Tag Archives: Jesus

John 9:1-41 a bit deeper

So remember my upset about how this story starts? Let’s review:

As he walked along,
he saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.

And I was upset because the idea that God caused the man to be born blind just to reveal God’s glory is …. upsetting to me.

Well it turns out that, if I had remembered to read the footnote, that might not be how the lines “really” go. It might be:

So instead Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; we must work the works of him who sent me …. ”

That it doesn’t matter to Jesus “why” the man was blind, nor does it matter to him “why” is this world so broken”. It just is. So Jesus aims to hurry and work to fix the problem.

A pastor friend of me, not knowing I was studying this, wrote about this in her blog and then there it is in the footnotes. Well. Don’t you love that? God found a way to “answer” me. 😉

I know that, just my life experience anyway, that “why” can be a trap. “Why did you do that?” says the parent to child. “I dunno,” says every child everywhere. “Why” can have you going around in circles. Instead, I can imagine Jesus (once again) shaking his head a bit at the disciples, smiling gently, and basically saying, “Let’s not waste time. Let’s get to work on healing.”

___

I also want to point out that right after the healing the point of view changes from Jesus to the blind man. So when I told this story at church, I put my hands over my eyes to “wash” them and then moved them away (like jazz hands a little bit) to reveal my sight — and to “show” that I was now a different character in the story.

For the glory of God!

Luke 2:25-38 and a woman’s voice

http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=350805862

I think often Jesus, in his ministry, used “masculine” and “feminine” imagery to get the same point really across. For example, the Kingdom of Heaven is like: yeast and will multiple the dough; or it is like a net which will catch a large amount of fish. If you don’t know something about yeast and dough, then maybe the fish will catch your imagination.

So — the widow, Anna, also praises the baby Jesus. If you do not trust the words of a proper righteous man, that’s ok. You can listen to Anna. It isn’t exactly equal time here, but I am told that in that time and place the word of a woman was not “trusted”, especially legally, the way a man’s word was; a widow could not own property; a widow on her own, as Anna was, would have a very hard time. She would be perhaps invisible to people, or perhaps she would be useful, perhaps she kept things clean? We do not know a lot. I am sure that if she was not truly nice and truly thoughtful and helpful, and truly worshiping God with a shining and inspiring sincerity, they would not have let her stay at the temple all those years of her widowhood. So she earned some right to be heard. She chooses to speak to “those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem”.

Meaning those who were seeking justice from oppression politically, perhaps from the Romans, perhaps in other ways that oppression can occur. If you are looking for redemption, then you have something that needs to be sorted out, reclaimed, redeemed, remade…..

“At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Perhaps Simeon spoke to those of power. Perhaps Anna spoke to those without.

Jesus, I hope, speaks to us all.

FTGOG

Luke 2:25-38 and joy

http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=350805862

So I think perhaps Simeon and Anna were joy-struck. Somehow (the Holy Spirit…) of all the babies they had seen brought to the temple for blessing, this baby, Jesus, stirred their hearts and made them think he was the one: a light, a blessing, a sign. Not just another life, not just another good life. Perhaps not a “good” life at all because being “destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel” does not sound safe and secure and happy to me. There’s going to be conflict, so much so that Mary will suffer, because we suffer when our children suffer. This child was the one.

And they are delighted. They were struck with relief and thankful joy to have lived long enough to be in the presence of the babe who would go up and bring Israel’s light to the whole world. It is not a gift for them that is making them happy, it is a blessing for the world.

Just as Luke’s angel declares to the shepherds “good news of great joy for all the people”. You can hear it as just one set of people or you can take that “all” seriously and I take it seriously indeed. This joy is a love for all — a radical love that has no boundaries, that has no limits, that wants everything made whole, that shares and grows and is full. An abundant love.

This harks back, so my footnotes say, to Isaiah 49:6:

[The Lord] says,

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant

to raise up the tribes of Jacob

and to restore the survivors of Israel;

I will give you as a light to the nations,

that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

It would be too easy to just save Israel. God wants the whole world to be saved. Saved from battles and strife and hunger and pain and suffering. Saved from economics that separate and hurt. Saved from a yardstick that only measures by “worldly riches”. Saved by giving.

