Wait For It

Wait For It

The band Arcade Fire touched on something in their song “We Used to Wait”, from the 2010 Grammy winning album of the year “The Suburbs”.   It’s a song about how fast our pace of life has become, how complicated things have become, about how even though we tell ourselves everything will be alright, we just can’t sleep at night.  If everything is so alright, just why can’t we sleep at night??   Here is a partial lyric sheet from that song…

I used to write
I used to write letters
I used to sign my name

I used to sleep at night
Before the flashing lights settled deep in my brain

Now our lives are changing fast.
Now our lives are changing fast.
Hope that something pure can last.
Hope that something pure can last.

Now it seems strange
How we used to wait for letters to arrive
But what’s stranger still
Is how something so small can keep you alive

We used to wait.
We used to waste hours just walking around
We used to wait.
All those wasted lives in the wilderness downtown

We used to wait.
We used to wait.
We used to wait.
Sometimes it never came
We used to wait
Sometimes it never came
We used to wait
I’m still moving through the pain

Now we’re screaming “sing it again”

I used to wait for it

I used to wait for it

Hear my voice screaming “sing it again”

Wait for it

Wait for it

Wait for it

Now I’m going back 4000 years.    Going back to a time when we used to wait for it…

“And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day….”

Genesis 18:1-2 ESV

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mare, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day….Do you have this image??   We can look at the Bedouin people in the Judea wilderness.  Arcade Fire sings that our lives are changing fast, but not for the Bedouins…Our lives may be changing fast, but theirs are not.  We can imagine what this scene is like, we can know what the tent looks like.  We can imagine old man Abraham sitting at the door of his tent.   We can imagine Sarah bringing to him a bowl of dates. Old man Abraham, it’s hot outside, just sitting in the door of his tent under his canopy.  Old man Abraham with his long beard, just sitting there.  Doing nothing more than occasionally eating dates, spitting out the pits, drinking from his jug of water.  He’s just being…alive in the heat of the day.  He can taste the sweetness of the date, see the blue sky, feel the heat of the day, hear the insects drone, he can smell the sheep….

Then in the shimmering distance on the horizon, he sees three men drawing near.  Three strangers, he doesn’t know them.  So Abraham does what Bedouins do to this day, offer their famous hospitality, he invites them to stay for a meal, and they do.  Abraham sits down in the heat of the day at the entrance to his tent with his three guests and they share a meal.  But over the course of the meal, and the conversation that ensues, Abraham slowly begins to understand that this more than three strangers, but this is in fact an encounter with God, the God that he worships, the God that he has followed out of Ur of the Chaldeans.

God begins to reveal more if his will and make more promises.  This time God makes promises to Sarah and Sarah laughs and thinks it’s funny.  Sarah says “I didn’t laugh”, God says “Yes you did.”   Because she did laught, because it’s funny.  God says that she, Sarah, at 90 years old will in a year give birth to a child by Abraham who is 99.  It’s funny stuff…

What is Abraham doing??  Ultimately he’s saving the world.  He’s establishing the line of Abraham that becomes the nation of Israel.  That becomes the people through whom Messiah comes and brings us salvation.  He’s living the most important life in history before Jesus Christ.  Not Moses, not David, not Solomon, not Elijah, but nobody is more important than father Abraham.

What does he do?  He doesn’t do much in life.  If you add up everthing he did in the Bible it wouldn’t take much more than a week.  Abraham spent most of his life waiting.  Just being, just waiting…

We used to wait for things.   That’s what Arcade Fire recognizes in their song as a change in our society.  We don’t wait much anymore.  Now our lives are changing fast, hope that something pure can last….

One of the biggest changes over the past century, the whole of the twentieth century but even more so now in the twenty first century is the speed of life.  It just keeps getting faster and faster and faster…the speed of life.  Much of our technology has been utilized to make things happen that much faster.  So fast that we don’t have to wait for it.  As a people, we have learned to dislike waiting.  We hate to wait

I am writing to myself far more than you.  This might be for you but I know it’s for me.  I’m writing out of my own need.  We have been cultured in speed and instant.  We have learned to hate the idea of waiting for anything.  I am the worst, and it’s a defect in my character I’m asking Jesus for help with.   So when a band like Arcade Fire tells us to wait for it, they are speaking to me.  I know  this is something I need to hear, probably we all need to hear…

The Bible really has almost nothing good to say about being in a hurry.  In fact, the Bible seems to view being in a hurry as a kind of temptation.  A kind of lust to have things in an inappropriate way.  When the Bible portrays people who won’t wait for it, It usually means they are heading in a wrong direction….

