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Month: May 2015

Bible Tuesday for Trinity Sunday, 2015

Bible Tuesday for Holy Trinity Sunday, 2015

Isaiah 6:1-8

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’
4The pivots* on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’

6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7The seraph* touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ 8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’

This is traditionally referred to as “The call of Isaiah”.

“I am a man of unclean lips…yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts!” The only people who ever enjoyed face to face conversations with God were Adam and Eve. After they were expelled from the garden, humans and God can no longer have face to face conversations. God appears to Moses on Mt. Horeb/Sinai as a cloud, also to Jesus at the transfiguration. Abraham and God talk but not face to face. Same with Elijah, David, Hagar, Jacob, Joseph. God is complete, perfection, and fallen humanity is not. When sin comes in contact with God it ceases to exist, so when sinful beings come into contact with God, they cease to exist. God’s perfect presence is also transferred to the Ark of the Covenant. No one could touch the ark and survive. There are at least two stories of people touching the ark accidentally, even just to steady it, and they died instantly (giving rise to many screwy theories about the Ark of the Covenant being a primitive battery or some power source given to the Israelites by aliens).

When in this vision, Isaiah sees God, he is certain that he will die. He has unclean lips and has seen the fullness of perfection and cleanliness. God’s attendant takes an ember from the altar of the temple, an ember of burning sacrifices for atonement, and touches Isaiah’s lips, thus purifying them. How interesting that for Isaiah, his uncleanliness comes from what he has done with his lips: speech, eating, facial expressions. For contemporary Lutherans, our uncleanliness comes from the evil that “we have done and what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole hearts and we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.”

As Isaiah has survived certain death and has been made clean, when God ponders aloud who should be God’s messenger, Isaiah joyfully leaps at the chance.

Psalm 29

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,[a] ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
worship the Lord in holy splendor.

3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.

7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

9 The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,[b] and strips the forest bare;
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!

The psalmist calls for all beings, on earth and in heaven, to acknowledge the power and might of God. The psalmist states God’s command of the great powers of the psalmist’s world. The netherworld gods that haunt the seas have nothing on Yahweh, who is not in but over those chaotic waters. Lebanon cedars are like sequoia trees in the minds of ancient Middle Easterners, and God can snap those like twigs. God does not suffer from tornadoes or hurricanes, but actually makes them! God shakes the world with earthquakes. And while the gods and goddesses suffer from the great flood, Yahweh sits above it. May this all powerful being, “I AM” grant peace and strength to His chosen people!

Romans 8:12-17

12 So then, brothers and sisters,[a] we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba![b] Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness[c] with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

When Paul talks about flesh vs. spirit, such as in this text, modern readers tend to read it as Holy Spirit vs. sinful self. While I think that is an accurate understanding of Paul in same cases, I don’t think it is here. In Romans 7, Paul has been discussing the dichotomy between The Law and the Spirit. The Law points out where humans has strayed from God, Sin, whereas the Spirit is that person of God which guides us in Godliness, Righteousness.

In Romans 8, the flesh is that part of us which trusts the Law and believes that adherence to the Law will earn us righteousness. Whereas, the Spirit teaches us the truth: “we are children of God.”

John 3:1-17

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.2He came to Jesus* by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ 3Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’* 4Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ 5Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.* 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You* must be born from above.”* 8The wind* blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ 9Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ 10Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

11 ‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you* do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.* 14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.*

16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Last Thursday I spent the day listening to Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis as she taught us, pastors, how to preach John. I am eager to share with you what I learned!!!!

A key to understanding the gospel of John is the writer’s use of light and darkness. We know that in John, Jesus says, “I AM the light of the world,” and says things to the disciples like “We must work while it is day for night is coming.” But light and dark are used more obviously and concretely too.

Nicodemus comes to see Jesus “by night” because Nicodemus is “in the dark” spiritually and figuratively. Nicodemus does not recognize Jesus as The Light of the World, but rather as a puzzling, possibly threatening rabbi. Jesus tries to teach Nicodemus but he thinks too concretely and unspiritually to recognize Jesus and receive the testimony about Jesus and the nature of God. Nicodemus. Not included in this text are the last verses of Jesus’ teaching of Nicodemus: “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” John 3:19-21 NRSV. In this statement, Jesus reproaches this Pharisee who comes to see him in the dark of night. Now, if, at the end of this conversation, Nicodemus had come to believe Jesus, then the writer of the gospel would tell us that Nicodemus left as the sun was rising. As it is, we must wait for Nicodemus’s other appearances in the gospel for him to “see the light.”

