Monday, May 30, 2011

Just 4 Us? part II

This message follows on the previous post.

John 14:15-21

”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Comments following John 14:15-21

It’s true that John’s vocabulary is confusing and his writing is a bit run-on. The narrator is as all-knowing as Jesus, which let’s us into a unique view of the story of Christ’s life.
We notice that Jesus is a very long-winded preacher in John’s telling. Not only that, but just when he says, let’s be going, as he does at the very end of Chapter 14, he only ‘goes on’ to preach some more. Yes, we all know - preachers are like that.

But don’t let the difficult reading stop you from hearing the tremendous promises in these few verse. As Robyn & Suzanne pointed out, they come in a few key words:

Advocate: we get both comfort AND support, just think of having someone to advocate for you next time you have a dispute with the insurance company. This is a TRUE HELPER we are promised.

Truth: a deep knowing, an understanding beyond words, that the world cannot know like those who follow the Jesus’ Way.

Presence: we are not orphaned, not left behind, but abide with him.
    “You in Me and I in You” (the great equation.)    and

Love: not an emotion but an action. God’s action of loving and including us and our action in living Jesus’ way of including others by our love.

“They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Now it sounds much simpler doesn’t it?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Just 4 Us?

John 14 (several parts of it)

One of the first verbs you learn in any language is ‘to be’.
I am/ you are/ he, she, it is/  we are/you are/they are

Because it is irregular it is not usually the FIRST verb we learn, but we have to get to it quickly because it is hard to communicate without it.

In Greek class, we learned

εἰμί = I am 
εἶ = you are 
ἐστί = he is, she is, it is 

ἐσμέν = we are 
ἐστέ = you are 
εἰσί = they are

We find this verb is key in John’s gospel.
Jesus uses it to help us learn about God by telling us about himself,” εγο εμι,” he says, “I am - the way, the truth and the life” εγο εμι, “i am,”  which is the basic phrase at heart of who we are.

I think, therefore I am said René Descartes. The simple meaning of the phrase is that someone wondering whether or not he or she exists - IS, in and of itself, proof that he does exist (because, at the very least, there is an "I" who does the thinking).[1]1

Of course, the phrase, “I Am” stands above all others in biblical reference because when Moses asks the presence he encountered at the burning bush, who are you? the voice answers, “I am” – “I am who I am”

This ‘I am” is also the heart of Jesus’ message in John. Everything Jesus does, tells us the ‘I Am is Divine Love.” Jesus says, “I AM; believe in me.”

Cynthia Jarvis writes that in John’s gospel, “..believing is not an inward assent, but an outward & active commitment to Jesus.”2 (– and to who HE IS.) But Philip doesn’t understand.        'I am' isn't enough explanation, he wants proof, “Show us” he says. It’s as if Philip is thinking, “I think I know who YOU ARE, but I still have some questions.” And Jesus answers, “don't you KNOW me, by now, Philip?” “Haven’t you seen who I AM?”

We secretly sympathize with Philip and other disciples because we don't always 'get' Jesus either. . . and some of the people who profess ‘to be’ Christians, keep us wondering.
Over the years, religious leaders have equated knowing Jesus with agreeing with church doctrine, OR saying the right words, and doing specific rituals.

And some religious insiders look at outsiders and use these words in John 14 as a test, "do you believe that Jesus Christ IS the Son of God?.." They ask for an affirmation in words, or a statement of belief , instead of seeking a way of BEING.

Yet even Jesus said, if you do not believe in me...then believe because of the works themselves. (V.11) 

Jarvis says, “Perhaps we religious insiders would do better to ask ,"are there others on 'the way' whose lives bear witness to Jesus' works but whose lips have yet to confess his name.- people for whom Jesus is preparing room, even if religious types ..will not?”3 Jesus’ ‘roominess’ is much more open than human exclusion.

“Are you saved?” is a favorite question of fundamentalists who seem to forget that “Whatever saving is done, is God's initiative, not ours..and its only because of who God is.." that anyone is saved.4

A recent author writing about God's inclusive love is getting a lot of attention.
Have you heard about Rob Bell’s book, LOVE WINS?
Some people are excited after reading his book to think that the “road to heaven” might not require jumping thru all the hoops that most Christians require.

