pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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By Our Love

Reading: John 13: 1-17 and 31b-35

During the meal, Jesus gets up from the table and washes the disciples’ feet.  Here He is offering the basic cleaning.  In the culture of Jesus’ time there were three basic cleanings.  Sandals (or no shoes) were common and all roads… were dirt.  To cleanse the feet often was necessary.  The next level is referred to by Peter as he asks Jesus to wash his feet, hands, and head.  This would be the typical daily bath.  What we know as a bath, to fully immerse in water, was definitely not a daily practice for most and was often communal.

The lesson Jesus was teaching, however, did not really have to do with hygiene but rather with status and authority.  Jesus was Lord and Teacher to the disciples.  In their eyes, He was the one to be served.  But here Jesus reverses the normal order.  The most becomes the least as He stoops to wash their feet.  His closing line of this section – you too will be blessed – when we serve one another – applies to us as well.

Jesus goes on to reinforce the idea of humble service as an example of sacrificial love.  He issues a new command: as I have loved you, do you must love one another.  This command is given just after Jesus again speaks of His imminent death and resurrection.  Surely the disciples would hear these words echoing in their heads and connect them to the ultimate act of humble service that Jesus performed on the cross.

We are all called to follow His example, although for most of us it does not lead to death on a cross.  Our ‘death’ is to die to self, to the things of this world.  Jesus calls us to offer ourselves in sacrificial love to others.  To  love each other in the body of Christ, to love those who are hard to love, to love those who hurt us, to love those who cannot love us back, to love one and all – we are to love as Jesus first loved us.  Why? So they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love.

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Wouldn’t We?

Reading: John 13: 21-33

“One of you will betray me”.  That must have been quite the bombshell.  These twelve men have  invested three years of their lives in following Jesus.  They have stuck with Him, certainly at a personal cost to their families and other relationships.  It has been a sacrifice in other ways as well.  Yet at twelve have remained with Jesus to this point.

In our hearts and minds, we each think we are devout to Jesus.  Until we are not.  How often our faith life is moving along solidly and in an instant we have said or thought something that brought instant conviction?  Surely not I, Lord.  As life is cruising along well and we feel connected to the Son, we do something and the remorse and guilt come flooding in.  Surely not I, Jesus.

In most cases when we have been tempted or stumble into sin, we recognize it quickly.  When we are sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we realize our sin quickly and repent and seek forgiveness and restoration.  Then and there we are brought back into a right relationship with God.

We all are never really far from, “One of you will…”. And like the disciples we can also get lost in our own worlds.  When we ourselves are wrestling with temptation or sin or when we have sinned and are struggling with the guilt or our own inability to forgive ourselves, we can be like the eleven – so lost in the ” Is it I?” question that we do not notice the evil around us.  The eleven were so inwardly focused that they did not notice Judas leaving.

If we were there we would have noticed and gone after him.  Wouldn’t have we?  Wouldn’t we?  Maybe.  It is too easy to think of someone who used to come to church.  In our own struggles may we realize that all struggle.  In this realization, may we become more aware of our brothers and sisters in Christ, being vigilant to love and care for one another.  May we each seek out and help the lost or wandering sheep back into the flock.


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In the Light

Reading: John 12: 20-36

As Jesus is speaking of His own impending death He is also calling us to be willing to offer our earthly life as well.  This does imply a faith we are willing to die for.  But it also speaks of us dying to self and all of the earthly desires that compete with the divine nature within us.  As a means of encouragement, Jesus reminds us that when a seed dies it produces a crop.  When we are willing to surrender our all to Jesus, then our old self falls to the ground and dies as our new self rises up to produce a harvest of faith.

Jesus encourages us to walk in the light.  When we have chosen to give up our old self we are choosing to step out of the darkness.  The darkness can hide our imperfections and defects.  When we step away from the darkness and into the light of Jesus Christ, we begin to see that the ways we were living were not pleasing to God.  We realize that we were living to please and glorify self.  And just as the dawn rises and light slowly creeps across the landscape, so too does His light.  As we grow in our faith, the light continues to shine into dark corner after dark corner as He continues to refine us.

This choice of laying aside self and walking in His light is a hard choice.  Jesus acknowledges the hard choice that He too faced and yet recognizes that this is why He came – to offer His all for you and me.  He leaves us no wiggle room as well.  He wants us to feel our discomfort over having to choose light or dark.  He urges us on, asking us to put our trust in the light so that we might become sons of light, heirs of an eternal inheritance, receivers of the gift of true life.


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Go and Do Likewise

Reading: John 12: 1-11

Our Holy Week readings begin with Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with perfume.  It is something she bought and has kept for just this occasion.  Mary anoints His feet as a beginning step of preparation for His burial.  While this surface fact is true, we must look deeper as well because Mary is a study in faith, a great example to all who call on the name of Jesus.

This story is not our first or last encounter with Mary.  In Luke 10 we see Mary as obedient follower.  As sister Martha works to make all the preparations, Mary simply sits at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him.  Jesus indicates that Mary has chosen wisely.  Unspoken is the warning not to allow business to get in the way of following.  The lesson here from Mary is to place His Word as supreme in our lives.