In the gospel of John, Jesus comes “that they might have life and have it abundantly.” Who is they? Well, in John, “they” is “the world.” In chapter 3 Jesus tries to lead a Jewish leader to the truth. In chapter 4, Jesus successfully leads a Samaritan woman and her whole town! In this gospel Jesus witnesses to Romans, Jews, Samaritans, other Gentiles equally. Those who stay in the dark, usually literally doing things at night, as well as spiritually, are those who reject the testimony of the disciples and/or Jesus. Those who come into the light, like the Samaritan woman coming to the well at noon, are those who accept the light of Jesus exposing them, and welcoming them to abundant, freed life.

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost Sunday, 2015

Bible Tuesday for Pentecost Sunday, 2015

Acts 2:1-21

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

In very early Israelite times, Pentecost was a winter wheat harvest festival which was celebrated when the wheat was in from the fields, so the date was as fluid as the harvest conditions. Then, as the Israelites were fleeing Egypt, Passover was instituted with a date which moved slightly since the Israelite calendar is a lunar calendar. Pentecost then had a set lunar calendar date, 50 days after Passover. For those who could not come to the Temple in Jerusalem for Passover, Pentecost became a time of pilgrimage and worship.

There was great celebrating in Jerusalem by Jews who lived all over the Roman world. The list of peoples that Luke gives us “Parthians, Medes Elamites…” includes people of Luke’s time and people who predated Luke by several hundred years. Is the writer telling the readers/hearers that “people of every time and every place” gathered to praise God for this year’s food? Is the writer merely using ancient names instead of Roman names for geographic regions and the descendants of ancient peoples?

As I have written in the past, the Old Testament understanding of the Holy Spirit was that God sent Her (hagia pneuma or Holy Spirit is a female noun in Greek) to rest on someone until such time as God removed Her. However, once Jesus breathes on the disciples and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit…” the Spirit is given but not retracted. While in the gospel of John Jesus gives the Holy Spirit on Easter Sunday evening (“It was evening on the first day of the week when the disciples were gathered. The doors were locked for fear of the Jews, when Jesus stood among them and said, “Peace be with you…”), the other three gospels do not have the disciples receiving the Holy Spirit until after Jesus ascends back into heaven.

Why flames? A careful reading of this text shows that once again, the writer who is attempting to describe a miracle is at a loss for words. “Divided tongues, as of fire, …” Not actual fire, but tongues very much like fire, rested on each disciple. The fire did not rest on each Apostle only, but on all the “about 120 people gathered” as mentioned just verses before this pericope. Fire is a commonplace miracle, one that separates humans from any other being on our planet. Fire lights, burns, refines, heats, cooks, sterilizes. Fire became a symbol of gods because it shoots down from heaven and has unmatched power. Israelite associate of fire with God predates Moses, but the phenomena of the burning bush, whose fire came from nowhere and whose limbs were not consumed by the flames, linked miraculous fire with God.

Psalm 104:24-35

O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
creeping things innumerable are there,
living things both small and great.
26 There go the ships,
and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.

27 These all look to you
to give them their food in due season;
28 when you give to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your spirit,* they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.

31 May the glory of the Lord endure for ever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works—
32 who looks on the earth and it trembles,
who touches the mountains and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the Lord.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord!

Have you stood in admiration and wonder, gazing on the Rocky Mountains, or the Grand Canyon, or the strangely beautiful sulfur pools of Yellowstone National Park? Or perhaps you have pondered the delicate beauty and aroma of the flowers around your house, or the corn in your neighbor’s field. If so, you and this psalmist have experiences in common. That awe, that wonder, that feeling of pride in what plants and animals and nature can do is what this psalm sings and looks to God with joy and thanksgiving for it all.

Romans 8:22-27

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in* hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes* for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes* with sighs too deep for words. 27And God,* who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit* intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.*

In the first chapter of Romans, Paul strives to lay out his theology; that is, a logical progression of the way the world is and how God creates and works with the world and all that is. In Paul’s theology in Romans 1, Paul says that because of the fallenness of humanity, all creation suffers, specifically “groans” in the agony of the ramifications of sin. In the above passage, this agony also brings humanity to its knees.

