By Jared Warner
Willow Creek Friends Church
June 9, 2019
John 14:8–17 (ESV)
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
John 14:25–27 (ESV)
25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
How well can you know someone? This is something that I am sure most people do not spend hours thinking about. Well unless you happen to be a social worker, counselor, or a psychologist then perhaps you think about it. For most of us we probably do not dwell on this concept. We know people, we know about people, we know their friends and their relatives, but there are always things that take us by surprise. A few weeks ago, I was talking with my brother. My brother and I grew up together and for about fourteen years we shared the same room, if you were to be able to say you know someone you would think that that is about as close as you can get. Over the course of our conversation, I mentioned that I took a day to be lazy and played a video game all day. This does not happen often; I have not bought a video game for myself in years because I am supposed to be a mature adult. He laughed at me when I told him which game I played. He had no idea that I liked that game, and he was even more amazed when I told him I used to play the first version of this game on my computer when it was released in the early nineties. Now twenty-eight years later I download the newest of the series and he wonders. It is not as if I was hiding myself from my brother, the truth is that he would often look over my shoulder and give his opinion of what I should do. The reason he did not know this aspect of me is because it was not a game that he enjoyed, and he assumed that I liked the games that he enjoyed because those are the ones, he remembers me playing.
How well do we know people? We only know people from what is revealed to us by that person, and then we only know those things if we are in a frame of mind to listen. This is why so many of us who have been married for a while chuckle when we watch those romantic comedies because we see the people in the movies asking little questions about each other that we no longer ask. Those little questions are our attempt to get to know the other person. We ask them things like, “what is your favorite color, what is your favorite food, do you like the smell of this flower?” The answers to these questions are filed away in our minds and we draw on those answers later in the relationship when we want to prove our love for the other. We purchase a gift with that is of the color they like. We fix their favorite meal. We do our best to give them what they like because we either want them to know we like them, or we want to remind them that we still love them. We laugh at those romantic comedies because so often we have stopped asking those questions. We stop for some reason, probably not out of anything other than we got busy and our responsibilities have distracted our attention. Then one day we get surprise, after years of “knowing” the person, they never like some of the things we assumed they enjoyed. This surprise shakes us to our core, and we wonder did I ever really know them?
Hopefully those little surprises throughout your life were handled well. It does not matter what type of relationship it is, siblings or spouses, children or parents, every single day, if we are willing to listen and they are willing to speak, we can find out something new about them. My brother and I have known each other for thirty-six years, yet in the past month we realized that there is more to learn. Sometimes, those surprises are things that cause us to question the relationship. Sometimes those surprises can erode the trust we have of the other, because we feel as if they had been hiding their true selves from us the entire time. At times they were hiding, at times we might have made faulty assumptions. At other times it just never came up. Most people here know that I am not a big fan of pickles. I have not been secretive of that fact, some of you may even know that I am not a fan of sour kraut either. With those two things in mind most people would make assumptions about the foods I like and would probably steer away from many different dishes, and most would probably be surprised that bierocks are something I would love to eat. It might surprise you, you might think it is odd, but do you know me? Do you know that in the area I grew up due to the large German population this was something we had regularly on the school lunch menu, and because of that same population every year there is a huge Oktoberfest celebration in a park where they serve bierocks that are so big you have to save half for later? And it has been years since I have eaten a good bierock.
We know people when they reveal themselves to us. We know people when we are willing to listen to what they are revealing. We know people when we listen instead of assuming, and they know us when we reciprocate. This is a process that never stops and is constantly evolving as our tastes and preferences change. We can even build an understanding of others by those around them as well. Children will show us something about their parents. They will also show us something about ourselves. I learned over memorial weekend that I work a lot. I learned this because my son when playing with his cousin was pretending to be a dad. The first thing he did when he took on this role, was he went to work. When he came home, he went to work again. And the children began to argue amongst themselves and I realized that their argument resembled some of the discussions that I had participated in. It is very sobering. I thought about this, as I sat down and worked. What is the person I have revealed to my son, and do I even know myself?
