The Practicality of Forgiveness

05.31.20

Judaism, like many other religions and faiths, uses the festivals and other times  of remembrance to teach and remind the followers of the events and moments that not only define their faith but also reveal the character and nature of God.   

One series of defining holidays is the Shalosh Regalim (Shall-lah-sh Raw-gal-eim) which involves three significant festival observances.  All three of the these, prior to the destruction of the second temple, required that Jewish believers in Judea to take a pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem.  All three have a foundational element of harvest gratitude and recognition – all three also have very significant remembrance and recognition elements from the Israelites past. All three concentrate on the start for the Isrealites, when they became a ‘promised people’ and when they officially became followers of the one true God 

Pesach (pee-sock) – Passover -is the most significant of the three holidays.  It is the observance of the release from Egyptian captivity and slavery following the sacrifice of the lamb to protect the first born males from death during the final plague.  It is a celebration of God’s deliverance from slavery, it is a recognition of the physical freedom of the Israelites.  The Israelites officially became a ‘people’ during the time of slavery so this was the first taste of freedom of this ‘people’ of Abraham and Jacob.

Shavuot (Shavoo-ot) takes fifty days after the celebration of Passover giving it the informal name of ‘Pentecost’ meaning fifty.  It is the fifty day period between the exodus from slavery of the Israelites and the day that Moses received the Torah (the Law-Books of Moses, first five) from God on Mount Sinai.  While the Passover recognizes the physical freedom granted to the Israelites, the Shavuot (Shavoo-ot) remembers the moment of Spiritual Redemption.  God gave the law, God made them His people.  

In the study of their religion, Jews commonly rely on the Midrash to understand and comprehend the Torah; the resource that we, in Christianity, have that is most similar is our commentaries that come from learned experts who study and write to enhance our understanding of the Bible.  On Midrash thread of teaching is that God actually offered the Law to all seventy nations of people that were on the earth at this time but only the Israelites accepted it.  Among the main reasons for rejecting the gift from God was that it restricted murder, adultery, and theft

Sukkot (sue – coat), often called the festival of the booths or tents, is a recognition of the time the Israelites lived in tents while wandering in the desert following after the giving of the law and the refusal to enter the promised land up to the moment when the second generation trusted God and entered the land. The significance of this time wandering was the time during which the Israelites learned, and decided to, depend solely on God.  Sukkot (sue-coat) is celebrated at the end of the harvest in an observance of God’s provision of the crops. 

Today, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Shavuot (Shavoo-ot)), Pentecost, forty days after Passover, the last moments of Jesus with his followers until after the cross and resurrection, and ten days after the ascension of Jesus to return to heaven.  Since the 40 days and the 10 days add up to ten, and because the day was already called ‘Pentecost’ or ‘Fiftieth’ we simply call the day Pentecost Sunday.  It was a day when thousands of the faith of Judaism had made the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the holiday of Shavuot (Shavoo-ot)).  They were in the streets, at the temple, they were everywhere. And, ironic as it may sound, they were there to remember their redemption with God.

What a day for the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, to come.

Everyone was in the streets except the 120 followers of the crucified Jesus Christ.  These followers were hidden in a room, somewhat fearful, somewhat joyful, very cautious and hesitant, and totally unaware of what was about to happen.  They were Jesus followers who, at this very moment on this official day of Shavuot (Shavoo-ot)), were doing exactly what Jesus had told them to do prior to his ascension – he had told them to wait.

They were waiting for the promised Paraclete, the helper, the advocate, the encourager, the one that comes along side, the Holy Spirit – they didn’t have a clue how and when this was going to play out, but, since they trusted Jesus – they were waiting.  They had been waiting for days, now, as the crowds in the streets grew, as the noise of the foreigners became more and more loud, 120 now unacceptable people were on the edge of their seats, the anticipation, the excitement that was only tampered by their fear, was at a climax.

Then something began to happen in the room, suddenly the noises from outside were eclipsed by the noises entering the room.  It was as if hundreds of horses and chariots were rushing towards them, the place seem to shake and then it was as if the room could no longer hold them, they were pushed out into the crowd.

Not only were they now doing exactly what their fears told them not to do – don’t be noticed, don’t be seen. Now, they were even talking, now they were publicly sharing, they talking about Jesus, calling him the son of God, calling him God – the exact things that made you noticeable, the exact thing that could get them killed.

The was also the exact things they had learned and better understood during their forty days with Jesus following the resurrection.  The exact things their 40 day crash course with Jesus had been about – to learn and understand what Jesus had taught them through his words and actions before the crucifixion….the things they had worked to understand and the things they now knew, these were the things they were now sharing.

This was not remaining invisible and unnoticeable, it was painting a large target on their back and yelling ‘Here I am, come and get me!’  Even though they were speaking to foreigners who spoke different languages, it was still a very risky move, and even more risky.

The thing was that they couldn’t help but speak, they were speaking truth, and truth is something that is difficult not to share with others.  This was the core of their lives, they had to share because they not only had truth but they also had experienced love.  That love had taught them compassion and mercy, they cared about the unknown foreigners.  You cannot help but share love with those you love – even when it is dangerous.

It wasn’t just that they were talking, but that this truth and this love they spoke of was visible to the foreigners, not just through words but through their lives.  Love translates in all languages, even if you don’t understand the same words.

There was one more surprise, the foreigners were the first to recognize it, they could understand the 120 excited individuals.  Some in the crowd just wrote the 120 off as drunk, but thousands did understand, it was as if they were speaking this foreign language to the very foreigners that spoke that language.  It was a message that could not be dismissed, it was the truth they had been looking for.  It was the message of redemption on their holiday that observed God’s gift of redemption. 

This was the beginning of the Church.

It was the Holy Spirit who made that loud arrival, it was the Holy Spirit who enable the willing foreigners to understand this foreign language, it was the Holy Spirit that gathered a new community that day, it was the Holy Spirit that enable the truth of love, the truth of redemption, the truth of forgiveness, the truth of God to a people who had been looking and hoping for it on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. 

As usual, there are significant words through which we can better understand this event of Pentecost, this day that enables us to grasp the truth of our redemption.

Today we have six words:

Fear and Peace

Receive and Filled

Retain and Forgive

Fear and Peace

Let’s go back to that moment in the locked room on the day of Jesus’ resurrection.  The women had not yet made it to the fearful disciples to tell that the tomb was empty and that Jesus was alive – nor had they heard that they had seen and spoke with Jesus.  All they knew was that they had deserted Jesus after he was arrested and now they were being hunted as accomplices of Jesus.  They were huddled in a room fearful for their life.

