What We Will Be

TEXT: 1 John 3:1-3

In 1905, the American novelist, poet, and playwright Gertrude Stein was asked by the great Pablo Picasso to sit for a portrait. She was 31 years old at the time, but in Picasso’s rendering of her, Stein appears as a much older woman. Interestingly, the writer herself loved the painting—but others have described it as “dark, brooding, and strange.”1

Asked about his portrait of Gertrude Stein, Picasso famously said: “Everybody says that she does not look like it—but that does not make any difference. She will!2

In our text from the First Epistle of John, we read: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is” (1 JOHN 3:2).

God wants to make us look like Jesus. “When he is revealed, we will be like him.” God intends to work in us, and work with us, and work on us—until we fully reflect the spirit and character of Christ.

Part of what it means for a person to be “in Christ”3—or what it means for all of us to belong to the “body” of Christ4—is simply this: when God looks at us, he sees Jesus. He sees the likeness of his Son—right now, when the Father looks at us, that is what he sees.

Others—perhaps especially those closest to us—may not think we look very much like Jesus, at this point. But that does not make any difference. We will! That is the promise of Scripture—and of the living God.

Continue reading “What We Will Be”

“I AM,” HE SAID TEXT: John 10:1-16

Imagine that you are a first-century Christian—a member of one of the house-churches for which the apostle John wrote his Gospel. Perhaps you are a Jewish Christian—one of many who have been expelled from the synagogue because of your belief in Jesus.

You’re meeting in a small group, praying for strength and courage, clinging to unpopular beliefs. You face huge challenges, and you have plenty of reasons to be worried.
Then the worship leader begins to read the apostle’s account, and you hear the words of Jesus: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
“I am the good shepherd.” You hear those words, and you remember. From previous worship services, you recall other “I am” sayings. Jesus said he was bread and light and life; a path, a gate, a vine. And suddenly your heart is rendered peaceful, as you remember that Jesus provides all that you need.

Continue reading ““I AM,” HE SAID TEXT: John 10:1-16”

God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity

This Lord’s Day past was that one which rolls around every year on the liturgical calendar, right after the Day of Pentecost.

Trinity Sunday.

And once again, I joined the company of preachers all over the world who approached it, asking: “What can I say about this?”

Not that there’s a shortage of things to say about the Trinity. In fact, that’s part of the problem. What we sermon-writers struggle with is really a two-fold question: “What can I say about this gigantic subject in the slight time available?” and “What can I say that won’t put the congregation to sleep?”

On both counts, this is a daunting challenge.

Continue reading “God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity”

Direct Experience of God: Part 2

Sunday, April 10, 2016 ~ Easter 3

TEXTS: John 21:1-19 and Acts 9:1-20

Let’s continue our reflections about “objective reality” and “subjective reality”—and how each of these can bear witness to the truth about God. Last time, I focused on objective reality—on concrete, undeniable proof—in relation to the resurrection of Jesus. The kind of evidence that presented itself to Mary Magdalene when the risen Christ greeted her outside the empty tomb. Or which confronted the disciples inside that locked room, when Jesus “came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you’” and displayed the still-fresh wounds of his crucifixion.

In Luke’s account of this event, Jesus says, “Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (LUKE 24:39). Anyone who witnessed those events would be left with no doubt whatsoever about the literal reality of Jesus’ resurrection. No one present could thereafter deny the truth of the statement, “Christ is risen.” Continue reading “Direct Experience of God: Part 2”

Direct Experience of God: Part 1

Sunday, April 3, 2016 ~ Easter 2

TEXTS: John 20:19-31 and Acts 5:27-32

A young man went to his rabbi and said, “I have lost faith.”

“So,” said the rabbi, “how did you lose faith?”

“I studied Logic at the university,” said the young man, “and I found out that—if you’re clever enough—you can prove either side of any case.”

“I see,” said the rabbi. “Can you prove that you have no nose?”

“Certainly,” said the student. “To begin with …”

But at this point the rabbi punched him—right in the nose!

And then the rabbi asked him, “What hurts?”

My friends, there is an objective reality! There is also a subjective reality—which I’ll talk about next week.

But this week and next week, I will be talking about “direct experience of God.” That’s right. Direct experience. Concrete, tangible, in-your-face evidence that this God whom we worship is real. Not a metaphor. Not a figment of our imagination. But real, and personal, and desiring a relationship with each one of us. Continue reading “Direct Experience of God: Part 1”

Palm Sunday

JESUS SAVES!

March 20, 2016 ~ Palm Sunday

TEXT: Luke 19:28b-40

As [Jesus] was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” (LUKE 19:37-38)

So begins Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The people of the city—or, at least, many of them—catch sight of Jesus, and they go wild with reckless enthusiasm. “Jesusmania,” as Tim Rice called it.*

Yes, the Palm Sunday circus has come to town! And to each and every one of us, it is a familiar account—isn’t it? From years of Sunday School processions and decades of gospel readings, we all know the story of Palm Sunday. Probably, most of us could describe these events without even opening a Bible.

But, did you notice? There’s an important word that’s missing from Luke’s account, which Marlene read for us earlier. And that word is: “Hosanna!” Luke never uses it. He doesn’t mention palms, either—but for me, it is the missing hosanna that stands out. All of the other gospels use that word. Continue reading “Palm Sunday”