Immanuel. A compound word in Hebrew: Immanu – with us. El – God. God is with us. It comes from the prophet Isaiah who tried to assure King Ahaz that he didn’t need to strike an alliance with Egypt against the northern kingdoms of Syria and Ephraim. All he had to do was nothing. Trust the Lord. In nine short months, the time it takes for a young woman to conceive and bear a son, you will know Immanuel, God is with us. And in less than twelve years, before Immanuel knows right from wrong, the two kings you are so concerned about will be dust, because Immanu-el – God is with us.Continue reading
In Nomine Iesu
Thomas, Thomas, Thomas. Where were you, that Easter evening? Out with your twin brother? Hiding somewhere? We hear nothing from you since the upper room on the night Jesus was betrayed, and then you didn’t know where Jesus was going or the way. Before that, you pessimistically suggested that they all go with Jesus to Jerusalem to die, which was more correct than you imagined? But where were you on the evening of that first day of the week when the news came from the women and Peter and John that Jesus had risen? Why weren’t you in that upper room with your fellow disciples? Why did they have to go out and find you? Why didn’t you believe them when they said, “We have seen the Lord?” Continue reading
What surprises about the Easter gospel is all the surprise over Jesus’ resurrection. The women are surprised to find an open, empty tomb. The disciples are surprised, and don’t initially believe the news. It’s not as if Jesus hadn’t told them. At least three times in advance He said that He would be crucified and on the third day rise again. Three times. And still they didn’t believe it. The women were going to the tomb to finish a hasty burial not look for a risen Jesus. When they heard the news from the angel, “He is not here, He is risen,” they were surprised. When they saw the risen Lord, they were surprised. In John’s gospel, Mary doesn’t even recognize Him. She thinks He’s the gardener. She wants to know where the body of Jesus was. No one believed Him. Continue reading
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
John the Baptist first uttered this sentence pointing to Jesus as He emerged from His Jordan baptism. We sing it at in the liturgy of the Lord’s Supper. Look! There He is! Behold! God’s Lamb. In John’s Gospel, Lamb of God is an image that never gets fully developed. Jesus is the Light of the world, the Bread of Life, the Good Shepherd, the Door of the sheep, the Way, the Truth, the Resurrection, the Life, the true Vine. But we never hear about Lamb. Not until the end. And then it is hidden beneath the sound of all the Passover lambs in Jerusalem being slaughtered, their cries are the background for Jesus’ “it is finished.” Continue reading
“This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. (Exodus 12:14)
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” – 1 Corinthians 11:26
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the Name of Jesus.
Karen and I were doing a morning walk up in Ventura, as we like to do, with cup of warm coffee in hand, looking out at the ocean for the surfers and perhaps a whale or dolphin sighting. We like to walk a foot and bike path that leads behind the fair grounds. There is a nice wetlands area where you can see egrets, cormorants, and herons. The path crosses a railroad track at some point, where we usually turn around. Off to one side of the track, there is a little patch, much like a tiny garden patch, with a cross on it. The day we were there, there were some birthday balloons tied to the cross and some flowers. There was a name of the cross. There were dates. He was a little over eighteen years old when he died. Continue reading
In Nomine Iesu
The raising of Lazarus from the dead is the seventh “sign” that Jesus does in the first half of John’s Gospel. After that, there are no more signs, save one. His own death and resurrection. It has been building up to this. Jesus changed water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. That was the first sign. He healed the official’s son at Capernaum with nothing but a word of promise. He healed a lame man at the Pool called Bethesda. He multiplied bread and fish for five thousand in the wilderness. He walked on the water at night to meet His disciples. He healed the eyes of the man born blind with spit, mud, and washing water.
And in today’s reading, He raises His good friend Lazarus from the dead. The seventh sign. After that, it’s on to Jerusalem and Holy Week for the rest of John’s Gospel. Jesus’ death and resurrection to which all the other signs were pointers. Continue reading
In Nomine Iesu
A man born blind. Who sinned? This man or his parents? But he was blind from birth. So obviously his parents, right? Sin has consequences; therefore consequences must have sins. Right? Wrong. He was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him. Go figure. His blindness becomes a canvas to display Jesus’ glory as the light of the world.
If Niccodemus, the rabbi who came to Jesus at night, represented religious Judaism, and if the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well represented syncretistic Samaria, the man born blind represents us. Every disciple of Jesus. Born blind but given sight. Not seeing, yet believing. Continue reading
In Nomine Iesu
The story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well is a story with many interesting levels of meaning. Unfortunately, most of this time, and in the past even from this pulpit, we get distracted by the Samaritan woman. She’s an easy target, low-hanging fruit for the moralistic fruit pickers. Five marriages and now living with number six, probably because the rabbis and the rest of the community have more or less given up on her. We’re quick to judge, to make assumptions, to condemn. Because that’s what religious people do best. Continue reading
In Nomine Iesu
Abram was 75 years old when he was uprooted by the call of God, taken from his comfortable home in Ur of the Chaldees and given to wander as an alien in the land of Canaan for the rest of his life. God made a three-fold promise, as covenant, with Abram. The Lord would make him a great nation, the father of many, even though at the time, Abram and his wife Sarai had no children. His descendants would inherit the land one day, the land that Abram lived in as a foreigner. And through the Seed of Abraham, his singular offspring, all nations of the earth would be blessed. Abram was blessed to be a blessing. Continue reading
In Nomine Iesu
Sin begins almost imperceptibly. The little lie. The half-truth. It’s that little tiny error when you release the bow and let the arrow fly that causes you to miss the mark. Perhaps that’s why the word for sin, “harmatia,” means literally missing the mark. The miss looks huge at the end when the arrow flies way off target. But the error in the beginning was almost imperceptible. You golfers know this. A slight twitch. A breath at the wrong moment. Just a tiny hair off on the angle of the club can be the difference between birdy and bogey. It’s that little wayward glance that leads to adultery. That little petty theft that leads to grand larceny. In the Greek tragedies, “hamartia,” sin, is that tiny little misstep that sets into motion a chain of events that ends in tragedy. Like the innocent little snowball that triggers the avalanche that buries the town. Continue reading