Pastor & author Peter Marty writes about the type of Christian who is sure who will get thru Heaven’s Gates; they live in a world of arrogant certainty,
    "Have you noticed how love takes a backseat when self-righteousness is behind the wheel?" he says.
He explains that what begins as spiritual confidence gets converted into theological certainty. Then that certainty gets applied to their account of God, & their faith becomes ideological. Humility vanishes. (&) Innocent people end up being damaged by the arrogance.”5
(I’m sure you have seen it happen, if you haven’t felt it yourself.)

“Other faithful Christians,” he says, “wonder why popular understandings of salvation get uttered in the language of threat, when Jesus so often spoke in the language of promise.”  6
I found myself agreeing with him and I've seen some of you cringe to see Jesus used as a weapon against the non-christian world.

Bell makes some key points in his controversial book.
What kind of Christianity teaches people that we need Jesus to rescue us from the judgement of God?
"Let's be very clear," Bell says, "we do not need to be rescued from God. God is the one who rescues US from death, sin, and destruction."7

But Bell's not a universalist, as Marty points out, "he simply refuses to limit how far Christ's redemptive love can reach."8

It is reassuring to me to know that there are Christians, even those with the ‘evangelical’ label who are thinking outside of the box of limited love.

    Whenever love gets limited, We have to ask who is doing the excluding, humans or God? Especially when the limits are based on the correct reading of verses, praying in the right name, or following the proper practices.

Redemptive love is a gift from God.  I AM love, HE IS love and ‘YOU ARE’ to be love.." The great ‘I AM’ is "love that overcomes the world's exclusions"9

When we believe in the "I am" The questions we ask are not to be of others in concern for what they believe, We just need ‘to be’.
    To Be loving, as Christ loved
    To Be living, as Christ loved
    To Be including everyone that Christ would.

 If we ask anything, it is to ask ourselves, where are we in Christ's equation?

But since you believe in the I AM, the source of all redemptive love, then YOU ARE part of Jesus' wonderful equation:
“I am in my father & you in me, & I in you.

and is that meant just for us? ..... What would Jesus say?

sorry these footnotes are so un-formatted.
i ^ Baird, Forrest E.; Walter Kaufmann (2008). From Plato to Derrida. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-158591-6. ii Cynthia Jarvis Feasting on the Word – homiletical Bartlett & Taylor, eds. (Louisville, WJK, 2010) Yr. A p. 467 iii ibid Jarvis p. 471 iv ibid C.jarvis p.471
v Peter Marty, Christian century May 17, vol 128, no.10 p.22
vi ibid Marty p. 23 vii Bell quoted in above article p.23 viii Marty p.25 ix Larry Bouchard Feasting on the Word Bartlett & Taylor, eds. Theological yr A. (Louisville: WJK, 2010) p.494

Thursday, May 26, 2011


I preached with my iPad on Sunday instead of a manuscript. I keep saying this to commend myself on my technology...but I obviously am not 'there' yet. I deleted the document to save space in my DropBox and did not post it to my blog. Not that every sermon needs to go here, but still.. Anyway, I went looking on my laptop and evidently I had ONLY the DropBox copy. Now, before DropBox, I kept copies on my hard drive, printed, emailed to myself, and on a flashdrive. Somehow, I got lazy or secure and kept only the one copy, a pdf that was still sitting in iBooks. Now I don't have Adobe and can't go in and copy it. But I have something else to post. a mindmap.

I've been using another new program called "Total Recall" to 'map out' my sermons before writing. It's tricky because I can't just copy and paste that text either. But I can email myself the html and paste that into a word or pages document. I then use that as the outline for my sermon. Only I have to be more linear than I would normally, in order for the html to print in the order I need. Maybe I'm defeating the whole purpose of mindmapping. ah well.

