Saturday, October 24, 2009

The most famous secret conversation in the world

Jesus is creating a sensation!

He is healing people and doing miracles.

He has the gaul to overturn tables and drive the sacrifice merchants out of the temple!

But it is his words that are making the most impact!! A leader of the religion seeks out Jesus late at night.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Christus: A Mystery (I.2.4 Nicodemus at Night)

NICODEMUS.The streets are silent. The dark houses seem
Like sepulchres, in which the sleepers lie
Wrapped in their shrouds, and for the moment dead.
The lamps are all extinguished; only one
Burns steadily, and from the door its light
Lies like a shining gate across the street.
He waits for me.
Ah, should this be at last
The long-expected Christ!
I see him thereSitting alone, deep-buried in his thought,
As if the weight of all the world were
Upon him, and thus bowed him down.
O Rabbi,We know thou art a Teacher come from God,
For no man can perform the miracles
Thou dost perform, except the Lord be with him.
Thou art a Prophet, sent here to proclaim
The Kingdom of the Lord. Behold in me
A Ruler of the Jews, who long have waited
The coming of that kingdom. Tell me of it.
CHRISTUS.Verily, verily I say unto thee,
Except a man be born again, he cannot
Behold the Kingdom of God!
NICODEMUS.Be born again?
How can a man be born when he is old?
Say, can he enter for a second time
Into his mother's womb, and so be born?
CHRISTUS.Verily I say unto thee, except
A man be born of water and the spirit,
He cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.
For that which of the flesh is born, is flesh;
And that which of the spirit is born, is spirit.
NICODEMUS.We Israelites from the Primeval Man
Adam Ahelion derive our bodies;
Our souls are breathings of the Holy Ghost.
No more than this we know, or need to know.
CHRISTUS.Then marvel not, that I said unto thee
Ye must be born again.
NICODEMUS.The mystery
Of birth and death we cannot comprehend.
CHRISTUS.The wind bloweth where it listeth, and we hear
The sound thereof, but know not whence it cometh,
Nor whither it goeth.
So is every oneBorn of the spirit!
NICODEMUS, aside.
How can these things be?
He seems to speak of some vague realm of shadows,
Some unsubstantial kingdom of the air!
It is not this the Jews are waiting for,
Nor can this be the Christ, the Son of David,
Who shall deliver us!
CHRISTUS.Art thou a master
Of Israel, and knowest not these things?
We speak that we do know, and testify
That we have seen, and ye will not receive
Our witness. If I tell you earthly things,
And ye believe not, how shall ye believe,
If I should tell you of things heavenly?
And no man hath ascended up to heaven,
But he alone that first came down from heaven,
Even the Son of Man which is in heaven!
NICODEMUS, aside.
This is a dreamer of dreams; a visionary,
Whose brain is overtasked, until he deems
The unseen world to be a thing substantial,
And this we live in, an unreal vision!
And yet his presence fascinates and fills me
With wonder, and I feel myself exalted
Into a higher region, and become
Myself in part a dreamer of his dreams,
A seer of his visions!
CHRISTUS.And as Moses
Uplifted the serpent in the wilderness,
So must the Son of Man be lifted up;
That whosoever shall believe in Him
Shall perish not, but have eternal life.
He that believes in Him is not condemned;
He that believes not, is condemned already.
NICODEMUS, aside.
He speaketh like a
Prophet of the Lord!
CHRISTUS.This is the condemnation; that the light
Is come into the world, and men loved darkness
Rather than light, because their deeds are evil!
NICODEMUS, aside.
Of me he speaketh!
He reproveth me,
Because I come by night to question him!
CHRISTUS.For every one that doeth evil deeds
Hateth the light, nor cometh to the light
Lest he should be reproved.
NICODEMUS, aside.
Alas, how truly
He readeth what is passing in my heart!
CHRISTUS.But he that doeth truth comes to the light,
So that his deeds may be made manifest,
That they are wrought in God.
NICODEMUS.Alas! alas!

Fine Wine

Wine is mentioned througout the Old and New Testaments.

In today's reading Jesus is invited to a party. He is from a poor family. Raised in a simple village. This is simply a local wedding, happening in a small village called Cana.

John chapter 2: 1 -3 Three days later there was a wedding in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there. Jesus and his disciples were guests also. "

Apparently the guest list was pretty open, because Jesus, his mother and all his disciples made the list. I'm guessing it was a cool spring day, not so hot as usual, and everyone showed up. Sounds like the food held up. The wine did not.