The disciples of Jesus are not that much different than us in this respect. They thought they knew God. They had interacted and studied the dogma of their faith their entire life. Then Jesus comes around and he shows them a lifestyle that is a bit different then they are used to. They like what they see, and they follow. Then Jesus comes to the end of his ministry and begins to prepare them for the events of his trial and execution. He gives them a summary of his teachings, he says these wonderful words like “Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God believe also in me.” He continues to say, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” These words that many of us cherish he gave to us right before he faced his greatest trial. Its these words that give us strength when we face our own trials in life. But today we look at the statement Phillip makes during this debrief, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
Show us the Father. There is so much about the life of a disciple, of being a Friend of God and man. Often, we can make it into rules and regulations, and at other times it is so fluid we can hardly tell if there is any doctrine at all. Philip says what he says in pure innocence. He does not even realize fully what it is he is saying, but he wants to sound spiritual. Show us the Father and that’s enough. He did not realize that this statement and the rebuttal given by Jesus would become something deeply theological. He like all of us just want to be found worthy in the eyes of God, we simply want to make it, be good enough. Just show us the Father that’s enough.
Jesus’s response is like so many of our responses in a relationship. He says, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip?” Philip was one of the first disciples, many believe that he was one of the disciples of John the Baptist that followed Jesus from the river. And He is one of the first disciples Jesus himself invited, and right away Philip brings his friend Nathanael to Jesus. He invited his friend by saying, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Philip knows Jesus, he knew him from the very beginning of Jesus’s ministry. He went to the wedding at Cana with Jesus, seeing the first sign that Jesus performed, and it was through Philip that Jesus brought about the feeding of the five thousand. When we look at Philip we often see a man of faith, but he is a man of faith that Jesus often encourages to trust just a little bit more. Tradition often regards Philip as the practical disciple the logical one, which is great since he is the only disciple with a completely Greek name. Just show us the father and that’s enough, practical.
Jesus asks Philip, “you still do not know me?” Imagine if you had walked with Jesus through his entire ministry and were asked that question. Philip only wants to know God, and Jesus says to him that if you see me you have seen the Father. Everything that Jesus says, everything Jesus does is exactly what and who God is. They followed Jesus because they assumed that he was the promised Messiah, they assumed that the Messiah was going to do certain things. Things like liberate them from the influence of Rome. Things like establishing Israel as a theocratic nation that would become the new world empire. That the Messiah would become the king of this great and influential nation on earth. Jesus in many ways fulfilled their assumptions. He was charismatic and could perform signs like they had never seen before. He fed a multitude and could even raise the dead. Yet, when it came to faith Philip said just show us God, that’s enough. Philip at that moment did not realize just how blind he was. To him there was earth and heaven. He did not grasp the concept of God with us, because he had only known the veil of separation. God is in the temple we are on the earth. Everything that Jesus did reflected the relational life of God with us. The empathy for the poor, the concern for the ill, the frustration over exploitation, the practical teachings, and the community. Jesus, in everything he did and said was showing the Father to the world, yet Philip did not see it. Did he even know Jesus?
Philip said the words and suffered the rebuke, but each of the disciples there were feeling the same thing. They each had made assumptions, some were so bold to ask and to have their mother ask for seats of power in the coming kingdom, but poor Philip face the rebuke. One of the very first disciples.
Jesus did not leave them in that state of self-pity though. He quickly proceeds to say that there is something even greater instore. You may not fully know me yet, Philip, but once you realize it and believe you will participate in even greater things than you have seen me do. Think about that for a moment. How many of us actually believe that we can do greater things than Christ could do? Do you even know him? We go along through life, not even realizing that so much has improved since the days of Jesus. I personally live with chronic headaches. Meaning any day of the week I probably will have a headache of varying degree. When I was younger, we tried many things to ease the pain, we even got prescriptions that had a price of over $60 per pill. The problem is that these prescriptions did not take away the headache, they just helped enough to allow me to function. They worked just as well as a drug that we have used for over a hundred years, aspirin. Which is derived from plants that have been boiled in teas for thousands of years. For most of the human knowledge of Aspirin the use of those herbal teas to ease pain was magic. Now we know more about the substance and it no longer amazes us because we expect it to work. I can work because we figured out how to effectively use a chemical found in nature that can ease pain. Do we not see the greater things in our world?
We know about Jesus because someone nearly 2000 years ago wrote about Him on paper, that paper was preserved and cherished by people. When the paper was becoming brittle, they copied the words and they even copied them to send with others so that another community could know what Jesus taught. These words were protected, and hand copied for centuries, and then someone invented a machine that could print page after page of the words. Now everyone that wants a copy of scripture can have one. We have multiple copies in each place of worship, we have multiple copies in our homes. We have multiple translations so we can better understand what is being said and even better we have those words printed on paper now in digital form. The digital format allows every person not only to have scripture, but I can carry in palm of my hand a hundred translations, in countless languages, and even be able to look at the original language and study what other possible meanings each word might have. Do we not see the greater things in our world?
