More than Survivors

07.26.20

In the 1991 movie City Slickers, on his 39th birthday, Mitch Robbins (played by Billy Crystal) asks his boss:

Did you ever reach a point in your life, where you say to yourself, ‘This is the best I’m ever going to look, the best I’m ever going to feel, the best I’m ever going to do’, and it ain’t that great?

Mitch Robbins (Billy Crystal) City Slickers, 1991

His wife insists that he go with his buddies on a cattle drive to ‘Find his smile.’ On the cattle drive, Mitch has a moment with the cattle drive foreman, a crusty, burly, and very non-social, cowboy named Curly (Jack Palance).

Curly : Do you know what the secret of life is? [Curly holds up one finger]  This.

Mitch : Your finger?

Curly : One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean (expletive).

Mitch : But, what is the “one thing?”

Curly : [smiles]  That’s what *you* have to find out.

This, in different forms, is the question we all ask –  ‘What is my one thing?’

Jesus had come to the close of the first two parables of Matthew 13.  Much of the crowds left shaking their heads, muttering ‘Darn Hippee!. The remaining 6 parable, however are for his followers, those who have made the decision to listen and understand. The crowds had largely rejected the message of Christ – the followers had recognize the truth in his words.

Jesus begins by taking us, to a sower who is sowing a tiny mustard seed.  It is the smallest of seeds yet will grow the largest of bushes that basically be a tree.  In its, soon to be, tree state, it will serve as a home to birds and their nests, at the same time, this small mustard seed will also be a source an essential spice for cooking and nutrition.  Within this tiny seed is everything it needs to do all it will be called to do and be.

A woman is making bread, a lot of bread – probably for a celebration. She has 60 pounds of flour which will make about 60 loafs of bread.  She mixes the elements required by her recipe, including a small amount of leaven in with the flour.  Over night, the life in the leaven, rises the dough sufficiently for the bread to be ready for the celebration. A tiny amount of leaven enables the dough, and the cook, to be ready for a feast.

A treasure hunter finds a treasure chest in a field, it is the treasure he has sought his entire career.  The hunter went and sold everything that he owned using all the proceeds to purchase the field, and indirectly, the treasure. Nothing he owned held any value compared to the treasure in the field.  He has sacrificed everything, now he sits in his field with his treasure. The field with the treasure is truly sufficient.

Another individual is a merchant who searches for, and sells, exquisite fine pearls, finds a single pearl which has a great value. He sells everything that he has in order to purchase the pearl.  He is done, he has sacrificed everything he owned in order to do the greatest thing he could do.  He now stands and watches the world with the pearl in his pocket.

A large dragnet is thrown into the sea and dragged along in order to catch all fish.  When the huge full net, containing fish of every kind, is dragged to shore, the destructive fish, those that would destroy the entire catch, are discarded & destroyed.  The net, has done its job, it has gathered all the fish.

The job of the scribe is to find & interpret the law & truth.  He is not only passionate his job, but he is passionate about he truth itself, it is his treasure. He pursuit is not just academic, it is life.

The problem with the question, ‘What is our one thing?’ is that it is too narrow, too shallow.  It merely seeks an answer for our survival.  ‘If I can just get through this day, this week, this year, this pandemic, these protests, the election, this phase, this feeling, this crisis, this…..’ It is merely a survival technique designed to get through life. Jesus’ parables paint a picture of life that is not one of survival.

In Romans 8, the apostle Paul wrote very non survivalist statements to the churches in Rome:

‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.’

‘You are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.’

‘the Spirit helps us in our weakness’.

‘all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.’

‘If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?’

‘we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.’

The question is not about our passion, our goal, our hopes, our dreams, our fulfillment, our dependency, our escape, our plan B, who are we, who do we want to be, what do others think of us, our success, it is not really about a ‘one thing.’ The question is a treasure question, a pearl question, a leaven question, a mustard question, a good and evil question, a pursuit of truth question.

It is a,

‘Where am I?’ &

‘Is it where I need to be?’,

question. 

Jesus said:

‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’

Matthew 6:21

As Jesus was asked to teach the ‘how’ of praying, he did not send them to their knees with eyes closed and head bowed, no, instead he took them to  where they needed to be as they began to speak to God.

Pray this, ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Matthew 6:10

He took them to a place where prayers begin, with God at his place, the place where a making a request is accepting the responsibility and willingness to be the hands and feet of the answer to the prayer.

It is not a location that can be identified by our GPS, it is much more real and pertinent than that.  We are called to live, IN, the Kingdom of Heaven now.

