Jesus and Karma

We’ll get straight into the scripture for the next miracle of Jesus.
“As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.”
‭‭John‬ ‭9:1-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬
Karma.  We know what Karma is.  It’s a Sanskrit word for action and fate, action that produces fate.  But for Hinduism and Buddhism, it’s the idea of cause and effect, sowing and reaping, reward and punishment, and inevitable consequences.  So that when something bad happens, people will reason they must have done something bad previously and now it’s come home to roost.  It’s bad Karma.

Karma says Something bad has happened, someone must have sinned, somehow they must deserve it.  Because as we all know, what goes around comes around.  But Jesus says It doesn’t matter who sinned.  The way of God is grace and the work of God is mercy.   And so it seems to be Jesus vs Karma.

We will get into the healing of the man born blind soon enough, but we need to understand the scene first.  It’s quite important.   Chapter and verse division has been very important for us, it’s helps us to locate things.  But it sometimes obscures the larger picture, we get things all divided up and we forget what has just happened.  Sometimes it’s important that we hold it together.  So let’s take a look at the events of John 8 that flow into John 9, so we can more fully understand what’s happening here.
 
And if I go any further today, I won’t get this out at all, and I need to chop this down to size, so we will back up to John 8 tomorrow…

 

John Lewis
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It’s Going to be Alright

It’s Going to be Alright

We don’t have to swim in the sea of empire like a bloodthirsty shark.  We don’t have to sink in the sea of empire like a drowning victim.   We can walk with Jesus and stay above it all because Jesus is Lord!!

Winners and losers are false categories for Christians.   We are not winners or losers, we’re believers.   And one of the things that we believe is that there is another way.   For us, categorizing people as winners and losers is a false category.   Philosophically we would call this a “category mistake”.   We don’t think in terms of this.  We are not winners, we are not losers, we are believers, and we want to walk with Jesus on top of all this mess…

Of course, there is also a more personal way of seeing this fifth sign in John’s gospel.  When it’s a dark and stormy night in your own life, you are not alone.  Jesus will come to you.  And when Jesus comes to you, everything’s going to be alright!!   If you’re in a dark and stormy night…maybe you’re trying to get somewhere.  Maybe you’re trying to get from one side to the other, you’re trying to get somewhere.  But it’s a dark and stormy night and it’s rough, it’s hard going, the sea is churning, the waves are crashing.   Your hands are blistered on the oars, you’re trying the best you can, but you can’t seem to get anywhere.   You’re trying to get somewhere, but you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere.  You’re not even sure where you are.  You’ve lost your bearings, you’re thinking “What’s going on here?”   It’s scary, it’s foreboding, it’s difficult, you’re trying to get there.   In your moment of panic, you finally cry out in terror because you think this could work out badly for me, this could be the end of it.  In the midst of your most desperate moment, Jesus says “Hey!  I’m here.  It’s me.  Don’t be afraid.”   Jesus wants to say that to everyone reading this today.  “Don’t be afraid.  I’m with you.  I’ve come to you.  You feel like you’re alone, in the middle of it, by yourself.   You’re not in the middle of it by yourself, I’m here.  I’ve come to you.  Don’t be afraid.”    

And your fear is relieved.  Because faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ, who says to you “I’m with you.  I’ll never leave you nor forsake you.   I’ve come to be with you.  I know it’s a dark and stormy night.  You’re afraid of being swallowed up in these dark waves.  But look, I’m on top of it!”   Jesus is on top of your situation.  The situation never swallows Jesus up.   “The situation is under my feet”, Jesus says.  “I’ve come to you.  I’m with you, I’m for you.  It’s going to be alright.”

In your relief, in your joy, you invite Jesus into your situation.  That’s your boat.   You stop trying.  You’re so relieved, you’re suddenly so relaxed.  You’ve got blisters on your hands.   You’ve been rowing for hours.  You’ve been so frightened.   In the panic mode of your crisis you cry out, but Jesus says “Hey!  Don’t be afraid, it’s me, I’m here.  It’s gong to be alright.”  

