Sands in the Hourglass

The fourth sign in Johns Gospel tells us this – we no longer live in a zero based, closed system universe.  In the incarnation, the Infinite has made contact with the finite…

Imagine.  Imagine you are holding an hourglass.   You know an hourglass.  It’s a simple concept.  It contains two spheres, one is full, one is empty, one is above, one is beneath.  Two spheres, connected at a single point.   They look like they are each self contained, but they are not.  As we know, they are two spheres, self contained, except they are connected at a single point.   The problem with this illustration is the hourglass is made up of two spheres of equal size.  What you really need to imagine is one small sphere down bottom, this is us on earth, another sphere on top, this is heaven.  This is finite, this is infinite.  This is man’s domain, this is God’s.  

But for the top, you have to imagine a sphere the size of the room you are sitting in.  Well, not as big as the room you are sitting in, as big as your town.    Except not as big as Prince Frederick or Annapolis or Baltimore, but a sphere as big as the whole world.  Except bigger than the world, as big as the Milky Way galaxy.  Except not as big as the galaxy, as big as the universe.  Except even the universe can’t contain that sphere on top…because it’s infinite.   Infinite…  

But between our finite and heavens infinite, we have a point.  A point where the sand flows through the hourglass, the point where the two spheres meet, the one is finite, the other being infinite.  We have this point where the infinite is connected to the finite.  And from his fullness we have all received…Our problem is that we are convinced we are empty.  We live in our little sphere on the bottom of that hourglass, and we are convinced our lower sphere called earth is finite and it’s not enough..  And so we live down here, and in that upper sphere they watch and say “Oh look, they’re having a nice little war down here.  It’s like capture the flag except they’re really killing each other.”  They’re having a war down here, because they don’t know anything about the infinite upper sphere of the hourglass, or if they do know it exists they think it’s completely separate…

But “In the beginning was the [infinite], and the [infinite] was with God, and the [infinite] was God….“And the [infinite] became [finite] and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory…”.  John‬ ‭1:1,14‬ ‭ESV‬‬.   And we beheld the beauty of the infinite…

There is a place where the infinite of God connects the finite of man, and it is called Jesus Christ.   Because he is infinite and he is finite.  He is infinite God and he is finite man.  He is the connecting point between the two spheres, and through Jesus Christ God is pouring his love, his fullness, his grace, he’s pouring his infinite beauty into the world.  The connecting point is Jesus Christ.  For you to connect with the connecting point is called faith.  It’s called believing…

The universe is not a closed system.  Christ is the single point at which the infinity of God is poured into the finite creation.  We don’t have to fight down here.  We can connect with Christ, and thus the infinite.   This is why Jesus constantly tells us not to worry about scarcity but to trust in God.   Did you ever hear him say that?  He says it all the time.  Come on, think about the birds, think about the lilies of the field.  Why are you troubled?  Why are you worried?  YOUR FATHER IS INFINITE.  And he cares for you!  And he’s not on vacation, he’s not way off beyond the stars, he is pouring himself into the world through me!!!

Jesus says we don’t have to stay down here in the finite sphere worried and fighting.  We can trust in God and connect with the beauty of the infinite.  This is the life where trust replaces fear and faith replaces force.  This is the life that the sign of the feeding of the five thousand points us to.  It’s the life that we want to live.  It’s the life of peace.  But it’s challenging to enter into.  You can do it, but the fear of scarcity, the paradigm of insufficiency, the drive for economic self preservation is the greatest hindrance to entering into the Kingdom of God.

Still more to say..

 

“After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”
‭‭John‬ ‭6:1-15‬ ‭ESV‬‬
 


John Lewis

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I Shall Not Want

I Shall Not Want

So Jesus is giving is a sign as to just how mistaken we are when we go through life believing there is just not enough for us and for them, for me and for you, for mine and for yours…

We are back in Galilee.  The multitudes are coming to Jesus, and it is a beautiful thing.  The setting is beautiful in Galilee.  Grassy slopes rising up from the Sea of Galilee, and the people were coming to Jesus in great numbers.   And Jesus is teaching them, and of course he was teaching one and one thing only, the Kingdom of God.  He was teaching them the way that their creator, whom He calls his Abba, his Father, intends for human beings to live.  It’s an alternative social structure.  It’s not a social structure based upon systemic sin, it’s a social structure based in love.  