Adam and Eve.  Think about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Knowing good and evil, that in and if itself probably was not an evil thing.  What was evil was for Adam and Eve not to wait for it and let God in his way, in his time, teach them good from evil.  Instead, they listened to the serpent, couldn’t wait for it, and went and plucked from that tree and put the whole human race into trouble.

Abraham and Sarah, most of the time they did pretty good.  But then they had a hard time waiting for it.  So they wanted to speed things up, make it happen faster.  They got tired of waiting for it.  So Sarah gives Haggar to Abraham.  Let’s just say that created some tension in the home…brought some trouble about.

Maybe you remember the story about King Saul was waiting for the prophet Samuel to come preside over the offering of the sacrifice.   Samuel was delayed, Saul was waiting.   He had to wait for it. He didn’t want to wait any longer, so he offered up the sacrifice himself, something he was not authorized to do.   It got Saul in trouble, and it began his whole downward spiral until finally he would be rejected by the Lord from being King.  Because he wouldn’t wait for it.

Or the Prodigal Son.  He wouldn’t wait for it, he wanted his inheritance NOW!  It’s a defect in out soul when we won’t wait for it.

We need to realize that the pace of the Bible is slow.  The Bible is very pre-modern in that sense.  We, as modern people, have decided that there is nothing that can not be improved by making it faster.   But the Bible resists all of that.  The pace of the Bible is deliberately slow.  You will find that God makes a promise and then fulfills it…maybe 700 years later.   That happens with Isaiah.  Isaiah brings forth a promise from God that God is going to do a certain thing, and then seven centuries roll by before God gets around to doing it.

Who would like to be used of God to bring forth a great promise of God that will be fulfilled about 2718????

Wait for it

John Lewis

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Welcome at His Table

Welcome at His Table

Zacchaeus has something going for him.  Zacchaeus is fascinated by Jesus.  He’s heard of Jesus, he wants to just be able to see Jesus.  But Zacchaeus also has a problem.  The problem is the crowd.   And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature.   Zacchaeus could not see Jesus.  Like the song says, he’s a wee little man, and a wee little man was he.  But he is, despite this, a chief tax collector.   Now being short won’t keep you from a parade.  You just gotta get up front.  Problem is, this is the righteous crowd.  This crowd is full of the fans of Jesus.  The synagogue attendees.  They have their perfect attendance pins on.  And they’re not going to make room for someone like Zacchaeus, wee little man or not.   They feel someone trying to push their way through, they say “Oh, it’s Zacchaeus,” they’re blocking him at every turn.  They’re not going to make room for someone like Zacchaeus.  The crowd of Jesus fans.   “He’s our Jesus.”  They were the good people.  They have their bibles, they pay their tithes.  They go to church.  “He belongs to us.  We’re pro life, we vote the right way.  We’re not going to let any sinners in here.”

Because of the crowd, Zacchaeus can’t see Jesus.  The sanctimonious crowd won’t make room for someone like Zacchaeus.  The sanctimonious, belligerent  crowd turned out to be very inhospitable ti sinners.   If we’re not careful, we can become a sanctimonious, belligerent crowd, we fans of Jesus.   Instead of helping people discover Jesus we become an impediment to them.  When we are a sanctimonious, belligerent crowd, we become an impediment.  They can’t see Jesus because of the crowd.

This is what happened to the American church when we started fighting for political power.  A politicized Church became a belligerent crowd preventing outsiders from seeing Jesus.  That’s a problem.

Fortunately Zacchaeus was not one to be easily deterred.  He was chief tax collector after all.   He was resourceful, a determined man, used to getting his way.  He was going to see Jesus.

So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.  So he goes ahead in his Armani suit, his Gucci shoes (he is the richest man in town), he knows the route Jesus going to take.  He goes ahead and climbs that sycamore tree.  He’s got a perfect view of Jesus.  His expectations were modest, he only wanted to see Jesus.   And something wonderful happens.  And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”  If you set your heart on seeing Jesus, you will usually get more than you bargained for.. not only does he see Jesus, Jesus sees him.   Not only does Jesus see him, he invites himself over for dinner.  He says I must stay at your house today.

No doubt the president of the synagogue had planned a meal, a dinner.  But Jesus must have dinner at Zacchaeus house today.  Why MUST Jesus have stayed with Zacchaeus.

