March 22, 2008

Darkness

Filed under: Faith Matters — Pastor Tim @ 11:16 am

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark,…”  John 20:1

It always begins in darkness, doesn’t it?  The gift of new life wouldn’t be a surprise if it didn’t begin in the darkness.

Resurrection begins in the darkness - a darkness that can linger for days.  Darkness came over the land on noon on Friday, according to the synoptic accounts, as Jesus hung from the cross, as he suffered, and as he died.  That darkness continued through Saturday in the tomb where the body lay.   Before the sun had risen on Sunday morning, Mary arose to go to the tomb.

When she arrives and finds that the body is missing, her first thought is of more darkness.  “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” [20:2]  Resurrection light arrives, but it continues to look like darkness.  It is only after Mary hears her name spoken, that she recognizes the new light that is shining.

So, too, I trust that resurrection light is shining in our world in places that appear to be drenched in darkness.  May we learn to linger with our grief in the darkness until we hear our names spoken, until we can recognize resurrection light, until we can join with Mary to say, “I have seen the Lord!” [20:18]

March 13, 2008

Triumphal Entry

Filed under: Faith Matters — Pastor Tim @ 11:06 am

When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?”  The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”  Matthew 21:10-11

It’s quite likely that there were two parades into Jerusalem that day.  Caesar’s troops were marching in from Rome.  They came every year to ensure that order would be maintained during the annual influx of Jews for the Passover celebration.  At the same time, Jesus was arriving on a donkey.  Almost immediately, he went to the temple and stirred up the sort of disorder that those Roman soldiers were hoping to prevent.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace.  But he does not stand for any “peace” that depends upon brute force to be maintained.  He does not stand for any “peace” which ignores the plight of the underprivileged members of a society.  He does not stand for any “peace” which is essentially order established at the expense of justice.  Jesus parades into our lives to establish “shalom,” a peace that isn’t afraid to stir things up on behalf of just treatment for all people.

March 10, 2008

“Unbind him”

Filed under: Faith Matters — Pastor Tim @ 11:27 am

The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth.  Jesus said to him, “Unbind him, and let him go.”  John 11:44

I can’t help but picture this scene as if it were supposed to be part of a scary mummy movie - a dead man, wrapped in strips of cloth, stumbling out of a tomb.  I guess it was a scary scene for many of the religious authorities, who immediately met and made plans to have Jesus executed.  But what was frightening for them was not the sight of this walking dead man; instead it was the sense that they were losing control of their citizens.  If they lost control, then Rome would step in and take control.  That was the last thing they wanted.  You see, those authorities were bound just as tightly as Lazarus, entombed in the Roman heirarchy that sought to manage the affairs of the world.

Jesus would summon each of us from bondage in the same way that he summoned Lazarus from that tomb.  Along the way, he is often delayed (vs. 1-16); he encounters and deals graciously with our anger (17-27); and he weeps alongside us (28-37).

Ultimately, Jesus’ journey to the cross is to serve that same purpose - to summon us from the tombs of guilt and fear and death, to summon us to forgiveness and love and life.  May our Lenten journey with Christ lead us to hear that summons.

March 1, 2008

To See or Not to See, That Is the Question

Filed under: Faith Matters — Pastor Tim @ 12:45 pm

“Jesus said to [the man born blind], ‘You have seen him, and the One speaking with you is he.’  He said, ‘Lord, I believe.’  And he worshiped him.”  John 9:37-38

The ninth chapter of John’s gospel is the story of a man born blind who suddenly gains his sight through Jesus’ intervention.  But that miracle is not the main thrust of the story.  The story’s deeper plot involves the gradual growth of the man’s awareness of who Jesus is, while at the same time the religious leaders are refusing to see what is going on around them.  The man born blind gains spiritual insight, while the religious leaders remain blind to such things.

There are a number of sources of “blindness” in this passage.  Early in the story Jesus affirms that sin is not the source of the man’s physical blindness.  But perhaps that is being contrasted with the other blindnesses in the text.

  • Many neighbors of the man born blind have only recognized his condition, not the person behind the condition; so they no longer recognize him when he has sight.  They have been blinded by the act of labeling.
  • The religious leaders to whom the man was brought initially share the neighbors’ blindness; but after having this cleared up by the man’s parents, they now see only a violation of Sabbath law.  They fail to acknowledge the man’s healing, but are blinded by an overly strict adherence to tradition.
  • The man’s parents see and recognize him.  They see and acknowledge his healing.  However, they cannot see beyond their fear of authority figures (v. 22).  They are blinded by a penchant to avoid all conflict.

These, then, become the faith issues for us:

  • Can we see through others’ limitations and the labels we apply to them to know and treat them as people whom God loves?
  • Can we see around the traditions that have given shape to our lives to acknowledge new things God is doing in our midst, even when that makes us uncomfortable and may cause us to have to think about our life in different ways?
  • Can we see beyond official interpretations of the way things work to risk stirring up controversy for the sake of pursuing justice with God for the world?