And you’re relieved, you let Jesus into your situation, you’re happy, you just stop trying.  You’re  still in the middle of it, the winds are blowing, but you let Jesus in, and all of a sudden you feel a little bump.   “What was that?”  Jesus smiles and says “We’re there.  We’re home.”   But we were so far out!  How did we get here?  Jesus just winks.  Must have been a shortcut.  

That’s good news.  That’s a sign for you to see…
 
“When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.”  John‬ ‭6:16-21‬ ‭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

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

The Wine will Flow

The Wine will Flow

Still turning water into wine here…

Mary, despite not actually asking her son to fix the problem of the wine running out, clearly shows a trust in him to be able to do something.   So when Jesus says to her “What’s that for us?”, “His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”   So Jesus looks around and notices there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. He notices these six stone jars, or water pots.   These water pots are empty, they are for the mikvahs.  They use these water pots to fill the mikvahs.  If we ever were to visit Jerusalem, you will see these around.  Mikvahs are dug into the ground, into the stone, with steps leading into him.  What they are is baptistries.   They are not bathtubs, they are not ancient hot tubs.  They are used for ritual purification.  Several times a week. an observant Jew would properly fill his mikvah with the proper kind of water blessed, by the rabbi.  Then he would go down into the water, repeat the prayers, dunk himself seven times, and observe the rituals that he might be ceremonially pure.

So at this wedding we had some of these stone water pots used for filling the mikvah.  They are empty.   Each one has between 20-30 gallons of capacity.  If you fill six of them it’s between 120 to 180 gallons of water, so let’s call it 150 gallons here.  So Jesus tells says to the servants Fill the jars with water.”    To which I can imagine these servants rolling their eyes.  “Oh brother.  Another super religious guy.  Instead of partying all night we’re all going to have to go down to the mikvah and get baptized again.”   But they do it.  It’s going to take a while.  Remember, they don’t have hoses or spigots to use and easily fill these things up.  This required drawing the water out of the well, it takes a lot of time and effort to draw 150 gallons of water.

“And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.”   Ok Jesus.  Sounds a little strange.  But they do it anyway.  They take water out of the stone jar for ritual purification.  They put it in a wine cup and take it to the chief steward, but somewhere in transit, somewhere along the way, a miracle happens.  The water has turned to wine.

The steward doesn’t know anything that’s been going on.  He just knows the wine has run out.  But the servants come to him, “Here you go, try this out.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”    Think about the baffled bridegroom.  He has no idea what the steward is talking about.  All he knows is that he’s heard rumors that they are running out of wine, and all of a sudden now there’s tons of it.   The master of the feast is poking him in the side, grinning – “Oh, you’ve really fooled us!   You kept the very best wine until now!”   To which the bridegroom said what?   “Praise the Lord!!??

But Jesus has done it!!  The little wedding in Cana of Galilee, on the verge of catastrophe, suddenly is supplied with 1000 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon.  And Jesus gives a wink to his mom.   “This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”  John 2:11 NLT.  And John says Jesus revealed his glory.  Jesus revealed his glory, which means his beauty.    Imagine being one his 6 disciples there.   Imagine following this rabbi, just starting to follow, then you see the sign, you see the water turned to water.

And Jesus revealed his beauty.   This is a beautiful story.  There is something fun, something whimsical about this story.  Later, most of Jesus’ miracles are framed in a life and death scenario.  A leper, his life ebbing away.  Disciples in a boat, threatened with imminent death from a storm.   Here’s a little girl who’s in fact already died.  There’s a deep, dark frame around a lot of Jesus’ miracles.  But this one, there’s none of that.  Yes, we might want to save the family from social embarrassment, but there is no way this is crucial to anything.  This is just a whimsical miracle, where Jesus, in order to keep the wedding going, gives a sign.  It’s not just a party trick, it’s a sign.

