. Patrick’s Breastplate) attributed to St. Patrick in which he affirms:

Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

The Greeks in the passage from John 12 came to Philip and asked to see Jesus. Jesus may have surprised them in what He told them- that to gain your life you have to be willing to lose it.

Some of the most miserable people on earth are also some of the most materially wealthy. There is a saying that “money buys one the misery one likes the best.” Many of us would like to test that theory!  The reality is that we are made in God’s image- God Who is a gracious and generous God.  When we give of our time, talents and resources from the overflow of a grateful and loving heart, we fulfill the purpose God made us for- to be His hands and feet here on earth.

It’s not always easy to surrender our lives to serving God. It means we have to sacrifice, just as a farmer or gardener has to sacrifice to sow seeds, tend and weed them, and harvest the crops when they mature.  Nothing worthwhile is easy, but we remember that Jesus came and lived on earth, died on the Cross and rose from the grave so that we may have abundant life, (John 10:10) not just in the world to come, but now too.

It may sound simplistic to say that if you want to see Jesus you have to be willing to be Jesus.  For the hedonistic Greeks it meant they had to espouse a lifestyle of sacrifice and sharing instead of one of opulence and being served by others. We are not Jesus of course, but as His people we are called to be His hands and feet here on earth. Martin Luther actually said we are called to be “Little Christs” here on earth.  We know that He is before us, beside us, within us, and that He has already conquered sin, death and anything that can cause us fear.  He is with us to bring us peace, love and joy- to spread around now and in the world to come.

 

May 5, 2017 – Gone Fishing -John 21:3-4

fishing

“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.  

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize it was Jesus. John 21:3-4 (NIV)

This story sounds like us so much of the time. We have a hard time seeing and experiencing the presence of God all around us, so we just do what feels comfortable or right, or what we always have done.  We live our lives, and do our thing, and we don’t see Jesus even when He is right in front of us.

Sound familiar?

So many times we wonder where Jesus is in those “dark nights of the soul,” those times when we are frustrated or in pain or despair. If only we could see that He is right there in the center of it all, and that He knows our disappointments, our fears, our doubts and our frustrations, but so many times we just don’t see Him.

The disciples had the same problem, and these were guys who hung out with Jesus for years. They ate with Him, walked with Him, lived with Him, but they still couldn’t see Him in plain sight.

So why sometimes do we just give up on the plans God has made for us and decide to go do our own thing?

Do we lose our patience with God’s timing and His way of doing things? Or do we see His way of doing things as just being too unreasonable or too difficult, like the prophet Jonah, who didn’t want to go to Nineveh and tried to run away from God instead? (See Jonah 1-3)   Do we really think that running away from God is even possible?

Thankfully Jesus meets us where we are even if we just give up and “go fishing.” He meets us not to shame us or make us feel guilty, but to encourage us, and to put us back on the path for which He created us.