Advertisements
//
archives

Archive for

Living Water

By Jared Warner

Willow Creek Friends Church

May 31, 2020

Click here to join us in Worship

John 7:37–39 (ESV)Pentecost

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. The words of Jesus often cause my soul to relax. And this is just what I need this week, to relax. I know many within our community could also use a pause and a sigh. In the Psalms there is often a word, Selah that we see. After centuries of research in the language we are still unsure exactly what the word means, but it is regarded as a musical or liturgical term that means pause. Take a breath and let the words that were just uttered saturate your mind for a moment.

Selah. I need that pause this week because it has been filled with stress. As the community moves to reopen from the pandemic and readjust to many of the changes, I am in the middle of all those discussions and enforcement. And to be very honest it is not a fun position to be in. I work in retail security when I am not at the meetinghouse, and during this pandemic much of my job is to stand at the doors to be ready to handle customers that might get upset. And Friends, people are upset. Selah. Pause take a breath. Jesus tells us, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.”

Jesus said these words on the last day of the feast, the great day scripture tells us. For those of us that do not know the holiday cycles of Israel, the feast referred to in this passage is the feast of Sukkot or Tabernacles. This feast is one of the major feasts that required a pilgrimage to the temple. It celebrated the end of harvest and was to remind the people of Israel of the time spent in the desert. They would celebrate by building tents and sharing their abundance with everyone. If you came by a tent you would be asked to join with those already there in a meal. In our American culture the Thanksgiving holiday is supposed to resemble this feast, and as much as I love Thanksgiving we do not know how to celebrate like the people of Israel. We celebrate for a day, they celebrated for the entire week!

They celebrated the blessing of God. The celebrated the abundant harvest. They celebrated life. But there is a portion of this festival that most of us do not understand, because we have not participated and largely because there is not a temple in Jerusalem. A portion of the celebration was the water pouring. In this celebration the priests would carry water from the pool of Siloam, up the pilgrim road, to the temple where it was poured on the altar in the evening. Why were they sacrificing water we might ask? Water is scarce and necessary. Everything that promotes life requires water. The plants that we eat need water. The animals that provide our meat need water. We need water ourselves for personal hygiene as well as keeping our bodies healthy. Water is life. In urban settings we do not always recognize the scarcity of water because very few of us have had to ration our water usage. But what happens when one a pipe supplying our cities ruptures? The city issues a boil alert and suddenly we come face to face with the reality that clean water is hard to come by.

We look at a globe of the earth and we might say how can water be scarce when most of our planet is covered with water? The waters of the ocean will not sustain life on land. The salt in the water will kill plants, and it will drive animals and people mad from dehydration. Water is one of the most abundant resources on earth but only 0.3% is obtainable for use. Water is scarce. The celebration of water was a celebration of blessing. It was a celebration of the rain, and a cry out to God to continue to bless the world with this life-giving fresh water. It was a plea to God to not withhold the rain.

I grew up on a farm in north central Kansas. When the explorers first traveled through the areas that I called home they gave mixed reviews of the land. When the Spanish wrote about it, they called it lush like the lands of Spain, but when others passed through their maps called it the great desert. This is where I grew up, I lived the cycles of abundance and desert. When we had rain the crops thrived, but when the rain was lacking our community lived in poverty. This week in Kansas City we had much rain, and even though parts of our city was under water, I still find it hard to lift my voice to ask God to stop the rain.

The people of ancient Israel were by in large people that made their living in the agricultural trades. Their lives were devoted to feeding one another. It is a noble and honorable life, to provide the food that feeds a society. One of the stresses during this pandemic time frame revolves around getting the food to the people. We have meat shortages; we have hand sanitizer shortages. Both products begin in places like the one I spent my childhood. Grain and fiber products are used to make the alcohol that sanitizes our hands and I raised some of those animals that once graced your table. When there is a glitch somewhere along the line of production the product cannot be found, and shortage occurs. The reality is right now we have the meat, we have the grain, but the processors of the products cannot get them in the stores. But often there is a different problem. Often the shortage of a product due to a lack of water. When there is not water, there is suffering. And when there is suffering, fear and anger mounts, and when fear and anger builds, often death follows.