Because this government of God, this reign and rule of God, is only constrained by two laws.  Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  Love your neighbor as yourself.   The cynic will say, and maybe you agree, that you just can’t build a society around that kind of law and structure.  But Jesus says, “Oh, yes you can!”  And this is exactly what it is that Jesus teaches and preaches.   

We’re told that it was Passover.  There were three Passovers in John’s Gospel.  It is from John because of this that we get that Jesus’ ministry lasts 2 1/2 – 3 years, we don’t get that from Matthew, Luke or Mark.   If we only read the synoptic gospels, we might think Jesus’ ministry only lasted about a year, but it’s from John that we see it lasted 2 1/2 – 3 years, still a very short public ministry.   On the first Passover, Jesus had gone to Jerusalem, and events there had created some trouble for him.  

Now, it is the second Passover, and Jesus does not go to Jerusalem for the Passover because of death threats.  He’d been there for an earlier festival, probably Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, and there were death threats.  It says he was not going back to Judea because the Judeans were seeking to  kill him.   When the third Passover comes around, Jesus will go to Jerusalem, and he will be killed.

So it was Passover time, but Jesus was staying in Galilee.  Passover is a Jewish table rite.  It is remembering how God delivered the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt, and how God provided for them with the manna from heaven through the long journey to the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey.   Jesus will take that Passover meal, and he’s going to innovate.  He’s going to rework it into what we call communion.  John gives us the Eucharistic theology of Jesus at the end of this chapter.

So we’re on a grassy hillside listening to Jesus teach about the government and social structure of God.  He’s teaching how God wants the world arranged.  Not how Cain and Pharaoh and Caesar and all those want it, but how God wants it.

Then he turns to one of his disciples, Phillip, and asks him Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?    These people have needs.  They can’t just live on my words.  They are human beings.  They need bread, maybe more.   Where are we to buy bread to feed these multitudes?  He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.  And of course Phillip answers, probably much as we would, Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.    Phillip breaks out the calculator and figures out it would take at least $12,000 to feed them all.   So Andrew, Peter’s brother, speaks up.  There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?   Andrew immediately feels silly for saying out loud that a little boy has five barley loaves and two fish for such a vast multitude of people.  When he hears himself say it out loud, and there’s such multitude of people, but what is five barley loaves and two little fish for so many people???   But it turns out he’s onto something.  

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”   Jesus says, I think we can work with this.  Have everybody sit down.   Now there was much grass in the place.   Let them sit down in the green grass of this lovely place.  Now let’s go back to Psalm 23.   What does it say?   “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.   I shall not…what?  I shall not…come up lacking.  I shall not be insufficient.  I shall not be the victim of scarcity.  I shall not…not have enough.   “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.”   We should see that the Shepherd is present here.   He sees these people as his flock, and the Shepherd knows he needs to feed his flock, so he has the sit down.  So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.   The little boys lunch of five barley loaves and two fishes are given to him, he takes them he gives thanks to the Father.  He gives a prayer, thanking God that he is the provider.  He gives a prayer of thanksgiving, because God is the king of the universe, God brings forth bread from the earth.  Jesus blesses the meal, and begins to give it to the disciples, bread and fish, bread and fish, bread and fish….Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.   He keeps reaching into the basket.   It seems as though he keeps reaching, but where’s he reaching to?   There’s five to start with, but He’s reaching into something that seems to be infinite.   How long does it take to distribute 1, 2 ,3, 4, 5 barley loaves and 1, 2 fish?   One, two,  three, four, five, six, seven, you should be done, but he’s not.  It just keeps coming.  Where’s he pulling from?   He keeps passing it out, giving it to the disciples, and the twelve are passing it out.   And it just keeps coming.  Maybe this is not a closed system after all.  It just keeps coming, He keeps reaching in and giving and giving, and he’s giving, and he’s giving….

