Monday, April 27, 2015

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015---Newness of Life: Remain in Me

Jesus likes to speak in metaphors. The images he uses are familiar to his first followers, and to us as well. Last Sunday, we heard Jesus self-identify as a "Good Shepherd," and this week we hear Jesus tell us that he is the "True Vine." Both of these "I am" statements are part of a larger group of metaphors that Jesus uses to identify himself in familiar terms....bread, light, door, life, way, truth.

All of these metaphors are powerful not because they define a thing, but because they point to something else... a relationship with God, with Jesus, and with each other.

Most of you have probably seen or owned a vine before. When you forget or refuse to tend to them; when they are left alone, the vines will grow uncontrollably and result in a big ole tangled mess. Someone needs to keep those things in order! In addition to trimming it back in order to keep it nice and pretty, the vine grower must also cut away lifeless and unproductive branches and prune the branches that are productive so that they will keep producing. At some point, all of the branches need to be cut. Vineyards are long term investments  and they need a watchful eye, a careful and committed worker, and lots of patience.

The vineyard worker and the branches need to abide, or remain, committed to the process of producing fruit. This is where the metaphor involves us as branches of the true vine that is Jesus Christ. He is the source of our fruit; He is the reason we produce what we do; He is the true vine. To produce good fruit, that is, to live a life worthy of Christ, to live life abundantly, to make the most out of our relationship with Christ, we must remain in Him. We must stay in place, endure, and hold out for a more abundant life (these phrases come from the Greek root of the word we use for "remain" or "abide"---which is meno). God remains steadfast for us, so we must remain in God. That is our relationship.

If Jesus is our true vine, let's be His true branches.

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Newness of Life: With the Shepherd

Psalm 23 is one of the most cited psalms out of them all, and for good reason. These words comfort and give strength; they help us make sense of our relationship to God; they give us hope in the midst of all that life brings us:

The Lord is my shepherd.
    I lack nothing.

He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
    he leads me to restful waters;
He guides me in proper paths
    for the sake of his good name.
 Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no danger because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff—
    they protect me

John 10: 11-18 places Jesus as the shepherd that is described in Psalm 23, the Good Shepherd, saying: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."

We read these two passages in tandem because, in a word, they complete each other. Ever since God has spoken to God's people, God has guided, strengthened, and given hope to them. And God does that now for us. Now, we experience and know that Jesus is truly the Good Shepherd, who did in fact lay down his life for his sheep, you and me.

Jesus knows us each by name (cf.when he called out Mary's name outside of the tomb, and she believed), and gathers us into the fold, creating the community in which we grow with each other and worship God.

Our job is to be the sheep: to follow Jesus, to gather together, and depend on our Good Shepherd.

Praise Jesus, who leads us to grassy meadows and restful waters; who calms our fears by protecting us; who gathers us into the fold.

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sunday April 12th, 2015---Newness of Life: Doubting Thomas

This past Sunday was Easter Sunday, and we all showed up to church to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! It was personally a great experience, to be with so many as we observed this Holy day together. Now, we enter into the season of Easter, where we observe each of the next 6 Sundays as Sundays of, not Sundays after, Easter. This is the season where we know our lives are different because God has saved us by his Son’s living, dying, and rising. We have new life in Christ.

This Sunday’s gospel lesson is John 20: 19-31. This tells the story of “Doubting Thomas.” Thomas does not believe that the resurrected Jesus is in front of him, so he asks to touch the piercings in Jesus’ hands. The other disciples have trouble believing, too. But Jesus does not chastise them; he embraces them and extends grace to them.