I think it says a lot that Simeon and Anna were full of joy and thanksgiving at this news from the holy spirit, instead of bitter and anger that it didn’t come sooner. By their joy, the good news of redemption was already a treasure they had, yes? Just as we do: The Kingdom of Heaven is near at hand, Jesus will grow up to say. Not yet, but here.

FTGOG

Luke 2:25-38 an old man and an old woman are joyful

Luke 2:25-38 (Simeon and Anna);

http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=350805862

This is actually one of the stories that I think I am supposed to like — look they knew this child was the Messiah and they died happy — but to me it is one of the “spooky” stories that do not quite make sense. In fact, miracles of healing don’t trouble me — God can do miracles. All sorts of stuff that might seem spooky is fine by me. But this story has people not really making sense, it seems to me.

Simeon is looking forward to the consolation of Israel — what? The Holy Spirit rested on him and revealed things to him? This is so confusing. Since he was guided by the H.S. to be at the temple when Mary and Joseph took baby Jesus there for circumcision and presentation, on the eight day — really? It is about 6 miles, but they were on the road for so long to get to Bethlehem and Mary has just given birth. This is true dedication, right? Is Mary ever going to catch a break?  And where was Simeon before the H.S. told him to go to the temple? And…. how about something more like this.

“Simeon rose early that morning as he typically did, and said his prayers. This room was chilly in the morning air, but the day would be warmer. Shepherds would bring some spring lambs to the city, farmers might bring some vegetables and fruits. Slowly the sounds of his household pressed upon him — the women in the kitchen, eternally working to feed everyone. Simeon knew he had work to do that day. He raised his hands again and closed his eyes and said a final blessing and suddenly a shaft of dawn’s light broke into the room through a slit in the covered window. He opened his eyes and was amazed at the brilliance and dazzled. Suddenly he knew work could wait. Today he would go to the Temple first thing, be a part of the daily quorum of prayers. His heart lighter, he dressed quickly and ….”

See doesn’t that make more sense? {{laughing}} I know…that was a bit silly …the Bible doesn’t work that way. We are just told — as in a classic storytelling opening — “Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, …” where he was when the Holy Spirit inspired him and what it means to be Guided by the Holy Spirit just are not explained.

Maybe that is part of the point? The Holy Spirit needs us to listen and see and do, not fret and question? And with the classic story start — Now there was — his chops to authority are authenticated, at least to the people that first heard this. We’d want to know where did he go to school, and if it wasn’t Princeton Theological Seminary, why not, and what did he study, and …..that’s why I think this is a “spooky” story because I don’t understand who Simeon is and what is motivating him. I think the people then and there and those later that heard the story, woudl absolutely know who he was.

What Simeon does is to hold the baby and praise God and to give a prophesy, a word from God — motivated by the love of God.

And that’s enough for now, for the glory of God.

 

 

Matthew 1:18-25 and you

In practicing this story out loud to people — I’m doing it as a layreader at church tomorrow at 8:30 — people are struck by how clear it is that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. And one person said, “Is that really in the bible?” {{grins}} I love when that happens when I am telling a biblical story because it means the person is listening.

Oddly the closer I get to “going live for real” with a story the more disastrous all rehearsals go. That just seems to be the way of it, for me. I keep practicing and praying that all will be as it should tomorrow. I think the worse thing I could do is let fear drive me to just read the words. I think the life that is breathed into a story when it is told instead of read is worth the possible stumbles. (Also it is the small service and very few people will be there…..{{grins}})

In practicing out loud the word “you” has struck my ear, especially in this phrase “…, and you are to name him Jesus”. It is perfectly clear that that “you” refers to Joseph and is an action that Joseph is supposed to take, and, in fact, will take. But somehow, in telling the story, the you almost sounds like “you people, all of you” will name him Jesus, especially as the line continues “for he will save his people from their sins.” You. He has come for you, his people, which is everyone, which is you and me.

