Where I am with resurrection and John 20 these days
2009-04-08 by Fred Rose
One of the ways I get at this passage is in considering some of those I have lost. I have a friend who died several years ago. If he were to appear in a dream and call my name, I would know his voice and the way he said it. My father died over twelve years ago. He used to have a nickname he would call me. Occasionally, in the middle of a worship service, I remember his voice and I will smile not because of some truth ingested or a sound or phrase that touches my soul. I smile for just being grateful for my father having been my father to me. My mother died over two years ago. Though she had no nicknames for me, she spoke my name in a certain way. To remember her voice and the times she and I shared the last years of life is precious. She was always my mother and my friend. I miss her. When I read in this John 20 account of Jesus calling Mary by name, I know what my name sounds like when it is said by certain people...even people in my past. I look forward to the day and believe there will be a day when I will again give my parents a hug and walk with my friend, David.
What is the resurrection? It is the best of life coming from the worst of life. It is Jesus being raised from the worst human beings do to encourage us with the best God has for us. It is the hope of God. It is hope that this life, this reality, these things that keep attaching themselves to me, this is not all there is. It is hope that good will triumph over wrong. It is the hope of eternity, the hope of God’s promises. It is the hope that God will set things right and I will not be devastated by it. It is the joy of life regained, renewed, revivified, reclaimed, reconstructed, rebuilt. It is the peace of God which passes our understanding. If we can believe or if we are able to believe God raised Jesus from the dead and somehow really consider it a reality, its fact offers a certain peace against all the confusion and corruption and noise of this life. It is an unimaginable act of the love of God who shows us what is truly important. It is not a way of life recovered; it is a person, a relationship, a friendship. It is God’s recreating the life of his Son so that in our believing in this Son and in the events of his life, we are recreated too. Resurrected too?
I met a poet several years ago, Judith Deem Dupree, who gave me a collection of her poems entitled living with what remains. (Quiddity Press, Pine Valley, CA, 2004) In her poem, “A Story,” she tells creation’s tale and at the end says this:
Well, here we are.
Finally, us---out of nothing!
Much more than nothing, I would say.
But one day He will suck His breath back in,
Will He swallow all our lies?
Will He choke on us? Spit us out?
Yes, we will return without our toys,
because our souls are meant to rise unfettered
by all the small stuff---our fortunes and fatuities---
to find that Hole in the Gate that He left for us.
He named it, I understand, The Eye of the Needle.
And this is the end of the story.
Or the real beginning.
I believe it. (Dupree,47)I include another of her poems here. For me, Easter can only sometimes be addressed with another medium like music and poetry. Surely the Easter story is narrative, but it is an other wordly kind of narrative.Here is another of her poems that Easter calls to my attention:
“The One True Thing”
Believe in what you always knew.
It has not forgotten you.
Call it back to you: it will come out of hiding.
Coax it patiently.
Like a wild thing caught in a snare,
it will observe you guardedly---
examine you for the scent of guile.
Behold it—this sudden stranger
to your patterned thought,
this outcast waiting quietly at the fringe.
Do not measure it.
Open your arms and
receive the weight of it in your narrow grasp.
Hold steady---it will grow feather-light in time.
Let it tell you everything it knows.
Live with it, perhaps uncomfortably,
until you are conformed,
until your face in the mirror crinkles
with a shaft of delight
and speaks back to you in a beautiful new tongue---
and you know at last who you are and why.
Now you are ready to brave the world.
Now you are ready to save it. (Dupree, 87)
What if we cannot believe this resurrection story? What if we do not have a resurrection faith...whatever that is? What if it seems too far-fetched? Too much to swallow? Too good to be true? Too much fairy tale and not enough reality? What if we cannot somehow simply accept the basis of all this Easter celebration? Can’t we simply remain with the church? Cannot we not find a way to hang around and check out this Easter faith in the lives of those who claim to believe it? Or can we not come occasionally and check out these people who believe? Or is there something else we need to check out? Can we not join somebody in ministry or study and ask our questions and do something new? What difference does it really make to us, to me, to my family, to the world if we believe in Easter…if we believe Jesus was in truth raised from the dead?