It’s his first hands on miracle.  Water to wine, the healing of the officials son, the healing by the pool are all spoken word miracles, but Jesus has got his hands on the bread and the fish.   He’s giving out these McFish sandwiches, there you go.   And people start eating.  And they have seconds, some have thirds.  They’re not worried about their low carb diet, they just want more bread!  They eat and they’re happy and they’re having a good time, and they eat until they are filled.  And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 

They eat until they are filled.  Jesus says let’s not let anything go to waste, let’s take up the leftovers.   So from the leftovers of five barley loaves and two fish that had fed five thousand men plus women and children, there is now gathered up of the leftovers twelve baskets full.   When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”    Of course it’s a sign.  And of course it’s twelve baskets full.  It’s a sign of Israel being reconstituted.  Twelve tribes.  Twelve apostles.  Twelve, the number of God’s people.  There’s twelve baskets full, and John tells us this is what the Kingdom of God looks like!  The kingdom of Cain says there’s not enough!  We’re convinced there’s not enough!  There are only five loaves and two fish, and there’s not enough, and you better believe we’re gonna fight, because  I’m taking four…and both the fish!!!  Here, you can have this little loaf, I’m getting mine over here.   If you try to take mine, there’s going to be trouble…

And Jesus gives us a sign, another way.  There’s another way.  You’ve been lied to.   You’ve been told there’s not enough, but there is.  You’ve been lied to.  You’ve been told that scarcity and insufficiency is the paradigm through which you must view the world, but it’s a lie…

The fourth sign in Johns Gospel tells us this – we no longer live in a zero based, closed system universe.  In the incarnation, the Infinite has made contact with the finite…
 
So much more to say…
 

 

John Lewis

There’s Just Not Enough

There’s Just Not Enough

Back to the feeding of the five thousand.
 
In John’s poetic prologue to his gospel, which is so important, John tells us something about the beauty of the Infinite entering into the finite.   “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth….For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”  ‭‭John‬ ‭1:14, 16‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  The word became flesh, we are told.   The logos became human, incarnation.  Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory…this word could also be understood as beauty.   We have seen his [beauty], the beauty of a Fathers only Son, full of grace and truth….For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.   

From the fullness of Christ we have all received grace upon grace.   But the human condition, as a problem, suffers from a kind of emptiness.   We can ask the question What’s wrong with us?   There are many ways we can answer this question, but one of the ways we can answer this question is to say we suffer from a kind of emptiness.  Not just spiritual emptiness, there’s that too, but we live with a pervasive mentality of scarcity and insufficiency, this is very important.   We are infected in the way we think about life itself.

As human beings, we can only survive in a social structure, our lives are intensely social by necessity.  So here we are, thrust into this social structure that is the human condition, but we come with a problem.  Or at least as young children we are scripted in such a way, unknowingly, that there’s just not enough.  There’s not enough to go around.   There’s not enough for everyone, you know?   This, really, shapes the way we view the world in a very negative way.  There’s just not enough.   So we have a paradigm of scarcity and insufficiency.   There’s not enough, because there’s just not.  So I have to make sure there’s enough for me and mine, because there’s just not enough.

So this is our problem.  Why did Cain kill Abel?  Seriously, why did Cain kill Abel?   Was it because he thought there just wasn’t enough?   Was there not enough land?   There’s not enough land for Cain’s crops and Abel’s flocks, at least that’s what Cain thought.  So Cain has to get rid of the competition, even though it’s  his brother.

We are the sons and daughters of Cain.  It is not Abel’s legacy that we have inherited as a human species, but Cain’s legacy.  Certainly we are the sons and daughters of Cain, why else do we covet and why do we fight and why do we exploit?   Because we view the world through Cain’s lens of scarcity and insufficiency.   We don’t see ourselves as blessed with abundance, we perceive ourselves as cursed with scarcity, so we’re afraid.  We’re afraid of the void, we’re afraid of emptiness, we’re afraid of insufficiency, we’re afraid of empty bellies, we’re afraid that there’s just not enough.