Ancient people recognized this so many ancient religions celebrated rain and water. The ancient Jews did as well. And Jesus celebrated these water rituals with his community. He prayed for God’s blessing of the earth and he danced with the community as the water was drawn. Water is life.

But what happens when there is not rain? What happens when the things that sustain life are not accessible? What happens? Suffering.

Jesus attended the feast of tabernacles, the feast where everyone shared their abundance, but what if there was not an abundance? What if there was a drought and the fruit of the land was not enough? The feast that should be a celebration of prosperity becomes a spotlight revealing our own fragility. It takes great discipline to share when we lack. It takes great faith to celebrate when the budget is tight. Yet Israel was commanded to celebrate and share through thick and thin, during abundance and lack. They were commanded to remember that it was God that brought their ancestors out of slavery in Egypt. It was God that provided for their families as they wondered through the desert those forty years. It was God that lead them to the land of promise. It was God that gave them the victory over their enemies and handed them a land flowing with milk and honey. It was and is God that provides the rain for the just and unjust. God gives and God can take away, how will you respond?

If you are thirsty, Jesus says, come to me and I will give you a drink. Jesus’s statement is one of relief in times of suffering. If we are thirsty it means we lack water. This lack might simply be that we were exerting ourselves to much as we mow the lawn and failed to stay hydrated in the sun, or it might be something even deeper like the infostructure of our community will no longer support our population. No matter the cause, there is a need. It does not matter how we got to that place, if we are thirsty and do not do something about it, we will suffer. And the longer the suffering lasts the greater the harm. Jesus is saying that he is the source that will ease the suffering, and he is calling all that thirst to him.

I want us to let that soak in for a moment, like a slow rain shower soaks into our lawns. If thirst is suffering, Jesus’s mission is to ease the suffering. Over the past few weeks, I have mentioned that if we love Jesus, we will continue his commission or follow his commandments. This means that if we are disciples of Christ, if we are Friends, or if we are just people that claim the name Christian our purpose of being here is to join Jesus in his mission. That means that our mission is to help ease the suffering around us.

How are we doing in that mission? One of my favorite authors is the classic Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I know it seems odd that I would love the writing of someone from Russia, but his writing is amazing. In one of his books, he says that we are not only responsible for our sin, but we are responsible for everyone’s sins. When I first read that I laughed. I considered it the musing of a lunatic but the though worked its way into my mind and kept drawing me in. What it means is we are responsible for their sin because we allowed the possibility of that sin to occur. Dostoyevsky would say that this is where the church failed. He wrote these words before the Red Revolution, but he did not support the revolutionist movements, because he believed that the church should be the ones to ease suffering. We should ease the suffering of the world, we who call ourselves people of Christ.

Jesus goes on by saying, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”[1] The waters that were drawn during the feast of Tabernacles were considered living waters, or water of creation. It is a weird concept, but it is moving water that is provided by God through nature. A well is not considered this type of water, but only surface water. And surface water is supplied through rain or a spring where the water under ground is so plentiful it flows out of the soil. Living water is fresh, it is constantly being replenished from the source. When water stands still it becomes stale and undrinkable. The concept here is the living and the dammed. Or blessing and the damned, however you want to think of it. Are we letting things flow or are we stopping that flow?

I want us to think of moving undammed water and our responsibility of the world’s sin. It is when we stop the flow that water becomes stale, the same occurs in people. When we stop our involvement in the easing of suffering, we dam up the potential of blessing to flow through us. The result is both stagnation in our lives and the lives of those around us. When we dismiss the concerns of other and focus only on our personal wellbeing, we dam the flow of blessing through us and we no longer quench the thirst of those who might need a drink. When we stop sharing or fail to consider the mutual profit of our community we contribute to the potential sins of the world.