Because tomorrow Jesus goes to Jerusalem and the deal is about to go down.  And ONE MORE TIME he wanted to enact the kingdom of god.  One more time he wants to show what it’s all about.  Maybe this time they’ll get it.  One more timr he wants to show them the Kingdom of God.   Who is the last person in Jericho people think will be a part of God’s new thing?

Zacchaeus.   He’s a tax collector.  He’s excommunicated.  He’s banished.  He’s outcast.   He’s a chief tax collector for crying out loud.   If you were to ask people is God on the move???   “Oh yes, yes.”   Do you feel the kingdom of god is on the verge?   Do you feel like God is about to break through as do a new thing??  Of course, yes, yes!!!

And who is not going to be a part of it??   Sinners!!!   Tax collectors, prostitutes.  CHIEF tax collectors!   We got one right in this town!!   He’s the richest man in town and he’s very wicked, very evil, and he will be totally outside of it.   Zacchaeus will not be a part of what God is doing.

That’s why Jesus says  I must share the table with that man, because I need to show the people what the kingdom of God is like.   I must share this table with the outcast for one more enactment of the kingdom of God.

As soon as Jesus says “Come on Zacchaeus, I want to go to your house,” the crowd began to grumble.  And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”   They don’t like it.   He’s our jesus, what’s he doing going with one of them?

Luke’s gospel is all about the radical hospitality of Jesus in his table practice.    This just keeps coming up.  Jesus will share his table with anyone who will share it with him.  He lives in a culture that is very sensitive to these things.  It’s a taboo culture.  It’s a kosher culture.  It’s a culture where some are permissible, some are clean.  But some are impermissible, some cannot be allowed at the table, they are unkosher, unclean.  Jesus is crashing through all those boundaries.  Jesus will share the table with anyone who will share it with him, and this is radical.

Hear this – Pharisees, Sadduccees, tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes, prodigal sons, elder brothers, secularists, believers, skeptics, church goers, conservatives, liberals, Republicans, Democrats, Jesus doesn’t care!!   If you’re  willing to sit with Jesus, Jesus is willing to sit with you.

Jesus touches the untouchable.  The leper and the unclean, Jesus touches them.  Jesus loves the unlovable, the tax collector and the prostitute.  Jesus includes the excluded, the Samaritan and the prostitute.  Jesus welcomes the banished, the prodigal and the scapegoat.

He even welcomes you. But – are you willing to sit down with them?

“He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.””

Luke 19:1-10 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.19.1-10.esv

John Lewis

Little Rich Man

I’ve been working my way through the gospel of Luke, now we are into chapter 19. Ever since chapter 9, Luke has been retracing the final journey of Jesus to Jerusalem. From right after the transfiguration in chapter 9 to the triumphal entry at the end of chapter 19, Jesus is on a journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. The story becomes more and more ominous as we go. There is a dark ominous cloud lingering over Jesus as he’s on his way ultimately to be crucified. He talks more and more about what is to happen once they get to Jerusalem…saying things like “”You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.””Matthew 26:2 ESV. And…“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.””

Luke 9:22 ESV

But today we have the final event before Jesus arrives in Jerusalem. What Luke is doing today is once more showing us that salvation and the kingdom of god are expressed as radical hospitality.

Throughout his gospel, Luke shows Jesus as moving from table to table, meal to meal, announcing and enacting the kingdom of god. He wants to show us one more time, with the story of Zacchaeus, what that kingdom looks like. They are nearing Jerusalem, arriving at Jericho. They are one days journey from Jerusalem. The very next day Jesus will arrive in Jerusalem. This is the final event recorded before we move into the actual passion week, the Holy Week of Jesus.

“He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.””

By now we are encountering what should be a familiar theme. Once again we have a tax collector, not just a regular tax collector but a chief tax collector. He is rich and he is despised. The Pharisees thought that land based wealth based on production of the land was a sign of being blessed by God. We saw before that Jesus didn’t agree with that. He didn’t agree with the assesment that you can determine God’s favor and blessing based upon wealth and riches. Nevertheless, the Pharisees thought that great wealth accrued through the production of the land was a sign of Gods favor, but wealth accrued by collecting taxes for the hated occupying gentile force of the Romans was seen as a great evil. Tax collectors and prostitutes were seen as the consummate moral outcasts, excluded from the synagogue and temple life. A chief tax collector would be seen as completely excluded from the covenant of Abraham. You might as well think of Zachaeaus as the chief of sinners.

