pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Among Us

Reading: John 1: 1-6 and 19-28

Verse 26: “Among you stands one you do not know”.

John’s gospel begins in the beginning – literally – stating that Jesus was there at the beginning of it all.  Jesus is the creator, the giver of all life.  Jesus is the light that shines into the darkness.  Jesus has been present to mankind since the beginning of time.  For the Israelites, it feels almost that long that they have been waiting for the Messiah.  Their collective journey of faith has been long and winding, filled with ups and downs for a long time now.  And for a long time, hundreds of year now, they have been waiting for, longing for, anticipating the coming of the One.  It has been 400 years since the last prophet of God even spoke, so John the Baptist draws a crowd when he begins to preach and baptize out in the wilderness.

As a little buzz begins to grow around John, the religious leaders send out some investigators to find out just who John the Baptist really is.  It sort of sounds like he could be the One.  In response to the investigators initial question, John responds clearly, “I am not the Christ”.  For all real purposes, they quit listening.  But then they remember they were sent to find out, so they continue to ask who he is.  Okay then, who are you?  John tells them he is not Elijah returned or any other prophet that they know.  He simply tells them that he is the messenger that Isaiah prophesied.  John quotes from Isaiah 40, saying, “I am the voice of one calling out in the desert, ‘Make straight paths for the Lord'”.  Instead of hearing that the Messiah is about to emerge, they turn to other questioning, giving evidence that they did not really hear this answer either.  The religious leaders miss the point of why John is here.  It is not about John or what he is doing, it is about what is about to happen.  You’d think that for a people waiting hundreds of years for the Messiah, they’d be all over John’s news.

Many people are right here today, just where the religious leaders are.  They sense there must be more to life, they want more for their life, they sense the possibilities.  John says to the religious leaders, “Among you stands one you do not know”.  This remains true today.  Jesus is still right here, right now.  He stands among us.  May we, like John the Baptist, be the voices calling out in the wilderness today, helping others to know the One who stands among us, Jesus Christ.

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Freedom

Reading: Psalm 114: 1-2

Verse Two: Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel His dominion.

Growing up in Connecticut, going to the Department of Motor Vehicles was a daunting task.  The adventure began in the parking lot.  It was always a challenge to find a spot to park.  If you went early, so did a thousand other people.  If you went during the day, it seemed like a thousand cars were circling the lot, all looking for the same space.  Once inside you saw a sea of chairs, lined up in long row after long row.  Then you would stand in line to get a number.  You pulled a little ticket like one does at a deli in a busy supermarket and then you headed for a seat.  If you forgot a book or your Walkman, you were in for trouble.  The big red number on the sign would read something like “24” and you’d look down at your ticket – “327”.  After just a few hours it would be your turn and you’d walk towards the correct window praying you had all the right paperwork…  When you finally emerged into fresh air to begin the search for your car, it felt as if a major victory had been won.  You survived the DMV!

The Israelites had been in Egypt for over 400 years.  Life was monotonous.  It was the same thing day after day.  Hurry up and do the same thing again today.  The slave drivers were always pushing and seemed to expect more and more.  Then one day the Israelites’ number is called.  God’s chosen people hear, “Next”!  God redeems them from slavery and they head off towards the promised land.  After their experience at the sea, they breathe in the fresh air and are confident in the victory that God has brought.  They know without a doubt that God is with them.  “Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel His dominion”.  God says, ‘you are mine and I love you’.  The chosen people head off, freedom at hand, the future looking oh so bright.

Fast forward a few centuries and we too have joined the family.  God says to you and to me, ‘you are mine, I love you’.  We too claim the victory.  Thanks be to God.


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Seven Years

Reading: Genesis 29: 15-28

Verse 20: Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.

Jacob came to work for Laban after fleeing from home.  Jacob was his sister’s son, so Laban took him in.  After a month, Laban was coming to appreciate Jacob’s work, so he asks Jacob what he would like in exchange for his efforts.  Jacob has fallen in love with the beautiful Rachel so he names her as his desire and offers to work for seven years for her hand in marriage.  As I think about his offer, it seems like a long time.  Rarely does a dating relationship last longer than a few years unless marriage is the plan.  In such cases, people date for a while, consider and talk of marriage, and then set the date.  For most with marriage on the mind, they will cut it off and move on pretty quickly if the other is not “the one”.

Extending the idea of working for seven years, what would one be willing to work for for seven years?  If I had my mind on a new car, for example, would I be willing to work for seven years, saving a little each month, until I had enough money to buy that car?  In a job, would I be willing to work for seven years to make that next step up the chain of command or to earn that first raise?  Yet in the context of today’s story, these things are small targets or goals.  When our thoughts move outside the concrete, there are many things we work much longer than seven years for.  When we do so, these are the things that really matter in life.

I look at my marriage and see something that I am still willing to work hard for.  I look at my college-age and post-college children and see many years of raising them and am still very dedicated to working at raising them.  And then I turn to my faith.  At 51, this is a journey longer than any other in my life, yet I still continue to seek to draw closer to God.  Looking back, I can see how my relationship has grown and deepened.  Seven years seems like a small blip on the timeline.  In this sense, I can relate to Jacob.  Seven years “seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her”.  May our love for God ever be the same.


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Tears of Joy

Reading: Psalm 137: 1-6

Psalm 137 is also a song of lament.  The Israelites held captive in Babylon are strangers in a foreign land.  They miss Jerusalem, their homes, the temple.  The culture and the ways of the Babylonians are strange and often run counter to the faith in God that the Israelites practice.  On top of all this, the Israelites must endure taunts and torment from the Babylonians.  The Israelites are asked to sing the songs of God – the God who loves and saves them.  How ironic the twist as they live in exile.

We look at the news and see the things going on around us and we too lament.  As followers of Jesus Christ we are often “strangers in a foreign land”.  We miss the good old days when everyone knew God, when the churches were full, and when the name of God drew only respect.  The culture and ways of the world are strange and often run counter to our faith and to God’s ways.  And on top of all this, the calls of hypocrites, elitists, and judgmental ring out from those who stand against God and the church.  We often feel and act small for a people who worship the God of all creation.

Our sadness and tears for our world are much like the years shed by the Israelites.  We shed tears of alienation and rejection.  We too are reminded of our reality that we are in this world but not of it.  Our home is in heaven.  We, however, also shed tears of sadness and empathy.  We see so many who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and we are sad.  This great gift of salvation that we received from God is a gift for all people.  The sadness and empathy that wells up in us and knowing the gift of life that we have leads us out into the world to share Christ’s light and love.  As we bring Christ into the world, as we see others coming to know Christ, our tears will become tears of joy over another won for Christ.  We go forth knowing we serve and love a mighty God.  Thanks be to God.