Take a moment and think of what you personally feel are the greatest problems in our world today? Income inequality, abortion, race relations, climate change, unemployment, war, drugs? There is a great list and every day it seems to get worse. What are you going to do about it? When we look at all the problems of our society we can be overwhelmed. I cannot solve the riots in Minneapolis as much as I would like to, but I can listen to those that see the situation from a different perspective. And by listening I can quench the thirst just a bit. I cannot prevent all the abortions from occurring in our nation, even though I would like to, but I can listen and encourage one person that might have to face that decision. We can protest and make laws all we want but it will not change one thing unless we ourselves see that we are responsible. It is my fault because I allowed people to live in fear to the point they snap. It is my fault because I was not willing to assist my neighbor with food. It is my fault because I did not teach my children to respect that of God in all people. But there is hope.

Jesus came into a world that was a mess. He lived in a messed-up community. He suffered injustice when he was whipped and crucified even though he did not commit a crime. Jesus came into a messed-up world, and he said if you are thirsty come to me. He said if you believe out of you will be rivers of living water. Jesus lived in a messed-up world filled with corruption, greed, inequality, prejudice, famine, and disease and he took it all on himself and encourages us to follow him.

Are we able to see it? Are we able to smell the rain, the source of life? Jesus came and made it his custom to worship with his community in the synagogues. Jesus withdrew often to isolated places to pray. And he ministered to the needs within the community. Jesus showed us the holy rhythm of life, he showed us what the true abundant life looks like. And he is calling each of us to join him in that life. The abundant life is the feast of tabernacles. Where people are invited to the table to share in the abundance, or to share in the suffering. The abundant life is not the wealth of the world, but it is the health of our community. It is each of us listening to the call of God and living it with those around us.

I really wish I had all the answers. I wish I could with one word fix the problems we all face. The reality is often my words cause more problems. You see that is the problem, I. So often we only think of I. We cannot get away from it. Even the most socially conscience person is often thinking of I instead of the community. And that is another problem when we are not thinking of I, we are thinking of them and trying our hardest to fix their problems. How about we think of us. Jesus said the greatest commandment is simple, love God and love your neighbor as yourself. It is not about I or them, but us in relation to each other and in relation to God. If there is a problem in the community it is my problem and I need to work to ease the suffering and fear. I need to lead by example and sacrifice myself so that my neighbor can live. I need to love God, embrace the Holy Spirit and live the love of Christ with others. I need to come to Christ to quench my thirst so that I can become a blessing to others. I cannot help them without first taking care of myself and I cannot fully care for myself unless I am thinking of those around me.

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Today we celebrate the Spirit of God with us. Today we celebrate that we are not alone but have a helper with us forever. Today we celebrate because Jesus is glorified, and the Spirit has come and is active even today. Today we can join with Christ in his commission to ease the thirst of our world by embracing the sprit of truth and listening to that call. Will we listen? Will we become rivers of living water, or stagnate pools of damnation? Let us enter this time of open worship in a spirit of honesty, with full knowledge that we contribute to the sins of this world because we often do not listen. And let us repent and turn to Christ so we can go out this week and become the people our world needs us to be.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 7:38). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Advertisements

But They are in the World

By Jared Warner

Willow Creek Friends Church

May 24, 2020

Click to Join us in Worship

John 17:1–11 (ESV)undefined

1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. 6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

How are we doing? I ask this in all seriousness. Some of us have some major concerns because our health or the health of a loved one is not where we would like. For others we are trying to wrestle through the decisions of going back to work or sheltering in place for a bit longer. Some of us are trying to figure out how to make our places of business accommodate our customers and clients in a way that they will feel safe. And of course, those of us in church leadership on multiple levels are weighing the pros and cons of meeting together again. These concerns are serious, they have consequences and none of us want to make the wrong call. How do we approach these situations? How do we find the clearness to move forward?

The world is filled with struggles, suffering, tough choices, and opinions from people everywhere. It can almost become overwhelming. I must admit that at times, I struggle under the weight of it all at times. It seems as if I am pushing ahead and when I look up nothing has changed, or it feels as if I have gone the complete opposite direction. How are we doing?

Today is a unique day in the Christian calendar. It is Ascension Sunday. It is the day of the year that we as Christians celebrate the final day that Jesus walked with his disciples. This day is often overshadowed by days like Easter or Christmas, but it is an important event to remember. Because it is one this day that the church took on a different role.