Here in Romans 8, Paul picks up that image again but uses it now, not purely as an image of suffering, but rather as suffering in the hope of birth, hope of relief, and not just relief but all of creation, including humanity, hopes for restoration and newness of life. How can creation hope?! By the Holy Spirit. Somehow, the Holy Spirit, a person of God, beseeches God on humanity and creation’s behalf, and does so because God wants this. So well acquainted is the Holy Spirit with humanity’s suffering, that the Spirit groans and suffers on our behalf to God! Confusing, bewildering, and greatly comforting.

John 15:26-27 & 16:4b-15

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 7Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

“Advocate”: In Greek, the word is paraclete, which takes on a legal tone, rather like “defense attorney”, but also has a note of patronage. The gospel of John is the only one in which Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as “paraclete”. This hearkens back to the legal language of the covenant between God and Israel used throughout the Old Testament.

Jesus says that it is to the disciples’ advantage that Jesus “goes away”. How so? I think it is this: Jesus, while divine, became human, finite, limited. Jesus as a man could only help the disciples as much as any one person could help another. If they were persecuted, tortured, arrested in towns all over the Roman Empire, how can Jesus help them all? But the Holy Spirit is infinite and is present with all.

Both last week’s text and this week’s text refer to what God has is also Jesus’ because God has given everything over to Jesus and Jesus will reveal it to the disciples. There were gnostic cults in Greek times which continued to exist and even flourished under Roman rule. Gnostic cults were religious organizations, many of which had a business component (such as a guild, fraternity, or union), which had secret knowledge. The higher up in the cult you went, the more secret knowledge you became privy to. The gospel of John is written in the style of gnostic writings and is frequently called “The Gnostic Gospel”. What makes this gospel different than typical gnostic writing is that Jesus “tells all” in the gospel. However, the disciples can’t handle everything Jesus has to say but the Holy Spirit will tell them when they are ready That is true for all disciples, even us. The more we know and love God, the stronger our witness is and the more we can put life into perspective. . There really isn’t any secret to following Jesus. It’s all in the Bible.

Bible Tuesday for Easter VII

Bible Tuesday for Easter VII, 2015

Acts 1:15-17 & 21-26

In those days Peter stood up among the believers[a] (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said, 16 “Friends,[b] the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus— 17 for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.”

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” 23 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place[d] in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

In reading this first chapter of Acts, we must concentrate on hearing and seeing only what the writer tells us, and not fill in the “gaps” with what flannel boards, Bible book pictures, and famous artists have depicted.

The writer of Acts identifies Simon Peter (from the Greek petros as in “I will call you Petros and on this petros I will build my church.”) as the first leader of the church. Later in Acts we learn that Jesus’ brother, James, becomes the head of the church in Jerusalem as Peter and his wife do quite a bit of traveling.

Next, the writer lets the hearers and readers know how important the number 12 is to Jews. There are twelve tribes of Israel and as Jesus set out to restore Israel to God’s purpose of being God’s witnesses “in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” (Acts 1:8) there must be twelve new patriarchs. So Jesus chose the twelve from his many disciples. As this section of the scripture opens, there are gathered “about 120 persons”, that is a multiple of twelve. Among these are found men, women, and children., including Jesus’ mother and siblings. (Acts 1:14)

When Judas died by suicide, Peter lead this group to select, by lot, someone who would take Judas’ place, as there needed to be twelve Apostles to make up the foundation of this new Isarel, this new People of God. Peter set the parameters for this person to be a man who had been with Jesus since his baptism until this very moment and they found two such guys! Why didn’t Leonardo diVinci paint these guys into his Last Supper?!

In ancient Hebrew tradition, the number twelve is special and symbolic of God’s people because it is the number 4 multiplied by the number 3. The number 3, in ancient Hebrew tradition well predating the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity, has been the number symbolizing God. The number 4 in that same ancient tradition symbolizes the four corners of the earth, the four winds, in other words, all of creation. So then 12 symbolizes God’s activity in all of creation. The Israelites believed they were God’s chosen people and God’s instruments in the world, and they had twelve patriarchs: Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Levi, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Joseph, and Benjamin. Then, as Jesus established a new Israel who are given the specific mission of evangelizing God’s gospel, Jesus also chose twelve apostles: Simon (who is also called Peter), his brother Andrew, James and John (aka sons of Zebedee, or sons of Thunder), Philip, Bartholomew (aka Nathanael), Jude (aka Thaddeus), Thomas, Matthew (aka Levi), James the son of Alpheus, Simon the Zealot, Judas the son of James (aka Judas Issachariot).