As they hid in the room, with the door locked, Jesus appeared.  Not a ghost but Jesus – he didn’t need a door.  In the middle of their fear he appeared. As his presence pierced their fears, Jesus said the word ‘Peace’.

He then showed them is wounds and permitted them to touch him to discover that he was indeed Jesus and that he was alive.  It was this moment that the disciples transitioned from being students of Jesus, students who followed him to learn, now they connected the dots….this was the son of God, God himself, their Savior, the Messiah.

This was the beginning of Christianity.

They believed, they accepted him, they embraced him, they trusted them with their life and they trusted him for life.  They still had a choice, being made in the image of God, and they now, each one, made the choice to follow and to trust.

Where as, just moments before, they could only see their fears.  The reality of their situation and circumstances had become a roadblock to see and understand what they understood from their final days with Jesus.  Roadblocks do that, they block your path, they keep you from moving forward.  All they had seen was the large sign that said ‘Road Closed – Go Back’, and now the sign was gone and they could move forward.

Jesus first word to the disciples had been ‘Peace’. The same word that Jesus spoke earlier to the women.  Jesus’ call is for us to all live in peace, regardless of our situations or circumstances.  This is an inexplicable peace that is only possible when Jesus is our focus and our core, he is our stability and balance, he is the anchor we hold to.  Peace is always the only way we can leave the fear of the hiding room and past the roadblock of fear.

Receive and Filled

As Jesus revealed himself, in the security of the locked room, to the disciples, they now believed. Their faith was now grounded on a sincere and full acceptance of Jesus as God.  As they accepted the divinity of Jesus, they also received the Holy Spirit. For the Spirit, too is God.  It was the Holy Spirit that enabled them to have the peace that would permit them to leave the room, it was that peace that, later, will enable them to wait, even as fear is outside in the streets.  In the same way we received the spirit so we, too, can leave the room of fear and move into trust, a trust that goes beyond our circumstances and situations.  It goes beyond the noise in the streets. To believe and to receive is our choice, it is an action choice, Jesus said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’

Later, almost fifty days after Jesus breathed the Spirit into the followers in that locked room, we see them once again in a room, with scary unknowns waiting outside.  Their presence in this room is not out of a fear that has them running away, instead this is a presence that is because they are running ‘to’.  This peace, that is not because of their own strength, is only because they now have the Spirit, they are now able to trust and follow Jesus’ words to ‘Return to Jerusalem and wait.’ Scary, sure, but there they are, and soon they are outside.  The Spirit not only ‘comes along side of us’ but the Spirit is also strategic.  On this day, the followers needed power, a very strategic confidence that would not only push them out in the street but permit them to do what they naturally desired to do, speak truth, speak witness, to love and care for others by showing love and compassion through their very existence.  The Spirit enabled them to be seen when their gut said to run and hide, to be invisible.  The Spirit did not, and does not, take them over, they were not now puppets, the Spirit did not take away their ability to make their own choice, even to respond in fear, but the Spirit was along side them, and, in this moment of need, the Spirit gifted them with a power to live like Jesus, to share the truth of Jesus that they had worked to know an understand, and the power to be heard and understood.

Retain and Forgive

Back in the hiding room following the resurrection after the disciples received the Holy Spirit, Jesus intentionally said two other words – ‘Forgive’ and the word ‘Retain’.  It was a word that defined the greatest roadblock, or the greatest freedom, that would exist in their future, in their ability to follow Jesus and to pursue the mission he would place in front of them.  

Jesus spoke to the hurts and pains they had endured at the hands of others, he also spoke to their own weakness and actions that caused them to want to hide and ashamedly desert Jesus. Others hated them but they hated themselves even more, they resented their own actions as much as they resented the crowds.  Jesus told them they had to let go, they had to release, their own painful actions as well as the hurts caused by others.  This was the immediate roadblock they needed to address.  Retaining their forgiveness of self and others, they were holding on those offenses. Whether it is your own offense or those of someone else – the process of retaining, of holding tight, to offenses of self and others keeps us from seeing Jesus and from seeing his peace, his hope and his love – it keeps us from following his call. Retention of forgiveness keeps us from letting the Spirit strategically fill us when we need the filling most.

The opposite of word ‘Retain’, ‘Forgive’ is the most practical of words.  As we let go of our grasp and cease holding back forgiveness, we also let ourself move forward.  As we can see beyond the roadblock of unforgiveness, of resentment and pain, of shame and regret, we can begin to see Jesus, we can live in peace.  Peace and Forgiveness, Love and Hope, are all connected, they work in tandem to permit us to move on and forward rather than to run away and hide, to be able to give and receive love, to see the peace and hope that is there regardless of our circumstances and realities. 

Forgiveness grants us freedom and a path ahead.  No longer do we have to tightly grasp and retain our forgiveness, no longer is it our focus –  as we release we are able to receive the Word that Jesus says before he says anything else – The beautiful and freeing words – PEACE and FORGIVE.

We are living in a time of Fear and Great Unknowns. We hear the problems going on outdside of our locked doors.  Disease, Unrest, Violence, Hatred, Racism, Panic, are all overwhelmingly loud and shaking the buildings where we are hiding.  God is still saying Peace, He is still the God that is Love, He still wants us to see past the roadblock of fear to see Hope, He is still with us in through the Holy Spirit who is still coming Along Side of Us.

What do you need to release?  Who do you need to forgive?  What roadblock is hiding Hope? What voice do you need to listen to?

Existential Eavesdropping

05.24.20

As Jesus completes his final words to his disciples, he begins to pray.  Intentionally, Jesus prayed within hearing distance, for the disciples to eavesdrop.  It wasn’t that Jesus’ prayer was just an extension of the talk he had just given his disciples, because, it was probably the most sincere and passionate prayer that Jesus had ever said to God.  Like so much of the responses, reactions, and even actions that the disciples had witnessed while  watching Jesus for the past three years, this prayer was real, and, it was a lesson.

Jesus was praying for his disciples, as well as praying for himself, and even for us.  The enormity of this teaching moment, however, is that they were witnessing a intimate moment between the father and son, an intense moment of a human with God.  It was truly an existential moment for everyone able to eavesdrop (this includes those that were there as well as us over 2,000 years later.