We are raised to believe that reality is zero-based, and that creation is a closed system.  I don’t think we are formally taught that at any point (although I do work in sales and deal with a company that absolutely believes in the concept of zero-based budgeting…so maybe the world is starting to formally encode this belief).   At some point philosophy may creep into exploring this line of thought, but by the time we are three years old we already know this.   We may not know any of the words at three years old, but we certainly are raised to believe that reality is zero-based, and creation is a closed system.  Or, as we might say, that it is finite, that creation is limited.

Now we are getting to it.  The jumping off point I spoke of previously.  This paradigm of scarcity and insufficiency lies at the heart of our systemic sins.   Stay with me here.  There are personal sins, and that is what we mostly focus on,  because we feel so hopeless in doing anything about our systemic sins. But the real problems of humanity stem not from our personal sins, but from our sins as a whole, as a human race.   As human beings, as we build our societies, we build them in sinful ways.  No one person or group is responsible, but are are all culpable in it.   We are all implicated.  It’s because of our paradigm of scarcity and insufficiency that we build systems that are in and of themselves sinful.

We fear that there won’t be enough oil.  There won’t be enough land.  There won’t be enough food.  There won’t be enough water.  There won’t be enough money.  There won’t be enough labor to go around, so we build and maintain sinful structure to guarantee that WE have OURS.   We fear that there’s not going to enough for us, however we define US, so we use force against THEM, to guarantee we have enough for US.

Still with me?  Try.  We create an organized, slow motion version of anarchy.  You know anarchy, think of lawlessness, the rule of law thrown out the window, it’s every man for himself, people are smashing windows, just grabbing whatever they can.  Think about times during riots when suddenly when all law and order dissolves, it’s pandemonium,  it’s anarchy, the zombie apacolypse comes upon us…

What we have done in our systemic sins is to create a slow-motion version of anarchy.  We don’t recognize it for what it is because it takes place over decades or centuries.  Native Americans were victims of the slow motion, organized anarchy known as Manifest Destiny.   Just grab what you can and the rest will just have to get by as best they can

This way of viewing the world is absolutely dominant.  We take this to be truth.  If there is a truth we believe in, this is it.  That there is not enough, there is not enough so we have to be committed to our side and we have to grab and clutch and hold on and fight and make sure we have enough for ours.  We view this as truth, as reality, as the way it is.   But it is not…

It is into this sad world dominated by the paradigm of scarcity that the Son of God appears.  And on a grassy hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Jesus gives us a sign of just how mistaken we are…

Again, that’s enough for now, to be continued.
 
 
“After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”
‭‭John‬ ‭6:1-15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

 

John Lewis

The Beauty of the Infinite

The Beauty of the Infinite
So this is the message.  This is the message that some who read might be sufficiently offended as to make a response, either good or bad, for or against.  Maybe you will decide I’ve gone off the rails and don’t want to read what I have to say anymore.   Maybe this will be a jumping off point, when some decide that Jesus is just too much, and turn and fall away.  Maybe this will the point where you see that there really is no other way, no place else to turn.   “At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God. ””.  John‬ ‭6:66-69‬ ‭NLT‬‬.  We might not get there today, but in this message, which will take a few days to complete  (I’m going to be here for a while),  there will come a decision point, a point where things are not as they were yesterday or as we thought they would be tomorrow…

John’s Gospel contains seven signs to direct our faith to Jesus.  John says that if you will believe in Jesus in the right way, you will have life in his name.  “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John‬ ‭20:30-31‬ ‭ESV‬‬. So he places in his Gospel seven signs to point our faith  to Jesus, so that we might have life.  We’ve already looked at three of these signs.  The first sign John gives is Jesus’ miracle of turning the water into wine at the wedding in Cana.   How does this sign point us to Jesus?  It shows us that the Kingdom is now moving from purity codes to table fellowship.   

