The following is a reflection on 1 John 4:7-21, the epistle lesson for the Fifth Sunday of Easter in Year B, according to the Revised Common Lectionary. I have very clear memories of holding each of my daughters, just moments after their births. Both times a nurse handed me those little swaddled bundles and then left the room to care for my wife, just recovering from the c-section. I remember experiencing a flood of emotion, […]
A reflection on Matthew 14:22-33, the Gospel lesson for August 7, 2011, for proper 14 in the Revised Common Lectionary. A reflection on the Old Testament lesson for the same day is available here. If ever there is a story in the gospels which sums up the Gospel, this is it. The story begins like the story of Creation. As the Spirit of God hovered over the waters just before light was called into being—Jesus […]
I have been so influenced on Elaine Pagels’ work on the prologue to John, that it’s hard for me to look at John without seeing it through that lens. And, in this busy time of the year, I don’t think I’m going to expend much energy trying to move beyond it! So, here it goes… Dr. Pagels identifies a feature she calls “the three negations” deeply embedded in the fabric of the Prologue. And it’s […]
And, in case you missed it: the new creation has already begun. It began in Christ. It began with Resurrection. In the Resurrection Jesus was made so new that his followers didn't even recognize him. They thought he was the gardener. They thought he was a stranger. He walked through closed, locked doors. He is made new. And, in baptism WE are made new.
This is one of those stories that reminds us, that God not only calls us, but equips us with what we need to fulfill our calling. It's a powerful reminder that we're called to great things - that God expects great things - awesome things - from us, but that God doesn't expect us to do it on our own. Not because we're lazy, but because the things God asks us to do are oftentimes outside the realm of human possibility.
Cause if we just sink into the mire of Christian blandness we might as well just climb back into the upper room. And lock the door. I heard it's safe in there. But when the Spirit of God moved on the waters, and Light shined forth, and the morning stars sang together with all the heavenly host - when that hunk of clay took its first breath direct from the lungs of God - when the white-hot fire of God swooped down from Heaven and set a bush on fire/ blazed a trail in the wilderness/ filled the Temple with God's Presence/ brought forth the Holy Spirit and set the disciples' heads literally on fire. . . there was nothing bland about any of it.
The astute reader will recognize in this reading, from the second to last chapter in the Bible, imagery from the second chapter of Genesis, and the Garden of Eden: the Tree of Life and the River flowing on either side of it. Here, in this phase of John's Apocalypse, we return to the cool of the garden - that wonderful time when humanity walked with God in the cool of the day. That time when we spoke to God as casually as we might speak to one another. That time when all was right in the universe, and all was right in our relationship with God. Paul would call this righteousness. But, it's not that the 'unpleasantness' of the fall never happened. Or the unpleasantness of Cain killing Abel. Or the unpleasantness of drunkenness, sordidness, the golden calf, David and Bathsheba, war, strife, hatred, idolatry, unfaithfulness blah, blah, blah - it's not that all that didn't happen. It's that it's all taken care of. The tab has been paid. The tomb is empty. Jesus is made new. And now the full ramifications of the Resurrection of Jesus can be seen: Eden is made new. Eden has returned - but! It's also remade. It's new.
This is the overarching story of the scriptures. Over and over and over again God looks like he's been defeated. Over and over again it looks like the story is over. It appears that God had a good run, but the Cindarella story has to come to an end. And each time, God prevails. Seeming defeat turns into amazing victory. That is the story of God.