Or is it our very best approach to life to set aside worship and organized Christianity for another eight months until December comes around? We can drag ourselves back into this strange company another time. Is this our best idea? Is this about being honest with ourselves? Is this what “being honest” means? Is there any other reality than our own effort at being honest?
A Careful, Empathetic Account
2009-04-07 by Fred Rose
I am impressed by the deliberate way the author retells this story. It is as if he cares that someone "may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that through believing" he or she or we may "have life in his name." (20:31) There are different ways to engage this story. My own sense is to read it carefully the first several times and again make some observations. Here are several:
1) Jesus has to work to convince those who have come to arrest him that he is who he is.
2) Verse 14 reminds us of the irony of what is about to happen. Caiaphas telling the “Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.”
3) “So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in.” First of all, can we consider this is John? Secondly, when did women in that time start guarding gates? This woman questions Peter. Peter denies knowing Christ.
4) Verse 18:18 reminds us it is a charcoal fire by which Peter and the slaves and the police stand. It is also a charcoal fire by which the disciples stand on the shore in Galilee in chapter 21:9.
5) Scene moves back to Jesus before the high priest. He is struck by one of the police for speaking sharply to the high priest.
6) Verse 25 goes back to the scene by the charcoal fire. Those around the fire ask Peter if he is one of the disciples. Peter denies it a second time. In verse 26, Peter is questioned by a relative of the slave whose ear Peter had cut off. “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” When Peter denies it, the cock crows. 18:27
7) In the next scene, Jesus is taken from Caiaphas to Pilate. Pilate asks the question, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answers a few verses later, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 18:36
8) Jesus tells Pilate that everyone who belongs to the truth listens to him. Pilate asks the questions, “What is truth?” 18:38
9) Pilate declares in the next paragraph that he finds no case against Jesus. Irony again since it is not Jesus who is on trial. Pilate asks the crowd if they want him to release “the King of the Jews.” The people answer, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” 18:40
10) Verse 19 is expresses a fearsome event. Pilate took Jesus and “had him flogged.” Such was enough to end his life.
11) When Jesus is brought out in verse 5 and says, “Here is the man!,” police and priests together shout, “Crucify him, crucify him!”
12) Pilate says a second time that he finds no case against Christ. Pilate becomes afraid in verse 8 and Jesus becomes quiet.
13) Verse 12 recounts how Pilate tries to release Jesus. Certain Jews cry out that if Pilate releases Jesus they believe he will be no friend of Caesar. They actually say, “Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”
14) Pilate brings Jesus to “The Stone Pavement” called in Hebrew “Gabbatha.” 19:13 Is it significant that certain people ask for Jesus’ death three times: 18:40; 19:6 and 19:15?
15) Jesus is crucified in verse 18 . John notes the stir created by Pilate putting above Jesus a plaque with “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” It was written in Hebrew, in Latin and in Greek says verse 20.
16) When the soldiers take Jesus’ “clothes” and “tunic” John remembers this “was to fulfill what the scripture says ‘They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.’” Psalm 22:18.
17) Mary, Jesus’ mother, and Mary’s sister (Mary the wife of Clopas) and Mary Magdalene are all there “standing near the cross.” Jesus sees John and says to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Next, he speaks to John and says, “Here is your mother.” 19:26-27
18) Verse 19:33 suggests Jesus is now dead and there is no need to break his legs.
19) Verse 19:36 explains again the fulfilling of scripture. Exodus 12:46 tells how no bones were broken of the animals slain for the first Passover. Psalm 34:20 says, “Yahweh takes care of all their bones, not one of them will be broken.” It is part of a testimony that reads, “Though hardships without number beset the upright, Yahweh rescues them from them all.” Psalm 34:19
20) Joseph of Arimathea, one of Jesus’ secret disciples and Nicodemus who came to Jesus back in chapter 3 took Jesus’ body, wrapped it with “spices in linen cloths.” 19:40
21) Verse 41 says that there was a garden where Jesus was crucified. The conflict begins in a garden and this accounts ends in a garden. 18:1 and 19:41
Why is this so hard for us?