The second sign is the healing of the royal officials son.  In this sign, Jesus speaks a word at a distance and a boy is healed.   Jesus is in Cana, the boy is in Capernaum, and Jesus speaks a word from a distance and the boy is healed.   What does this sign tell us about Jesus?   It tells that Jesus is the Word of God sent to heal us.  Believe that sign…

The third sign is the healing at pool of Bethesda.  This sign is telling us that Jesus is doing the work of the Father, even right now.   Because the Pharisees say it’s the sabbath, it’s not time to work.  But Jesus and the Father are in a different time zone, and Jesus says “No, my Father is working right now, and I’m working, because we’ve moved beyond the seventh day.  It’s the eight day, new beginnings, new creation, resurrection…

So we come to the fourth sign in John’s Gospel, the feeding of the 5000, the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.   This sign is intended to point us to Jesus as the bread of Heaven.  If we pay close attention to this sign, we will see what John wants us to see, and that is the beauty of the infinite.   So, here is the story, read the story for yourself, if at all possible read this out loud.  It will enter your spirit in a different way, because at least if you read it aloud, the sense of hearing is activated, and hearing is different that seeing or simply reading silently.  Don’t try to interpret this or figure it out, just enter into the story, maybe let the story enter into you… 

“After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”
‭‭John‬ ‭6:1-15‬ ‭ESV‬‬


That’s enough for today, come back tomorrow and we will continue…

John Lewis

It’s a Time Machine

It’s a Time Machine
So the Spirit of God just blows where it will.  It is not beholden to our borders and boundaries, but just blows through at will.  Back to the text at hand.  And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.””    They are prosecuting Jesus as a sabbath breaker, and the defense Jesus gives is doubly provocative.  He says, first thing you need to understand is that my Father is God – immediately this will get his persecutors bent out of shape.   The great thing in John’s gospel that he never departs from is that Jesus is the revelation of the Father, that if you see Jesus you see the Father.  If you see Jesus, you know what a God is like.  The second thing that Jesus on this phrase is “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”   In other words, when Jesus is being prosecuted by these Judeans for violating their interpretation of the sabbath, Jesus’ defense is the reason I am working today is because God is my Father and  He is working today.   So you see how provocative that is?  They say “It’s a sabbath, nobody can work!”   Jesus says “My Dad is God and he’s working today.  Since he’s working I’m working with Him.

Jesus knows this is provocative and challenging, yet he does this on purpose.   Jesus knows that with statements like this, he is forcing people to make hard decisions about him.  But he doesn’t back off, because he’s not the convenient Christ, he’s the controversial Christ.   The Jewish idea was that God creates the world in six days and rests on the seventh.  Well fine, so be it, but Jesus indicates that God is not inactive in the world.  God is at work, and the work of God is to heal the world.  So whatever extent we are working today to heal the world, whatever that means, to heal sick bodies, to heal sick societies, to heal massive injustice, to heal broken relationships, to heal people’s relationship with God, with one another, to heal people’s relationship in their own mind with themselves, to whatever degree we are working to bring healing into the world, we are doing God’s work.

Because God created in six days, rested on the seventh, then things began to fall apart, began to be broken, and God has been working ever since to heal the world.  Those that work with Him in healing the world are doing God’s work.  That’s one way of looking at this story, and it’s true.  But there is a deeper, more mysterious sign fir us to see.

Jesus says My Father is working, and I’m working.  But the Judeans say, No it’s the sabbath and it’s the day for resting and not for working.   If you’ve spent any time in the gospels, you know this happens not one, not twice, not five times, but it comes up over and over, this issue of Jesus doing things on the sabbath that they think shouldn’t be done.   There’s a discrepancy.  The Judeans, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the religious lawyers and scribes, they say “It’s the sabbath, you can’t work on the sabbath, you can’t do that.  Not this day!  Don’t come for healing on this day!   Don’t work on this day.”   Yet Jesus keeps doing it.  Jesus is intentionally breaking their idea of the law.  He’s breaking their rule.   What’s going on here?