What’s the sign pointing to?   In the Old Testament, the abundance of wine was often symbolic of God’s favor and blessing.  Likewise, ruined vineyards and a scarcity of wine was symbolic of the absence of God.  So as the prophets began to imagine the time when God would come through his Messiah, anticipating the day when messiah would come and bring the righteous reign of God with all of its blessing and abundance, they use language like this  – “…the vats shall overflow with wine…” Joel 2:24 ESV, “the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.”  Amos 9:13 ESV, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine…” Isaiah 25:6 ESV.  It’s as if they are saying Oh, and the rivers will flow with wine…

That’s the anticipation, the prophetic vision.  So, in a beautiful and artistic way, Jesus, in turning the water to wine and providing an abundance of it, has announced that the reign of God at last has arrived.   Remember, in the story, the steward says to the bridegroom But you have kept the good wine until now.   John’s gospel is very sophisticated.  It’s as if he knows and trusts his readers will read this over and over in a thoughtful way, and he hides all these gems in it.  So, Jesus is also the bridegroom, is he not?   Jesus is the bridegroom…

So think of it like this – in previous days, in earlier times Israel had had some good wine.  In the days of Moses, when they are brought out of Egypt, and God is present in a cloud by day and fire by night, giving them the Torah, they had some good wine.  In the days of David, when the kingdom was coming and the sweet psalmist of Israel was reigning and ruling, they had some good wine.  But then, the exile.  For about 500 years, all you could say is, they have no wine.  The wine has run out.  The good days are gone, they have no wine.

But now…JESUS IS ON THE SCENE!!!   Not only is there wine, it’s the best wine!!!   We can say, We had some good times with Moses, we had some good times with David, but the BEST has been saved for now!!   AMEN!

When Jesus is on the scene, good things are about to happen.  Why was Jesus at this wedding?  Because he was invited!   Hey, remember that carpenter guy over in Nazareth?  He did some work for us, he’s a cool guy.  What’s his name?   Oh yeah, Yeshua of Nazareth, 101 Olive Street, Nazareth.   And just because they invited Jesus, they got the miracle.  So when you’re going through your struggle, your thing, your situation, your problem, and you’re going through it, invite Jesus.  JESUS, want to come to my party, my mess, my marriage, my addiction, my life, my business, my thing?   I got this thing going on Jesus, want to come?   And don’t tell Jesus what to do, just invite him.  Because you never know what Jesus is going to do.  Think about it, nobody would have thought I know what to do, we’ll invite Jesus and he’ll perform a miracle and turn all this water into wine.  Nobody would have ever dreamed that up.  Only Jesus.  So don’t tell Jesus what to do, just invite him to your thing.  Because where Jesus shows up good things are about to happen.  But Jesus tends to show up where he’s invited.

So invite him.

John Lewis

He Left a Trail

Question for you.   What does it mean to be a Christian?   Does it mean to believe something about Jesus?  Yes it does, but only as a starting point.   Because we believe something about Jesus, we begin to follow him.    But ultimately, to be a Christian means to embark on a life of imitating Jesus.  But I’m afraid that we have defined being a Christian as only something we believe about Jesus.   We believe something about Jesus, this alters our afterlife expectation so that now we are going to heaven and not hell when we die, and therefore we are a Christian.  Right?

NO!!!  To be a Christian means you have intentionally embarked upon a life of imitating Jesus.   He has become your mentor, your teacher, your rabbi, your professor, you master.  You are the disciple.  You are the student, the learner, you are the pupil, you are the one who is following his way of life.  That’s what it means to be a Christian.

Anything short of that is short of being a Christian.  Just saying I believe something about Jesus that changes my afterlife, this does not make you a Christian.   What makes you a Christian is deliberately, intentionally embarking upon a life of imitating the way Jesus lived his life.  This makes you a Christ-like one, a Christ-ian, a disciple of Jesus.

