Holy Week Blog 2015, Thursday: …Before the World Existed.

John 17:1-5 NRSV:

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you,since you have given him authority over all people,[a] to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.


The Lectionary reading for Thursday is all of John 17, and believe me, there is a lot upon which to reflect from John 17. As I read, though, I couldn’t get past verse 5. Jesus is completing his mission, preparing to go back to the Father (albeit through the cross and Resurrection). And he prays, ” Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.” And I gotta say, that verse is a trip to me tonight. This is not only a mere human praying this. Jesus had glory with the father before the earth even existed. Now, we believe that is true theologically… The Son is co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit… but for some reason it does me good tonight to sort of hear it from his own lips. 

It’s encouraging to know the Christ was coming before the world was created, let alone before we sinned.

It’s encouraging to me Jesus exercises faith, and goes though with the plan even though he knows what’s going to happen.

It’s encouraging to know that whatever happens tomorrow (on Good Friday), Resurrection is coming. Glorifcation is coming. Death is not the end.

Blessings

Mark

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Holy Week Blog 2015, Wednesday: When His Heart was Troubled

John 12:27-36, NRSV

27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people[e] to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah[f] remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”


It had to be discouraging for Him. He taught them, did miracles among them, explained it seemingly every way he could, and still they didn’t really believe. He was facing the cross, and in a few short days all of them would forsake Him, and he knew it. And still He trusted. Still His prayer was for the Father to be glorified in Him– even (and especially) in His death. Still He’s drawing them to believe.

It’s impossible for us to really understand where Jesus is coming from here in this passage. All I think I can really say is that I’m reminded of what Romans says when it calls us to have the faith of Jesus… even (and especially) when we face trouble.

So.

Lord God, I pray for the faith of your Son. I pray when we face troubles, you would grow something in us that’s like Jesus. I pray that your name would be glorified in our lives. I pray for perspective, that you would show us a little bit of the bigger picture, so our light and momentary troubles could be seen as just that. I pray for the light, that you would indeed light our way forward. In the name of your Son, by the presence of the Spirit I pray.

Amen.

Blessings,

Mark

Holy Week Blog 2015, Tuesday:

John 12:20-26, NRSV:

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.


This is another one of the tough teachings of Jesus in John. Brought to you by the same Gospel that quotes Jesus telling his disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Now we’re supposed to “hate” our lives?

My mind asks this question… could it be, perhaps, that even our own life could be an idol if we love it more than we love the Lord? Could even our own life take God’s place as #1? The answer seems an obvious yes. Yes it can.

Here again, in the midst of Holy Week, especially in the midst of Holy Week, we are reminded that a death is involved in Christianity. And the death is mine… in Christ.

Blessings,

Mark

Holy Week Blog, Monday: Power that corrupts.

John 12:1-12 NRSV:

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them[a] with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii[b] and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it[c] so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.


I think one of the important things happening in the Gospel of John is the power dynamic at play. Time and again the Jewish religious leaders try to assert their power over Jesus. It’s a power they’re used to wielding. If they decided to put someone out of the synagogue, they were out. If they wanted someone stoned to death, it usually happened. In this passage, they conspire to murder Lazarus because Lazarus as a living, breathing miracle of Jesus was eroding their power base.  If the Jews’ religious power disintegrated because of Jesus, they are left with nothing. They are the big kids on the block, and when their power is threatened, they seem unwilling to stop short of anything– even premeditated murder– to eliminate the threat.

I guess my response to this is something like a warning to leaders in the church to be aware and very careful how we use power. Power really does tend to corrupt, and religious power is pretty potent stuff among religious people. So be careful. Be careful not to hold too tightly to the little kingdoms we build. Be careful, lest we do the wrong thing when the Real Kingdom comes and threatens our power… because it will threaten our power. In those moments, remember it’s not about you. (Nor is it about me, either.) If the Kingdom of Jesus means I lose my position as the big cheese (and make no bones about it— that’s precisely what it means.) then so be it. Come, Lord Jesus

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog 2015, Day 33: Unless A Seed Dies…

John 12:23-25

23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.


I’m taking a break from Colossians tonight to reflect on part of the Lectionary Gospel reading for today. It made an impression on me last night in our Muncie Restoration Community worship gathering. Unless a grain of wheat dies and gets buried, all it will ever be is one grain of wheat. It takes a bunch of individual grains to really make anything.

But if it dies, and is buried… it will germinate and bear much fruit. When you think about it, when that seed germinates and starts growing, the growth breaks the original seed apart and it eventually becomes unrecognizable. The seed ends up being destroyed, in a way. But oh, the growth and multiplication that happens through the death of that one seed! Wheat-growing-in-field

See, I think in the church and in our lives, we like our little grain of wheat. It’s precious to us. It’s a miracle. Get enough of them together and you can really do something. So protect it. Shield it. Put it in a display case and admire it for the wonderful creation it is. See my wonderful piece of wheat?

It never seems to dawn on us that perhaps that grain of wheat could be an offering of trust to the Lord. If we would… if we would give it to the Lord to crucify it with him, I wonder what might happen. It might be multiplied a hundred times over. I think it’s time we let the seed… whatever it is… die. Let it fall to the ground so it can have a shot at fulfilling its intended purpose. Let it go. It’s not really yours or mine to begin with.

Blessings,

Mark