Somehow I hope that in telling this story tomorrow people hearing will listen and feel invited into the story.

FTGOG

 

Matthew 1:18-25 and family

As perhaps appropriate for a story about the birth of a baby, this passage is full of family relationships. It may be about the birth of the Messiah, but it is also making clear who all the players are.

(1) Jesus first, he who is born and is the Messiah.

(2) Mary, his mother, is next up.

(3) Joseph, her husband….. Not his father….

(4) Joseph is the Son of David. This is a big deal. More below.

(5) The broken relationship of husband/wife is restored to Mary and Joseph. This is protection for Mary, and the unborn baby, but also perhaps a sign or symbol of healing to come. In many places the prophets use the metaphor of husband/wife for Israel and God’s relationship and how sin has broken or twisted it, how betrayals have happened over and over as Israel strayed from God’s love and relationship (and protection?). Here a blameless girl accused of betrayal is restored to relationship. Is it so far-fetched to think of this as a sign or symbol of God restoring right relationship between Israel and God? Between Israel/God and the Whole World?

Now let’s circle back to Joseph being the Son of David. It has confused me so much that the lineage of Jesus is traced back to Adam via Joseph in those sections. This is clear a compressed version of that — we should know, because “everyone” knew, who David was (Giant-killer, King, beloved of God, etc. etc.) and that the Messiah was to spring from that lineage. So Joseph being a Son of David is crucial to the legitimacy of Jesus being the true Messiah. But he isn’t Joseph’s son by blood — the story makes it very very clear that he isn’t.

So blood doesn’t matter so much for being a true son.

Or perhaps human blood doesn’t matter so much for being a true son.

Perhaps bonds of adoption are just as strong.

Perhaps God’s love when, thanks to the blood of Jesus, He adopts us as children is that deep and true and loving and everlasting.

The story, in an almost parable-like way, makes clear every relationship, strengthens every relationship, heals and restores, and then turns the importance of “proper” relationships around: being adopted and beloved and chosen is as important (more important even?) than who your blood comes from. Love your family and … love everyone and bring them into the family?

FTGOG

Matthew 1:18-25

All right, I’m in a slump, in a sadness, can I say it — I am just a bit out of sorts with the Bible. I love it and love to study it and learn it by heart, but right at the moment it seems — flat? like soda without the bubbles? Or dull? like a movie I’ve watched too often? And with all those words and cut scenes and scholarly nuances that likely I’ll miss, it’s well … just too hard. Maybe there’s a bit of pressure to always find another layer to the onion? Or a bit of complacency as if “I’ve got this” and it’s all simple now. As if, right?

How can something be too hard and too simple? It’s not the bible, it’s me, right? I need to lean in and dig down deep and be faithful because inspiration comes from perspiration not from feeling good.

Right?

Though would it hurt anything if it felt, well, more fun?

As the days grow shorter and the trees start to turn colors and a tiny hint of fall at long last is in the air (has there ever been such a long summer?), clearly my energy is low. And with world/national events as they are trending, well…. Spirits and energy are low, or rather, my spirit anyway.

Yet there is also a hint of Christmas in the air — or at least the stores. And I love it! I love seeing the boxes of tinsel and glitter and trees and everything that we love and that gives us hope. In fact, I was looking at the pre-lit artificial trees for sale with color lights and fancy controls when a gentleman next to me sighed and said, can you believe this is out already? And I said with a big grin, oh I love it, how much fun is Christmas? And his whole face changed, he matched my grin, he found a spark of joy to put in his eyes too. It was a small tiny connection with a perfect stranger as we focused on the joy and not the work or the clean up or the despair of finding presents.

So perhaps this is the season to learn a new Christmas story. I have Luke’s down well. And it is hard to turn from Luke’s story. But let’s take a look at Matthew’s version of the birth of Jesus in Matthew 1:18-25.