Mary comes to Jesus with the news. (Rather strange, because he was not at all a central player in this wedding)

When they started running low on wine at the wedding banquet, Jesus' mother told him, "They're just about out of wine."

There was an interesting undertone to the statement, because Jesus says,

4"Is that any of our business, Mother—yours or mine? This isn't my time. Don't push me."

She was hinting that he should do a miracle!
He grouses about it, then does it anyway!

5She went ahead anyway, telling the servants, "Whatever he tells you, do it."
6 -7Six stoneware water pots were there, used by the Jews for ritual washings. Each held twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus ordered the servants, "Fill the pots with water." And they filled them to the brim.
8"Now fill your pitchers and take them to the host," Jesus said, and they did.
9 -10When the host tasted the water that had become wine (he didn't know what had just happened but the servants, of course, knew), he called out to the bridegroom, "Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you've saved the best till now!"

Jesus makes wine for the party. LOTS of wine. (180 gallons, apparently) And, as wines go, it was GOOD wine!

11This act in Cana of Galilee was the first sign Jesus gave, the first glimpse of his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

So, I was raised in an evangelical tradition where all alcohol was prohibited. I was a teetotaler until I was 50. My wife still is.

Yet drinking, or not drinking, or prudent drinking - has nothing to do with this passage.

It is all about Jesus and His glory. God in flesh. Come to earth to live among us, show us what a sinless life looks like, and then to die for our sins...

ps. The bride and groom are not mentioned in the story. This goes on to be the most famous wedding in the history of the world. And the bride and groom are not mentioned!

(Somehow that strikes me as funny)

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Test

For college there is the Scholastic Apptitude Test
To become a lawyer there is the Lsat.
For the military there is Boot Camp.
For comedians there are the 1000 local clubs.
For major league baseball there are the minors.
For the presidential race there is the campaign.

It seems like every great endeavor has a test. Jesus was tested too.

9 -11At this time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. The moment he came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God's Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice: "You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life."

12 -13At once, this same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him.

Matthew 4
The Test
1 -3 Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test.
The Devil was ready to give it.
Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights.
That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: "Since you are God's Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread."
4Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: "It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God's mouth."
5 -6For the second test the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said, "Since you are God's Son, jump." The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: "He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won't so much as stub your toe on a stone."
7Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: "Don't you dare test the Lord your God."
8 -9For the third test, the Devil took him to the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth's kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, "They're yours—lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they're yours."
10Jesus' refusal was curt: "Beat it, Satan!" He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: "Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness."
11The Test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, angels! Angels came and took care of Jesus' needs.

Jesus passed the test.
How am I doing with the test I am given?

The Cousin Creates a Ruckuss!


We know nothing about the cousin for 30 years. Is he a strange kid? We don't know!

But by the time he is 30, he is strange indeed. No wife. No job. No house - not even an apartment. He is a nomad. Homeless. Dressing himself - rather badly, I might add. He eats whatever he can get - as long as its free! Bugs and wild honey are mentioned...

But when he explodes on the scene, he creates a ruckuss. A ruckuss indeed!

Matthew 3
Thunder in the Desert!
1 -2 While Jesus was living in the Galilean hills, John, called "the Baptizer," was preaching in the desert country of Judea. His message was simple and austere, like his desert surroundings:
"Change your life. God's kingdom is here."
3John and his message were authorized by Isaiah's prophecy:
Thunder in the desert!
Prepare for God's arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight!

After 400 years of silence, God was speaking! He used a man who was totally sold out. No one could threaten his job - he didn't have any. No one could threaten to kick him out of his house - he didn't have any.

4 -6John dressed in a camel-hair habit tied at the waist by a leather strap. He lived on a diet of locusts and wild field honey.

HE was a spectacle! But it was his message, and the purity of his challenge that captured people's attention.

People poured out of Jerusalem, Judea, and the Jordanian countryside to hear and see him in action. There at the Jordan River those who came to confess their sins were baptized into a changed life.
7 -10When John realized that a lot of Pharisees and Sadducees were showing up for a baptismal experience because it was becoming the popular thing to do, he exploded: "Brood of snakes! What do you think you're doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to make any difference? It's your life that must change, not your skin! And don't think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as father. Being a descendant of Abraham is neither here nor there. Descendants of Abraham are a dime a dozen. What counts is your life. Is it green and blossoming? Because if it's deadwood, it goes on the fire.
11 -12"I'm baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life.