Maybe we can describe it like this – Jesus and the Judeans are on different time zones.   The dispute is you can’t do this on the sabbath.  It’s  like they are in different time zones.  If you make friends around the world, they might be led to reach out to you at 3 pm New Delhi time.  Which might be 3 am your time.  It can pretty inconvenient if you think about it.   The world is round you know!

We have times zones, 24 of them.  That’s how we divide it, because the world spins in its axis, and the sun is always shining somewhere.  London is a couple of hours ahead of us, they are in the future.  Denver, Los Angeles, they are in the past, for me.  Sydney, Australia is so far ahead of us they are sleeping, dreaming of tomorrow morning..  They’ve gotten up, had coffee, gone to work, had lunch, finished work and are home for dinner and gone to bed.   They are in the future…

It’s because we are in different time zones.  Our Sunday is their Monday.   Jesus and his Father were on different time zones than the Torah-bound Judeans.  The Judeans were saying it’s the seventh day, it’s the seventh day, it’s the seventh day, it’s a time for rest.   But Jesus is saying it’s the first day, better yet it’s the eighth day, it’s the time for New Creation.  Jesus is anticipating the age to come, the resurrection.  In other words, Jesus is from the future.  Jesus is watching football in Sydney on Monday morning, because he’s from the future.

Jesus is from the future, and so are the baptized.   We could say every baptistry in every church is a time machine.  You’re not really a Christian until you have been baptized, it is our initiation.  We baptize people in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  When you are baptized into the Christian faith, into the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you have joined him in the age to come.  You have passed beyond death, into life.  You are already projected into the age to come.  You are thrust into the future.  You now belong to the age to come.

We are from the future.  Why did Christians begin to build hospitals?   Because health and healing belong to the age to come.   By the help of the Holy Spirit, we meditate, we imagine, we anticipate, In the age to come, what will life be like?   Will there be sickness and disease ruining people?   No?  Well then, let’s work to be there now.  Let’s anticipate that, and work toward healing people now.

Why did Christians eventually come to champion the abolition of slavery?  Because Christians came to realize that emancipation belongs to the age to come, and they should be there now.  Because we are from the future.

Why should Christians turn swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks?   Because peace belongs to the age to come and we are from the future.  Our task is not to accommodate ourselves to the way things are, but “…as he is so also are we in this world.”  1 John‬ ‭4:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬.   We are to be the anticipation of the age to come, the embodiment of the reign of Christ here and now, because we’ve gone into that time machine that is baptism.  And sometimes we are at odds with the society around us because we are in different time zones.   While some are still getting out of church, others are going to work in Monday.  These are time zone conflicts, and we are from the future.  We are to imagine, then embody, the reign of Christ here and now.   Whatever belongs to the age to come, we seek to embody here and now.   We join Jesus in doing the work of the Father, even right now!
 
John Lewis

The Rules



Back to the story at hand.   Let’s not miss that after the healing narrative in this story of healing the man at the pool of Bethesda, the story says Now that day was the Sabbath.   It was the Sabbath.   “So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’ ” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.””  ‭‭John‬ ‭5:10-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬.  In this story, it says So the Jews said to the man who had been healed…  We need to recognize that when John says Jews here, everyone in the story was Jewish.   But when John uses the Jew, he almost always means the Judeans, or Jerusalem-ites.    These were a bit more austere and rigid in their various religious observations, and they were constantly clashing with Jesus.  This is who John is referring to when he says “the Jews”, because, again, everybody in the story is Jewish.  But he is referring here to those who were a little more religious, fanatical, and austere in their Judaism.  

The Pharisees had 39 activities considered as work and therefore prohibited on the sabbath.  The Torah has instructed the Jewish people that they were not to labor in the sabbath.  But what does that mean?   They came up with a list of 39 activities that were prohibited.  Among these was moving from one domain to another.   Changing addresses is prohibited on the sabbath.  We can’t move from Main Street to Park Avenue on the sabbath.  That is work for sure, isn’t it?  And that’s exactly what this man whom Jesus has healed is doing.   He has rolled up his mat and is moving on up!   He’s moving from one domain to another.  So the Pharisees see this man walking down the road carrying his mat, and all of a sudden it’s “ Citizens arrest!  It’s against the law!  You can’t do that!”   But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’   And go figure, he thought it was a good idea…

Isn’t this reaction from the Pharisees strange?   Shouldn’t they be struck by the miracle, by the healing that was done in this man?   Shouldn’t they be looking for the man who could simply by his word heal a man who had been disabled for thirty-eight years?    But that is not the reaction we see.