Zacchaeus is banished from the synagogue, he can not participate from synagogue life. Being banished from the synagogue, he’s also banished from the Kingdom of God. There was a great sense of anticipation at this time. There was a great Jewish anticipation something big was about to happen. The Kingdom of God really was going to come. They believed that God was about to act decisively and definitively very soon, and would establish his reign, rule, and government among men. They were equally convinced that people like Zacchaeus would be excluded from it. They would not be a part of what God was doing. They would be left out.

But – by this time I hope you have learned that we must not be so quick to dismiss those who appear to be outside of the kingdom of God just because they don’t presently participate in accepted forms of religious life.

This is Zacchaeus’ situation. He is an outsider, an outcast. He is banned from the synagogue. Everybody views him as a despised sinner, and he will not be a part of what God is doing.

But Zacchaeus has something going for him. He is fascinated by Jesus. He has heard that Jesus is coming. Word of Jesus had spread, this prophet from Galilee who works miracles, heals the sick, helps the lame walk, the blind see. I’m sure that had gotten Zacchaeus attention.

No doubt he’d also heard about his table practice. He’d heard how this miracle worker from Galilee would also share his table with tax collectors and sinners and prostitutes and the outcasts, those who’d been banned from the synagogue. This is very fascinating to Zacchaeus.

We are told that Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but not just as a celebrity. He wanted to see who Jesus is. He was fascinated by Jesus. I want to see who this guy is. What is he about? What’s he really like?

That kind of sinner is far more common than you think. Our world is filled with people who have zero interest in going to a church, but they are fascinated by Jesus. And if they see some means by which they really might actually know what Jesus is actually about and like, the are interested in that. That’s Zacchaeus…

Jesus is seeking and saving the lost. All those people that we think are on the wrong side of God, that don’t do things just as we do, Jesus wants to sit down and share a meal with them. And they are far more willing to sit down with Jesus than we, or even they, might think. Trouble is, the body of Christ in the world is far too often putting up barriers, putting conditions in coming to the table. Instead of putting up barriers, maybe we just need to wash the dishes, set the table, prepare the meal, and have a seat.

Yes, these people are messed up. But do we trust Jesus enough to simply allow him to sit down those whom we think are lost? Of course there is more to say on this, I will be back…

“He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.””

Luke 19:1-10 ESV

John Lewis

What is Hell??

What is Hell??

The Pharisees theology always had the danger of causing them to be unkind to the poor and sick.  When they mocked Jesus for saying they could not serve God and money, Jesus gives them the Parable of the Rich man and Lazarus.  Or, we might say, a story of hell and how to get there.

There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every dayThis rich man is straight from lifestyles of the rich and famous.  He’s a one percenter.  A billionaire maybe.   He’s very wealthy.

And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table.  Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.   At the gate of the rich man is Lazarus.  A poor man, sick, covered in sores.  Maybe crippled, certainly hungry and homeless.  He would love to have the crumbs from the rich mans table.

 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.  They both die.  They both are in Hades, the place of the dead, the underworld.  The poor man is with Abraham, the rich man is in torment.  From view of the rich man, the poor man and Abraham are way off in the distance.

And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’  The rich man still had not learned to love and see Lazarus as a person.  He still immediately sees him as an inferior whose purpose in life was to serve him.

But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’   You might find it interesting that up to this part of the parable was an existing folk tale,  everybody had heard this before.  This was a common story.  It shows up in at least 7 different versions in rabbinic writings of the time.  Sometimes it was maybe a rich man or merchant, sometimes a poor beggar, poor slave or a servant.  They interact in life, but not really.  But in death, the roles are reversed.  It’s a very common story.

But Jesus adds this next part about the five brothers.  And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’   This is Jesus’ way of bringing the story from the afterlife to the here and now.  Jesus refocuses and says I want to talk about right now.

The original point of the story was that there would come a day when there will be a great reversal.  Here, in this life, some are rich, some are poor, but don’t expect things to stay that way once we are taken down to Sheol, to Hades, to the place of the dead.  In that place, a great reversal is going to come, some of the last will be first, and the first will be last.

Jesus point is that that day has arrived.   That time day is now..  That’s what I’m announcing with the Kingdom of God.  Now is the time for the poor on the ash heap to be lifted up  and be seated with the princes of his people.  If the rich don’t believe it, if they stand in the way, if they don’t get on board, they will find themselves tumbling down,   Many who are last shall be first.  You know that story you’ve been telling about how the day will come, that day of a great reversal, that day is now.  That’s what Jesus is announcing with the Kingdom of God.