Jesus spent his entire ministry in Israel. He started in Nazareth and walked to Jerusalem; these sixty-four miles was basically the extent of his physical influence. It would take approximately thirty-one hours to walk this distance. That is thirty-one hours of just walking. I walk an average of five miles a day at work, the most I walk in a day is around ten miles during my eight-hour workday. At that rate it would take a week to travel the distance of covering north to south area Jesus ministered in. A week of just walking, nothing else. Today we would simply hop in our car and drive that distance and be there in about an hour. Shortly after the formation of the United States it would take anywhere from six weeks to three months to cross the Atlantic Ocean, according to Benjamin Franklin someone who made that trip often while serving as our ambassador to France. Today that same journey by an airliner would take around eight hours. That same trip in a military aircraft would take right around two hours. Do we see the greater things in our world?
We can do so much in so little time. We can convey so much information with so little effort. We can travel great distances with so little investment. And we sit around wondering if we see greater things? Do we even know Jesus? During our midweek bible study, we started studying Colossians and in the first chapter it says, “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God…all things were created through him and for him… and in him all things are held together.” Every scientific advancement, if we believe, draws us closer to God, because science is the study of the one who created everything and holds it all together. The faster we travel, the quicker we can move someone from illness to wellness is all from and of God. And like Philip, Jesus is asking do we even know him?
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
You can say that all I presented is man’s work, but God can use the things of man to accomplish the things of God, because God is with us. The question is how we use what we have available to us? Every tool from the vehicles we drive to the currency in our pocket is an accomplishment of human invention but can be used to broaden the influence of God’s kingdom if we believe and allow the Spirit to work through us. But do we believe? Do we know Him?
Just show us the Father, Philip says. The world asks the same thing. They are yearning for a reason to believe. They may not know it, but they are crying out for a reason to go on living. They cry because they are consumed by fear or other troubles. Just show us the Father. Philip is at least looking in the right direction, yet still doesn’t see. But Jesus encourages him, to look at Jesus. If we see him, we see the father. If people see Jesus through us, they see God. And if they see God through us, we can give them hope.
Do they know you? Have you revealed yourself to them? And are you open to see them? Jesus is inviting us each into a relationship and a lifestyle of God. A lifestyle he lived for us and with us, and one he invites us to join. Are we letting the worries and the troubles around us distract us from that relationship? Not just the relationship with God but also those around us? The command of Jesus is to love God with all that we have and to love one another. To love is to know intimately, to reveal and to receive the revelation. As we enter this time of open worship, consider our relationships. What are we showing and seeing in them?
By Jared Warner
Willow Creek Friends Church
June 2, 2019
Luke 24:44–53 (ESV)
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.
The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is something I never seem to tire of. There is so much to learn from the life that continues to cause me to pause and reexamine my own life. Then the willingness to take on the suffering that he experienced for no real human reason. The death of Jesus more than anything proves just how unjust we can be to humanity. What exactly was his crime? What exactly caused the people to turn against him and demand his death? We talk about snowflakes today, the people of the first century killed a person because he offended them. Lastly, we come to the resurrection. Imagine the extreme feelings of loss and hopelessness the various disciples would have been feeling those three days. They did not understand why Jesus had to die. They did not know what the big picture was to be. Thousands of years later we can point to the various prophecies that proclaimed the events that unfolded before their eyes, but for them all they saw was loss. They lost their best friend. They lost their teacher, who encouraged them to strive for something they did not think was possible. They lost the hope for a kingdom that would be different from the kingdom they had experienced their entire lives. A kingdom where they could live and worship without fear, a kingdom where common people, had status, and they were not exploited and looked down upon. They lost hope.
That all changed one Sunday morning, when one of the disciples, a woman by the name of Mary came running to the house in hysterics saying that the body was missing. After two thousand years of hearing the story, are we able to experience the raw emotion and excitement that flowed through their bodies? I work in loss prevention when I am not at the Meetinghouse. My job is to do whatever I can to prevent items from going missing from our store. In the course of my day, I walk around the store observing various items, many of these items I count and record the quantities. There are some days that nothing seems to be missing. But there are other days where my heart sinks. Somehow me and the team I work with missed something, and an item has gone missing. On those days my job is to frantically look for these items in every possible location I can think of and if I still do not find them, I start looking through the recorded video. Our goal is to provide some sort of explanation for loss of our merchandise, if it was a theft, we then do everything we can possibly do to identify who it was and hopefully initiate some sort of recovery of the lost items. My heart races when a $50 bottle of face cream goes missing, for these first century disciples of Jesus a body is missing. Not just a body but the body of their friend, teacher, and potential king. Peter and John went out to investigate and they came back and as far as we know they sat down at the table in total defeat.
