Saturday, May 21, 2011

Believing the Obvious By Pastor Bettye

May 21, 2011
John 14: 1 – 14
Believing the Obvious
Grace, mercy and peace to you this day in the name of Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life. Amen
In John the fourteenth chapter Jesus is standing metaphorically speaking at his own grave. He knows his death is imminent; the reason for his birth is at hand. He knows the fear of the disciples, their misunderstandings and tender faith. Jesus speaks at this place his farewell discourse and offers words at a time of impending loss. At a grave side Jesus gives words of hope by:
Stating the obvious
Consoling those with ears to listen
Giving his followers direction for the future
Leaving them with a promise

Jesus does all this in the words found in John 14: 6-7:
“I am the way the truth and the life;
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, you will know my Father;
From now on you do know me and have seen Him.”
Jesus states the obvious, consoles, gives direction and a promise.
The way, the truth and the life are words from Holy Scripture which give disciples hints from the historical paths of their ancestors and their own paths with Jesus. The way brings forth the memory of the journey to the promise land; and the journey of Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem - the way all disciples must walk. In John 1:17 we first hear that while the law came from Moses, truth comes from Christ. From John 1:4 is where we greet Jesus with the words, “In him was life and that life was the light of the world.” The obvious is tied together by Jesus, the way the truth and the life. In our sorrow s and fears we can be consoled by Jesus, the great I AM from the Gospel of John.
“No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 is directions for the future. These are also highly charged words in today’s society and religious circles. They are words of inclusivity for all not exclusivity. They are not the words of the “If….then” thinking population but rather “Because…therefore” thinkers in Christ. Jesus eclipses all other ways to God. The power of the Christian faith holds this statement as the central point of consolation and hope. The destiny of humankind comes through the way, the truth, and the life and this way, truth and life is not for only a few but for all for all time.
The future comfort for the world as offered by Jesus in the gospel according to John comes through the knowing of him because knowing Jesus means that we therefore know God. The intimate relationship between God and Jesus is inseparable; one holy God bond together- one as the same as the other. Because you know God therefore you know the Messiah! What eternal joy and hope this brings for our future and the time yet to come; the now and not yet.
Jesus leaves a promise at the grave side. “From now on you know him and have seen him.” John 14: 7. These words indicate the future gift of eternal life because the Jesus you have come to know is God and therefore you are called into the promise secure by God in Christ. Thanks be to God!
What does this mean for you today? My friends over the past five Sundays of the Easter season we have been remembering what it means to be people who have seen Jesus. On Easter morning we reminded ourselves in community of the ways in which we “see” Jesus and our calls to go and tell what we have seen. We remembered the markers of the church: Baptism and Holy Communion as ways on which we see Jesus and invite others to share this glorious site with us. Last week we “saw” ourselves as community cared for and called to care for others by Jesus the Good Shepherd. Today as the glow of that Eastertide begins to fade, as we face our individual “graves and losses” we are again called to see our God in Jesus and rejoice. We are given good news from the one who states the obvious:
“I am the way, the truth and the life;
No one comes to the Father expect through me.
If you know me you will know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.” John 14: 6 – 7
Let us pray:
Christ is Risen…He is Risen indeed!
You are the Easter one; you stalk the earth with new life, you soar the heavens with fresh governance. You are the life giver, and yet… you are strange among us. In the days of anxiety and in a world filled with death you bring life…life eternal. You appear to us and say, “Fear not,” and we are comforted, you say “Peace I give you,” and we are less restless. You say “Go and sin no more,” and we glimpse a new innocence. You say and we listen, you act and we are healed, you …and us, you and life eternal, you and newness, you for us, you with us you, you , you Lord Jesus….we are dazzled in our gratitude! Amen*

Taken from the prayer: You who stalk the earth with new life” by Walter Brueggemann, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth. Augsburg Fortress, 2003

The Shepherd's Community by Pastor Bettye

May 15, 2011
John 10:1 – 10
The Shepherd’s Community
Grace, mercy and peace to you this day in the name of the one who calls us to live with him in community, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I know my dress size. I know what fits and feels best on my person. However, depending upon which mirror I look in, some clothes look different on me then others. I know that when I try on clothes at one ladies boutique their mirrors make me appear a certain way; at another boutique another way. Different mirrors reflect different images. They are all images of me, I just see myself differently through these varying mirrors. I bring up this idea of how and what we see as an introduction today’s Gospel in order to address John’s image of the Good Shepherd.
Each of the Gospels in the New Testament brings us a view, a picture of the character of Jesus. In Bible study class I have e asked the question, “Which presentation of the character of Jesus resonates most with you?” Each gospel text offers the listen a different view of our incarnate Savior – not opposing – just different. I for one am especially warmed by the Gospel according to John which gives us the vision Jesus as the good shepherd. I am especially warned by the views in John’s Gospel that we are a community lovingly tended by the Good Shepherd.
The writer of John’s Gospel uses a shepherd metaphor for the Old Testament and ascribes it to Jesus, the Incarnate One. John, chapter ten read this fourth Sunday of Easter portrays Jesus as the fulfillment of Israel’s hopes for a good shepherd. A good shepherd will intimately shepherd a community of people providing protection and identity for God’s own. This view of Jesus and his relationship with the community he loves is fully realized in this season of Easter as the good shepherds lays down his life for his sheep. In doing so the good shepherd gives new life to a new community.
Jesus is the one we follow, the one we know and trust. He is the one who is called to ensure the safety of the community he loves. The idea of community is a central thought with the writer of John’s gospel. Jesus restores Lazarus to community; the writer of John portrays Jesus as one with a community as seen in the vision of the vines and the branches. The gospel according to John continues to show us a Jesus and our placement, our part in a community of faith; the flock whom he gathered together and prevented from scattering.
This view of the intimate relationship Jesus seeks with us in a community is one we care called to holed hear and to emulate Jesus. The Spirit of God gathers, enlightens and protects us in community and gives us the charge to maintain that community to the glory of God. We are sheep who often go astray, who would follow each other off of a cliff if we take our eyes off of our good shepherd. We are also the beloved of God given the call by our good shepherd to take the responsibility of community as part of our life style. In the closing verses of the gospel according to John Jesus turn to Peter and tells him to “feed my lambs”, “take care of my sheep”, and “feed my sheep”. Peter, the rock of the church, is given direction to form a new community in the form of the church. In ACTS we hear of this new community:
Acts 2:42-47 (New International Version)
The Fellowship of the Believers
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The Good Shepherd calls us to join him in community. Later today we will celebrate the community called Grace of God as she takes her first steps out into the worlds as an organized, incorporated community whose Good Shepherd is Jesus Christ. She bears the same message of salvation which this community does. She claims the same God, the same mission, the same Savior, the same Good Shepherd. Jesus will protect, love and tend this new community as he does others gathered in his name and to God’s glory. Together we are called to be a community of believers sharing the Good News of the Good Shepherd!