Our passage and the entirety of John chapter 17, often referred to as The High Priestly Prayer, is introduced by John in the first verse with the words:

‘After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven’

‘These Words’, the words we see in the dialogue detailed in chapter 16, in  the midst of a tragically heavy moment, are actually a bit humorous.  In many ways it reminds me of our Tuesday Bible Project as we ask questions and often end up with even more frustrating and continuing questions.  

Listen to a few of ‘These Words’ of Jesus and his followers:

‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.’

‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little   while, and you will see me’

‘When a woman is in labor, she has pain’

And his disciples honestly asking each other, 

What does he mean?’

To which Jesus replied, 

‘Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant?’

And then, as we get closer to the prayer, Jesus begins to speak in a clear manner, 

 ‘I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.’

The disciples said,  

Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.” 

Jesus answered them, 

‘Do you now believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will  leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

In words we have questions, In words we find answers.

Now we know – The disciples were ready to eavesdrop on the existential prayer..

And….Jesus prays, ‘Father, the hour has come…..’

It had been almost three years since Jesus told his mother that ‘it is not yet my time’ and now, almost three years time, it is time.  It was time to return to the place and position he had held since before creation, it was time for Jesus to complete his mission and purpose on earth, it was time for Jesus to glorify God. 

It is time

Jesus prays for himself, for all that is about to happen on earth and in heaven.

Jesus prays for those who have walked with him as they face the coming hours and days of horror and confusion, but even more for the remainder of their earthly lives as they approach the world with the unacceptable truth.

Jesus prays for us, followers who did not experience first hand moments with the Jesus, God in the flesh, but nonetheless, have stepped onto, and into, the Way that is Jesus.

Two Words 

This morning we focus on two words that are prominent features or this intense prayer uttered by Jesus, and overheard by his followers.

Glory and Unity

One Proclamation

‘This is Eternal Life’

Let’s begin with the word Glory, or as a verb glorify or glorified

Praying for himself, Jesus said, ‘glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you’

Praying for those who had a first hand experience with Jesus and would become the leaders of the followers, he said, ‘I have been glorified in them’

Praying for us, he said, ‘The glory that you have given me I have given them

As the apostle Paul sought to explain Jesus to the Hebrews he used the word Glory this way:

Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being

Hebrews 1:3

Glory is on of those words that we are free to use but not so easy to define.

In Medieval times artists would depict the holy glory of biblical character, especially Jesus, with a halo around the head immersed in light, or sometimes there would be a light over the person.

As we look at this prayer of Jesus, we see that this word glory is used most often as a verb, an action word….something was done.

So, What are these glory actions?

Jesus explains the glory that he has already given the father by saying, 

‘I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do’ and ‘I have made your name known’

Also, in the context of this moment, in the shadow of the cross, we hear him say to the Father, ‘glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you’

In making these three ‘glory’ comments, Jesus defines what it is to glorify God, it is to show God, it is to point to God, it is to speak the truth of God.  As we see in the apostle Paul’s statement, Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being – everything Jesus did, every embrace he gave, every acceptance that he offered, every truth he shared, every concern he addressed, every time he brought peace in the midst of chaos, in everything, he gave glory to God by revealing and showing, and living out, the truth of God.  In his very presence there was glory, not because of a light over his head or a voice coming down from heaven, but in the life he lived. In life he gave glory.

Now, as he prays, he asks God to continue to show and reveal God’s glory in Jesus through the cross and the return to his holy seat.

His disciples glorified Jesus, by seeking, and striving, to live as he lived.  To accept the challenge to show Jesus to the world.  In how they lived amongst people as well as how they lived when they were apart from people, the hospitality and love by which they encountered people, the compassion and mercy they showed in the moments with people, the truth they sought and shared with all people.

And us, the people that came after the prayer, those who were not with Jesus in the flesh but, nevertheless, have been blessed, thousands of years later by those who were with him.  To us, Jesus says that he has already given us his glory.

Jesus’ glory is that he has revealed God to us through the glory that he gave to God, the glory of living and showing God.  Through his life in the flesh, giving a exact portrayal of God, Jesus has now given that same glory to us.  He has shown us God and shown us how to reflect God in our life.

This understanding of glory, and therefore our mission, is of such importance that it is part of his final prayer prior to his arrest and death.

Our mission is to glorify Jesus, our mission is therefore to glorify God.  This is not usually done due to an emotional moment, it is not usually done with our hands lifted in the air, it is not even necessarily done when we are on our knees – Our glorification of God most usually happens when our hands are reaching out, when we cease to see the labels that keep us from embracing others, when we have spent the time seeking truth so living it flows naturally from our life.

It is of immense importance, also, in this prayer we see one other element that gabbed Jesus attention at this existential moment between Jesus and the Father.  That element is….

Unity

We see the correlation of glory and unity as we look at Jesus’ words after he said he had given us his glory…

The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Our oneness, our unity, comes from our oneness and unity, with God.

Faith living and Faith practice are an individual journey and a community journey. When the followers returned to Jerusalem we see that ‘All the followers, men and women, were constantly devoting themselves to prayer,’

Oneness and unity, are not a passive, opinionless existence. Disagreement, disputes, and alternative views among any group of people who have free choice will always call for hard and difficult work, as well as personal humility, grace, mercy, sacrifice, and love.  

Unity and oneness cannot coexist together with selfishness and personal agendas.

If we look closely at Christ life, we see two surprises to Jesus, God in the flesh.  The first was the depth of the experience of the grief that comes with the loss of a loved one, or probably any type of loss.  This revelation was a pivotal moment in the life of Jesus.

The second surprise was the experience of anger that at the eye witness of abuse, especially spiritual abuse.  The human response of Jesus at witnessing individuals using the sincere faith of others in order for personal gain and advancement revealed the passionate perspective, and protectiveness of God for us (as a father). God was not a stranger to dealing with abusive people, or groups, but to see abuse from a human perspective was shocking.

Jesus, however, was not surprised by the human response to disagreement, division, arguments, and even contention – they were all  met with Love by Christ – multi sided love was always the answer and always the path to the solution – or at least the way to co-exist admit disagreement.

Disagreement was always an opportunity for love. 

Finally, the stated purpose for this prayer and the purpose of Jesus’ life, as he said…..