These men and women are much like us. How many of us would have come back from the tomb after Mary’s testimony and just sat there? If this happened here today, there would be some excited conversation. What questions would you have asked? They had left Mary at the tomb and came back to the others to discuss what they saw. “We saw the burial clothes but not body just like she said. No, the stone was rolled away. No there was not any marks of dragging.” If you have watched a mystery series on TV, you know the types of questions that would need answered. Then Mary comes and tells an even greater story. The body was not stolen, but Jesus is alive!
After that day and for forty days after Jesus had appeared to the disciples on several occasions. Sometimes he would just appear in the room with them, and he would probably have to revive someone from choking on their food because of the surprise that he initiated. At other times he just happened to meet them on the shore of the sea while they in their confusion and brooding decided to return to their previous lifestyle, only to encourage them remember what he had shown them over the course of his life with them. They still did not understand. They wanted to ask so many questions, but they realized that maybe they did not know anything. They had thought that Jesus was going to become a powerful king, yet he was killed in such a dishonorable way. Could he now bring about the kingdom? Or did the testimony he gave to the Romans, “My kingdom is not of this world,” mean that maybe they did not have the slightest idea of what was going on.
For some of the disciples he had walked along a road with them and explained scripture to them as they walked along the path. For others he merely spoke their name. And others he removed his shirt and showed them the wounds left behind by the nails and the spear.
Today he meets with them once again in a room with a closed door. He shows up and startles them yet again. I do not know for sure if this is the first time, he met with them or if it is some time later, because Luke squeeze the events of forty days into one. But it is clear that there is testimony within these verses that at least the events of a week later when Thomas expresses that he must see the wounds to believe are incorporated into this revelation of the resurrected Christ. They are startled, they think they are looking not at a human body standing with them but a specter, spirit, or ghost. So, Jesus asks them for something to eat.
I find it very interesting that he asks for food. I can just imagine that they are all sitting there with hands poised in front of their open mouths crushing bread in a shocked grip as they gaze at Jesus. I can see a smirk on Jesus’s face as he looks at them in this state, as someone gulps and slides over a plate of fish. Jesus then takes a seat among them, eating the fish, and he begins to teach. He explains summarizes his teachings that he shared for the past few years; he points out how they correspond to the teachings of Moses. He explains the events that they witnessed and how they reflect the oracles of the prophets. He burst out into song while he explains the testimony and praises of the Psalms. And he says to them, “this is all the stuff I was speaking to you while I was still with you. All of this, everything from the Law, the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.” He then went deeper, and he opened their minds to understand the scripture.
I love that phrase, “He opened their minds to understand the scripture.” The idea of opening in this sense is to cause a change of perception. It can also mean to let loose or to liberate. He liberated their minds; he causes a change of perception within their understanding so that they were able to understand the scripture. The reason I love this phrase so much is because it shows us that sometimes we can hold an interpretation, an interpretation that has long standing tradition that might just be lacking perspective. These interpretations may not be wrong, in fact they might be pointing in the proper direction, but they might not be complete or fully explored.
I thought about this passage as I was driving down to camp and back. If you have ever driven through the flint hills of Kansas along Interstate 35, you are aware that you drive through one of the largest and last remaining prairies of the United States. Because of this unique aspect of nature, they have built around the Bazaar Cattle Pens an area to stop and view this vast expanse. There is something breath taking about the rolling hills of green grass that stretches for miles. Every time I drive along the highway, I personally feel close to God, for me it is one of those places the early Irish monks would call a thin spot, where heaven and earth meet. I could stand there staring at those hills, smelling the soil, the grasses, and the wildflowers for hours just thinking. And the idea of Jesus, “opening their minds to understand the scripture,” becomes just a bit more tangible.