The first thing that strikes me is that this is actually a harsh story. This is not a happy story, to start anyway. A young pregnant unwed girl in that time and place was in actual danger. As sadly some are even in our time. How shall society both keep order and help the vulnerable? This is a story of a good man in a broken world who finds …..

a dream

a hope

an angel

a son

a commandment by God

a fulfilling of prophecy

a wife

More?

That’s a lot for a man struggling with a big problem to take in. God turned life around and upside down, for Matthew. [eta to say I meant for Joseph. but of course He turned Matthew’s life around as well eh?]  And for us.

 

FTGOG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interrupted by Poetry

Wait for it

 

He’s going to come again, we can cling to that

But maybe not quite as expected after all

He didn’t come as we wanted the first time.

 

He should come this time with a kiss

Reverse the Judas moment, redeem with gentleness

The whole beautiful terrifying mess here.

 

We’ll hear a click that is a shout of pure joy as

The two realms snap back together

Ceasar’s coin remade, reunited, redeemed

 

The beginning, again, all family again, all

And it will be with a kiss, it will be

A moment a recreation a universe of tenderness

 

FTGOG

Luke 7:18-28

Since my blogging all started with my curiosity and fascination with John the Baptist, I am glad that John has popped backed up in my accidental mini-study of Luke — once again the story of John the Baptist sending his disciples to Jesus to say “are you the one or not”. Since Jesus had cured people, given sight to the blind, raised the dead (for example the widow’s son just prior to this), given the poor good news that they will have justice and mercy, he tells the messengers to tell John what they have seen and heard. I love that Jesus then turns to the crowd — the crowd? since when was there a crowd? And crowds usually signify something “amazing” but misunderstood. This time it is pretty direct and clear:

“When you went out to the wilderness to be baptized by John, did you see a shaking reed, something going along to get along?”

Surely the crowd laughed and shouted no.

“When you went out to the wilderness to be baptized by John, did you see someone rich, lording it over us, having an abundance of luxury?”

Again, surely the crowd laughed and shouted no.

The third time, like a fairy tale, “When you went out to the wilderness to be baptized by John, you went to see a prophet, right?”

This time the crowd shouts yes.

But John the Baptist is more than just-a-prophet. He’s the messenger from God, preparing us for Jesus.

And I’ve been thinking about this, about how much easier it would be to just have John: there would be right. There would be wrong. There would be repentance. There would be a call for justice.

But John himself won’t let us let things be that simple. He isn’t the endpoint — and we’re lucky he isn’t. He is the one pointing to Jesus, who has a far more complex message  in my opinion because love is harder. Love all the way down. Love for everyone. Whew!

Love for the glory of God!

 

 

Luke 7:11-16 and compassion

Following the story of the Centurion’s amazing faith is that of the widow’s son, Luke 7:11-16. Jesus happens upon  the funeral procession of a widow’s only son and he has compassion for her, so he brings the son back to life. This is another really odd puzzle isn’t it?

One year on vacation we did a “Ghost Tour” of the local town and one of the fascinating things we learned was that in the 1800s (at any rate, perhaps every-when and every-where) people didn’t always know for sure when someone was dead. Technically even nowadays, with persistent vegetative states and such, perhaps we modern folks don’t either. But they would at least in some circumstances (according to the Ghost Tour) put a rope in the coffin and the rope was attached to a bell up above ground. If the dead person came back to life after being buried, they would pull the rope and then “be saved by the bell”. Which is where that expression came from.

So this story comes to my mind in reading about the widow’s son — literally a last-minute save, literally life-giving, life-changing. We all know how historically widows were so vulnerable — with her only son dead, she might have been in very poor financial situation.

However I like to think that isn’t why Jesus had compassion on her. I like to think he looked into her heart and knew how much she loved him, her only son. That without him the very air was stale, food was ashes.  Jesus was amazed by faith in the least likely of persons, a Centurion, and not amazed by his power or wealth or status. Likewise I like that he responded just as powerfully to the honest love and grief of a widow of Israel. Recognizing faith and modeling compassion to us.

There’s lots of other things that could be said about this story — including that what follows is back to John the Baptist (we’ll have to compare with the version in Matthew) — but that’s all for now!