Here's last Sunday's sermon, as a map: (based on the previous week's lectionary text, of John 10:1-10)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Been Thinking

I've been thinking, and I should be dusting, but instead here I am, blogging. I want to incorporate internet or social media response to a spiritual emphasis for the congregation and related friends this summer. I was reading a great article today about the changing environment for churches. It's nothing new for me as I've been reading this stuff for quite some time, but as I read, I was confronted with the fact that not everyone in our congregations is aware of the dramatic shift in Christianity here in "post-Christendom" times.
I'm thinking about a weekly post based on Anthony Robinson's '3rd way' article for Alban (and related book)
which we'd distribute by email, blog, and web and about which people would be encouraged to respond in like fashion. I would also print a few copies of each post on PAPER and have a couple PAPER journals for the folks who don't have internet. What do you think? Could it actually stir up the conversation and advance ideas about what the 'church' needs to do?
Will it allow us to reflect on whether we are still being faithful and what it means to 'serve Jesus' or even be a 'witness'? I sure hope so, perhaps I'll present some of these ideas later this week at a meeting. For now, I guess I'd better dust. . .

Monday, May 16, 2011


Steve & I were prom dates b/c we were the kind of friends that could just be together, even when dating other people. (We are the seated couple on the right.)
Last night I heard that a dear friend from high school, (Gary) Steve Newman had died. I found myself thinking, "Only the good die young." While still searching for information about a service for him, other high school friends are finding each other on Facebook. The pictures are shocking because they look vaguely familiar. They are familiar because I'm in them - yet also so vastly different than the 'me' of today. The 40 years have held many other friendships, including marriages for most of us, yet a few minutes with these pictures takes me right back. Even seeing Tom's picture reminds me of what is past, as he was the first of our group to die.
 So today is for memories and reconnecting. Perhaps by tomorrow there will be more information. I hold Steve's wife Barb in my prayers & their kids and grandchildren. I can't imagine how difficult these next few days will be.  (and if any of my HS friends have her phone #, please send it to me in a message.) Barb was Gary/Steve's soul-mate. He even wrote it on his company web-site when talking about who he was. Barb was his best-friend AND wife. I remember how happy they were at their wedding and can only imagine that same joy as each child was born. Most recently he sent me pictures of their newest grandchild. He was overjoyed.     I'm full of memories & some tears. Memories - of all kinds, are today's fare; of 'the gang' from TRHS So. & No., of friends, here and departed. Rest in Peace, my friend.

I'm upper left, Steve is middle right.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A message to Let's Move Brethren

I find this emphasis slightly troubling. While it is fine to promote healthy eating and exercise, to do it in terms of 'preventing childhood obesity' labels a whole group of kids and makes them more of a target for bullying. We all know that heavy "fat" kids get picked on. Now, whole organizations are making the demeaning of "fat kids" legitimate. I remember my pediatrician telling me, "we (medical professionals) don't really know all the causes behind obesity." He prevented me from putting my kids on any kind of diet. They were in the 100%+ percentile from the day they were born. They were breast feed for years and continued to stay in the 100+ range long before ever consuming the first bite of food (or being able to do more than role over).

At a time when denominations are joining in anti-bullying messages, please don't let this campaign go beyond healthy eating and exercise! Labeling the obese kids as "bad" is not the way to help children thrive. Please, tread lightly on these poor children's souls, they suffer enough due to the genes they have inherited. Churches should be a safe place of acceptance, not another place to be viewed as unacceptable.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Because He Lives

It has been quite a week for news. Perhaps you’ve heard enough about Osama Bin Laden’s death.                         His burial at sea, the potential for & denial of photographs, and even the hoped for interrogation of his wife has filled the airways, newspapers, & internet.
It got me thinking again about how quickly we get news and how insatiable is our appetite for more information. How did you hear the news?
Were you watching TV that evening or
did you see it on one of the morning news shows?
Did you happen to hear it on the radio? …were you in your car?
Or do you read your morning news ‘on-line’?
-- I read that the website for the Newseum, a museum in Washington devoted to journalism, was inaccessible for many visitors Monday as thousands of people flocked to it to see how newspapers around the world handled coverage of the terrorist leader's death. The website posts digital replicas of front pages of hundreds of newspapers every day.
-- The site was processing more than 2,800 requests per second when it became overloaded. Traffic started to peak at 3 a.m. Eastern time when Europeans woke to the news. It grew again at about 6 a.m. when people in the Eastern Standard time zone awoke to the news.