He was sitting with them, eating fish, and explaining the scriptures. They are staring at him, trying to remember to breath as their minds try to wrap it all in so processing can begin. He probably looks up and sees the blank stares, so he starts again. And finally, they begin to understand, “that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
This makes total and complete sense right. Yes, the blank stares remain for thousands of years, but that is ok. Maybe, you need to stop by the cattle pens the next time you drive to the camp. Christ should suffer. Jesus did not only suffer, but he was totally dishonored and shamed. He was wrongfully accused, lied about, put on trial before people that already chose the sentence before he was even given a chance. This was done by his own nation, people of his own heritage and religion. They then took him to the gentiles. The Romans could care less about the Jewish people, as far as they were concerned these people, these non-citizens of the empire, were nothing more than means to an end. That end was profit for themselves. Most of the government officials did not care for the people, their only concern was to keep the cost low and the profits toward the empire high. When the accused was brought before them their only concern was that a riot might begin and a riot would need to be dealt with, and that would cause unneeded attention from those higher in power because valuable resources would be used in a province instead of being sent to Rome. They brought Jesus to the Romans, and they ripped off his clothes, mocking him in ways we really do not want to imagine, and they beat him within an inch of his life. Then they nailed him to a tree. Jesus suffered. Jesus suffered under the hands of Jew and Gentile. His suffering was by the hands of all nations. Sometimes we forget this, but it had to be in this manner. Jesus had to suffer by both groups so that the redemption could be for all nations.
Jesus continues by explaining not only should the Christ suffer, but on the third day he would rise from the dead. Why the third day? Was it simply because he died on a Friday and the third day was the beginning of a new week? I considered this as I looked across the expanse of the prairies, and I remember that it was the third day of creation that life began. It was the third day that God caused dry ground to appear and on that ground grass, herbs yielding seeds, fruit trees began to appear according the desire of God. Life began on the third day. Prior to that day nothing living according to the minds of the ancients existed. The world was empty of life, and then day three God created life. Jesus was dead and on the third day was raised to life. Through Adam all of creation experienced the pangs of death, through Jesus we are given the gift of eternal life. He then encourages his disciples to speak about this life that is gained through repentance to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem.
I stood there along the metal barrier of the cattle pen, and the words of scripture began coming to mind. And as I drove back through the hills as I returned to Kansas City, again I observe the land around me. A song often comes to my mind as I drive this highway. A song oddly enough by the band Third Day, called These Thousand Hills.
These thousand hills roll ever on, footprints of a mighty God, they bring me to my knees in praise, amazing love, amazing grace.
T’was on a hill my savior died a broken heart a bleeding side. Hill of the Skull, Mount Calvary, the blood he shed he shed for me.
When heaven’s hills at last I roam, forever settled in my home. I’ll join the saints around your throne, your kingdom, Lord, rolls ever on.
I look out at those thousand hills, and I see something that you can only notice in the prairies so clearly. Off in the distance you can see the shadow of the clouds in contrast to the light provided by the sun. I watch the clouds building in the distance, you can literally see them growing right before your eyes, and under the clouds patches of shaded grassland. Those clouds we are all aware can be menacing, because they can often build into thunderstorms and tornadoes, but when you are in the prairies you can see beyond the clouds. You can see them build and you can see them break down and disappear. Repentance, Jesus says, that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed. Those disciples that sat there eating fish with him that day, were to be the ones that proclaimed this to Jerusalem because they were the witnesses.
Jesus then took them to Bethany, to the mount of olives. And he lifted his hands to them and blessed them. And from that mount he was lifted into heaven and as he was lifted, they worshiped him. They returned to the city, no longer in a state of confusion or fear, but worshiping and blessing God continuously in the Temple.
I looked at the shadows of the clouds and I watched them as I drove home last evening. I watched as shadows covered an area and moved on with the wind. I watched as the clouds gathered in the eastern sky and I watched, just as quickly they gathered, they began to break down and drift apart. As I watched I thought about several of my friends, and so many others who I do not personally know that often struggle. They are living under the shadow of a storm cloud unable to see the light. How will they know unless those of us who have seen what God can do share with them the hope found when we turn toward Christ? They live under the shadow, in fear and hopeless, but we can see because we have a glimpse from a different perspective. The shadow will pass, and they can stand in the light. Jesus suffers for and with us. He died upon the cross and was buried. Then on the third day he rose to live again.
As we enter this time of Open worship and communion as Friends, I pray that Christ will liberate our minds to understand scripture. Not only to understand the written word, but to understand that word that was made flesh and dwells among us and continuously teaches and guides us. I pray that we will become people that can see beyond the shadows of the clouds and see the light and beauty beyond, sharing our stories of hope in repentance and life renewed by our friend, teacher, king, and God.