In the Gospel according to John, we have from the very beginning, a view that Jesus existed even before the world began. Jesus is the word of God, that was with God in the beginning, and it is through the Word of God that all things are created. John then said that the word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus became human. He lived a complete human life, from the preborn, birth, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Jesus endured the struggles of childhood, having to do chores and assist his parents and siblings with various activities. He even had to endure school in some form. He lived within this family and community for thirty years, and for seventeen of those years he worked along side the family as a carpenter.

We need to remember that Jesus spent this amount of times within a community because often when we read about the life of Christ, we do not always recognize the passage of time. We focus on the three years of ministry because that is the time that is recorded in the gospel accounts, but there were thirty years of time where Jesus was not living as a traveling rabbi. Those thirty years he appeared to the world as a common blue-collar laborer. Jesus endured similar struggles. Jesus endured those struggles and as he entered ministry he showed and taught us how to thrive in the adversity.

Ascension Sunday we celebrate the end of Jesus’s earthly ministry, but he did not leave us without hope or help. We are told that Jesus spent forty days among the disciples after that first Easter. During this period, he continued to share meals with them and to teach.

No matter when or where Jesus was, his focus was on encouraging and deepening relationships. Nearly every episode we are shown in Jesus’s life he is encouraging in worship, prayer or in ministry. This is what I call the holy rhythm or the holy lifestyle. Throughout the gospel accounts we see Jesus making it his custom to worship in the synagogues with the community. That is where most of his teaching occurs. But this teaching is only after they worship. We see on several occasions that he withdraws to an isolated place to pray, and it is usually after these times of prayer that Jesus then moves to the next area of ministry.

In the passage from Luke today we see Jesus leading and teaching them as they travel to Bethany. He reminds them of who he is, what had to occur according to scriptures, and he encourages them to remember what they witnessed. Then he blesses them and is lifted into the sky. The disciples watch this occur before their eyes, and instead of locking themselves in the room in fear, they leave that place celebrating and worshiping Jesus. The passage concludes by telling us that they then shared these things in the temple, where they would teach and bless God continually.

They were teaching in the temple, even before Pentecost. It is on Pentecost, when the Spirit of God rushed in on them like a fire and empowered them to not only be disciples of Christ, but people sent out or apostles of Christ. This shows us that they were participating in Jesus’s holy rhythm, and because of this they made themselves available to God’s leading.

We look at these words and we find them inspiring. We read them and we celebrate along with them, because the gospel account does not show us the struggle that they also face. We can get a glimpse into this struggle if we turn the Luke’s second book, the Acts of the Apostles. This day that Jesus ascended was just over a month from the day the leaders within the community had conspired together to silence and execute Jesus. These emotions do not just go away in a month. Just look at Facebook, there are people still upset that someone was elected, and there are people upset that the president before the current president was elected. I know people that still have emotional reactions to the election of people that have not been in office for my entire life. They remember, and so would this community. They remember Jesus, and the fact that there are disciples running around saying he has risen from the grave that the leaders so carefully tried to fill would not sit well.

How would these disciples be able to live in that environment? This is where the holy rhythm comes into play. The main passage I would like us to focus on is from John. This is the account of one of those moments that Jesus withdrew to an isolated place to pray. This episode is just after the last supper, and just prior to Jesus’s arrest. If we were to read the other gospel accounts, we would find that this moment of pray was not one of those sweet hours of prayer that we often sing about. It was intense, filled with immense emotional stress. Stress so deep that the capillaries surrounding Jesus’s sweat glands were rupturing and blood was mixing with this sweat to make it look as if he was sweating blood. Jesus embraced his life and the fulfillment of his mission, but even for the Son of God it was not easy to face the cross.

I want us to consider that for just a moment. Jesus fully knew where his life was heading, he knew what he would have to endure, he embraced that life and was joyful in it. Jesus welcomed the cross, yet it was not easy for him physically or emotionally. He took that stress out into the garden and prayed. Do we notice this as we read the gospel? Do we see the humanity of Jesus? Are we able to look past the reward we receive and recognize that Jesus understands suffering?

