Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Walking Blind

Sunday morning I shared about my early morning God-lesson as I watched two planets reflecting the light of the unseen sun. (sermon here) One of the lesson was that of the need for the darkness in order for the dirt-encrusted planets to shine forth. For us that darkness often refers to things like suffering and doubt. Elements that we do not desire nor enjoy, and yet are the very things that allow Christ's reflective light to shine forth.

This week's sermon passage, John 9:1-41, also deals with darkness and light in the form of blindness and sight. There is much to discuss in this powerful encounter between Jesus, the blindman and the religious leaders, but I would like to focus just on one short section that coincides with my God-lesson mentioned above.

In John 9:6-12 Jesus begins the healing process with spit and mud (pretty earthy, the basis of our very creation...hearkens back to Genesis 2:7). Then Jesus tells the man to walk blind to the pool of Siloam. I don't know how far the man had to walk, but Jesus could have healed him without making him walk one more step in the darkness that had overshadowed him from birth, and yet Jesus sent the man off with spit and mud in his eyes and in darkness to wash in the pool.

The spiritual lesson for me was strong. Jesus may bring healing into various areas of my life, while at the same time calling me to continue to walk in darkness. To walk obediently in the dark while His healing of my life is still in the process of arriving. I don't know why at one time the healing is immediate and at others it is still arriving, all I know is that sometimes the darkness is still present, and as with the planets allows the Light of the world to shine unto God's glory...which is the goal in all things. (John 9:3)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

So, Prove Me Wrong!

IN EVANGELICAL ECCLESIASTICAL PASTORAL CIRCLES, this coming Sunday (the Sunday after Easter) is lovingly referred to as "Slump Sunday." It's the day when churches suffer below normal church attendance, which often looks even more striking against the previous week's, above normal church attendance. The reason for this below normal gathering is often attached to the fact that so many in the church did more than usual the week before because of all the increase of religious activities during Holy Week, and now they believe they earned a Sunday off.

After over 30 years of pastoral work I have found the above phenomenon to be true. To be honest it's a little disheartening to us pastors. Sure, we can understand it, and it may even make some limited sense, but it still is troubling. It's not just having the CE attendees (Christmas/Easter) fail to return, but it's having the regular church family disappear as well.

When I was younger this whole event bothered me on a strictly statistical and numerical basis; numbers were down, giving was down, and this was not good. But now, it bothers me at a deeper level (though I miss the numbers as well). It troubles me that we can think that not gathering with the Community of Christ on a regular basis is somehow an option for us. Now, don't get your toga in a knot, for I know we all go other places and even pastor's take a week off from time to time. I know that, and I am OK with that, this issue is much more systemic than that.

Often, there is a sense that this "missing church" will some how not matter in the great scope of things. The danger is that this attitude can develop into a destructive practice. The truth is we were created for Community. As Christians are born anew into Christ's Body, the Church, and the church is not about doing, it is about being. Sadly, I know people who cannot miss a day without stopping at Starbucks. In fact, if they miss that opportunity they will make it the topic of conversation and complaint until they are able to return to their "temple" of choice, but these same people can miss a month of Sundays without the slightest affect upon their being.

Believe it or not, this brings us to our passage for this coming week, John 8:48-59.

In this encounter Jesus is once again defending who He is before the religious leaders. In John 8:58 He declares, "Before Abraham was, I AM." In that statement He made it definitively clear to His detractors that He was God, the "I AM." (Exodus 3:14) Yet, it should be noted that being the I AM did not mean He stood alone, but rather the greater reality was that He has dwelt for eternity in a Divine Community. What He did, what He said, was what He saw and heard from the Father. Jesus' very nature, that of being in community with God, had bearing upon all that He was and did. That community is imparted to us, His followers. It is what the Body of Christ is all about.

Jesus told His followers that apart from Him we could do nothing. (John 15:5) We, too often, personalize that statement. We make it all about Christ in me, but in reality it is much more. It is about community, and it is for the community, the Body of Christ. Apart from the Community of Christ, His Body, we can do nothing. Not just because the individual members of the local church hold some collective power that is transmitted to us, but because Christ lives in, and through, His Body. Remember the Word of God tells us we are not like a body, we are the Body. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

There is much to unpack in this passage this week, but let's not miss the truth about who Jesus is, how Jesus is, for we are called to be conformed to His image. (Romans 8:29) The community, gathering with it, is of vital importance to our journey in following Christ and in being made like Him by the Holy Spirit's work in us.

Will the Community of Christ gather this week with the numbers and enthusiasm, as it did the week previous? I doubt it! But to that I would love to say,

"Prove me wrong!"

Monday, April 06, 2009

HE IS RISEN!

HE IS RISEN!

That might be a scary prospect for a horror film. Something about some guy rising from the dead, sulking around the countryside looking for hapless victims to bring to his netherworld lair. Yep, I am sure Hollywood could make that title into a real hit for the Halloween movie season.

But, when I use those words, my thoughts fall not to images of death, but rather of life! It is a declaration of life-bringing truth. He is risen! This "He" is of course the man Jesus, who, as the Apostle's Creed reminds us, "was crucified, dead, and buried, descended into Hell, The third day He rose again from the dead."

This week we remember the Passion of our Lord. That passion was for us; to pay the full and complete price for our sin (Hebrews 9:22; 1 Peter 3:18). Because of this Passion He willingly journeyed to the Cross. (Hebrews 12:2) but His Passion not ony included His death, but His resurrection as well.

Jesus' resurrection was for the purpose of bringing life, not death. It was to move us from a place of fear to the place of faith. It was not a horror story, but the event that establishes hope. The shout of the Church, "He is risen!" Was not a shout of dismay but of joy. It was the constant reminder that all the Jesus said, did and promised was true! Sins forgiven! A place in heaven guaranteed! The relationship with our Heavenly Father restored! Purpose, peace, mercy, love renewed, continually!

I encourage you this week, as we remember the Passion of our Lord, to seek to renew your passion for Him. To call upon the Holy Spirit, that dwells in the life of every believer, to empower you anew. Cry out for the Resurrection Passion to fill your life.

Choose this week to live out the the life-changing declaration of truth, that "HE IS RISEN!" not just with your mouth, but with the everyday decisions of your life for "He is risen, indeed!"