This is Eternal Life

In verse 3, even as Jesus had just begun the prayer that had the disciples’ ear, he interrupts his prayer for himself to speak for his current followers and us.  He states his reason for the plea to the Father, he states his mission of his relationships with humans.  He says,….

And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent

As he closes the prayer he completes this thought as he adds,

‘I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves’

This is eternal life, now, Zoe.  Glory and Unity, Life lived and Oneness pursued, individuals who live lives reflecting God as taught through the life of Jesus and as community – seen through a true collective human oneness. 

Glory • Unity • Life

It is a purposeful and passionate prayer, a prayer that we are meant to eavesdrop on, a prayer that is an instruction for the lasting pursuit of life.

05.17.20

Final Moments – Passage Basics

Today, we continue our look at the words of Jesus to his disciples hours before he was arrested and just days before he was crucified in what is called the Final Discourse.  

Our passage today takes us to a  revelation about the nature, character – a revelation of the merciful and compassionate outflow of love and acceptance of God.  It will be in this revelation that Jesus begins to bring together the things we have heard him say in the past – illustrations he has given involving sheep, roads, connections, and voices.  It will be the how of the ties that bind us together as believers, as church. 

Today, our fifth essential lesson for the leaders of the first ‘church’ is Paraclete.

To better understand, let’s begin by breaking down our focus passage.

14:15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

  • This is a monumental challenge, possibly it could be called a ‘responsibility’ or even a ‘task’.  Maybe, it could even be the basics of the ‘job description’ of being a leader of the new church, or to give an even a more broad boundary, a ‘job description’ of followers of Jesus.
  • In this challenge, Christ uses two very specific words (as he usually does), they are the word ‘If’ and ‘Will.’  It is our nature to filter words, any words in the way we think they are said.  We may think that this challenge is said with our interpretation being – ‘keep my commandments so, you will love me.’  Reading it this way the emphasis, and entire point of this small verse becomes an order to act ‘obey my commandments.’  We then seek to do a ‘work,’ obey the commandments.
  • Christ’ words, is actually a statement, not an order.  The ‘love’ comes first and the ‘obey’ is a natural outflow. ‘Love me and you will obey me.’  Love brings trust, trust brings a desire to know, this naturally leads us to obey.
  • Christ statement here is to point out the ‘how’ of following Jesus as the ‘Way’, the ‘Life’, and the ‘Resurrection.’ Love God.

14:16 I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate/Helper (greek word – Paraclete), to be with you forever

  • Paraclete Defined – one along side of you, another (simply put – in place of Jesus in flesh with you as he has been for the past three years) he will be an advocate, helper, companion, comforter, intercessor, the one with you, (all these roles and all other roles that Jesus in flesh filled)
  • Paraclete Presentation  – Unseen and Unknown to world who does not know/follow Jesus (the way), is grasped/known by those who know/follow Jesus (the way). Paraclete is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead.
  • Paraclete Gifting – Paraclete, much like the dwelling abode, is an inclusive gift, not exclusive.  Paraclete lives with all who step onto the road that is the Way, that is Jesus.

14:18 I will not leave you orphaned (last week, previous verses, Jesus talks about leaving)

  • This was the disciples worst fear, to be abandoned. A fear that, after just have Jesus return following the crucifixion, that he will now leave again.  
  • Now, as the realization they have been given the task of teaching and doing as Jesus did; the task of forming the faith communities that will be the church – this assurance is of immense importance.  It will be a promise that returns to their minds and hearts in the face of trials and celebrations for the remainder of their lives.

Now let’s go to the  revelation about the nature, character – a   revelation of the merciful and compassionate outflow of love and acceptance of/by God, 

by beginning with a Tiny/Huge  Greek Word

κἀγὼ, kagó

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask  the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, the Paraclete, to be with you forever.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, the Paraclete, to be with you forever. 

And I

Definition: and, even so, me also

Usage: I also, I too, but I 

This is not a reprimand of their inability to keep God’s commandments, nor is is a concession to their unfaithful love, it is a revelation about the nature and character – a revelation of  the merciful and compassionate outflow of love and acceptance of God.

God gives even though Jesus has just stated that if we love him we will obey him.

Reveals the Character and Nature of the Father

Reveals the Character and Nature of the Son

Reveals the Character and Nature of the Spirit (Paraclete)

Reveals the Character and Nature of GodA Very Wordy Paraphrase of John 14:15-16 

As you love me, and grow in that love for me, you will naturally find yourself doing all that I taught you and and all the ways you saw me be love to all those I came in contact with – with no judgement, with no condemnation.  This will just be natural response because you cannot help but do, and live, this way. It will come automatically from you just like the healing of the lady that pushed her way through the crowd even though she had to be unbelievably weak after bleeding for a decade.  This doing, and living, will be as natural as breathing.  You will become the embodiment of love more and more as you love me.  Oh, by the way, I am asking the Father to send you the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, a companion like I have been to you in the flesh for the past three years, the Paraclete help you on The Way.

The revelation about the nature, character – a revelation of the merciful and compassionate outflow of love and acceptance of God.

Enlightenment of God in the flesh to the Human Experience through God in the Flesh experience 

Jesus understood, after living this life, that it is difficult.  He understood that to simply say Love will lead to Obedience was a denial of the human experience.  He personally understood the temptation of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the allure of the toxic things instilled into the world through the choices of humans.

The nature of God, of the Father, Son, and Spirit is for all humans to experience a full life – God is our biggest fan 

God will give more than is foundational needed for us to succeed.

But HOW?

The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, was never meant to take us over, to fix us, it is a cooperative effort. The very name ‘Paraclete’ is one that comes along side of us, a helper. It is still up to us to do the work, to know God, to increasingly grasp the love of God so we can respond with love back.

Start Where You Are, Grow from there 

Start with what you know – Love God, Love Others

Illustration: Love God, Love those that God loves (all others). Love your neighbor as yourself…. I shared last week that the ‘as yourself’ has always bothered me. I know too may people who loathe themself. This pandemic has brought me to an understanding of this love, it is a love that holds others in the same regard we hold ourself. During this crisis we have seen countless individuals proclaiming their ‘right’ to not wear a mask, to gather as they want, to be able to work regardless of the dangers to a community. Sadly, this has often been from self proclaimed followers of Christ. This is saying I love me first, my wants trump your needs. This is not loving your neighbor, it is not loving God. It is not permitting the Paraclete to bring us back to truth.