The  Pharisees, who Jesus is addressing this to, are the five brothers.  They’re not dead yet, they are not in Hades, but they have a belief system that causes them to overlook people like Lazarus.   The rich man knows they’re in danger, he’s worried what will happen to them…

The rich man wants Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers – the Pharisees.  He asks Father Abraham to send him to my father’s house— Jesus has used that phrase before in a parable…for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ It’s too late for me, but send Lazarus to my brothers to save them….

But Jesus has Abraham say this – But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’  They don’t need Lazarus to go back.  They just need to listen to the law and the prophets.   How does Jesus sum up the law and the prophets??   “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”” Matthew 22:37-40 ESV.  Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  Love Lazarus, your neighbor sitting at you gate, as yourself.

And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’   And Jesus, through Abraham in the parable, says this…He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”

The rich man thinks that if someone would rise from the dead, that might change his brothers mind.   Jesus says he’s wrong.  Think about this.  Did the dead Prodigal Son coming home to the Fathers house change the self righteous older brother?   It did not.  That is exactly how the father describes the brother, remember?   “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'”” Luke 15:32 ESV.   You have to put these two parables together.  Jesus is creating both these parables for the same group of people, the Pharisees.  In the parable of the prodigal, we have a dead brother who comes to life again, and it doesn’t change the older brother.  So here we have Abraham saying that if those brothers are not listening to the message of the law and the prophets to love god with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as themselves, then they’re not going to be changed when a dead prodigal comes to life again.

Or even when a crucified Messiah is raised to life again on the third day.  

The fact is that if you do not love God and you do not love your neighbor, the resurrection of Jesus is probably not going to mean much to you.  You will do whatever you must to find a way to wiggle yourself out of the implications.

So, about Hell and how to get there.  Refuse to love.  Refuse to love God, refuse to love your neighbor, and you’ll find your way there.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a means by which you can ignore God, scorn the suffering, and still have everything turn out alright.  Be careful that you don’t create a theological system by which you can ignore God, scorn the suffering, and have everything turn out alright.  Seriously…

Jesus did not come to abolish the law and the prophets.  He came to fulfill them.  He said that, didn’t he?  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17 ESV.  What is Jesus summary of the law and the prophets?  Again, love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.  If you have created a theological system where you don’t have to love God or love your neighbor and think everything will still be ok, what have you done?  What kind of madness is that?

Whatever you think about what salvation is, know that Jesus did not come to save you from loving God and loving your neighbor.  That’s not what he’s saving you from, that’s what he’s saving you to.  Jesus has come to make that thoroughly possible.   He’s come to form a people who will actually live out the intent of all the law and the prophets.

Both Lazarus and the rich man are in the same place.  They are both in Sheol, Hades, the place of the dead.  But one is comforted, one is in torment.  So, what is hell?  The suffering of no longer being able to love.   Fyodor Dostoyevsky – The Brothers Karamazov.

“”There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'””

Luke 16:19-31 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.16.19-31.esv

John Lewis

It’s Got to Be Somebody’s Fault…

It’s Got to Be Somebody’s Fault…

Going to be looking at the parable of the rich man and Lazarus,  but before that I’m going to look at what comes right before that parable.  In other words,  I’m going to set up the context in which we find that third of the most famous parables of Jesus.  We’ve already looked at the story of the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, and the third of these most famous parable of Christ is, indeed, the rich man and Lazarus.

Jesus doesn’t just give his parables in a vacuum, and the rich man and Lazarus is no different.  The parable is given in the context of a particular debate and it’s given to a particular people.  As was almost the case with Jesus parables, his target was….the Pharisees.

So Luke 16:13 says “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”   Did you hear that?   I hope so.  Jesus is speaking pretty plainly on this point.   You can not serve both God and money.  The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it[or ‘everyone is trying to attack it.’  I’ve read this may be a better translation here.]. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.”   

This is the setting for the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.  I’m going to say again, Jesus’ entire ministry is announcing and enacting the kingdom of God.  He is announcing that kingdom of God has arrived and is arriving, and he is enacting the kingdom, showing us by action what the kingdom of God looks like.   This is the ministry of Jesus, to announce and enact god’s new government, God’s new arrangement for human society.