Human beings have lost our way.  I am serious.  We don’t know how to be human.  Cats know how to be cats, dogs know how to be dogs, but humans have lost the way of being human.  We think that the way to be human is to fight, kill, keep score, get even, and paybacks.  This is what Cain did when he refused to see his brother as his brother.  He kills his brother, lies to himself and God about it, and goes off and starts civilization.  That’s the beginning of Genesis chapter 4.   At the end of Genesis 4, seven generations later, we come to Lamech, who says “…I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.””  Genesis 4:23-24 ESV.   What does this do?   It puts the world on a completely destructive course leading to the deadly days of Noah and the flood that nearly destroys humanity.   What happens is that Christ has to come much later and give us a whole new meaning of seventy times seven.

Cain says “If my brother is in my way I’m going to kill him.  My vengeance will be seven-fold.”  Lamech says “it’s going to be seventy times seven for me.”   And the world is out of control, baptized in violence, under the flood of judgement nearly destroying the human race.   

When Jesus comes, he comes as the word, the logos, the logic of God made human flesh.  You want to know what God thinks?   Want to know what God’s opinion is?  Want to know how God looks at things?  Up until Christ we have hints, we have prophets, we have guesses, ideas, psalms, we have stories, but when we get to Christ we have the logic of God made flesh so that we can actually look at him and say “that’s what God is like.”    The apostle Paul tells us Christ is the visible image of the invisible God…” Colossians 1:15 NLT.  He is the image, greek word icon, of the invisible God. God is invisible so that we are guessing, we are wondering, we are speculating what God is like.  Some get it right, some get it kinda right, some get it wrong, some get it a lot wrong.

But when Jesus comes the mystery begins to be solved.   We can look at the icon of Christ, who is the flesh and blood manifestation of the logic of God.  We begin to know what God is like when we look at Jesus.

But Jesus is not just the icon of God, but also the icon of what the apostle Paul calls in Ephesians 2:15 the new humanity.  Things go wrong with Adam and Eve.  Things go wrong with Cain and Abel.  Things go very wrong with Lamech.  We’ve lost our way.  We don’t know how to be human.  Jesus comes not only as the icon of the invisible God, but also the icon of what human beings are to be like.   Jesus gives us a new way to be human.

Jesus doesn’t just do things for us that requires only a response of passive faith.  Jesus blazes a trail for us to follow.   Too often we think “Jesus came, did all this for us, and I just believe, so everything is good.”  No.  Jesus came, blazed a trail, then said come on, follow me!   When Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James and John on the Sea of Galilee, follow me, it’s a call to all of humanity.  It’s a call to you, too.  Jesus is not just doing something for us so that we can sit by passively.  “Yes I believe Jesus did that.  Hallelujah.  It’s going to be a great afterlife.  Let’s sing a hymn and go home.”

No.  Jesus comes, blazes a trail, and calls to the human race, this way!   Follow me.  Do it the way I do.  I’m going to show you how to live life right.   You have forgotten how to be human.  You have forgotten how to bear the image of God.  You have forgotten to be what you were supposed to be.  I’m going to show you again.  Follow me.

Jesus did not live and die and rise again just to save us from afterlife consequences.  Jesus lived his life to show us as human beings how to live our lives.  He did not just die on the cross for you, he calls out pick up your cross and follow me!!

What Jesus did on the cross is the defining moment of his life.  It was inevitable and right that the Roman cross would become the symbol of the Christian faith.  If we want to pick a single moment, from his birth, his miracles, his life, his teaching, and message, if we want to pick a defining moment from the life of Jesus Christ, you will find none better than Christ upon the cross, arms outstretched in offered embrace, saying father forgive them, for they know not what they do.

In that moment, we find the clearest picture of what God is like.   We also find the new picture of who we are to be like.  We see our model.  We find the cruciform standard for true beauty.  Being disguised under the disfigurement of an ugly crucifixion and death, Christ upon the cross is paradoxically the truest revelation of who God is.