Guide you and seek to know God, Love God, more & more

How do I grow in my love for others, put that into action w/God.

Connectedness

Growing up, there was one thing you could always bank on, that was that on the hottest and most humid day of the summer, my mother’s side of the family would gather for a family reunion at Couch Park in Stillwater. A rented pavilion would always be the place for all the food that was brought, which would be eaten through out the hot and humid day.  Upon arrival food would be placed in the pavilion, lawn chairs would be set up under the best shade trees, hand held fans were pulled out of purses, and the ‘catching up’ would begin. 

As soon as possible, the cousins, the kids, would begin itching to get away and head to the creek to explore, to the ball field for a game of kick ball, or anywhere that the adults were not.

One element of every reunion on every record breaking hot and humid day was the presence of Billy.  Although I cannot remember what Billy did to gain our sighs and groans when we would see him appear, but his presence always warranted an ‘Oh no, Billy is here.’  

At the close of every day, we would load up our vehicles and head home until the record breaking hot and humid day the next summer. Before we were even settled into our car seats we would begin asking mom to explain how we were related to such and such individual. Her response always began with, ‘Well, let me see…’. Her explanations were seldom grasped as we were waiting to bring up the delicate matter of Billy.  ‘How are we connected to Billy?!’  This was always a difficult explanation that usually began with a great grandparent and got more confusing from there.

Us cousins, however, had our own theory.  Billy was not actually a part of the Miller family, but instead, he lived near Couch park and his mother would keep a schedule of all the reunions and would send Billy away each day to eat and annoy whatever unsuspecting family reunion he could join.  It made sense, we never saw Billy with any adults, he just always appeared.  We were convinced that we were not related to Billy except for the fact that he lived within walking distance of the park.

That theory was destroyed one summer when the reunion was moved to a neighboring town.  Billy showed up.

It wasn’t until a summer visit with Lily to Oklahoma State University in the summer of 2017. We were speaking with the department chair of one of the majors she was considering.  As I looked at the man, I couldn’t help but think I knew him, his name was very familiar.  Finally, after I inquired if perhaps we were related he immediately began to explain our connection.  He had beat me to this realization.  His explanation was as confusing as my mother’s had always been, a fact that he could tell by the expression on my face, finally, he paused and said, ‘I’m Billy’s brother.’ 

Everything was now clear, Billy was connected.

The Tie That Binds

This is our fourth week of looking at those things that Christ taught the apostles between the resurrection and the ascension.  The things that they would be essential to understand as they led the beginning of the church, essential for their own faith and perseverance, as well as essential for the new believers to understand. He took those forty days to take his followers back through his teachings and his actions to help them grow in their understanding.  So far the lessons have been:

Peace

Presence

Life

Today, the fourth lesson is this the same quest we, as children, were on at our  family reunions:

Connectedness

Connectedness defines our relationships. 

By Existence We Are Irrevocably Connected To God

Just before the crucifixion, just before the arrest, Jesus sat at a  supper table with his group of followers, friends, with whom he had spent the last three years.  With a sense of urgency Jesus began to teach the disciples to provide them strength for the coming days.  He had already confronted Judas regarding his betrayal, and for Peter for his approaching denial, and now he shared with the eleven.  

“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.”

The men were surely confused and bewildered.  They had just celebrated the Passover meal together and now Jesus was so solemn and very confusing.  Where was he going? Why was he going?

Thomas spoke the question they were all thinking, ‘Where are you going?’ And ‘How do we know the way?’

The disciples, now even more confused as they processed this unexpected and mysteriously announced departure of Jesus, was it to another geographical location, another city, or worse, another group of followers? ‘Was Jesus leaving them for others?’

Jesus response was equally troubling, ‘I am the way to where I am going,’ 

While Thomas, and the others, were processing this answer, Jesus adds, ‘If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

It was Philip that made the next statement, his was a request, ‘Show us the Father.’

Then Jesus reveals their, and our, connectedness to God.  Earlier in John we see that no man has ever seen God, that is then repeated after Jesus in I John.  Now Jesus says that they have seen the the Father since they have seen Jesus.  Jesus is speaking of a much larger ‘seeing’ than to merely see a face or body.  Jesus is speaking of the nature, and very being, of God.  As the men has heard Jesus teach and explain, even more, as they have witnessed the actions and responses of his life – they have now seen God.  They intimately know his truth and they have a first hand eyewitness understanding of this life.

They now have the ability to differentiate, to know, to recognize God. 

First, Let’s go back to his initial words of comfort – ‘I go to prepare a place for you in my father’s house where there are many dwelling places (mansions, houses, rooms, etc.).  This term ‘dwelling places’ is the greek word ‘moné’ which is only used twice in the New Testament, both times are in this chapter.   There is the use of the word in another form in chapter 15 as Jesus leads us to ‘abide in him’ however this use in 14 is different.  There is a permanence in the specific use of ‘moné’ here as this is not just a dwelling place but a dwelling abode, a home – a forever home.

Second, let’s look at Christ’ use of the terminology of ‘the way.’  This is a passage frequently used in the modern evangelism movement to point  humans to heaven.  This term, however, is much more specific, and yet at the same time, much broader than the narrow use of evangelists.  First, it is not necessarily a salvific statement, it is an answer to Thomas’ question when he says ‘we don’t know the way.’  Jesus answer is ‘yes you do, you know me, I am the way.’ Knowing Jesus is how we know the way, it is how we know what is truth, it is how we know what is life.

Third, there are ‘many’ dwelling abodes for us.  The Father’s house, whatever it may look like, whatever it may feel like, wherever it may be, it is already our home, it is where we are meant to be, there is an intentional and permanent dwelling place waiting for us. 

Much like the prodigal son, we are always welcomed to take the road home to ‘our’ abode.  The road that is Jesus.

By Choice We Are Connected to Each Other

Our connection to each other takes place on two levels of our choice. First it is our choice to take the road that is Jesus.  Second, it is our choice to choose to be a part of community of  believers, of humans who are taking the same road.  We partner to learn, to support and encourage each other, and to serve others with each other.

Peter spoke with the believers who were far away in a place where there were very few that were taking the road of Jesus, very few other believers. As we have seen, they were considered exiles by those in their physical community who shunned their beliefs and lives.  Their second layer of choice in regard to the connection of other believers was very limited, they couldn’t go about trying to find the right ‘group’.  Their choice was to connect or not to connect – they knew a connection was essential to their survival.