Perhaps, like me, you first heard on Twitter?
I had already shut down & turned off - the night before when the president announced the news but it was one of the first tweets I saw when I "plugged in" Monday morning.
I soon began to see reactions on Facebook and all day long there was a stream of emails and links to blogs where people were commenting on the death and the  nation’s reaction to it.

Maybe you picked up the morning paper and read the story:
(I wonder if the morning paper readers were the LAST to hear the news?)

We have quite a different news stream in today’s world than in times past.
There was A time when news was written down before publication.
A time not that long ago when letters – hand written letters – were the primary device for sending news.

I've been reminded of how much communication has changed as I read a book based during WWI. The technology I take for granted, even telephones, are relatively recent developments
A hundred years ago isn’t very long in human history. It is within this century that innovations allowing fast, instant, communication have come about.

Back in the day, Peter's day, and those who followed Peter & continued the tradition in his name, shared news orally. Local information was carried ‘on the run’ literally and stories told or information shared.
For more worldly news, they had to rely on letters that were written out and hand delivered. The letters were then recited out loud and they were cherished, savored,  expected to be shared.

We know from scholarly investigation, that reading in the 1st century was an oral process. Letters like 1 Peter, were written to be read aloud, performed is a more appropriate concept. This is the way that early Christian communities heard the latest news.
In another hundred years, things changed for Christians.
By the. 2nd century, Clement of Alexandria commends Christian authors who "speak thru books above those who are present” which meant they orally presented the words of a letter writer. A hundred years changes a lot and for the 2nd century, the literate reading industry of the privileged few became for book producers, the technology of the future. (yaghjian p.218)[i]

It is hard to imagine waiting months or longer to hear about events. For us, It seems strange to wait even a day to hear the result of some action. Remember how frustrating it was in the 2000 election not to know who the president was for days?
It is more to our liking to get the news immediately after Bin Ladin’s death was confirmed. There was no waiting for the next day. A news conference was held at 11:30 because the people need to know ….and after all word was already out on Twitter.
But today’s instant communication means we also get unfiltered reactions. Perhaps we are closer to the early runners who delivered news around a community. The immediate words and responses that came across Twitter and Facebook were very fresh and some were quite raw.

As I read reactions, tweets, and news blips, I began to wonder about what I heard.
For instance, one person wrote:
“I was at the White House last night (Sunday night) celebrating the death of Osama Bin Laden. It was crazy with people climbing light poles, songs (someone brought a drum set), singing our national anthem, people climbing in all the trees right outside the White House, chants of USA, USA, USA, and just a great celebration with Americans for justice and freedom. Many foreigners there as well! There were probably 4,000-5,000 people there. The celebration was still going on at 3:45amEST when I went to bed.”
There were numerous responses of joy, relief and general rejoicing that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. I wondered if initial reactions in the religious communities would be any different. – some were just as jubilant but
One friend on Facebook wrote about her confusion, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel, she said, but I’m pretty sure it’s not patriotic."

Then the official reactions began:
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, released a brief written statement reacting to the news. “In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred.”

NCC response: The death of Osama bin Laden is a significant moment in the turbulent history of the past decade. It does not eradicate the scourge of terrorism nor does it bring closure to the grieving and pain the world has endured since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, for which he was the primary architect. The National Council of Churches deplores and condemns the extremism he personified, the twisted illusions that wrought years of violence and evil. Now the member communions of the National Council of Churches pray for God's help as we commit ourselves to moving forward together as witnesses for God's love and peace.

I remembered my friend’s Facebook post and wondered how other anabaptists were reacting.
Jarod McKenna, the Australian who has come to love Brethren since he spoke at NYC said he got up and put on his On Earth Peace t-shirt that says, “When Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies,’ I think He probably meant, don't kill them.”