Another question.  Does the dominant expression of public Christianity in America look like Christ on the cross loving and forgiving his enemies.  What if we surveyed the “man on the street”, asking them if the dominant form of Christianity in America, expressed as modern evangelicalism,  publicly expressed in this land, does it remind you of Christ upon the cross forgiving his enemies?    How is the dominant form of public Christianity in America identified?  Does it remind you of Christ upon the cross forgiving his enemies?

If the answer is no, then we should be alarmed.    We should be deeply troubled.  We should be seeking to repent and change things.   But enough of the small talk.  I’ll get to the point.  If we have to express public contempt and thinly veiled hate for liberals, gays and Muslims in order to prove what good Christians we are, we have invented a false religion that takes the name of Christ in vain.   I understand it feels right, but it’s wrong.  It looks nothing like Jesus.

I don’t want those dark eyes anymore.  I don’t want a dark soul.  I don’t want a soul made dark because I spend my life looking at others through the squinty eyes of judgement.  I want to look at others with the wide eyes of love and wonder knowing that they, too, are loved by God.  I will not play the us vs them game.

We have a public expression of Christian faith that has been almost entirely defined by a quest for power.  As Dr Russell Moore, a leading theologian among the southern baptists, said a few years ago “For far too long, American Christianity has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it.”   What a disaster.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,”. Colossians 1:15 NLT

by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace,” Ephesians 2:15 NIV

John Lewis

Bright Eyes

We read and pray Psalm 88 and we find that “my eye grows [dark] through sorrow…”  Psalms 88:9 ESV.   Some people have dark eyes from the sorrows they have seen in life.   They say the eyes are a window to the soul.    You can look in some peoples eyes and they tell a story, oftentimes a story that is sad.  Some people have dark eyes because of the sorrows they have seen in life, we understand that.

But some people have dark eyes because of the way they look at life.   Jesus talks about that in the sermon on the mount.  “”The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Matthew 6:22-23 ESV.  Jesus talks about the eye, how we look at life, being the lamp of our entire being.  He says this in the sermon on the mount in the context of where he is talking about money.  The text is bracketed by Jesus speaking about those who would be his disciples and how we view money.  Right before this text, he says “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 ESV.   At the end of this passage he says “.…You cannot serve God and money.”  Matthew 6:24 ESV.

So this dark eye that causes our being to be filled with darkness has something to do with a wrong approach to money.   We could say it like this : there are those who go through life with the squinty eyes of greed.  The squinty-eyed have dark eyes that darken their own soul because they have learned to look at life in the wrong way.  We can look at life through the squinty eyes of greed, calculation, and cynicism.   There is a way of looking at life through little slits, sizing people up, looking for an advantage, calculating, cynical, jaded, greedy.  If you look at life that way, the light pouring into your soul is in fact darkness.  We can look at life with the squinty eyes of greed, calculation and cynicism, but we end up with dark eyes and a dark soul.

Or we can look at life with wide-eyed wonder, love and acceptance.  With our eyes wide open, wide-eyed wonder of love and acceptance, we have bright eyes and a bright soul.  Some have dark eyes because of how much sorrow they have seen in life.  But some have dark eyes because of how they shut out the light by how they look at life.

But the gospel message is this – Jesus can save us from both the dark eyes of sorrow and the dark eyes of cynicism.  So that if you have seen so much sorrow and pain and suffering in your life, and you feel like your soul has been darkened, I want to tell you the good news that Jesus can come to you and heal you from your sorrows.  He can give you bright eyes and a bright soul.

And if you’ve been looking at life through the squinty eyes of greed, calculation and cynicism, Jesus wants to teach you a brand new way of looking at life through the wide eyed wonder of love and acceptance so that you can have bright eyes and a bright soul…

John Lewis