2009-04-07 by Fred Rose
I find this to be a clear and encouraging exhortation from someone who gives his life for the world and for these who listen to him. Why is this so difficult for us? There is good reason for so much energy given to so many other concerns. The world is full of hate and hunger and greed and war. We worship power in all the wrong places. If we could really give serious attenton to Jesus' instruction here, I believe the church would see itself renewed for service and ministry in the world in ways we may never have imagined.
Here are some observations about this passage for Maundy Thursday:
1) There is an air of finality between verses 33 and 34. The New Jerusalem Bible identifies this passage as marking the beginning of Jesus "Farewell Discourses."
2) Why is this a new commandment? Is it new because the other commandments have focused on God and neighbor and not the community of faith? Leviticus 19:18 reads, “You will not exact vengeance on, or bear any sort of grudge against, the members of your race, but will love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yahweh.”
3) "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another." How has he loved them? a) He has washed their feet. b) He has taught them truth. c) He has given them front row seats with his signs. d) He has given them a life’s purpose. e) Later, they remember these words and realize he has died for them. He gives his life for them.
4) Verse 35 The church in Acts does this. If 2:42 and 4:32-35 is an indication of the faithfulness of the disciples who heard what John records, they did what Jesus commanded them to do.
5) Isn’t this a different kind of evangelism? Members of the church care for each other with such authenticity, the community takes notice.
6) People do all kinds of things to exhibit their being "Christian" these days: bumper stickers, personal jewelry, inserting the word “blessed” in casual conversation, “family values” political stands, political affirmations (someone asked my daughter several years ago, “How can anyone be a Democrat and a Christian?”), good works, by telling people we are Christian, i.e. “Since I am a Christian, I don’t do things like that.”, with going to church for various activities, by wrestling with peace and justice issues, with caring about the least of these in our world, by arguing about what scripture says .
7) Why can’t we simply consider the strength of Jesus’ idea? a) It is far more difficult than stickers, jewelry and voting for the “family values” candidate. b) We are confused about what it means to love one another. Why? Hasn’t the church gotten this yet? Do we not understand what it means to love one another? c) We are too busy to focus on reconciliation and forgiveness in our churches. d) We have little energy for evangelism. e) What “everyone will know” is immaterial to our faith. f) It requires pastors and church leaders to get serious about their relationships with one another; it requires all of us to do some serious soul searching about who we are in relationship.
Nowhere. Nothing. Nobody.
2009-04-07 by Paul Janssen
Beginning to work on Easter. Sometimes I hew close to the prescribed text on Easter Sunday, sometimes I work more doctrinally -- as in, what does this all mean? This year, this outline presents itself as a possibility.
Nowhere. As in, since Christ has shattered the bonds of death, there is now nowhere that you can go that is beyond the peace he offers and establishes. "Peace be with you," he said to the disciples who'd gone in somewhere and shut the door behind them. (John 20:19) Peace knows no bounds, since Christ knows no bounds.
Nothing. As in, Romans 8: 39..."nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." No power is as great as the power of self-offering love; this has been vindicated by the resurrection of Christ.
(The powers of death have done their worst, but Christ their legions hath dispersed; let shouts of holy joy outburst: Alleluia!"
Nobody. (Or as Werner Wolf articulates it, No. Buh. Dee!) As in John 16: 22 puts it, "So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take our joy from you." Joy is no far-off goal, nothing you have to save up millions for, not something the economy can reduce (countless studies have shown that 'happiness', anyway, is inversely proportional to wealth). And no one -- (you fill in the blanks here) can take it away, because Christ is alive.
Well, that's just a raw skeleton, but I think it might preach. At least here.
Our guest preaching blogger this week is
2009-04-05 by David Howell
Fred Rose, who will celebrate 30 years in the ministry of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. in August. He has been married to Georgia for all of those and a few more; as his dearest friend, she has been a great encourager with his calling in the church. His children are now young adults who have finished college and are making their way in the world. He has served Tuckahoe Presbyterian Church in Richmond, VA for enough years to help his congregation face new challenges. Fred has the privilege of working currently with Dr. Charlie Brown, Director of Pastoral Care and Associate for Youth and Family Ministry, Steven Good. Fred hopes his comments can offer some light to a fellow preacher seeking to be faithful with the texts for Holy Week.
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