Jesus said to Martha, ‘I AM the resurrection, I AM the Life.’

He told his disciples, ‘I came so that you may have life abundantly.’

He said to those who were attacking him, ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’

and, he said to Martha, ‘You are worried and distracted by so many things.’

Jesus invitation is much more than a ‘one thing’, it is not a ‘what’ question but a ‘where’ question.  He is calling us to a life lived in his Kingdom now so that we can reveal the Kingdom to a world that has become at home with the evil in the net. 

So, he prayed,

‘God, may your Kingdom come here.’

Jesus tells us these metaphors, these parables, to help us understand what the Kingdom of Heaven is, the location of the Kingdom here on earth.   It is in the dirt, it is in the kitchen, it is in the field, it is in the pocket, it is in the net, it is in truth.

We are called to the same place Jesus lived on this earth, the Kingdom of Heaven, a place where he frequently suffered but was never despondent, where he was rejected but always held his resolve, a place where he was always at peace even in the midst of chaos and turmoil, a place where he was consistently attacked but never without hope, a place where he was applauded but never arrogant, a place where sacrifice was his calling not survival, a place where he was a conqueror even though it looked like defeat.

In the Jewish tradition – when a boy or a girl reaches the age of 13 they are ready to be a full part of the Jewish community, they are ready to take part in the religious practices and traditions.  This is officially recognized at the celebration of Ba(z)mitzvah for the girls, and Barmitzvah for the boys. It is at this time that their elders will proclaim to them ‘You are now a Woman,’ ‘You are now a Man!’  Much preparation has taken place before this celebration.  The paradox sets in two days later as they return to school where their teacher is still treating them as a child with rules and restrictions that are for children. Here they are, a Man, a Woman, and yet they are still stuck in the world of their childhood.  They are now an adult, yet their adolescent body is screaming ‘I’m barely a teenager!’ They now begin their journey, a journey of an adult in a world of children.

This is what living now in the Kingdom of Heaven is, living in an imperfect world, that ultimately cannot harm us eternally, yet the impacts and restrictions all around intertwine into our life.

We have been caught up in the net, but the evil is still in there with us. We are constantly making the choice of which world we live in.

We choose to be the adult on the playground in the kickball game of life.

As we have journeyed through the prophetic ministries of Isaiah and Jeremiah, I have been horrified by the correlation between then and now. These prophets were screaming truth, at the top of their lungs, and no one was listening.  They were yelling that the religious leaders and the oppressive politicians were in collusion with each other at the expense of all humanity.  The people had settled in and accepted it, they believed the false prophets that were selected, honored, and adored by the religious and political leaders. These false prophets knew that their position could change in a moment if they failed to affirm the leaders decisions, statements, and agendas.  The people stood firm in their support of this deception and danger because it was what the way of the leaders were leading.  All the while, disaster loomed heavy outside the broken down walls of Jerusalem.

As I have immersed myself in the absurdity of this historical reality, which can be impossible not to see that the same tragic absurdity that Isaiah and Jeremiah were addressing is still a dangerous absurdity in our world today.  We have religious leaders who have been selected and appointed by the politicians. We have politicians afraid to step out of line or they will be humiliatingly discarded by their own system. We have words, and concepts, like life, unity, strength and force, safety, military, science, law enforcement, God, Bible, Constitution, Love, and faith used to nurture hate, death, disrespect for life, division, hopelessness, non-accountability, racisim, degradation of human life around the globe, and so much more…it is all waiting for us right outside the gates.

We label those as liberals who do not use our exact words about God’s truth while failing to ponder the depth of God’s greatest call on us.  We label those as radicals who do not conform to our exact interpretations of creation yet we refuse to make the sacrifices needed to care for God’s creation.  We reject those who don’t interpret God’s concern for children in the same way as we do, yet we refuse to accept the personal sacrifice of time, resources, and money required to fully take care of children and, for that matter, all humans.  We have called heretics those who are not in agreement with us on constitutional issues and interpretations, even when those views are often in direct opposition to God’s truth and to the revelation of God seen in Jesus.

We, are not only failing to separating our roots, we have justified the enemy that has sown the seeds of weeds and have welcomed him in along with his tangling weed roots.