Jesus knows that the greatest obstacle to entering into and living in the kingdom of God instead of under the reign and rule of man is our own economic self interest.   When we are dominated by economic self interest it’s like squeezing a camel through the eye of the needle, and it’s hard.   In fact, we need Jesus help to do so, because as Jesus says, with God all things are possible.

He also says that the law and the prophets were doing their work of preparing a people who would love god and love neighbor, anticipating the coming of the kingdom of God.  But then he says The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone [is trying to attack it] (again, this may be a better translation).   The law and the prophets were anticipating the kingdom of god, but with the arrival of John the Baptist and now Jesus the Kingdom of God is breaking into the world, it’s being announced, it’s on the scene, but everyone is not happy about it.  Many are trying to attack it, because many do not like what Jesus is announcing and enacting about the kingdom of god.

So when Jesus says You cannot serve God and money,  what happens?   The Pharisees attack that – The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed himThe Pharisees were unabashedly lovers of money.   They would say they loved God as well, but they would also say “we love money too, and there’s no problem, you can do both.”    They had a theological foundation, a particular theology that endorsed that way of thinking.   Their theology came mostly from the way they read and interpreted the book of book of Deuteronomy.

The Pharisees believed that if you obeyed God he would bless you in both war and commerce.   You can read the book of Deuteronomy that way, and that’s what they believed.    If you obeyed God, you would be blessed in war and commerce, you would be successful and prosperous (sound familiar?).

The Pharisees therefore believed that success and prosperity were in fact a sign of god’s blessing.  On the other hand, poverty and failure were a sign of God’s disfavor.

Jesus disagreed.  Jesus disagreed with the Pharisees theology that success and wealth equals blessing.  Now, Jesus does not see wealth as inherently evil.   Just one example, we’ve seen the parable of the Prodigal Son, and in that parable the father, who is a wealthy man, is in fact a good man.  So Jesus does not see wealth and money as inherently evil.  In fact wealth, all things being equal, is a good thing.  But Jesus does see our economic self interest as the greatest single hindrance to our entrance and participation in the Kingdom of God.

This is why In Luke Chapter 6, Jesus begins his kingdom announcing sermon on the Plain with “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20 ESV.   When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.   That little eye of the needle for the rich man, is a wide open gate for the poor man.  He’s got nothing to lose, it’s easy to get in.

The Pharisees also viewed sickness and suffering as punishment for personal sin. Human suffering would be seen as divine punishment.  Don’t we still have some who work from thus theological system?   Don’t we hear from those to this day who twist earthquakes and tsunamis and epidemics into divine punishment for some great sin “those” people have been guilty of?!

Jesus’ disciples were working from a very similar paradigm on this as the Pharisees.  Again, Jesus disagrees.  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.” John 9:2-3 ESV.  Who are we going to blame here?   The man or his parents?   Jesus says “neither”.  It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.   So, for us, when we see episodes of human suffering, we are not called to assign blame, but to relieve the suffering…

So, such is the context and background of the rich man and Lazarus…

No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.

Luke 16:13-17 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.16.13-17.esv

John Lewis

Reckless

Reckless

Spent the past weekend being reminded of the truth that God laid out for us so long ago, all the way back to the beginning, as in in the beginning…a truth which we’ve all heard and we all know inherently within our being, even if we are not actually conscious of it in our minds.

In the Genesis creation account, God declares much to be good, and when I say he declares much to be good, I mean he declares everything he has created to be good.   And God saw that the light was good.   God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.   Over and over again, And God saw that it was good.   Until we get to the sixth day, And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.   All that God made, the heavens and the earth, the waters and the land, the seas and the heavens, the plants trees and vegetation, all the animals of the sea and on the dry land, everything God created in and on this world, of which we sing in songs so joyfully that it is not our home, is all goodgood, and then, just in case you missed it, very good.  God gave us a beautiful, wonderful, good, good and very good creation (His words, not mine).   Take and do with that what you will.

But now to the point.  What is the first thing in the Bible that is called not good by God?   “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”   Men – don’t miss this and don’t get this twisted.   It is not good that the man should be alone.  It is not good for man be alone.  Yes, man, it is not good for you to be alone.    Including you.  And you women also, but of course women don’t seem to struggle with this as much as men.

Because we men, well, after all, we are men.   We are born and raised, proud, red-blooded, pick ourselves by the bootstraps, don’t cry, never let ‘em see you sweat, American men.   This is the script we live by, that is how we are taught to live.   And even when we are surrounded by a crowd of people, we live this way, isolated, behind our own walls, sharing nothing of ourselves.