The disciples were witnesses to this struggle. The disciples were with him in this instance, they were there in the garden. They watched him as he withdrew because he asked them to join him. He was struggling and they fell asleep. He pleads with them to pray again and again. But they do not quite understand what is going on. Jesus prays, but what is interesting in all that emotional stress. Jesus’s prayer just barely recognizes his struggle. Jesus spend most of that time praying not for himself, but for his friends.

“The hour has come,” Jesus says, “Glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.” Jesus says these things, knowing what it will mean to glorify. He knows what he will endure, and he knows that it is one of his closest friends that will initiate it all. He says, let that suffering come so that you can be glorified.

What is the point of suffering? None of us enjoy struggle, we seek to avoid suffering whenever we can, yet somehow, we all at some point will find ourselves in a place where we will have to endure the pains of life. I do not want to lessen the reality of suffering. I have friends that are enduring the intense pain associated with cancer treatments. I have watched as parent’s mourn the loss of children. I have listened to screams coming from the mouths as addicts attempt to break the chains of their bondage. Suffering is very real. It is not pretty; it is not glamourous. Suffering is not something that can be gilded in gold and celebrated, because suffering sucks. I know it does because I have experienced enough to know that I really do not like it. Jesus knew suffering. He felt it and he embraced it. He looked the beast of suffering in the eyes and he held out his arms and said it is finished. And he did this not for himself but for others. He embodied suffering so that we might know what is on the other side, glory.

“The hour has come, glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.” Jesus says, “Since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

We all suffer. It is part of the human experience. We will not escape the struggle no matter how hard we try to avoid it. Eventually we will find ourselves in the eye of that storm. The real question is how will you endure the suffering?

Jesus endured his suffering so that we could know God. Jesus became Emmanuel, God with us, so that we could know God. Jesus spent his days eating, worshiping, praying, and serving so that we might know God. Jesus endured a life of suffering, so we could know. The concept of know in this since experience. Jesus came so that we could experience God with and through him. I want us to consider this experiential knowledge. I want you to think of the best day you have ever had. You do not have to try ridiculously hard, if you cannot think of the best day ever just think of a good day. Who was with you? In almost every instance the days that we remember the most are experienced with others.

Jesus endured complete human suffering so that we could live with God, so that we could experience life with God. Jesus said that that is eternal life. It is not just life beyond the veil of death, but life here now. The abundant life Jesus promises us is a life experienced with others, where we know and are known.

Jesus gladly endured suffering, and he endured it because he knew that by experiencing it with us it would give us hope while we intensely endure our lives. He was able to see beyond the pain to the place beyond. And he knew that his time had come, so when he prayed, he did not have concern only for himself, instead he prayed for us.

When we endure suffering with other, something amazing happens. During the most stressful moments in my life, a friend of mine was there. I am a pastor, I stand every week and preach faith, but I am often weak. There are people that have seen me in tears. There are people that have listened to my voice crack and have sat with me when I have not been able to see. They were with me in the struggle, and they were the strength I needed. I can only do what I do, because my friends have stepped up and carried me when I could not walk myself. When we endure suffering together, there is a bond that is forged that is not easily broken. We witness this in the stories veterans tell about those that served beside them. We witness this in the marriages that have endured the tests of time. And when we hear these stories of others, they give us hope while we endure our own struggles. Our testimonies of life with God can give strength to others.

I say can, not will. Our witness can only inspire when we are with those around us. Jesus was with his disciples. They ate together, worked along side one another, and they walked the same roads. Jesus was able to teach the disciples the most while he was with them. The most inspiring words that Jesus spoke were uttered while they sat around a table.

Jesus prayed for his disciples, and he prayed for us on that night before he was arrested. He prays for us because on the day of his ascension his physical presence is no longer here. Jesus came and he provided the lifestyle and the way. But we still need to walk the path. Jesus prays for us because we are in the world, his part is finished, our part of the commission of Christ is still underway. He prays for us because it is our turn to struggle with him and with others.