His main purpose was to prepare the people spiritually, and announce the coming of the Messiah.

The real action comes next: The main character in this drama—compared to him I'm a mere stagehand—will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He's going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He'll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he'll put out with the trash to be burned."

Why did the boy create such a ruckuss?

My wife and I watched a program called Jesus - The Lost Years. It follows the potential path that Joseph and his family followed in Egypt when they fled there to save Jesus from getting killed by Herod. The Egyptian Christian church has traditions, and tales, and churches around each place they apparently travelled to. It was interesting.

What we know about Jesus boyhood years from the Scriptures is very little. Did he do miracles? - No record. But there is one record from when he was 12 years old. And he created quite the ruckuss. Twice!

41 -45Every year Jesus' parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up as they always did for the Feast. When it was over and they left for home, the child Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents didn't know it. Thinking he was somewhere in the company of pilgrims, they journeyed for a whole day and then began looking for him among relatives and neighbors. When they didn't find him, they went back to Jerusalem looking for him.

So mom and dad are in a large group of friends. Completely safe. No worries. Except for at the end of the day. Where is Jesus? Can you imagine the alarm? Mom and dad finally retrace their steps - all the way back to Jerusalem.

46 -48The next day they found him in the Temple seated among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. The teachers were all quite taken with him, impressed with the sharpness of his answers.

In the Temple he is creating another ruckuss. This time with the priests and teachers. They can't believe his questions. Who IS this kid?

But his parents were not impressed; they were upset and hurt.
His mother said, "Young man, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been half out of our minds looking for you."
49 -50He said, "Why were you looking for me? Didn't you know that I had to be here, dealing with the things of my Father?" But they had no idea what he was talking about.

And that's all we know, in the Bible, about Jesus' boyhood years.

51 -52So he went back to Nazareth with them, and lived obediently with them. His mother held these things dearly, deep within herself. And Jesus matured, growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why did the scholars create such a ruckuss?

We are in the time period right now when President Obama is at war.

No - no in Afghanistan... Against Fox News! Apparently they are not towing the white house line, like all the other news stations. People in power do not like competition!!

This is not new.

After Jesus is born a group of travellers come to Jerusalem. They looked different. They spoke different. They were identified as scholars. (Did they wear birkenstocks?) They needed interpreters to speak to the people.

But this is not what caused all the ruckuss. It was the questions they were asking...

And they created a firestorm!

1 -2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory— this was during Herod's kingship—a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, "Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We're on pilgrimage to worship him."
3 -4When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified—and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religion scholars in the city together and asked, "Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?"

Messiah? THE messiah? The long awaited deliverer of Israel? Herod was king. An illegitimate king by any measure. A puppet king, a vassal under the allmighty Roman Empire. But, a king, nonetheless.

And someone was going to depose him?

5 -6They told him, "Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet Micah wrote it plainly:
It's you, Bethlehem, in Judah's land,
no longer bringing up the rear.
From you will come the leader
who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel."
7 -8Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, "Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I'll join you at once in your worship."
9 -10Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!

Herod now knew the place. And he also knew the time. Only one thing left to do. o

16 -18Herod, when he realized that the scholars had tricked him, flew into a rage. He commanded the murder of every little boy two years old and under who lived in Bethlehem and its surrounding hills. (He determined that age from information he'd gotten from the scholars.) That's when Jeremiah's sermon was fulfilled:
A sound was heard in Ramah,
weeping and much lament.
Rachel weeping for her children,
Rachel refusing all solace,
Her children gone,
dead and buried.

So the scholars from the East verified that Jesus was the Messiah before he even spoke a word. They created a ruckuss!

And Herod - poor, pathetic paranod Herod, passed into history as a baby killer.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why did Jesus create such a ruckuss?


There is a lot of stuff going on around Jesus' birth.

Mary gets a visit from an angel.
Her cousin Elizabeth is an old lady and is pregnant after she and old man Zack tried all their lives. Zack got a visit from an angel. It scared him speechless!

Joseph, Mary's fiancee gets a visit by an angel.

The shepherd's get a visit from an angel. Actually, an entire host of angels...