This is BS.  This is not how we were created.  The first thing in the Bible that is declared to be not good is for man to be alone, yet we all think we are supposed to be the Lone Ranger.    This, as God the Father would say, is not good.   We are not meant to be alone.

We are made for community.  You are made for community.  You were made in the image of a God who has never not been part of a community himself (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).  We are born into community, community is not something we add to ourselves after the fact.  You are born of a father and a mother, brought forth from your mothers very womb.  We came out naked as a jay bird (Who told you you were naked?), unable go do anything for yourself.  Literally, without the community you were born into, you would not survive more than a day or two.

Think about this minute.  Not only does God tell us it is It is not good that the man should be alone, but he follows through and does not leave us alone.   “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.”  John 1:14 ESV.  The word became flesh and dwelt among us.  God created our world that is good, good and very good.  There was perfect peace and perfect harmony in the world, until we came along.   He created mankind in his own image, but we abandoned our call to be God’s own image bearers within his creation.  Yet he does not abandon us to be alone in our broken-ness, he comes and joins us in it.

“”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.”

John 3:16-17 ESV.

Do we believe that God’s creation, of which we are a part of, is good?   God still does.  He believes this so deeply that he sent his own Son, Jesus Christ, into that creation, to join us in our brokenness and reconcile us to himself.  He did not come to condemn the world, God’s good, good, and very good creation, but to save it.

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” Genesis 3:8 ESV.   Ever since the fall, we’ve been hiding our true selves.  We’ve been isolating ourselves from the community we were created for.  We isolate ourselves, both from God and each other, and our walls build ever higher around us.   Fear grows, love withers, anger and resentment rage within.

The point is, don’t isolate yourselves.   Despite our modern culture’s lies to the contrary, we can’t walk this life, Christian or otherwise, on our own.   The very first thing the Bible tells us is not good is for man to be alone.

Stop hiding behind the bushes.  Come out, forget that you are naked, get honest with yourself and others who love you, and find healing that can only come from the love and support of those around you.

One last thought – why do we isolate.  I think it’s mostly because of fear.  We fear what others might think or say about us.  Maybe you fear what God might think or say about you.  But, from one of our favorite passages in all of scripture, Paul tells us “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39 ESV.  God is Love, never forget that.  That is really the point Paul makes here.  I think that one of the great fears we have in being open, being honest, with ourselves and others is that what we’ve done is just so bad, or that somehow we just aren’t worthy of God’s love or anyone else’s love.  But Paul tells us here so many different things that can not separate us from the love of God.  Not death.  Not the powers that be.  Nothing here and now or that can come in the future.  Nor anything else in all creation.   

Nothing in all creation can separate you from the love of God.   Question – are you a created being?   Yes, you are.  Guess what?   You do not have the power to separate yourself from the love of God.   God has given us many powers and abilities, this is not one of them.  There is nothing that you can do to separate yourself from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  You can run, but you can’t hide.  He will leave the ninety to come and find you.   His love is a reckless love.  Nothing you have done can separate you from that reckless love.

God loves you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

But – you can isolate yourself and never know it.  Why would you want to do that?

“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.””

Genesis 2:18 ESV

http://bible.com/59/gen.2.18.esv

“And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.”

Genesis 1:4 ESV

http://bible.com/59/gen.1.4.esv

“God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.”

Genesis 1:10 ESV

http://bible.com/59/gen.1.10.esv

“The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”

Genesis 1:12 ESV

http://bible.com/59/gen.1.12.esv

“And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.”

Genesis 1:17-18 ESV

http://bible.com/59/gen.1.17-18.esv

“So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”

Genesis 1:21 ESV

http://bible.com/59/gen.1.21.esv

“And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”

Genesis 1:25 ESV

http://bible.com/59/gen.1.25.esv

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

Genesis 1:31 ESV

http://bible.com/59/gen.1.31.esv

“And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there.”

Genesis 2:12 ESV

http://bible.com/59/gen.2.12.esv

John Lewis

Taken, blessed, broken, given.