How are we doing? In this time of social distancing, we can sense the strain of “with” ness. We are with some people more than before, and we are feeling the loss of the extended communities we once enjoyed. This is challenging us in what it means to be part of the church, because it has been weeks since we went to “church.” We are struggling, but are we concerned with the struggle of others more than our own? Jesus prayed for us the day he was about to face his greatest trial; can you spare a few moments to listen to a friend?

As we join in Holy Expectancy and centered prayer consider your life. Jesus prays for his own and not for the world, but he prays for his own because they are in the world. Are we living our lives in a way to deserve the prayers of our Lord? Are we living his commission of Loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living the love of Christ with others? Is Christ glorified through us, even in our struggles?

You will Live

By Jared Warner

Willow Creek Friends Church

May 17, 2020

Click to Join our Meeting for Worship

John 14:15–21 (ESV)Holy Spirit

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. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

If you love me. Over the past few years there has been a theme that has resonated through my mind, “Becoming a disciple loved by Christ.” This is largely based on the concept that in the Gospel according to John, there is one disciple that is regarded as the disciple whom He loved. I have wondered what it would be like to be known not by my name but by the love of Christ. This disciple is thought to have been John. John was probably the youngest of the disciples. Some would say that he might have been in his early teens when he was called to be a disciple. This is interesting because it would mean that John’s entire adult life was lived as a disciple of Jesus, the primary influence in his life would have been Jesus. Imagine living your entire adult life, under the direct tutorage of Jesus. His entire adult life was centered on Christ, and everyone knew it.

It is not exactly an unreasonable concept. The early Friends had a deep desire to follow Christ in all that they did. We often regard George Fox as the founder of the Society of Friends, but there were many people that were involved. These people were living through a civil war within England. This civil war involved politics as well as religion. These Seeker, as they were often called, wondered how people could take up arms against each other under the banner of Christ. They took this even deeper, asking how those claiming to be disciples of Christ could take up arms at all. They wondered and they sought answers to their questions. The problem was each side gave conflicting answers, and these honest seekers were left in limbo, wondering how or what was the true faith. In Fox’s Journal he said that he took his book of scripture out to a field and waited there. And as he waited, he heard a voice saying to him that there was one, even Christ Jesus who could speak to his condition.

These early Friends would sit in silence, seeking the direction of God, because they believed fully that Jesus was their ever-present teacher and guide. Meaning like John we today can live under the direct tutorage of Jesus. Which brings us back to the statement, “If you love me.”

Jesus says these words, near the end of his final teaching segment during the last supper. It is in this discourse we find some of the most encouraging words of Jesus, as he prepares his disciples for their future experiences. Very soon, Jesus knows, He would no long be able to physically lead them. They will be faced with life altering decisions that will cause friends to become enemies, families will disown their own children, and those in power will seek to destroy their message by any means.

If you have ever posted anything on Facebook or Twitter you know how this might look and feel. People twist the words we might be saying to the point we might not even recognize it as being from the same conversation, and why? Because what we say threatens their view of the world in some way. It does not matter which perspective it is from; trolls are on all sides of the spectrum. Jesus is aware of this, and even the ancient church had to deal with their fair share of trolls. Jesus spoke in this session, to direct the disciples through these future struggles. He said to them, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

How are you with commandments? When we hear that word, our attention is often directed toward rules or laws. This is not necessarily a bad thing either. If we were to keep the commandments of the Jewish faith the world would be in much better shape. There would be a great deal less debt, and we would not be able to have a bacon cheeseburger either, so like I said our world might be in better shape. Was this the teaching that Jesus promoted? You could make a case either way. Jesus is recorded as saying that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light, which is in reference to the yoke or interpretation of the law. He is also quoted as saying that he has come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. This makes this statement a little confusing, because if Jesus was promoting the keeping of the law of Moses why was he facing the cross?