Instead, in the face of a great healing miracle, all the Pharisees could hear was that some guy on the sabbath had told someone else to take up his bed and move.  “We need to find out who this guy is.”    They weren’t looking for a miracle worker, they were looking for a sabbath breaker.   And so they missed the sign that something big was going on.  Something big was happening here, but there was nothing bigger to these Judeans than the rules.  Nothing was more important that keeping the rules.   So they missed the sign that God was at work healing the sick in marvelous ways.  All they knew was somebody out there is breaking the sabbath.  Somebody ain’t keeping the rules.  We need to find this man and prosecute him.  Which should show us just how crazy religion can be.

Maybe the lesson to be learned is something like this – if we are focused on the rules, we will likely miss what the spirit is doing.   Now, yes, we need rules.  I do understand rules are important to our lives.  We need rules in a family, in school, in civil society, you need rules in church.  But I will stand by the statement that if we are focused on the rules, if we think that what the Christian life is about is keeping the Christian rules (now you’re a Christian, here are the rules.  We don’t do this, we don’t do that, we don’t, we don’t we don’t…), if that is your focus, then you are mostly going to miss what the spirit is doing.  That’s what these Judeans missed.  They couldn’t see Jesus as a miracle worker, and that would be a sign, they could only see him as a sabbath breaker.   

The Spirit of God is a little bit wild.  We can’t tame the Sprit of God.   We can’t corral the spirit of God.  The Spirit of God seems to have little regard for petty rules.  The Spirit of God blows where the spirit of God wills.  Think about how the wind blows across borders.  Our national borders, political borders.  If we try to cross borders, there are LOTS of rules.  We stand in lines, have proper documentation, have your passport, your visa, stand behind the line until you are called, wait as they look at your documents, pass them through a scanner, finally out come the rubber stamps and you can pass through.  

But the wind, it starts up in Canada, blows down into the United States, down to Mexico, into Guatemala.  Or it’s up in Siberia, Russia, goes down into China, then down into India.  It never obtained a passport, got a visa, stood behind the yellow line or waited to talk to an immigration officer.  The wind just blows where it wills.  That’s very much like the Spirit of God.

Someone says it’s against the rules, you can’t heal on the sabbath!  The spirit of God says I just do what I want!   I blow where I want to go.  I don’t check with the men with the boots and the badges.  I just blow right by.   Don’t be so caught up in the rules that you miss the Spirit of God as it just blows right by you.   Or you just may be the one being left behind…

 

John Lewis

Christ in the World

Christ in the World
At the pool of Bethesda, Gentiles and Jews alike gather together in desperate search of healing.   Yes, a few get better on the surface.  A few with skin deep problems get better.  But most, with diseases that go far deeper than skin deep, never seem to get better.  Isn’t this a picture of humanity?  Into this picture, Jesus himself now appears.

He’s come to Jerusalem. Most of John’s gospel takes place in Jerusalem. Especially from this point on, most of John’s gospel takes place in Jerusalem, which is just the opposite of Matthew, Mark and Luke.   It seems as though by the time John got around to writing his gospel, he had decided to do something different from those who wrote before.  Matthew, Mark and Luke are almost all set in Galilee, with a few trips to Jerusalem.  John flips this, and most of his gospel takes place in Jerusalem.