Quite honesty, as I have seen this, it has worn on me. Beginning last fall, I could physically feel it.  Last thanksgiving my son Isaiah made the comment to me that he felt like he had an anxiety knot in his chest. I realized that was what I had.  Add to that, a God given blessing of seeing first hand the situation at the border, the pandemic, the protests, the division and arrogance – I allowed my roots to tangle with the roots of the evil inside the net. I have been hesitant to mention these correlations on Sunday mornings to you, and you guys are wonderful! God has often kept me awake all Friday and Saturday nights, or awakened me early Sunday morning, until I very changed the message to the very message he had been calling me to all week.  I had allowed the roots of the weeds and my roots to become very tangled, and I was physically feeling it.

As believers, our dwelling place is in the Kingdom of Heaven now, we are the hands and feet of the Lord’s prayer that God’s will be done on earth – NOW.  Not in an arrogant, hateful, judgmental, condemning way – but in a fruits of the spirit way, in a Micah 6:8 way, in the greatest two commandments way.

We are at the plate, but now as an adult on the childrens’ playground, we know we have the power to conquer, heck, we have the power to kick the ball up to the playground teachers holding their coffee at the other end of the playground, however, we also know that Joey, in right field looking at his phone, will get a bloody nose if we kick it over the first baseline with all the power we know we have, so we act with mercy, justice, love, showing fruits of the spirit, and kick with an intentionality that allows Joey, who hasn’t yet realized that we are an adult and that we are no longer the child, who yesterday, forgot the difference between 1st and 2nd base – we kick it so Joey will have time to realize the ball is slowly rolling his way, put his phone in his back pocket, and run to pick it up throwing it majestically to second base, were Elizabeth, the strongest, coolest, and best athlete in the fifth grade catches the ball, giving Joey his moment as she yells, ‘Good throw, Joey!’  So as the whistle is blown, Joey walks back for afternoon classes, he has had a moment of glory even while the evil is still in the net, not knowing it was thanks to us, but knowing it was a great already a great day.  A moment that will sustain him through the coming humiliation of not remembering that his notebook, containing his homework now being collected, is scattered all over the playground where he left his binder behind the backstop.

We live as we would like others to live, we live in the Kingdom of Heaven while in the midst of the elementary playground.

We suffer in this world that does not match up with where we really live.  We can choose to ignore the realities of this world, the evil that is still in the net, we can live with our noses in the air refusing to soften our power at the plate – because, quite frankly everyone else enjoys the cheers of a homer at the expense of Joey in right field.  Or, we can notice Joey and have mercy and love, we can act with justice for Elizabeth who sometimes does the opposite of yelling ‘good catch, Joey’ , we can show them both, and everyone else on the playground, where we live by how we live in the midst of the net full of evil….Just like Jesus did.  

So, as I have struggled with the ‘anxiety knot’ God has been working with me.  Reminding me as I observe the the evil still in the net, I must not forget where I live, I must not let my roots get tangled in with the roots of the weeds.  The weeds live there, I do not, our weeds do not belong intertwined.  My politics, my vocation, my education, my life must not tangle with the roots of the weeds, tangled roots pull us away from where we really live. In the end, our politics, our education, our vocation, our relationships, all the stuff of life, must be directed by where we live, in the Kingdom –  we can’t allow those things to dictate that we live in the net

The apostle Paul called this ‘Suffering with Christ’ – living in a world that does not match up with where we truly live.

It is the difference between surviving and conquering.

Curley asks, ‘What is Your one thing?’ 

The Spirit asks, ‘Where are you at?’

Paul, a resident of the Kingdom of Heaven, living on the planet earth, put it this way:  

‘I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

Romans 8:38-39

Let us pray.

Thankful for the Seeing Good Moments

 God, we thank you for ‘seeing good’ moments. When we see the extraordinary in the ordinary. In the midst of quarantine and isolation, in these times of protests and economic fears, in dark times when little seems familiar, we recognize your light in the heart, and actions, of others.

God, we have seen the extraordinary in the ordinary of our healthcare workers. Endangering themself and their families through the ordinary act of going to work. Frequently having to isolate from their families & friends. Enduring conspiracy theories & personal rights proclamations, from many of those to  whom they extend mercy.

God, we thank you for our local leaders as they seek to take precautionary measures to protect us from illness and death. They have put their own positions at risk in making the difficult and tough decisions.  They have made decisions that others have been afraid to make.

God, we thank your for our public eduction leaders, teachers, and staff. Jumping into action to do their ordinary jobs in an extraordinary fashion. They have strategized how to resume an ordinary when the ordinary is no longer an option. They now face the risks for self, students and all their families, as they  report back to jobs that will never be the same.