Peter explained to them that they had to find a way to make this connection work, and it would be a lot of work.

Much like us today, as we have had to find different ways to connect and gather, as we have been forced out of our normal, out of the ordinary, they had to discover how they could learn and teach, how they could encourage and support, how they could love a community in which they were shunned and exiled.

God using extraordinary circumstances and situations to bring us to a new normal, learning how to do ‘church’ in an adapted manner that will be the new  norm.

Observance of Lord’s Supper – partaking and remembering together while being apart.

By Creation We Are Connected to All Created, and All of Creation

Our connectedness to God brings us to recognize our connectedness to all of God’s created and all of his creation.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

To all peoples, past, present and future, to all of creation…..

kosmos -the world, universe; worldly affairs; the inhabitants of the world; adornment

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and  first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor (everyone else) as yourself.

The ‘as yourself’ has always stumped me.  I have encountered countless individuals who obviously did not appear to love themselves.  However, the experience of this pandemic, coupled with so partisan divisions we now allow to affect even our churches and those hurting loved of God, has revealed this is not about ‘liking self’ it is about what is most important.  It is about living selfishly or lovingly in the midst of God’s creation and among his created.

Story of border shelters and banners and political abandonment. 

Our connectedness calls us to love and to strive to live in, and with, an eternal mindset now.  Christ said pray this way, in saying this he gave us a definition of our connectedness to Him, Other believers, and the entire world – a call that confronts our heartless prayers, pronouncing that our prayers must have feet, legs, hands, hearts, and mind to be a true and sincere prayer to God.  Prayer are a call to action to act, and live, out of our connectedness. 

Jesus said, ‘Pray (If we have learned anything lately, it is that prayer can never be just words, it must also be our hands, feet, legs, our selfishness, our lives) then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Pastures and Pens

 The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, best known for his statement that ‘God is dead,  from my perspective, seems to exhibit a loathing of of two things,  women and religion, specifically Christianity.  In regard to his view was of religion, primarily Christianity,  he said that it seeks to keep people down, to control the masses

Nietzsche’s basic premise about religion is that it was invented by weak men who wanted to make even weaker the strong, the warriors, this was done by adapting morals so the warriors, those who had power, could be made weak primarily through guilt and fear.

Karl Marx, another German Philosopher, also found religion deplorable, in his case his vitriol was aimed at all religion, as well as the very idea of religion.  He is famous for saying, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of social conditions in which the spirit is excluded. It is the opium of the people.

Quite frankly, much of the time, I would have to agree with both of these men. It is often true that religion, actually the institutions of religion and not faith itself, work in conjunction with rulers and politicians, that can be guilty of controlling the masses and demeaning the individual.   

This is the setting in which our focus passage for today takes place.  It is the setting in which we see Jesus teach about life…..life that begins with the now and goes forever.  TheZoé, the life, that Jesus soon calls himself.

During Jesus’ day, the religious institution was in cahoots with the Roman government in order to keep control.  Even though both sides despised each other, they recognized the value of working together, at least until they achieved their own goals. They recognized the value of partnering and using each other. With a little, sometimes a lot, of compromise of beliefs and principals, the religious establishment was, and often still is, able to work with earthly powers to achieve, often misguided agendas and goals.  With a similar release of certain held values, the government was, and is, able to work with the religious institutions to use them as well.  

So, on this day, the day in which Jesus healed a blind man, a day that ordinarily would have been a day of celebration for the formerly blind man and his family, a day that just happened to be the Sabbath, a designated day of rest, a day that religious leaders strictly defined the boundaries of work and rest for each man and woman, a day that the politicians relinquished economic gain in order to maintain control, became a day that greatly threatened the delicate and fragile collusion that was holding on by a thread between the religious institution and the political system. 

The institutional establishment began its work and undertook a quick investigation. First questioning the validity of the blindness of the man, did he have any weaknesses that could be leveraged against him.  Then, after an initial questioning of the man, they moved on to harassing his parents.  When this did not help, they returned to the man. 

This second interaction with the man elicited a classic response from the leaders and an honest, yet gutsy, response from the man

So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, “God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.” 

“I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!” 

“But what did he do?” they asked. “How did he heal you?” 

“Look!” the man exclaimed. “I told you once. Didn’t you  listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” 

Then they cursed him and said, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses! We know God spoke to Moses, but we don’t even know where this man comes from.”  

“Why, that’s very strange!” the man replied. “He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where he comes from? We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. If this man were not from God, he  couldn’t have done it.” 

“You were born a total sinner!” they answered. “Are you trying to teach us?” And they threw him out of the synagogue.

The leaders tried to discredit him, they attempted to intimidate him, they sought to harass his family, they attacked his spirituality, and finally, where there was nothing left to do, they just threw him out.  The indisputable fact remained – the man was blind before and now he was not.

This blind man, who had been rejected and dismissed all of his life due to his blindness, was now being rejected in a new way because he could now see.  Life was different, he could see, it wasn’t about seeing with his eyes, it was now about  seeing life with his heart. He was blind, now he could see.  Even with his eyes closed, he could now see life because he had met life.

Jesus found the man, and speaks of sheep, sheep pens, sheep in the pasture, shepherds, gates, gate keepers, thieves, and bandits, and finally, about recognizing a voice.

The listeners, those who followed Jesus expressed that they still did not understand his figurative language, so, Jesus clarified.  It was now that he taught lesson number three – Peace, Presence, and Now Life Jesus is Life. Zoe, life that is now and life that is eternal – all the same life.

Let’s look at the nuts and bolts of Jesus’ explanation.

First, let’s look at who Jesus was speaking to?

Jesus was not speaking to those who are entrenched in sin nor was he addressing the religious leaders – he was speaking to his followers.   Jesus is talking to us, over 2,000 years later.

Second, what is Jesus basic message?

Jesus was a speaking of life, Zoe.  He says that he came because there would be judgement and he came to save us from that judgement.  He came to give us life and is full and abundant. 

Jesus’ word ‘saved’, is sózó in the greek, goes beyond our limited understanding of ‘being saved’.  Sózó is much larger meaning healing, to be made whole, to be delivered or protected, to preserve, and even ‘to merely do well’.  It is referring to now and then.  For Jesus, and his followers, everyday is the new day of beginning of eternity.  He desired that our life would be interpreted differently than the earthly values but instead through those things that do not fade or lose their value.  He was leading us to live beyond what we have and do not have.

