Focus: If the beginning was too subtle, Jesus punctures the bubble and makes clear that our path will force us to lose our life, but in a subtle twist that will bear fruit for eternity, to lose our life is the only way to save it.
Function: I know what Jesus was doing with Peter, but I can’t help but feel a little sorry for him. Maybe my pity is best described as self-pity, for I too feel uneasy with the subject that Jesus raises with his disciples, not the least of which because I know I must follow. It’s interesting, but whenever we get a glimpse of what Jesus really has in store for our lives, we quickly turn to either try to take control, as Peter did, or we just say, “No!” as Peter will in the end. Maybe the truth is that grace is needed, because we will not go to our own death willingly. Who is that crazy, after all? Maybe only one …
March 4, 2018
Third Sunday in Lent
Texts: John 2:13-22
Title: “How do we meet God?”
Focus: The Temple is a Holy place, by which we mean that the community has acknowledged that this is place where we can meet God through ritual and pray in a consistent way. It is the acknowledged center of the community’s spiritual life. Now it is true that we are able to find God’s presence and power in every corner of creation. We confess that God infuses life everywhere, so the thin veil between heaven and earth can be pierced in every corner of creation, but when we have no acknowledged center of our spiritual life, it’s a bit like saying, “Every space is special.” Now in a sense that is true, but when “Every space is special,” then you are really saying, “No space is special.” The Temple is a Holy place.
Function: The issue that Jesus takes with the money changers is those who are meant to care for the Holy center of the community’s spiritual life have commodified the presence of God. The commodification of the Holy has ripple effects. First, you place limits on the holiness of God, and with limits, you create competition. If you receive some of God’s blessing, then I must by necessity receive less. This is blasphemous and dangerous. Second, when you bastardize the Holy center, then all other spaces are free to be abusive. The center sets the standard for the realm of creation. Third, this commodification hurts the outsider, the vulnerable, and the weak. This impulse must be driven out of the Holy center, for it is the opposite of all we know about who God is from the scriptures.
March 11, 2018
Fourth Sunday in Lent
Texts: John 3:14-21
Title: “God Gave the Son”
Focus: We fill John 3:16 with all kinds of thoughts and theologies and that fact seems inevitable, but I wonder if we could read it and look at it from the perspective of a father-son relationship. What does it mean to “give away” your son? What is involved in this act of giving?
Function: I think we know some of the depths of this story to give away a son, and I don’t think we want to “humanize” God so much that we lose the mystery of God and the Triune relationships of God, but we know love, we know relationships, we know sacrifice and risk. What might we learn about who God is and who we are called to be if we dig deep into the relationship between father and son through the process of “giving away a son?”
March 18, 2018
Fifth Sunday in Lent
Texts: John 12:20-33
Focus: After spending some time to look at Holy centers to meet God and the Holy place of a father-son relationship, Jesus draws us back into the central construct of discipleship: we must lose our life, put to death every part of us, so that we might be drawn to Jesus and be made new.
Function: The vision of fruit is profound and intentional, for each piece of fruit bears the seeds that will replicate the plant. Each piece of fruit carries the full potential of the future, and it is the same for us as followers of Christ. We carry, as disciples, the full potential that Jesus has won for us, and we lose our life, so that this potential might be born in another, so that this potential might be born in us. We are called to crack our lives open, to risk that the Holy found within us is not a limited commodity, but a gift to give away, and in the act of giving, we discover the deeper truth of our nature—we too are a Son or Daughter of God.
March 25, 2018 Palm Sunday
Sixth Sunday in Lent
Texts: Mark 11:1-11
Title: “The Name of the Lord”
Focus: The Triumphal Entry, as we call this story about Jesus donkey ride into Jerusalem, can only be understood within the Roman context that everyone would know full well. Jesus gives us a vision of a new kind of triumph, a new vision of the power for what it means to be mortal. This is the vision that we embrace at the beginning of Holy Week. This is how we meet God in our Savior.
Function: I wonder if we can hear the still small whisper of God in the midst of the palms and the cries of hosanna. How is God whispering to us? And what might that whisper mean, as we come to the end of Lent … the way forward is the way of the cross … if you want to save your life, you must lose it … take up your cross and follow me … Jesus is a humble gift, a vision of what it means to live a truly human and authentic life. Can we hear the whisper of God?
March 29, 2018 Maundy Thursday
Texts: John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Title: “Servant Leadership”
Focus: We see the heart of Jesus in this story and it reflects and amplifies the heart of the father who would give his son to the world. Jesus calls us into this heart of servant leadership. It is counter-cultural, especially when leaders so often exercise power and privilege as a means of pushing others down and holding themselves above others.
Function: What would it mean for us to pray for each other and wash each other’s feet? It would take vulnerability, self-awareness, risk, and a different vision of who we are and what we are called to be in the vision of God for our lives. This night is a putting to death of the places of privilege and position that we hold for ourselves as disciples of Christ. This is discipleship.
March 30, 2018 Good Friday
Texts: John 18:1-19:42
Title: “The Cross”
Focus: Good Friday is good, because it is the culmination of the Lenten Journey, the place of reckoning that represents the mystery of Jesus’ call for our lives. We come to the foot of the cross with hesitation, even when we come, because we know this day holds significant meaning for our lives, though I don’t know that we quite understand what that meaning truly is.
Function: What would it mean to us to say, “Today, I die with my savior.”? Today, Christ leads me to the cross, so that my life might be put to death, and every part of my self might be lost before the throne of God. I do not face this mystery willingly, for I’m too afraid to face it. But I do not face this mystery alone, and that gives me strength and hope.