All this and Jesus had not done anything yet. He is born into a poor family who apparently don't own a house.

So why all the ruckuss?

Obviously, something supernatural is going on. Israel hadn't heard from God in 400 years. No prophets. The priests had gotten the religion going great, with lots of rules and regulations, but no one was hearing from God. Interesting!

You can have religion without God.

But when God shows up, you know it!!!
o
2:8 Now 268 there were shepherds 269 nearby 270 living out in the field, keeping guard 271 over their flock at night. 2:9 An 272 angel of the Lord 273 appeared to 274 them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were absolutely terrified. 275 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen carefully, 276 for I proclaim to you good news 277 that brings great joy to all the people: 2:11 Today 278 your Savior is born in the city 279 of David. 280 He is Christ 281 the Lord. 2:12 This 282 will be a sign 283 for you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” 284 2:13 Suddenly 285 a vast, heavenly army 286 appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
2:14 “Glory 287 to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among people 288 with whom he is pleased!” 289
2:15 When 290 the angels left them and went back to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem 291 and see this thing that has taken place, that the Lord 292 has made known to us.” 2:16 So they hurried off and located Mary and Joseph, and found the baby lying in a manger. 293 2:17 When 294 they saw him, 295 they related what they had been told 296 about this child, 2:18 and all who heard it were astonished 297 at what the shepherds said. 2:19 But Mary treasured up all these words, pondering in her heart what they might mean. 298 2:20 So 299 the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising 300 God for all they had heard and seen; everything was just as they had been told. 301

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Brokenness!

The good news of the Gospel is that God came down as a man to save us from our sins and enter into a relationship that will continue throughout all time.

Today I am in Matthew chapter 1, the lineage of Jesus Christ. I am struck by the brokenness throughout that list.

"Jacob had Judah and his brothers,
Judah had Perez and Zerah (the mother was Tamar)"

Hold on - wasn't this one of the seediest stories in Genesis? Judah was travelling, and thought his daughter-in-law was a prostitute, so he had sex with her, and later she was found to be pregnant - by her own father-in-law?

"Nahshon had Salmon,
Salmon had Boaz (his mother was Rahab)"
o
OK. So was this Rahab, the prostitute? The woman who hid the spies in her home in Jericho? The same one??
o
"Boaz had Obed (Ruth was the mother),
Obed had Jesse,
Jesse had David,
and David became king."
o
We know about Ruth. There is a whole book with her name on it. Yet she was a Moabitess, a foreigner. She was pure hearted and sincere and kind. God has a non Jew, a foreigner in the lineage of Christ. God's love is for EVERYBODY!
o
6 -11 "David had Solomon (Uriah's wife was the mother)"
o
No attempt to cover up here! The biggest mistake of David's life was to take a beautiful woman, and coerce her into having sex. She gets pregnant and he uses his power to murder the husband. This man, David, is in the lineage of Christ. And of all his 7 wives, the one who becomes the mother in the lineage of Jesus is the woman plucked from her husband and forced to marry the king. Wow!
o
God uses real people to accomplish his purposes. No pasty saints here! He redeems and regenerates any who would come to Him.
o
That is what jumped out at me in today's reading...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Could the worst thing that happens to you actually be the best?


Life is hard.
Sure, it has wonderful seasons, but no one gets through life without periods of difficulty.
Picture this...
A beautiful young girl. Devout. Chaste. Living quietly at home.
She has a boyfriend, who she is crazy about.
But they are playing by the rules.

One night she has a terrifying experience. It scared her thoroughly.

She went away to visit family who lived away from home.

By the time she came back, she was visibly pregnant and her boyfriend was not at all impressed.

Neither were her family or friends.

Would that not be the worst nightmare of a 13 year old girl?

Yet her name is Mary, and she went on to be the mother of Jesus, the Savior of the world. The story is in Luke chapter 1.

Sometimes the worst thing that happens to you can actually be the best!

Blessed Among Women

39 -45Mary didn't waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah's house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly,
You're so blessed among women,
and the babe in your womb, also blessed!
And why am I so blessed that
the mother of my Lord visits me?
The moment the sound of your
greeting entered my ears,
The babe in my womb
skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.
Blessed woman, who believed what God said,
believed every word would come true!
46 -55And Mary said,
I'm bursting with God-news;
I'm dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I'm the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It's exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.
56Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then went back to her own home.