Eugene Petersen described the words of Jesus in this way, ‘ I came so you can have real and eternal life, more and better life than you ever dreamed of.”

Jesus said, Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.

This imagery of the pasture and the pen is that abundance.  An existence of peace, in the protection of the pen, and an abundance as in the pasture.  We are free to come and go as both, pasture and pen, are the abundant life

We have a tornado shelter that we have opened up to our neighbors.  We have non Oklahoman neighbors who are petrified of tornadoes and are the first to show up.  We also have a lady next door who is a life long Okie and a life long healthy respecter of the tornadoes.  She will bake brownies earlier in the day of a tornado and then bring them to the shelter when it is time.  We will then join in the protection of the shelter, our pen, with the fear, brownies, and abundance.  It is a choice, it is a protection, and it is all part of the abundance.

This is the pen, no guarantees that it will be how or what we want but it is what  we need.

Third, who are the thieves and bandits?

Jesus is using this teaching time to warn the people of their greatest danger.  An institution that was originally formed from sincere faith.  A faith that taught the most important thing is to love God and to love everyone else.  A faith that led Jesus to reveal his distaste for the collusion of the politicians and the religious leaders when he entered the temple.  A faith that was true and sincere as opposed to institution who used people in order to achieve their own agenda.

Jesus was not speaking about the adulterers or the prostitutes, not about those who may take our possession, those who abuse us or dismiss us, not the heathen, not the worshippers of idols and false god, not the racists, not the haters, not any of the people, vocations, cultures, religions, or any of the others that we point to as dangerous and suspicious.  The thieves and bandits were the  very institutions that we are taught to trust.

Nietzsche has another interesting quote, ‘in truth there was only one Christian, and he died on a cross.”

It is our responsibility to always realize that religious leaders, politicians, or any institution can never be given carte blanche, we must alway be honest in our critique of them. Our full trust can only be on the Christian – Christ. 

Lastly, how are we to respond?

The interesting thing about this explanation of Jesus’ figurative speech is that is is a message to us.  It is not really a warning to beware, but, instead, we are called to very real and concrete response.  

Know the voice of God.

The onus is on us.  It is our responsibility to be able to differentiate between truth and lies, between the shepherd and the bandits, between love and abuse.  We must know the difference between the things of life and the things of death. Know God. Know Life

Following the ascension of Jesus, and after Pentecost, the church began.  The people were not set on starting an institution but they had an intense passion to Know the Voice of God.  They broke bread with each other, spent time learning from the eyewitnesses, the apostles, about Christ, Giving what they had, and providing for those that had need.  This was a natural reaction to the desire to Know God’s Voice. To know what was about life and what was about life. 

What are you doing to Know the Voice of God?

Presence

 Theme – The Tie That Binds – Considering Church

Understanding what ties/binds believers (the church) together. First encounters following resurrection, apostles training, continued throughout the book of Acts, reveal to us the ties that bind us together 

Today, we continue looking at that first day after the Sabbath, after the crucifixion –  the day the followers of Christ began to understand what Jesus meant when he said that he would rise again.  That first day – that first day of good overcame evil, that hope was victorious over hopelessness, that peace triumphed over turmoil, that love proved greater than hatred.  It was a huge day.

The day had actually begun long before the women arrived at the tomb, or the men hiding in their room, long before creation, long before chaos, long before pride, long before arrogance, long before insecurity, long before self centeredness – It was a day that began before death.  

Is it possible for us to understand that the resurrection coming before the death – before any death?

It was Jesus who, before his death, said, ‘I AM the resurrection.’

 Regardless of our understanding, the truth is that the tomb was empty, Jesus had risen.  The eyewitness were now to see so they can tell. 

First Lesson – Peace

The women took the road from the tomb to go back and tell the men about the empty grave and the angel’s proclamation, then, on the road, Jesus appeared to the women. Jesus told the women, ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he told them to have peace not fear, to go on in an unabashed joy.

Then, still on that same day, there were the men. The men could have been on the road to and from the tomb, or on the road to Galilee where Jesus had interacted them to go.  Instead, understandably, they were hiding in the house, but there was plenty of reasons for the men to afraid. 

They were afraid when Jesus appeared in the room, and as he had done with the women, Jesus said, ‘Peace’ – not ‘Fear’ but ‘Peace’.  Peace when their gut instinct said to be afraid, to be ashamed, to be humiliated, to be defeated, to be hopeless.  

Later, in the midst of his doubts, even Thomas was given this word, ‘Peace’.

Now, on that same day, Sunday, Jesus appears again.  And again, he appears on a road – and again he brings peace, actually this time he brought peace in the midst of despair long before the hearers even were aware they were talking to Jesus.  Sometimes, Peace itself can be very aggressive.

On this day, again on a road, we have lesson two – Presence 

A Road

Roads are an interesting thing.  They are an avenue to getting to a place or to getting away from a place.  The prodigal son took a road to reject his father and then to return and be embraced by his father.  Today’s road went from from Jerusalem to Emmaus, which was also the road to Jerusalem from Emmaus. 

On this day, on this road, two men were traveling from Jerusalem, they were heading in the direction of Emmaus.  They were heading in the opposite direction of Jerusalem.  They were walking and talking as they headed south on that road – talking about their sadness, their disillusionment, how their hope was gone, how they felt abandoned, how they thought they understood – and, now how they understood nothing.  

They were talking about the cross, they were talking about Jesus.

These men were followers of Jesus but now felt that everything was over, Jesus was dead.  It didn’t make any sense, they were so sure Jesus was the one they had been looking forward to coming to deliver the people.  They had been convinced he was the promise of blessings, the promise given to Abraham.

Had they been mistaken, or worse, had the promise been broken?

It was here, here on the road, here as the sun grew closer to the horizon, that Jesus appeared on the road. In the midst of this grief laden conversation between these two south bound travelers, Jesus joined their journey and their discussion.  

These two men needed to be on the road with Jesus at this moment, they needed to see Jesus, they needed to experience Jesus’ presence at this moment. 

Everyone that experienced Jesus on this first day needed to have that moment, they needed to be eyewitness – Jesus met them exactly where they needed and in the manner they most needed.

‘What are you talking about?’ Jesus asked.

The two men explained that they were talking about, and despondent by,  everything that had taken place in Jerusalem during the recent days.