A Brethren Church website had the following reaction at the end of a more lengthy post:
“This blog leaves unanswered some very serious questions about the church’s response to evil. Those will come another day. For today, I simply say this: If you find yourself celebrating the killing of a killer who celebrated killing, beware.
In a world where violence is everywhere, silence and humble reflection seem the better options.” (Central COB Roanoke)

We don’t have all the answers to evil in the world, nor will we always respond like Jesus did, yet shouldn’t his life, death and resurrection make a difference in the way we Christians respond to violence?

The message communicated in Peter’s letter warns us to live in reverent fear, even if we are trusting in the final judgment to take care of terrorists. We ourselves should remember that we too will stand before the same judge. These words are not to make us afraid, but to remind us not to think we have a close, cozy relationship with the Almighty.
As my OT professor said, “God is not your friend.” Peter’s letter reminds us that God is the One who judges all people impartially, not by their theology but by their lives.[ii]
This letter is not the instant communication of someone’s RAW feelings but a well-thought out treatise that brings the mystery of the resurrection into the everyday lives of Christians living 60 or more years after Jesus’ life.             We need this relevant message too.
The author show us why Jesus resurrection makes a difference FOR today.

We read (somewhat casually) about being ransomed – which is not a concept we use unless we hear pirates have kidnapped someone. The surprise is that we are ransomed from our own futile ways. There is real urgency in this communication.
We are ‘saved’ from our gut reactions and raw feelings of revenge and blood lust. It is because of Jesus, that we can live & act as a different kind of people. . . (pause)

We may feel much like our neighbors, or even like those who climbed light poles on Sunday and wrapped themselves in the flag.
HOW WE ACT, tho, is determined by another priority.
Our ransomed state TURNS US TO TRUST GOD and God alone, for our security.
Our ransomed state molds us into obedience to the truth and turns us IN LOVE toward our neighbors – ALL of them.
Even those expressing RAW FEELINGS we don’t care for and toward those who swear threats against us.
This is where we need the GOOD NEWS of this Letter. .
Peter’s author reminds us that we are ransomed from captivity to our own broken wills.[iii] We now live with the fundamental orientation of our lives toward God.[iv]

Because Jesus lives. . Our love CAN be for BOTH friends AND enemies.
We CAN ACT lovingly until we are so transformed that we even FEEL that love.
Our rejoicing isn’t about death, but about new life; the new life that Christ offers when we are born anew.
We can take our raw feelings and ask Christ’s spirit to help us act loving EVEN when we feel hurt and anger.
Because He lives, We can risk making Jesus the very foundation of all we say and do.
Our words & deeds should look different than the world’s RAW messages -

We really CAN live like we take Jesus seriously, …because he lives.

[i] The Social Sciences Richard Rohrbaugh ed. (    )
[ii] Boring & Craddock the People’s NT commentary (Louisville, WJK, 2004) p. 728
[iii] Stephen Edmondson, Theological Feasting On The Word, Yr. A Bartlett & Taylor eds. (Louisville, WJK, 2010) p. 416
[iv] Joel Green, exegetical ibid p. 417

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Too Tech?

Can you be too techy? My family might enjoy having that conversation with you. I sit here typing on my iPad using a blogger app while importing a birthday cd of mp3s to my laptop iTunes so I can sync it with my music on my iPhone OR listen to it in my car in which the stereo will play mp3s directly. My only concern is the wires and so I wait anxiously for cloud syncing.

I keep finding things that challenge me to think about ways to include new (increasingly common) technologies in worship and church- life. This week I missed a webinar (an old fashioned visit took priority) on twitter in church life. It will be available next week for replay so I'll catch it then. (& include a link to a future post if it is good.) I'm about to view a video from Kimberly Knight's post on; "wired for ministry". I think Day1 has us all scooped and I will be following their trends as I am able.

What is your experience? How are you using Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, & other blogs in your ministry? What have you seen that you can share? Back to syncing for now.