Jesus has come to Jerusalem for one  of the festivals, we are not told which one.  As he is coming into the northern side of the city,  by the sheep gate, he is passing by the pool of Bethesda, with a multitude (what’s a multitude?  Hundreds maybe?) of people that are sick.  They are blind, lame, paralyzed, we are told.  Jesus sees one who has been paralyzed for thirty eight years.  We don’t know how long he has been at the pool of Bethesda, but he’s been there a long time.  He’s basically been living there, as a beggar no doubt.   He’s had his hope that maybe some day maybe he can get into the water and find a miraculous cure, but it has not happened.  Jesus sees this man, knows that he’s been here a long time, and asks him Do you want to be healed?   

Of course, the man wants to get well, but he begins to explain his plight.  He begins to explain to Jesus why it that he can’t find healing for what ails him.  Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.   Maybe this man thinks this kind stranger might be the one to help him into the pool.   Maybe he thinks Jesus is actually offering to assist him.  But of course, Jesus is not here to help him into the pool, Jesus is there to heal him.  

So Jesus simply says to him Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.   In the moment Jesus tells him Get up, take up your bed, and walk, the man is healed, because Jesus is the word of God!   He is the word of healing which God has sent.    Psalm 107 verse 20 tells us “He sent out his word and healed them….”. ‬‬Here is the word made flesh saying Get up, take up your bed, and walk, and the man is healed.

Jesus says Get up!   Maybe this this an anticipation of the day Jesus will say Get up to the whole human race, on the great getting up morning, and we come out of the grave!!   Jesus begins to talk about this later in this chapter as he is debating with these Judeans who are disputing his claims.  “”Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombswill hear his voice [Get up!] and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”  John‬ ‭5:25-29‬ ‭ESV.   So Jesus says to this man Get up!, like an anticipation of the great resurrection.   But he doesn’t just say Get up!   He says take up your bed, and walk.   This man has been living there by the pool, he has his mat, and Jesus tells this man to roll it up, take it up, and you can just go ahead and leave and because you’re never coming back here!  This is a place for invalids.  It’s a place for the sick.  But for you it’s moving day, because you are now neither.  You have been healed, and you are going to have to relocate somewhere else because this is not the place for you because you have been made well…

But remember, Jesus only heals one.  We are told there are many here, a multitude in fact, that are sick, but Jesus only heals one.  Why?   Because it’s a sign.  Jesus isn’t solving all the worlds problems by his direct miracle activity, but he’s giving a sign that healing is the kind of work we should be engaged in.  So he chooses one, and gives us a sign that healing is the kind of work that we who are the body of Christ are to do.   So we should be engaged in the work of healing the sick.  And yes, this includes praying for the sick, laying hands on them, anointing them with oil, praying for miraculous healing, all of that, amen and amen.

But it also means becoming doctors and nurses, and building hospitals.   It means taking all forms of human knowledge and learning, and capacity for care and compassion, and directing it against sickness and disease and working together with every resource we have available to bring about healing.  

This is why hospitals are a distinctly Christian innovation.   Hospitals have not always existed.  It used to be that if you were sick it was entirely the responsibility of your family to take care of you.  If you didn’t have a family, well then, it sucks to be you.   The gods have frowned upon you and smitten you, there’s nothing we can (or will) do for you.   But the Christian said no, our Lord,  who is the word of God, who reveals to us what God is like, he healed the sick, so we have to be engaged in the work of healing the sick. So it was Christians in the second, third, fourth, fifth centuries, that began to establish hospitals.  The idea being that you bring the sick here, and we will have those that are most gifted and skilled at caring for the sick there to treat and help them possibly to recover.  It’s a Christian innovation drawn directly from what we see in the life of Christ.  So the next time we think Christ is not working in the world, we just look at the work of every hospital on the planet and see that refuted right before our eyes.  Because regardless of our race, color, religion, or beliefs, regardless of the beliefs, race, status, religion, or lack thereof of those providing the care, every time we receive life saving or life sustaining, or just comforting care in a hospital, we are receiving the light of Jesus Christ into our lives.  

One of our basic tenets of the faith is that God, Jesus, never changes.   So  he was, is, and always will be the Great Physician.   Whether we believe it or not.   Amen
 
 
“After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.
 
One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.”
‭‭John‬ ‭5:1-3, 5-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