Recently, in a group setting, the question was asked, what does communion mean to you??   I actually gave an answer, part of which included the statement “it is the center of Christian worship.”   Which I believe to be true, we’ve been going through the Gospel of Luke, and it seems as though every significant event which occurs in this gospel occurs reclining at table, sharing a meal.    Jesus reinforces this image in Luke 13, when as part of an answer to the question  “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” Luke 13:23 ESV, he says “And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.” Luke 13:29 ESV.  This is part of an answer Jesus gives in which he also tells us the story of the narrow door.  “”Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’” Luke 13:24-27 ESV.  So in answer to the same question, Jesus tells us people will come from far and wide and recline at table in his kingdom, yet many who ate and drank in his presence (communion?), and in whose very streets Jesus taught (good church going believers?) will be told Depart from me, all you workers of evil!   To which I don’t have much specific to say here, except that we all must be careful of our own certitude with which we go into the world.   It seems to me that Jesus is telling those of us who think we have it all figured out (Jesus, God, Heaven, Hell, etc) that maybe we don’t know all that we think we know.  We think we know something about who is in or out (mainly that we are in), but when the time comes some of us will be knocking on the door, looking in at all those coming from far and wide, whom we assumed would be out, or at least behind us in line.   Sounds like a call to continue to walk in prayerful humility to me.

But this does bring me to my point for today, an answer to the question “what does communion mean to you?”   I can answer this question many different ways, communion means many different things.  It’s not a one dimensional picture, it’s a many dimensioned picture of Christ, and the way his followers are to go into the world.

I’m going to focus on four key words in relation to communion, from the account in Mark – taken, blessed, broken, given.   And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them.   This tells us Jesus took the bread, blessed the bread, broke the bread, and gave the bread.   Taken, blessed, broken, given.  Continuing, Jesus said “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.   So, do you see what has happened here?   Jesus took the bread, blessed the bread, broke the bread, and gave the bread.   He took the bread, blessed the bread, broke it and gave it to them and said, “Take; this is my body.”   Jesus is giving his disciples a picture of what is to come over the next 18-24 hours, and we need to realize that Jesus did not just serve the meal, he became the meal.  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.    So Jesus takes bread, blessed the bread, but then he does something mindblowing, now all of a sudden it’s not just bread and wine he’s serving, but his own flesh and blood.  He goes from serving the meal to becoming the meal.

From the gospel accounts, we can sum up communion in four simple words, taken, blessed, broken, given.   Because Jesus doesn’t just serve the meal, he becomes the meal.  Jesus laid down his life and was broken and poured out for the sick, the hungry, the broken, the hopeless, the sinners.   Jesus was taken, Jesus was blessed, Jesus was broken, Jesus was given for the sake of the world, and we are called to go and do likewise.

Jesus was poured out for all.  The Father, the Son, and the Spirit show no partiality.   It took Peter a decade or more to figure this out – “So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Acts 10:34-35 ESV.  So come one, come all, And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.

So who are we, as the church??   Are we not the body of Christ??    What we miss in communion is that this is a picture Jesus gave at his last supper of how his disciples, then and now, are to go into the world.  Luke’s account tells us Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.  We are to Do this in remembrance of me.   Do what??   Is Jesus just talking simply about sharing a meal together in remembrance of him as a religious ritual.  No, that’s not what Jesus is talking about.  He’s talking about much more than that. Communion is not just about what we do once a quarter or once a month or even every Sunday.   Jesus did not give us a task to do, walk away from, and check our box saying “well, I took communion today!

We are not washing the dishes or taking out the trash.  We don’t come to the table, eat the Lords Supper, and walk away thinking we are finished.   No, communion is a picture Jesus gives us of how we are supposed to live life.  We modern Christians have a problem.  We don’t ever want to finish the meal.   Communion is a four course meal. The bread is taken, blessed, broken and given.  Christ was taken, blessed, broken and given.   We want to stop at the second course.

We love our blessedness, we love to talk about we are taken by God, Amen!!!???    Taken from our addictions, from our sins, from our hurts, habits and hang ups. But to finish the meal, to walk as the body of Christ, to be broken and given, poured out for many, we would rather not eat those two courses of the meal.  We would much rather gluttonously revel in our taken-ness and blessedness than to be broken and poured out for the world around us. But that is our call.  That is why we Do this in remembrance of me.  

We all want to be taken, we all want to be blessed.   But do we want to finish the meal?   “Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” Matthew 20:22 ESV

Taken.  Blessed.  Broken.  Given.  Finish the meal.   Go into the world as the taken, blessed, broken, and given body of Christ.

“And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.””

Mark 14:22-25 ESV

http://bible.com/59/mrk.14.22-25.esv

“And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.”

Luke 22:14-23 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.22.14-23.esv

John Lewis