They were shocked when Jesus asked them, ‘What has happened in Jerusalem?’

‘Are you the only person on the face of the earth who is actually unaware of what took place last week?’ the two men said in unison, both with looks of shock on their faces.

Jesus stuck with the two as they continued to walk away from Jerusalem.  On the way, Jesus – starting with Moses going through the prophets, explained what had been promised, and prophesied, about the coming Messiah, about himself,  about Jesus.

Seeing

Oddly, the men did not identify their new travel companion as Jesus.  Seeing things we truly need to see is sometimes a challenge.  As he wrote this account, Luke used the greek words that, in our English, are ‘they were kept from seeing.’  A very vague statement that means little to us today, or probably even when he wrote these words.  Were they blind to recognizing Jesus because God confused something in their retina connection to the brain, causing them to not realize they were with Jesus – that God was waiting until they were ready to see and recognize.  Or, maybe it was the men’s grief created by their unrealized hopes and dreams they had attached to Jesus as well as their understandings, and possibly agenda about Jesus’ mission.  Maybe, they were just so caught up in their emotions and anguish, along with forgetting to look for Jesus, that the metaphorical tears made their vision fuzzy.

Regardless of the why and how, the men were talking with, and listening to, Jesus without knowing it.

It must have been somewhat funny to Jesus, funny that they didn’t recognize him even though he had walked with them before.  I wonder if it was exhausting to Jesus that they needed an explanation and clarification of the prophets words.  I am sure it had to be precious to Jesus that they invited him to stay with them and asked him to join them at the table for a meal.

Jesus, whose death was the source of these men’s pain, was alive and with the men, Jesus was present in their grief.  They didn’t even see that he was present as they invited him to stay the night with them, their eyes were still kept from seeing Jesus when they invited him to the table.

Present and Presence at the Table 

If you think about it, there is something very radical about the table.

The table is where you break bread, it is where you pass and receive food, it is where you you sit, sometimes where you feel captive, you are possibly with another person who lacks table manners, it is where the real and vulnerable ‘you’ often shows up.  It is where we have all shared great conversation and awkward silence, where we have experienced exhilaration and desperation.  You never really know what you are going to experience at the table – it can be a very intimate experience.

The table is a frequent occurrence in the life of Jesus.  It was a a table of 5,000 people, and again at a table of 4,000 people that Jesus first challenged his disciples to care for those people by feeding them.  It was at the table of a despised tax collector where Jesus radically chose to invite himself to sit and a shocking transformation took place.  It was at the table of his closest friends that he was scandalously anointed with a most expensive perfume. It was a short time after this moment with the men on the road that Jesus would again appear to his disciples and ask to sit at their table by asking ‘Is there anything to eat?’  It was at a beach table where Jesus sat waiting on the disciples to haul in their abundant catch and join him to eat – after asking them to bring some of their catch to add to the meal.  It was at a table where he sat with his intimate group of followers for a passover meal just before his arrest and crucifixion.  As they ate at he told them to use this, and future, occasions at the table to remember how he lived, what he taught, and especially what he accomplished for them.

Eat and Remember, Drink and remember.

It would at that last table that Jesus said he would not eat or drink with them again until his purpose and mission was complete.

Now, he sat with these two men, heading away from Jerusalem and Galilee, at their table.  A table at which they had invited him to sit.

As the two men began to recognize the inexplicable unknown abundance at the table, an abundance which was not about food but something much larger, something huge, they began to put aside their grief, fear, and disillusionment.  Without the weight of the pain, the men began to see, soon they realized that the abundance at their table was the presence of Jesus.

Jesus had been present with them all along.

Jesus was, and is, present.  Even when the men could not see him, Jesus was still present.

This was the second lesson- presence.  Jesus taught this lesson on presence while he, himself, was present.

Now, the men took the same road they had walked on before.  Last time they took the road away from Jerusalem, but now that same road was taking them back to Jerusalem.

Ill: Churches insisting on ‘trusting God’ and meeting during virus quarantine endangering everyone that attends and anyone who comes in contacting those individuals. Confusing the Presence with Arrogance.

Closing Story – Personal thinking about presence (on zoom). Being present  to recognize the presence.

Our Call

Look for (His) presence 

Be present

Enjoy presence

Peace Be With You

  04.19.20

Theme – The Tie That Binds – Considering Church

Understanding what ties/binds believers (the church) together.  First encounters following resurrection, apostles training, continued throughout the book of Acts, reveal to us the ties that bind. – “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 

Parting Words/Life Calling – Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20 (will look again at this passage on June 7)

Divinity School Accelerated Intensive (Chosen Disciples/Followers Prepare to Lead Church)

Apostles now take a 40 day intense seminary doctoral class preparing them to lead the Believers, the church.  In this time he takes everything he taught and did, with the enlightenment of the now infilling of the Holy Spirit (John 20:22), and opens their minds to fully understand his words and actions from past three years.

The First Lesson – Peace 

First Words from God (through angel) and then From Jesus (and again to Thomas)

To women (don’t be afraid) and to men (Peace be with you).  In our passage today, as well as last week, we see each initial words be words of peace. Proclaimed to all – Angel said this to the women and then Christ said same.  Christ said to disciples and then again to Thomas.

The Explanation of Peace – not a change in situation -followers receiving this ‘peace’ are not returning to ‘peaceful situations’ – they are returning to same scary/chaotic circumstances they were living in prior to proclamation of peace.

External Living Through An Inner Assured Peace

For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,

Jeremiah 29:10-13 

Peace is the Catalyst of our Seeking Journey

Sometimes we need to be reminded/shown the peace, sometimes others need to be reminded/shown the peace.

Author Anne Lamott Talks of her worst, and best, days of life, in the midst of a drunken stupor, walking by a small church and wandering in to hear the choir singing inside and being confronted by a Peace she had never experienced – this was the beginning of her believer journey.

The Practice of Peace  

Peace is Our Core Determinate – It guides how we respond, how we react, how we deal with pain and turmoil, how we survive crisis and disaster, how we interact with others, how we  love, how we disagree, how we live.

Peace Cannot Share Space with Turmoil, Hate, or Anger (plus pride, arrogance, insecurity, self centeredness, selfishness, etc.)  – Possibly the three most dangerous detractors from Power, Politics, and Religion.

Peace is Necessary to Fully Know and Communicate Jesus to the World

Peace