Psalm 1

Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
3 They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.

4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

On the one hand, this psalm exhibits a classic breakdown of good vs. evil in the Hebrew understanding: follow God’s law and good will happen to you. Break God’s law and evil will happen to you. One can easily read a “gospel of prosperity” here.

On the other hand, this psalm also affirms the story of Joseph. Sure, in the end, Joseph ended up Pharaoh’s right hand man, and was materially secure, but his life before that Egyptian government position was not so. Nevertheless, God spoke to Joseph through dreams and God prospered the people around Joseph. Patiphar’s household benefited from Joseph’s slavery there. The jailer benefited from Joseph’s imprisonment there. Even fellow prisoners benefited from Joseph’s company.

Because Joseph was faithful to God, Joseph was like a tree getting plenty of water, bearing fruit that anyone can take for food.

1 John 5:9-13

If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. 10Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God* have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. 11And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Here the writer of 1 John is describing his theology. If one really believes in God, then that one must also believe in Jesus because throughout time God has been telling humanity about Jesus. If people don’t believe in Jesus, then they don’t believe in God either. If you do believe in God, then you also believe in Jesus and if you believe in Jesus, then you also believe in God. And all through all that belief the gift of eternal life is given.

John 17:6-19

”I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.

11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 12While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. 14I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.

17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

In the gospel of John, Jesus and the disciples do not go to the Garden of Gethsemane on Maundy Thursday night, because in the gospel of John, Jesus is arrested on Wednesday night and dies at three in the afternoon, exactly when the lambs for Passover dinner are being slaughtered at the Temple. As such, the gospel of John does not record Jesus praying in the garden on the Mount of Olives immediately before he is arrested. Instead, Jesus prays after dinner, out loud to God so that all who are in attendance can hear.

Here, as in other passages of the gospel of John, we read this gospel’s teaching that “I and the Father are one.” This is a very difficult teaching which both spawns and challenges the doctrine of the Trinity. While in other gospels, Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit appear to be separate beings, in the gospel of John Jesus and God are far more muddled and blended. Jesus says to James and John, “I and the Father are one.” That concept is expounded on in the above portion of the High Priestly Prayer.

The High Priestly Prayer takes up most of John 17 and can be understood in three parts, Jesus prays for himself, Jesus prays for the faith community, and Jesus prays for the unity of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and believers. In the above section, Jesus’ disciples are humans, in the world, but because of their relationship with Jesus, and through Jesus and God, they are no longer “of” the world. As such, Jesus prays for protection for them, as those in the world tend to hate and destroy what is foreign to them.

Word-logos is Greek for “word” but it means much more than simply “a word, a verb”. In the gospel of John, logos usually is a blend of God’s will, God’s law, and what other gospels call the good news or the gospel.

Name-Throughout this passage Jesus refers to God’s name. The Greek is onoma and refers in the specific to God’s name (ie Yahweh, I am that/what I am) but in the general sense to function and power of God (creator, lover, husband, father, etc.) and the place that God holds in life.

Sanctify- To make holy. Holy means to set apart for God’s purpose, hence “Holy Water” is water set apart for God’s purpose, usually baptism or blessing. In this passage of John, Jesus asks God to sanctify the faithful in God’s truth. Today’s readers and hearers are not able to know exactly what the gospel writer meant by this sentence. No other gospels record Jesus saying this.

In this passage of John, God chooses those who would follow Jesus. But this should not be understood as predestination because that would mean those who have been chosen did not have a choice but were stuck with what God decided. But this passage of John also says that “these kept your word.” They could have rejected it, as many, many did and still do, but these kept it. In the Easter stories of Matthew, Luke/Acts, and John, Jesus then sends these out as witnesses to all the rest of the world, that all may join these as the new Israel, God’s chosen people of God.

Bible Tuesday for the 5th Sunday after Easter, 2015

Bible Tuesday for Easter VI, 2015

Acts 10:44-48

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, 47 "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

These are the last verses of a very important event in St. Peter’s life. Kosher adherence to Judaism was, and is, a confusing balance of on the one hand evangelism and hospitality to Jews and Gentiles, and on the other hand purity practices. Leviticus makes clear that faithful Jews must avoid that which is unclean, whether food, clothing, buildings, animals, or people. Over and over again in the books of the prophets (ie: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.) insist that pure, humble hearts and lives are what God wants, but pure and humble accoutrements of life are what most Jews give to God.