I have pondered this along with the theme of becoming a disciple Jesus loves. And I looked up the word commandments. Like many words it can be used in different ways, often it is used to reference legality, but it is also used in commission. This caused me to stop. If you love me, you will keep my commission? This changes things. Some of us have worked for commission, meaning we are paid based on production. Often artists can become commissioned artists, meaning they produce something to order like a family portrait. There are even commissioned officers in the military, these are the ones that are brought in for a specific purpose. No matter what the use of commission is, the person is brought in to perform a specific duty and they continue within that duty until it is completed, and the commission is released. “If you love me,” Jesus says, “you will keep my commission.” Jesus is not demanding them to keep a set of rules but inviting them to participate in his life and lifestyle. He is inviting them to continue the very thing that he started. He is encouraging them to take what they have learned from him and share it with others. This statement is like Elijah passing the mantle to his disciple Elisha.

If we love Jesus, we will take on his commission. This changes pretty much everything we might think about this passage. Our duty, our purpose is no longer merely keeping rules, but it is to be liberators, life givers, healers, providers, and encouragers. To love Christ is to live as Jesus lived and lives. Does this change your perception of the Christian life? It should, because to have a commission means that there is a duty, a responsibility, and participation in what we are join. If we love Jesus, we take on, we participate in, or embody his work.

I want us to let this soak into our minds and our hearts for a moment. The Christian life is not rules, but a commission, a life and lifestyle. When we become a follower of Christ we do not just live by a codified set of rules, but we join Jesus in his ministry. When George Fox heard that voice in the field, he recognized it for what it was. If there is one, even Christ Jesus that can speak to his condition, then he would need to listen to that one and respond accordingly. He began to change the way he approached life. He was living within the commission, going where he sensed God was leading him, speaking the words he sensed he was to say. Every aspect of life was devoted not to self but to the commission of Christ.

This approach of life was not something that was devoted to only a single day. The early Friends did not keep days as sacred or secular, but all days were equal because all days were the days of the lord. They did not regard people of higher or lower stations in life either, because all people were created in the image of God and only that of God deserved respect not the title a worldly system bestowed on them. And since everyone is stamped with God’s image each person had equal access to the Spirit of God, and that Spirit could call them into life with God. Because every person possessed that image of God, every aspect of life then became part of God’s commission. If you were called to minister in a vocal capacity then respond, but that is not the only ministry. Whatever your career might be, it became a vocation of God. If you owned a business, that business was not there only for profit but was your commission in God’s kingdom, what early Friends would often call the Lamb’s war. Your house was no longer your house, but it was the barracks of God’s advancing kingdom, and should be used in that way. Every aspect of our lives is joined into this commission of Christ, and if we love him, we release all that we have for his glory.

Those early Friends were bold. They changed how they did business and how they treated those within that business both employees and customers. Fair wages, fair prices, quality, and guarantees are all things we take for granted today but many of those ideas were things that defined how Friends would conduct their lives because their life was joined in the commission of Christ. These things of course are not found only among Friends but are in many traditions. And each of those traditions believe that all of life is sacred.

If we love Christ, we will keep his commission. I do not know if you noticed or not, but life is hard. There is always something that is distracting us from this commission. When I am not at the church, I work in retail, while at the store there are things that constantly challenge my faith. I work in security and it is difficult at time to not become jaded into thinking that every person is out to steal or take advantage of a generous policy. And you would not believe how many people find it perfectly acceptable to steal from retailers, and many would surprise you. How can I live this commissioned life when so often I am distracted? Our passage from last week ended with the verse, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” And in today’s passage, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth.”

These verses are often used out of context. There are entire ministries that have been built using this passage in such a way that if you ask for something God is duty bound to give it to you. But that is not what this passage is saying. When Jesus says, “in my name,” it is not a magical formula or spell that will conjure up whatever you want. It is again a commission. You are acting or speaking on his behalf as the steward of Jesus’s estate. It is as if you have been given a management position and have been authorized to make purchases, you are acting in behalf of the business. You are not authorized to make purchases for yourself in the name of the business, but only for the continued work of the company you represent. If you love Christ, you will keep his commission, you will not worry about yourself because your attention is on the continued work of Christ, and you entrust your well-being to him.