God, we also thank you for the essential works & businesses quickly developing new systems to serve us even when existing systems were no longer usable. They have continued to work, to serve, and to smile, in the midst of the risks and dangers. They have been underpaid, overworked, and almost always, unnoticed.

God, we thank you, we are seeing noticing of others more than ever before,

Just life Christ did with the bent over woman in the temple, the accused woman in the public square, the weak woman in the crowded streets, the ruler who had everything but could give up nothing, the thief hanging on the cross.

God, thank you as we begin to notice beyond skin color, 

We are seeing beyond cultures and actions, beyond nationalities, religions, & practices, we have begun to notice that pain can go deeper than we can comprehend. Pain that reveals itself in ways that distract us from the reality of the devastating impact passed down through generations. 

God, thank you that we continue to see the beauty of your creation in the joy of a pet, the smile of a neighbor, the laugh of a child, the opportunity to help and serve, the expressions of concern and empathy, the masks worn even when not mandated, the hands and feet of those who help after a storm, the privileged standing up for the underprivileged, the different colors that are standing up for each other, the realization of things we don’t need, & what we do need.

Amen

Here and Far Away

In the second half of the 1800s, Presbyterian teacher, author, and musician, Julia H. Johnston, sat down to pen a hymn that would explain the Grace the the Apostle Paul preached to the Churches at Roman, the words became the lyrics for Grace Greater than our Sin: 

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured, There, where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within; Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that is greater than all our sin!

Julia H. Johnston

In proclaiming Christ, John said:

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

john 1:15

Grace is a difficult concept to explain no matter who you are speaking with.  The apostle Paul found this to be true as he attempted to teach the concept to the churches at Rome.

Paul was writing to churches that consisted mostly of Jewish believers but a growing group of gentiles (non Jewish believers as well.  It was a difficult concept – receiving something for nothing. It was especially difficult when the learners are accustom to a religousity that sets up many dos and don’t, as well as many gos and don’t gos.  He started was our human condition – using references from the teachings that the Jews would have grown up with: 

“There is no one who is righteous, not even one; there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.”

Romans 3:9b-12

And then Paul expands. 

‘Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. 

For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of  the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed;  

it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law

Romans 3:19-26, 31

Understand? Everything crystal clear?

Don’t worry it it is all still a little fuzzy, or even hugely fuzzy. It was fuzzy to most of those hearing Paul’s words as well.

Paul, recognized the existing fuzziness, so he illustrated by painting a word picture that most, could identify with.  Ironically, it is an explanatory picture that is possibly even more understandable, and relatable, today.

Paul took the listeners, and he takes us, back to a common figure – Abraham.

Abraham, given the label ‘Father of Our Faith’ by the three major world religions is a difficult individual. Let’s face it, the man used his wife, twice, as a human shield to protect himself.  He gave her away so that his life would be spared.  How is there anything redemptive in a person that would disregard his wife in such a calculated manner.

And, to make this matter more NOT understandable, he is rewarded for doing this – receiving riches from a ruler!

I have to be honest, I spent a lot of time this week trying to redeem the man Abraham, to no avail.

It finally occurred to me, the story of Abraham, is not a story of a saint, it is not  the story of a near saint,  it is a story of a man who needed a lot, I mean a lot, of grace.  It is a story that allows us to see the what grace is and what grace does.

The one thing about Abraham, the thing that puts him into this story, is that he is a man who often sincerely said:

‘Here I am.’

And,  

‘Okay.’

(or at least of verbal or action form of ‘okay’)

That is all that grace needs, ‘Here I am,’ and ‘Okay.’ These are two powerful statement.  “I Am Here’ the opposite of what Adam and Eve said when they hid from God in the garden; the same as what Isaiah said when God called him to be a prophet.  It is a statement of vulnerability.  ‘I Am Here’ just ‘Here’ no where great, and ‘I Am Not Perfect’ but ‘I Am Here.’

It is then, that grace, met by his willingness to say ‘okay’, that God moves him from our ‘Here’ through his own resistance to go to God’s ‘Far Away.’

Grace is not necessary to people who are Saints, it is not needed by perfect people, it is of no consequences to those people who are self sufficient, it is wasted on those who can go through life with a single minded focus that never sways away from God. 

In reality, the raw reality where we all live, none of those people exist, so grace is always needed, always available, and is always the balm that heals our soul.

So, let’s reintroduce ourselves to Abraham:

He gave his wife away to protect himself…..twice.

He owned people, he had slaves. 

He would have definitely have been a target of today’s ‘Me Too’ movement.

He quickly accepted his wife’s hall pass to sleep with another woman.

He sent that ‘other’ woman, and their son, out, surely, to their death.

And, that is just some of what is documented, his first seventy-five years are a mystery.

However,

When his deceased brother’s son needed a new dad, Abraham said, ‘I Am Here’.

When God told him to pack up his family and possessions he said, ‘Okay’.

When God made a ridiculous promise that, in no way, was possible, he said, ‘Okay.’

When he needed to put his own life on the line and risk everything he had to save his nephew, he said, ‘Okay.’

When his son, Isaac said, ‘Dad?’ Abraham said, ‘I Am Here.’

The good does not outweigh the bad by any means.  That is why Abraham gives us the perfect understanding of grace, the grace that he needed, the grace that we need.

The promise from God was made to him that he would be the father of many people and many nations even though his wife was barren and considered too old for pregnancy; He was promised to have a land, even though he was a nomad; He was promised to be a blessing to all, even though his own house was dysfunctional.

Like most of us, Abraham had his safety net, his backups in the case God needed help with his plan.  He had his long time beloved servant Eliezar – Eliezar could be the heir to Abraham, he could birth many people and ultimately a nation – but God said ‘no’.  He still have his loved nephew Lot, but then Lot left, he wasn’t really interested, he had other plans.  

It was at this point that Abraham began to be stressed and distressed.  His back up plans had been rejected or they had withdrawn from being a option.

In the midst of Abraham’s depression, God showed up.  The promise still held, even without Eliezar and Lot.  Only this time, God specified that the son would be a biological son of Abraham.

Abraham said ‘Okay’. It was crazy, it was impossible, it wasn’t going to happen, but Abraham said ‘Okay.’

Now notice, Abraham says ‘okay’ but we are still not to a perfect, saintly Abraham. But, even with what takes place next, God still credits Abraham’s heart felt, and sincere, ‘Okay’ as righteous.

Promise is repeated, grace is extended, that is what grace is, it is not about our actions, it a gift that we don’t deserve.  God received a sincere heart ‘Okay’ from Abraham, grace was offered, grace was given. Even while Abraham was still painfully imperfect. Grace Goes Before Us

Then, there seemed a loophole had been exposed, it seemed that there was a back up plan that Abraham was unaware of.

The servant of his wife, she could be the biological mother and Abraham could be the biological father! It was genius.  And, the best part of this brilliant plan was that it was first suggested by his wife Sarah. How could this fail?!

So he agreed, Sarah agreed, and, of course, the servant Hagar didn’t have to agree.  It would work, and it did work, Hagar had a son by Abraham who was named Ishmael.

But that wasn’t God’s plan.

‘Sarah will be the biological mother of the Son that you have been promised,’ God said.

Then Abraham swallowed hard, and Sarah laughed.

Abraham didn’t say much – after all,  he did still have a back up – there was his son Ishmael outside playing.

But then, Sarah, probably due to the double rejection by Abraham, not to mention how quickly he had a baby with Hagar, Sarah became jealous. Hagar and their son Ishmael were sent away.

Now, no Son, and no back up plan. No safety net.

But then, as Abraham is without a back up plan, and Sarah apparently is without a viable womb – Sarah birthed a son.  To everyone around it was a miracle, a crazy miracle.  The kind of miracle you read about in the line to pay for your groceries.

To God – it was his plan.  It was the most basic requirement of his promise.  A Son.

Abraham and Sarah now have a son.  Neither needs a back up plan or a safety net, they are the biological parents of this promised son.

There is one more thing, and this thing is about Abraham. It is a necessity for Abraham. 

It was time for Abraham to grow into God’s grace. It was time for him to be a man of Faith and to live a life of faith.

God called on Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac 

Danish philosopher and theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, was fascinated with the story, and person, of Abraham. In 1843, under a pseudonym, Kierkegaard wrote a book titled Fear and Trembling based on Philippians 2:12, ‘work out your salvation with fear and trembling’. He focused on the inter anxiety, and turmoil, that Abraham must have experienced as he said “okay’ to God’s call to sacrifice the only son he had left and the son that he so deeply loved.  

Kierkegaard, in this book which many thought was an autobiographical account of his own faith, developed the concept of ‘Infinite Resignation,’ which, he says, is the final element in the process of ‘working out your salvation.’  It is the giving up your backup, the one thing that you have held back from God, the one thing that you are unable to surrender to God, the one thing that you withhold from God, the one thing with which you are unable to fully trust God. 

‘Abraham?’

“I am here.’

a conversation between God and Abraham

God knew it was time for Abraham to move from here  to ‘work out his Salvation with fear and trembling.’  He told Abraham that he was to offer his only son, the son that he loved, as a burnt offering, a sacrifice.

We don’t hear Abraham say, ‘okay’, but he did obey.  He got up early and headed to the place, with Isaac, that God would show him.

On the way, as they stopped to prepare, Abraham looked, far away to where he was to offer Isaac as a sacrifice.  It was far away.  Far away from Sarah, far away from home, far away from him.  There was no way he was going to get there. However, he still said, ‘Okay.’ 

‘Dad’

‘I Am Here Son.’

‘What will we Sacrifice?’

a conversation between Isaac and Abraham

It was a long journey, far away always is.  The two must have talked about everything, everything except the sacrifice. That was a personal journey for Abraham, Sarah nor Eliezar could share it, Isaac definitely couldn’t.  It was a lonely journey to ‘far away.’

Abraham was ‘working out his salvation’ as he traveled far away, he separated God’s promise and God’s provision.  He asked himself if he trusted God enough, did he have faith enough to trust the promise and surrender the provision?

According to Kierkegaard, ’Infinite Resignation is the last stage before faith, so any who one has not made this movement does not have a full faith, for only in Infinite Resignation does an individual become conscious of his external validity, and only then can one speak of grasping existence by virtue of faith.’.

Simply put, one must give up all of his, or her, earthly possessions and must also be willing to give up whatever else it is that he, or she, loves more than God.

Abraham received God’s grace when he said ‘I am here,’ as well as when he said, ‘Okay,’ to God. He received ‘Grace upon Grace.  It was then that he began his journey of faith, a faith that would carry him through life.  Grace was given long before he reached the point of surrendering everything.

It was then, at the mental surrender, he was truly a man of faith, it was then that the world could look at him at the Father of Our Faith

As Abraham was about to plunge the knife into the body of his dear son, an angel cried out, ‘ABRAHAM!’

‘ABRAHAM! ABRAHAM!’

‘I Am Here’

an urgent conversation between angel and Abraham

Abraham, far away at a place that he never wanted to go to, held the knife steady and said, ‘I Am Here.’

Sure, we know that this was a test from God. Isaac was never going to die.  Abraham probably considered the possibility as well, but to even go through the motions, he had to ask the question, ‘Is this for real?’ He had to make the decision the sacrifice would be offered.

In offering his son, Abraham made the sacrifice.  He was now living by faith in God.

The comparison with God’s giving of His son are there, the painful resignation to surrender that which is most valuable is obvious.

We, however, have much to surrender. All of us, if we have said “I Am Here’ and ‘Okay’ are on a far away journey.  We are called to a sacrifice, God is showing us the way. Not only those things that we hold dear, but also those we hold dear. We have been asked to isolate at home and, when we are out, to wear a mask for the health of others.  It was just a preparatory sacrifice as God, now asks us to sacrifice our long held prejudices and judgements.  Our own way of looking at others, especially those who are different from us and that we do not understand.  We are being called to take the initiative, to not only understand, but to love beyond words.  To become uncomfortable with the status quo of our faith in this current reality, to become unsettled with the contradictions seen in our faith and in the reality of the world – to see the disconnect between the life of Christ then and the life of believers now. 

This turmoil that we are in, in a world that cannot control the disease and the disgruntled protests in the street – It is All Part of God Moving Us Far Away – to a place of Sacrifice.

It all seems very far away. But God’s grace took him there.  This was not something great historically about Abraham, we see little else about him after this story.  But, the life he now lived was fully, and completely lived in faith.  

This far away faith journey was for him, it is what Christ meant when he said ‘I came so that you may have life, and have it abundantly!’

God is calling us, are we ready to say, ‘Here I Am’?

Prayer Together for 06.28.20

God, we are tired, we shouldn’t be, but we are.
 
We are worn out by rising unemployment figures.
We are concerned about surging Covid numbers.
We are already fatigued by political manipulation 
and maneuvering. 
We are weary eyed from staring at our screens.

We are increasingly claustrophobic wearing face masks.
We miss seeing peoples’ faces.
We long for handshakes and hugs. 
We have forgotten what it is to actually go somewhere.

God we are tired, we shouldn’t be, but we are.
We now know that transformation must take place in each of us.
 
We are recognizing our need for empathy
We are striving to see others with a greater depth
and compassion.
We are realizing that we have taken antibiotics 
and vaccines for granted.
We are beginning to grasp the truth that our health is not just about us. 

We understand that rights are a privilege 
that must not be abused.
We connect that our privileges 
must never be at the expense of others.
We know that Loving God and Loving Others requires sacrifice.
We attempt to fathom that your love for us is why you sacrificed your son.

God we are tired, we shouldn’t be, but we are. 
We know that transformation must take place in each of us.
We name our gratitude in order to turn our gaze back to you. 

We trust in you even when we don’t see that you are here.
We trust in you even though we fear what is in the distance.
We trust in you as we follow an unknown path.
We trust in you, because you have always carried us before. 

God we are tired, we shouldn’t be, but we are.
We know that transformation must take place in each of us.
We name our gratitude in order to turn our gaze back to you.
We trust in you because you are our God, you are our Lord.

Amen

Being Loud

Message – Being Loud 

06.21.20

The gospel passage read today is the most passionate telling of a pivotal moment in the life of Jesus Christ.  For in this short passage, using these few words, we see the motivation that propels Christ for the remainder of the gospel of as told by the disciple Matthew.

Jesus, after the beatitudes, and after being amongst the people, sharing in their pains and hardships, witnessed the oppression they were under, he had seen and addressed their sickness and disease, he had seen that which he could not ignore.  The pain of the human condition.

It is surely not an overstatement to say that this had been an overwhelming and exhausting journey that had now been experienced by God in the flesh

As Jesus retreats to the circle of his disciples, he expresses his summation of the the human experience.  

‘The people are harassed, they are hopeless,’ he proclaims.  

Other translations use words such as distressed and dispirited, fainting and scattered (ceased to be a people), carrying problems so great that they do not know what to do, confused and aimless.   

These two verbs, harassed and hopeless, come from the root words skulló (skool’-lo) and rhiptó (hrip’-to), in their raw form  mean to flay and cast aside.  Cast aside we can understand but the word ‘flay’ may be unknown  to you – it basically means ‘ to skin’ so in a verb form would be ‘skinned’.  Think flaying a fish.

While Jesus probably did not mean that flaying was literally taking place, the people would have understood as it had been known to be a practice of torture of living humans as well as a show of disrespect to dead humans.  This practice has been identified as existing as early as 800 years prior to Jesus birth.

The use of theses words, and of combining them together create a very potent and powerful image that represent, by Jesus, the pain and agony he had seen and experienced in his time with the people.

Jesus was devastated and pushed to action.

Eugene Peterson in his paraphrase of the bible, The Message, describes the countenance of Jesus as ‘his heart was broken.’

It is significant that Matthew would document that Jesus uses these two images combined to present a visual the disciples would understand as he, of all the disciples understood the oppression of the Jews as he had been an employee of the Roman government.  He knew how they used fear to control and manipulate the people.  

It is out of this event, that God led Jesus to a mission of doing and not just a mission of telling.  It is at the point that the ministry becomes as much about now as it does about our life after this earth.  His message is not just doubt God’s act of love and sacrifice being the way to heaven but even more desperately about the way being an avenue to hope, peace, and love now, on earth.  It was the whole of his proclamation that the Kingdom of Heaven is near, and for his prayer, ‘Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.’

The impression of the human experience, the pain and agony in the lives of God’s people can only be described as pivotal. This revelation, while intellectually not new, but from the perspective of the flesh was seismic. God the father had used this moment to shape the ministry of Christ and to mold his passion.

He was there for the people. Any sacrifice he would make would be for the people.  His life was now being given to the people.

Jesus, now moved the disciples from mere learners to active doers.  For the only time in gospel of Matthew the status of the disciples is changed to apostles, they were now living out what they had seen Jesus do and teach.  Jesus was  sending them to do what he did when he encountered the misery of the human experience.

Jesus sent them out because it was a need that could not be ignored. 

Jesus sent the disciples, now apostles with a specific call, used very specific words and a very specific order.  He used the root word ‘Go’ but in a form that meant ‘As you have gone, also, tell them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near.’

You see the ‘Go’ to tell was not their mission, it was a ‘Go to Heal’, and while you are ‘Going and Healing’ , tell them about the Kingdom.  This is significant because it shows us the passion of Jesus for our ‘now’ as much as for our ‘later.’

They had seen Jesus at life, a life of caring, a life of compassion, a life of hope, a life providing peace, a live of love.  When he was in front of the crowds and when he was just with them.