The gospel of Luke is the story of God coming to humanity in the flesh and establishing a new law, a new kind of purity. “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as your love yourself.” No longer is purity gotten through perfect adherence to the Torah. Purity comes through faith in the one who is pure, Jesus, and faithful discipleship to him. This teaching of Jesus challenged every aspect of the disciples’ lives. What could be eaten or worn, who one could speak with, what and who one could touch, who one could marry, how one does business, what vocations were acceptable, all this was blown wide open through Jesus’ teachings.

Such radicle changes to every aspect of life came more easily to some disciples than others. Philip trotted right off and started evangelizing to Samaritans, while Peter stayed in Jerusalem and hung close to the Temple. But God would not let Peter nurse his prejudices and stymie the faith. One would hope this marvelous vision of table cloth full of things to eat, and subsequent miraculous visit to the home of Cornelius would be enough to convince Peter of God’s warmhearted welcome to all humanity, but it wasn’t. There are several other episodes of Peter’s prejudice against non-Jews and God calling him out, both in Acts and in the epistles attributed to Paul.

“I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Peter, Acts 10:34-35

Psalm 98

O sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
have gotten him victory.
2 The Lord has made known his victory;
he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the victory of our God.

4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody.
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.

7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who live in it.
8 Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing together for joy
9 at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.

This psalm is a celebration of military victory of either Israel or Judah against a non-Jewish enemy. The right hand of a king or queen is traditionally the center of that monarch’s might, military power. The psalmist attributes this triumph to God’s right hand and arm. Why does God bring about this win? The psalmist states it is because of God’s covenant with Israel and Judah, as illustrated by God’s “steadfast love and faithfulness”.

The psalmist goes on to adjure all of Israel and all of creation to praise God for God’s faithfulness, and righteousness.

I John 5:1-6

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ[a] has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, 4 for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. 5 Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.

A careful read of this text reveals several issues that the early church faced. A huge issue for those first few generations of Christians was the challenge of how to be faithful Jews as well as believe that Jesus was the Messiah come to fulfill the law and gospel. The second issue was how to be a follower of Jesus and associate with those who were heretofore unacceptable: Gentiles having to be in the same faith community with those crazy, standoffish, fastidious Jews, and Jews must not only associate with traditionally unclean Gentiles, but actually welcome them as brothers and sisters.

In 1 John, the writer attempts to ameliorate difficulties the Jews have been having with this new life. If one is faithful to Yahweh, then that one is also faithful to the son of Yahweh, Jesus. While Jesus gave one commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as you love yourself,” this author states a much more traditionally Jewish approach by stating that we show love to God by obeying God’s commandments (“commandment” is translated “Torah” or “Law”).

In this last verse of our pericope, the author discusses “water and blood”. In this case, the author is referring to baptism and Christ’s crucifixion which produced Christ’s bleeding. In Catholic tradition, when “water and blood” are referred to, they mean not baptism and crucifixion, but rather what flowed out of Jesus after his death, when the Roman soldier shoved a spear into Jesus side. For this reason, the Roman Catholic Church has the presiding priest pour not only wine into the Eucharistic chalice, but also a splash of water, echoing what flowed from Jesus, post mortem.

John 15:9-17

9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants[a] any longer, because the servant[b] does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Jesus presents this lecture to the disciples on Maundy Thursday just before the last supper. Notice the law that John uses, “ If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love…” Right relationship with God revolves upon keeping the Torah. Jesus simplifies and augments the Torah in verse 12 when he gives his own command, “Love one another as I have love you.”

If salvation in Jesus is dependent upon this command of Jesus, then salvation is impossible, as very few people are willing to be crucified for those who persecute and torment them, and no one is able to act as Jesus did without thoughts of self righteousness.

When Jesus uses the term, friend, to describe his disciples (reminder: disciple does not mean “the twelve”only but men, women, and children who traveled with Jesus regularly) this term in Greek means: colleague, peer, person with whom there is intimacy. How do we embody friendship in Jesus? What does it mean to us that Jesus deems us friends?