Little 1 John's Big Irony
2009-04-27 by Roger Gench

The real irony of the little Epistle of 1 John is that it contains the most eloquent expressions about love in the entirety of the New Testament, and yet the author demonizes his or her opponents more than any letter in bible.  Our lesson of May 3 contains the following exhortations from 1 John 3: “And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.  All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.”  In this passage, the essence of the Christian life is defined by the twofold commandment to believe in Jesus Christ and to love one another. Yet, in the passage that immediately proceeds this lesson the children of God are contrasted to the children of the devil, and in the passage that follows, 1 John names the presumed opponents of God as the “antichrist.”   What is troubling about this kind of language is that the people to whom it was address were likely fellow Christians who held different opinions. In other words, in this most articulate expression of love there is demonizing language about fellow Christians.  

So what do we do with this irony?  Well, I think we can learn from both the dangers and the promise of this letter.  The danger is that we might demonize our Christian brothers and sisters to the point that we don’t feel the need to listen to them.  The promise of the letter is that truth counts and, to be sure, we must distinguish truth from falsehood (there is, in fact, serious evil in the world and some of it is done by Christians!), but way in which we counter falsehood is in how we live.   The commandment in our lesson from 1 John is to believe the crucified and risen Christ and to love one another. And love for John is not something we feel but something we do.  Some may offer the protest that you can’t make a commandment out of love. But love is not a feeling it’s an action. The wisdom of 1 John is that when we act for the good of other, our feelings will catch up with our acts. Maundy Thursday observance ought to remind us that loving acts, like foot washing, are the key to Christian community.  
 
Roger J. Gench
The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church
Washington, DC





Easter Lament
2009-04-22 by David von Schlichten

In light of the entry from James Howell, our guest blogger, I am thinking that I may preach on Psalm 4 and focus on the idea of an Easter lament. We hit Easter Three, and now what? There is an emptiness. This emptiness might be worth exploring. Hmmm.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 





Our guest blogger this week is
2009-04-20 by David Howell

James Howell, senior pastor of Myers Park United Methodist, Charlotte NC, and adjunct professor of preaching, Duke Divinity School.
He is author of a dozen books. He is most importantly married to Lisa, and father of 3 children.
See his first post below.




Easter 3 - season of lament?
2009-04-19 by James Howell

     The whole notion that Easter is a “season” is totally counter-intuitive.  It happened, the eggs have all been found, the crowds in worship have dwindled – so how can it still be Easter?  Yes, there are more texts, and I suppose in the year 30 the Easter aftershocks lingered for a few weeks. 

     But in the Acts text (rather weirdly appearing as the Old Testament reading? …this is an odd season indeed…) Peter demystifies the miraculous by sternly reprimanding those who are “staring” at him.  Nobody stares at us Christians, much less the clergy, and our big need is to point to God instead of to ourselves.  Then he blasts the Jews – the very people I’ve been working hard to befriend where I live, a friendship hard to win because people like Peter blasted the Jews in our Bible readings!  His conclusion, “You acted in ignorance,” could as easily be turned on Peter himself.

     So I’m in a mood?  You bet.  No miracles, impossibly prickly texts – and I’m trying to get a third week of sermons out of the resurrection.  Only the Psalm text (which really is in the Old Testament) gets it right:  “How long shall we suffer shame?”  How long indeed!  Could it be that Easter, on this side of eternity, is not best construed as a triumphal season of celebration, but more like that other complicated season we never get the hang of – Advent?  It is a season of crying out, not a period of fulfillment but a zone of frustration, of exasperation, time to plead with the Lord, to pour out our hearts because of the impermanence of resurrection.  Lazarus died again, as did the little girl Jesus raised – and Jesus didn’t stick around, didn’t right all wrongs, didn’t establish the kingdom of God.  Just when things got good, he left – and we miss him, we wish he had stayed, we wish he’d gotten more accomplished. 

     And so our mood is one of lament.  Jesus did eat broiled fish, as Luke 24 reports.  Unsure what to make of such a mundane detail…  Sounds like a healthy choice, but Jesus of all people had no need for a healthy diet!  When I was growing up, fish was the school fare on Friday, for reasons vaguely attached to the Catholics, although I do not believe I knew any other little boys who happened to be Catholic; they lived on the other side of town, I believe.  And why Friday?  Jesus died on a Friday, he uttered the ultimate lament on a Friday – and even in his post-resurrection state in which he ate fish, he talked not one word about our great delight or our security in the teeth of death.  He spoke of repentance, remorse, and lament.

     Perhaps my post-Easter funk is just the right preparatory emotional reflex to gear me up to preach what nobody really expects:  a sad, doleful sermon.  Christ is risen… and we rightly hang our heads and weep, for the world is still broken, almost more broken because we had one glorious morning, so now we know the difference.  Christ is risen… and we fall on our knees in guilt and sorrow over our lives as hollow as Jesus’ tomb.  Christ is risen… so we eat a little fish, so that in at least some small respect we are very much like Christ.  Maybe that’s why he ate it, anyhow.




Carmen Nanko-Fernandez
2009-04-18 by David von Schlichten

Thank you to our guest blogger for her insights in the tub this week. Among other things, she helps us understand that the Acts passage about having all things in common is not an unrealistic utopian ideal but a call to self-sacrificial solidarity.

This idea will be the core of my sermon this Sunday. I will post the sermon soon at the cafe.

Scroll down to read all of Carmen's posts.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





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