Jesus told them, on their ‘Go’ if they were welcomed in, if they were permitted to do the work of Jesus they were then to bring a ‘peace’ to the house. 

They were called to ‘GO’ and to ‘BE’ the ‘IMPRINT’ of Jesus.

This is our multi-dimensional God, the one who cares for us now, and forever.  

Modern Evangelicalism has made the call of Jesus a one dimension calling.  It is a ‘Say’ calling, tell about Jesus win converts for eternity.  It is easy and quick. 

Jesus statement of the lack of laborers has been used to propagate this one dimensional calling of Jesus.  Other aspects, aspects such as care, compassion, mercy, peace, and even love have all taken a back seat to the ‘tell’ the ‘say’. 

This is the call, to be ‘Doers’ because God is a compassionate and loving God, we know this because Jesus, the election, exact imprint of God, was a compassionate and loving human being.

The ‘Say’ the telling that the ‘Kingdom is Near’ becomes a natural privilege as the compassion and love have already been communicated by our lives. The communicated message then, just ties up the loose ends.

This is an act of living out the great commandments:

Love God

Love Others as Yourself.

Jesus directed his now apostles to go the the lost Jews.  He gave a strict instruction to not go to the Samaritan or the Gentiles.  This was not a slight on either of these groups, they will have their moment with the compassion of God.   Now, however, is the time of need for the Jews.

This time is not just because of the pain of their lives, it is even more needed because their division keeps them from being unified, from the greater power that comes with community.

Much like now they are also divided.  Like now they have slapped labels on each other.  Labels like liberal and conservative, progressive and fundamental, traditional and contemporary, boring and exciting, among just to name a few.  Just like today, these labels kept them from helping and encouraging  each other in their times of need.  They kept them from strengthening each other in their times of misery.

Jesus send the apostles to unify them.  Much like he proclaims his goal of unity in his prayer just before he was arrested.  

 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you  sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

John 17:22-23

They couldn’t help each other because they did not consider themselves brother and sisters with each other.  They had failed to remember the common element of their faith was to look for the promised Messiah and therefore they had missed Jesus.

Their politics, their chosen religious leaders, their own agendas had all kept them from seeing and addressing the pain of all their other same faith neighbors.  They could not see beyond the roadblocks of themselves.


Let explain it through a real life, this week, story.

Illustrative Story of justifying actions of cop and responding with accusation against the cope.  This is the problem – instead of us taking a knee to understand the pain expressed about this incident, we have ran to our own corners to defend our politics and stance.  It is not about Mr. Floyd, it is not about this police officer, it is about centuries of a people in pain that we have refused to make the sacrifice of our own roadblocks in order to cure and heal.

We are in a time where the entire world is sharing in a suffering that we do not have the power to overcome.  I am sure that Covid is not a judgement of God but that God is going us the opportunity to be apostles of God’s compassion, his mercy, and his love. In the midst of this shared struggle we are divided with many even dismissing the reality of the deaths and the pain.

Add to this more of the same racist tragedies have taken place with African Americans suffering unneeded loss and pain.  Our politics and out complacency ha has kept us from responding since the founding of our nation.  This, along with Native American, and many other people groups have been oppressed and persecuted.  The church outside of these communities have said little.  We have gone to our sides, we have said ‘NO’ to Jesus shock at the suffering and pain.

We have refused to consider the pain of the past of the African Americans  forced to come to America resulting in a passing down pain and misery generation to generation. We seldom accept the responsibility for the brutal treatment of the Native American, who also cannot help but down their pain.  When children began arriving at our borders unaccompanied by their parents we immediately complained about parents who would send their children on such treacherous journeys alone without any consideration of how bad their lives must be to permit their loved ones to go. We continue to listen to false religious prophets who lead us from compassion and concern and toward hatred and dismissal of the very pain that led Jesus to transform his disciples into apostles. 

Our call is not to speak but to ‘BE”. Our call is too be appalled at the human persecution of any group of people to such an extent that we cannot help but be appalled and outraged. Our call if to “BE” the compassion and mercy of Jesus revealing his love, peace, and hope to those who are oppressed and mistreated. Our call is to live our life out loud, it is time that we take an honest look and say “this is not right!’.  Our call is to live the life Jesus sent his apostles to live.  A life where our mission is to heal the hurting, to rescue the harassed and mistreated, to show mercy and compassion, to love and bring peace.  It is to let the imprint of Jesus be unavoidably seen in our actions, our heart, and then, our words.

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