Pastor Kerstin Hedlund (Calvary intern and my former co-pastor) had a favorite phrase about preaching on a text like this. “I got nothing.” There are portions of the Gospel of John that are well loved and easily understood. This isn’t one of them. So how is the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement? The world, and that includes most of us, understands sin to be primarily about behavior but the Advocate knows sin is really about belief – or in this case lack of belief. Of course there is behavior that we can label “sinful” but all behavior begins with what one believes. But before you begin to think you can think your way out of behavior that is less than pure the Advocate Spirit convicts the world of thinking that righteousness – that is being at peace with God and oneself – can be accomplished apart from the work of the Christ. In the God so loved the world work of the only Son God reconciled the world to God’s self. (2 Corinthians 5:19) And the judgment that the Advocate announces is that “goodness is stronger the evil, love is stronger than hate. Light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death…” (Desmond Tutu) The other thing Pastor Kerstin would say is “that’s all I got.” Amen.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
When inward groaning anticipates the cry of new birth the joy anticipated is the hope that endures even if the labor is long and difficult. Even in our weakness, when confused and conflicted our patience wears thin and we know not what to pray, God intercedes for us. Sighs too deep for words match our deepest need breath for breath so that fed by the first fruits of the Spirit our hearts are lifted from despair. In that way the future adoption that is the redemption of our mortal bodies can be known in the present even as a kick in the womb allows expectant parents to imagine the life of the new born they await. Here and not yet – that is the nature this pregnant pause before we know fully the full fruit of the eternal tomorrow.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Psalm 104:20 is the basis of the “Come Holy Spirit” prayer of the Cursillo movement. “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth…” The Spirit filled community (aka the church in all its various forms) is created by the coming of the Holy Spirit to renew whatever portion of the face of the earth on which it is planted. That means the heart kindled with love seeks to refresh the weary with refuge and replenish the hungry with good things even as we care for “all creatures great and small” and the habitats that support them. So the song we sing to the Lord as long as we live is best expressed when the words of our mouth are confirmed by the work of our hands.
Monday, May 18, 2015
It is a lay reader's nightmare lesson and even those who wear the collar often tread lightly in the linguistic territory of “Phrygia and Pamphylia.” But then the confusion of language has spawned more trouble than mispronunciations and divisions that begin with the inability to understand what the other is saying are too often translated into the universal language of bigotry and violence. In whatever way we understand the historical Day of Pentecost the meaning could not be clearer. The lines of language that divide humanity were erased by the “Spirit poured out on all flesh.” Of course the language that was understood on that day was discounted as tongue tied drunkenness but there was a moment when the confusion of the Tower of Babel was reversed and suddenly every tongue was translated into the powerful deed of God that is the cross of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately it didn't take long for the universal language of mercy to be confused and confined and the ability to speak in tongues became more important than understanding what was said. But the Day of Pentecost was not about speaking in tongues. It was about declaring the powerful deeds of God in ways that people could understand no matter where they came from or what language they spoke. Pray God we speak that language again.
Friday, May 15, 2015
If you've read the other Gospels you might agree that John’s Jesus is less than human or if you won’t go that far you might acknowledge that no one in real life makes speeches like the Jesus in John. That doesn't mean it isn't true. It just means that John remembers a different Jesus than Matthew or Mark or the “orderly Gospel” historian Luke. But the purpose of John’s Gospel could not be more clearly stated. “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30) So all this “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together” makes as much sense as “I am the walrus goo goo g’joob”. (The Beatles) unless you understand that believing what cannot be fully understood, namely that the “in the beginning” Word became flesh and dwelt among us, means the beginning and the ending can be fully known in the present in such a way that the joy of the future is fully realized in the here and now. I know it might sound like a less melodic version of goo goo g'joob, but truth is if we could live today as if the forever tomorrow was already here our present might actually begin to look like future God has in mind.