We also encounter Mary in the story of the resurrection of her brother Lazarus.  In John 10 it was Mary who first sent for Jesus because her brother was sick.  As  news of Jesus approaching their town comes to the grieving home, Mary does not rush out to meet Jesus.  She waits until He calls for her.  Then she goes without delay and confesses her faith in Jesus’ power, even over death.  This is a confession we too must make if we are to surrender our lives to His will.

Lastly, the anointing.  There is of course the sacrifice of the expensive perfume.  But for many of us, like Mary we too can ‘afford’ to give of our resources.  But to go beyond is the challenge for many of us.  To allow the Spirit to lead and to be willing to see God’s vision of what lies just ahead can be difficult.  Here Mary does both.  She goes the extra step and uses her hair to wash His feet.  She allows the Spirit to lead her into this act of service.  In the next chapter we see Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.  He instructs them to follow His (and Mary’s) example, to be willing to serve one another.  Led by the same Spirit, may we be willing to go and do likewise.


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Oh What Love

Readings: Psalm 31: 14-15, Psalm 118:1, Isaiah 50:7, and Philippians 2:9

Today we celebrate both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday.  With palms we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  It is an event filled with joy yet tinged with sadness as well.  This happy parade marks the beginning of Holy Week.  The events of this week will contain a good deal of despair but in the end hope is triumphant.  The passion of Jesus for humanity reveals the depth of His love for us.

Today’s Psalm readings remind us of the truth and steadfastness of God.  In Psalm 31 we are reminded to trust God because He WILL deliver us.  Yes, there will be trials, but He will see us through them.  Psalm 118 reminds us of the why: because God is good and because His love endures forever.  When we choose to fully trust our lives to God, we discover that He will deliver us each and every time because of the depth of His love for us.

That depth of love allowed His own Son to be tried, tortured, and crucified because God knew that death would not have the last word.  God knew that the grave could not contain His Son.  God knew that love is stronger than death.  So sin was  heaped upon Jesus on that cross.  He bore them all as the perfect sacrifice.  Oh what depth of love the Father has for you and me!  Oh what love.


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The Parade

Reading: Luke 19: 28-40

Most of life is routine.  We settle into our daily schedules and we prioritize so we can accomplish all we need to get done.  We sometimes experience a blip but we can usually push through and get back on track.  As Jesus began the journey to Jerusalem, He knew the journey would end at the cross.  Not many journeys end this way.  But even Jesus kept on track – He taught and healed along the way as He neared the city.

Then came the parade.  He sent two disciples ahead to find a vehicle for the guest of honor but that was all Jesus did in terms of organizing the parade.  Note that He did not send two disciples to this town and two to this village to drum up a big crowd.  Jesus simply got on a donkey and headed towards Jerusalem.  As the parade continued it picked up momentum on its own.  After all, the guest of honor was someone lots of people had heard about and wanted to see.  By word of mouth the parade route filled up and energy grew.

Clip-clop after clip-clop excitement built and pretty soon the crowd began to sing and shout and cheer.  The people who came out to see Jesus, this simple man who taught and healed in powerful ways, were suddenly cheering for a King who could raise up a powerful army to defeat the Romans.

I think Jesus knew where the building emotions would lead to as the parade continued.  The idea of a King to lead by power and might is just so juxtaposed to who Jesus was.  He never used the power and might that was surely His to use.  Jesus’ power came in how He loved others, in how He built relationships, and in how He humbly served.  The parade served to show the world who Jesus was not.  He lived to show us who He was so that as His disciples we would follow His example.  May we go forth into the world to love, to build relationships, and to serve others humbly, all for His glory and all for His kingdom.


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Salvation

Reading: Psalm 118: 14

Salvation, as it was often used in the Old Testament, has a slightly different connotation than how it is primarily used in the New Testament.  Whereas in general Christians see salvation as a personal and eternal matter, to the average Jew of the time salvation was more communal and concerned life in the present time and place.

In the Psalm there is a sense of tragedy and despair that God has rescued them from.  During this time the psalmist felt trapped, limited.  It was as if the world has closed in tight and it was hard to breathe.  It is a feeling we all can surely relate to.  For the psalmist, God’s act of salvation rescued them from despair and restored their hope in this life.  Part of this rescue is the liberation from that which constricted or oppressed them so that they can again have the abundant life that God intends for us all to live.  For the Hebrew community, salvation was something that could happen over and over and over again.

As Christians, we also see God’s presence and interaction with us as a regular, daily event.  We also view God as active and engaged in our daily lives.  We see God as present with us as individuals as well as with our faith communities and world.  God listens to our praise, our cries, our thanksgivings, and our pleas.  He responds to our needs and rescues us from trials so that we can live a life that is abundant and joyful, filled with His many blessings.

In both the Old Testament and in the New Testament, salvation has a saving character to it.  In the Old Testament it mostly had to do with God’s hand at work in their world, saving people from their struggles.  For us as New Testament people, we still see God at work doing this, but we also see salvation as the work that saves us from sin, death, and their consequences.  For both of these aspects of God’s salvation, I am thankful.  Praise be to God!