Open My Eyes Lord By Pastor Bettye

May 9th, 2001
Easter 3
Luke 24: 13 – 35
Let us pray…..
Open my eyes, Lord I want to see Jesus; to reach out and touch Him; to show Him I love Him. Open my ears, Lord, and help me to listen. Open my eyes, Lord, I want to see Jesus.

Grace, mercy and peace to you this day in the name of the risen Lord Jesus Christ! Amen
This past week four of us went on a “midlife” hike in Harper’s ferry. We spent more time going to hiking trail and returning from the hiking trail then we did on the trail itself! As we began our journey on the C & O canal we realized we did not have a way of knowing how far we would be traveling. Time and leg strength we decided would allow us only so much time on the trail. Early on in the hike we came across a stranger who, when asked about “mile markers” on the trail promised us that those markers did exist. We simply had to open our eyes and look for the markers. Four women talking, enjoying the adventure of the C & O canal could not find ANY of those markers. Four bright, observant women missed each and every marker. We were sure that we had been misled or we did not know what to look for. After a while we decided to turn back thinking that perhaps we had traveled about one-half of the planned hike. It was getting late and the skies had moments of darkness indicating uncertain weather. We saw on our hike back the markers we had missed. We finally recognized on the journey home what the posts on the ground with the miles written on them looked like. Why we did not recognize these markers before was beyond our understanding. We finally came to the conclusion that we just did not know what to look for. We just did not recognize the obvious. Perhaps the disciples had some difficulty recognizing Jesus without his markers in today’s Gospel text.

Luke tells us the story of travelers; two disciples traveling to Emmaus talking and pondering the events of the past three days; these three days being Good Friday, Saturday which would have been their Sabbath and the day of the resurrection. Today’s Gospel text takes us back to the day of the resurrection and reminds us how difficult it was for the disciples of Jesus to “see”, to “recognize” and the “understand” all that had taken place. They remained in a quandary. When the two disciples on the road to Emmaus met a “stranger” they retold the story of the last three days. They were astonished that the “stranger”, the one they did not recognize as Jesus was unaware of the most recent events. The two disciples outlined in a tidy and brief discourse what had happened to the one they did not, at the moment recognize as Jesus. The “stranger “does not identify himself but rather reminds them of the prophecies which had just been fulfilled. The disciples remained….clueless, blind, unable to recognize even then who the stranger was. Scripture tells us that the “eyes (of the disciples) were kept from recognizing him. “Luke 24: 16. The meaning of the word “recognize” goes deeper than just a “visual” I.D. of Jesus. To recognize who this stranger was meant to go to the marrow of one’s soul and accept in faith all that had just be revealed; to accept the reality and depth of the ancient prophecies and to digest and make for yourself a relationship with that which you have just seen. Our disciples in Luke stilled struggled with the obvious.
Last Monday in our Bible Study class on the Book of Exodus the question was posed, “When do you see God?” Initial remarks offered included creation; love between family and friends, and in church. The next question posed was, “When do you see God in Christ?” These answers took a little bit longer and a little more thought. After a brief silence the question was asked, “When do you see Jesus in church?” With that came comments like; we see Jesus in the Music we sing, I see Jesus in the people as they pray for each other, and finally, “I see Jesus when we come together for Communion.”
When DO we see, recognize or experience our God in Christ Jesus? Our disciples had their eyes and I dare say their hearts opened at the breaking of the bread. “Were not our hearts burning within us as he was talking to us on the road; while he was opening the scriptures to us?” Luke 24: 32. They recognized Jesus and had to do something with what they saw. The disciples turned and went back to Jerusalem, their fears squelched, their hearts energized as the exclaimed. “The Lord had risen indeed!” Once recognized, the Lord cannot be contained in one’s self or within a small group; it is a vision, an understanding that goes to the marrow of one’s soul is now seen, what is now joyfully recognized!
The story of the Emmaus walk has become a “marker” for many Christians undergoing, seeking, and hoping for spiritual renewal. “Emmaus walks” are often planned to help open the eyes of the hiker to recognize Jesus in their life. Who among us had not felt blindsided in times of distress and wondered if even God cannot see the road ahead or had left us to wonder on our own? Who among us has felt the assurance of God on the road of life through the love and care of a Christian community; the hymns of praise and worship, and the meal loving shared in humility and joy as we hold the mystery of Christ in our hands and had the sacred memories of our open hearts rekindled? Who among us has seen the God in Christ and been revived? This is a story of renewal worth telling. Let us pray……..