When we are joining him in his mission, and we have a need to keep his ministry going, he will provide but how will we know if it is his will or our own. I have been in several meetings of business where the word “I” is thrown around by people, including myself. The commission of Christ does not need our opinion, but our willingness to act in response to the Spirit’s guidance. Jesus told his disciples that a helper would be sent that would be with us forever. Our job is to listen to the helper because the helper will point us to truth. This is probably the most difficult aspect of the life Christ is calling us to. We live in a culture where the individual is important. We pride ourselves in individual accomplishment and self-reliance. I am not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing because that system has been beneficial to us all. It is that system that has sparked the creative exploration that has made it possible for us to even have this time of worship in our homes, because we would not have YouTube without you. It is difficult for us to lay ourselves aside. I say it is difficult, but we do it all the time. We lay ourselves aside when we go to work. I do not care if you are an employee of an international corporation or a small business owner, every day you go to work you are laying aside yourself for that company. When I answer the phone at work, I do not answer the phone as I would at home. We do this because we are acting in behalf of the company.

We are well practiced in acting on behalf of others. Yet we find it difficult to do this when it comes to the commission of Christ. What is the difference? I know that by laying aside myself for eight hours a day for a company, I will get a return. I will earn a set amount for every hour I act on behalf of others. I can then take that which I have earned and use it to provide myself and my family with the things we need and want. I know that when I sacrifice my time there is a return of some sort. The economy of men is different than the economy of God. The abundance of mankind is unlike the abundance of God because there is a difference in what has value.

What does God value? What commission did Jesus come to fulfill? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”[1] God values life. Not just life, but life in relationship or communion with him. The narrative throughout scripture is this constant quest in restoring what was once lost. In the beginning God created, and it was good. The crowning achievement of creation was when God created humanity, which was pronounced exceptionally good. These two humans were placed within a garden and they were able to eat of the fruit and walk with God if they did not eat of the fruit from one tree. If they ate of that fruit they would die. Our first parents decided that God was not enough, they wanted more so they ate of the fruit that was forbidden, and as a result sin entered the world. A chasm formed within the relationship of God and humanity because our first parents allowed erosion through their lack of trust. Once the erosion of trust began the relationship died. God’s value of humanity did not change, God continues to call out to us, yet we continue to turn away. We turn because we do not value the things that God values.

How can we trust God when the things we value seem to be so different? I work so I can eat, I understand that, but where do I fit in an economy where my value can not be measured in the amount of currency my time can be traded? How can I live when the things from my perception of value cannot purchase?

Jesus said these words after they ate a meal. At that meal he said as he passed the bread, “This is my body broken for you.” And when he passed the cup, “this is my blood poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” These are the things that sustain life, the things that constitute the simplest of meals. And Jesus attributes those staples of life to himself. He is the bread because he is life. He is the creator of life, and the one that gave us our abilities to obtain those staples of life. He then says, “Because I live, you also will live.”

If we love Christ, we will join him in his commission or keep his commandments, and if we do because he lives, we will also live. That is easy for him to say that evening, because he was alive, but a few days after he would be laying in a tomb, executed by the powers of the world. His words at that point seemed hollow. That is what the disciples were contemplating that first Easter morning. Then by that evening they had a different perspective. The world killed Jesus, yet he lives. He rose from the grave and was eating with them again. This shows us that God has the power to do what he says. If he lives, we will live also. If he calls us to live according to his economy the things that sustain life will still sustain our lives.

Jesus shows us that his commission, his lifestyle of Loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit and Living love with others will sustain life. It sustains life because everyone involved is living their lives to His glory and seeking to honor that of God in those around them. It sustains life because it focuses on life abundant. When we live our lives in the name of Christ, we each seek to sustain and encourage each other in mutual profit, and that profit is measured in relationships instead of currency. He lives and we will live. And if we love him, we will continue his commission of sharing life with others.

As we enter this time of holy expectancy today, I encourage us all to consider life with God. What is distracting us from fulfilling the portion of his commission he is calling us to? Why is that distracting us? Jesus lives, and we will live also. Let us lay those things at the cross, and embrace the Spirit of Truth and love Christ by joining him in his life here today.

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 3:16–17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Translate

Meeting Times

816-942-4321
Wednesday:
Meal at 6pm
Bible Study at 7pm
Sunday:
Bible Study at 10am
Meeting for Worship 11am
Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: