Three recent sermons

June 30

Luke 9:51-62  “Follow me.”

“I’m following Jesus.” Yes, and when I am rejected for ethnic or religious reasons, do I feel to call down fire on the offender? Or am I of the spirit of a crusader to bloody the streets of God’s holy city? Is this the spirit of discipleship? And where in the following is the comfort of home for Jesus, who speaks of the better abiding of foxes, who have holes, and birds of the air who have nests? Want to live like that? Jesus had nowhere to return, that he may lay down his head. And what is the obligation of the following, of discipleship? Of course, there are family obligations. Father is ailing, as some say, finally buying the farm, forty acres in heaven. To bury the father is the final, irrevocable obligation of the first son. He must wait, neither to hurry nor restrain, what must come. And the son is in the front yard getting some air, trying to find perspective, the soon new owner of all family obligations. And comes along Jesus, and the twelve, and, well, you can smell them – barefoot, no sticks, or loaves and fish, one baggy, some ragged caftan each. Jesus headed for Jerusalem and death, through the dim underworld of Sheol, to the glory of the Creator before creation. There is a wave of invisible, high resonance magnetism, pervading and embodying power of the Spirit, Jesus walking near. And if you want to go with him, you go his way to where he is going. And Jesus says, over the fence, “Follow me.” That’s all, “Follow me.” Purely personal, since there is no advantage in the world, as Jesus will be soon executed, and his disciples made outlaws. But then, this radiance of love, freedom, immaculate courage of conviction, utter non-violence, engrossing, magnetic attraction, a man of faith walking by. But the man resists, “Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.” Give it time. There are obligations that a son must meet. And the son of God, says, “Let the dead bury their dead. But go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” The kingdom of God is all life. Death has no dominion there. To be sold out to obligations required by death is to be subject to death’s rule. Go, preach that with God there is no death. Yes, a heart rending dilemma. “Follow me, it’s me or the world.”

Jesus walks on toward Jerusalem, and a man is traveling home to Capernaum. Jesus says, “Follow me.” But the man feels he must return to explain himself, that he has decided to go through poverty to death, with a man who says there is no death in God where we are, in the Kingdom of the Spirit. And Jesus is saying, it is like farming, keep the furrows straight, and every thing, seed, soil, sun, water, must serve the purpose to feed. Not where you are coming from, but where you are going, from need to abundance, is all the work. “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” But, Lord, we remember. “Well, there is no need to remember eternity. Follow me.”

A picture you see of discipleship. It is not following in the sense of, “I believe in the teachings of Jesus as a guide for life.” For then on could ask, “Yes, and to what do you give authority in your life, and how do you feel when that is in weal or woe, waxing or waning in that?” I want to be very mindful of what I intend if I say “I follow Jesus.”

         We might want to know the way of a pure discipleship. It is to never lose sight of the master. It is to hold the master as both mother and father of body, soul, and destiny. The commanding desire of discipleship is to be as the master. Now prophets have disciples, and prophets are people who have no top to their heads. Their heads are open to heaven, and so they do not fit in very well. Israeli prophets of Jesus time stayed off by themselves in close knit enclaves, if not alone, and communed with the Spirit, and were lean, and fierce, and apocalyptic. John the Baptizer, we remember, at grasshoppers grilled over a thorn bush fire, and dipped in wild honey in the desert.  If prophets did not have psychic, and life restoring powers to command the natural order, all their social oddity would be off putting. Because of their mentality and alienated life style, there was no way back into the normal, real estate culture. And the master constantly tests a disciple’s integrity in the life and death way of speaking God’s word. As Elijah tested when he commanded Elisha to go away from him, for the LORD has sent Elijah to Jordan. “Stay here. I am going down to the river.” Elisha says, in disobedience to command, but in strict obedience to discipleship, “As the LORD lives, and as thy soul lives, I will not leave thee.” Realities of absolute integrity to swear by. Elijah wears a cape. He takes it off, rolls it up, and smites the Jordan waters, and, as the waters parted to give the children of Israel a dry shod way into the Promised Land, so now the waters parted for the prophet and his disciple to cross dry shod out of Israel. Of course, beyond the Jordan is enemy territory. Elijah says to Elisha, “What shall I do for thee before I be taken from thee?” Elisha says, “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” The double portion, as Joseph gave to Benjamin, his younger brother, at the feast in the house of Pharaoh. A double portion of Elijah’s spirit, that Elisha may be over full of his master. A double portion of the Spirit of the LORD, the Lord of Hosts, the God of mercy and blessing for the faithful, and war upon the people of other gods. Elijah says, “If you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so, but if not, it shall not be so.” And then a host of the LORD, a fiery horse and chariot, separates them, and Elijah mounts the chariot and goes up, a charioteer in the armies of fire. Yes, the fiery hosts of the LORD, in ultimate dominance of the lands beyond Jordan.  And Elisha went back, smacking the Jordan once again, saying, with bold presumption, “Where is the LORD, God of Elijah?” And the waters parted. Then, though we have not read, “The sons of the prophets saw him and said, ‘The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha.’ And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.” That is the offer and fulfillment of the desire, dedication, and courage of discipleship amongst Israel’s prophets.

         And so it may be that we would look to our destiny in Jesus’ discipleship, that we would be as the master. All right, so here is the whole source, and purpose, power and mission of the following of Jesus, a path that liberates from death: “Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also being baptized and praying, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, “Thou art my beloved Son. In thee I am well pleased.” The baptism of Jesus, who is empowered to fill those who trust their lives to him with the Holy Spirit, for discipleship in the Kingdom of God.

Amen.

 

June 2

John 17:20-26 Mystery       

         There is surely ice on Mars. I do not suppose it is free of grit, all that red dust about. And the great gossip is, if there is ice, there must have been water. And without water there is no life, so life on Mars. Water is the first and last gift. For the body, planet water. For the soul, heavenly water. When the time comes for war over planet water, our need will be greatest for heavenly water, so we can get along together with what we have. Now what the Bible says is that it is fortunate to be thirsty for heavenly water, since it is freely offered. “Let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.” Now that is an interesting way to arrange priorities. And how is that?

         Jesus prays for his disciples the Water of Life. Living water, in the vision of John, flowing out from the throne of God and the Lamb, from between the roots of the Tree of Life. Jesus is praying for his disciples that they would receive what he thirsts for, union of divine and human in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, the life of resurrection. Jesus is praying that the gift of the Water of Life be given to his disciples. And the effect will radically rearrange their priorities. It is so, “That they may be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us. So that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Jesus prays that the disciples would be united as the union of Father and Son. That unity is to be the sign in the world that Jesus was sent by his Father, so the world would know that the disciples are loved as Jesus is by his Father. I mean, what would we think, a dozen people together united in, and so magnifying, the love radiance of the presence of God? And that is what “church” means, the revelation of the love of God for Jesus in the world?

         And the Father’s love for Jesus, how is that? Jesus prays for his disciples, “Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” The Father loved Jesus “before the foundation of the world,” yes, when there was nothing but God. That is, crudely speaking, the place of the infinite glory, the self-aware potency, to manifest infinite universes. Jesus prays the disciples “may be with me where I am to see my glory.” This means that, eternally, before creation, the Father loves Jesus. That is where Jesus abides, and would unite with his disciples, “where I am, to see my glory.” This is the glory of Jesus loved in his Father when there was nothing but God. And that very infinite power, the glory of the Creator, Jesus will give to his disciples, “so that they may be one, as we are, I in them and you in me.” This is the gift of Living Water, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the power of creation forming life everywhere, always.

         Now we must pause and consider. There is risky business here. Some one says, “God said to me, and I stand on his personal word.” And another says, “Who is God?” And then, “You wouldn’t know, all locked up in the mind of the world.” Now there’s an uncongenial moment. And then some serious concern arises, when that God knower has followers, who know they are not of the world in obligation, because they follow her or him. They stand apart in purity of righteousness, on a spiritual eminence. Of course, that goes on all the time, a kind of irrepressible scandal in the life of Christianity, a whole passel of fracture over money, political primacy, Bible, creeds, and idols, the ordained and saints, and war conducted at the foot of the Cross. Wars of the politics of righteousness.

So it would be good to have a means of verification by which I could know this, whatever, some one’s God. Some way, in Jesus terms, “…so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” A way that Jesus, and his Father’s love, may fill the soul and mind and body. That is, the glory of the love that is the power of creating, may be in them. So, here is the way to know what the God knower knows. Jesus prays, “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known.” Knowing the name of the Father is the channel for the Father’s love for Jesus, to be in the disciples. This is the secret of the spiritual process of discipleship, knowing the name of God. And this is where Jesus draws the veil. We are not told the name. But what would be the worth of a spiritual master who could not offer a way to receiving the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit?

But, again, the mystery of knowing the name of God, opened to a select few, carries with it the curse of exclusion. For if this is the way of spiritual realization, Jesus making known the name of the Father, and some receive that, and some not, then why? Especially since, for some, the doctrine may be that only those who know the name of his Father who are of Jesus, the Christians indeed. Why not me as much as any other, and how were they selected? I don’t know. It may depend somewhat on what we want and need. Or on what we are willing to take the risk of having. Winning the lottery for scads of millions is a risk, but likely not so much of a risk as receiving, “…the glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one, as we, Father, are one.” Or that is our very desire and need, somehow, that glory. Whatever that is, my desire, not knowing the consequences. The biblical image of the assurance of “saved by glory,” is the timeless offer, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let those that hear say, Come. And let whoever thirsts, come. And whosoever will, let them take the water of life freely.” And if we do, know in ourselves, and only for ourselves, that our heart’s desire has been fulfilled, a desire that urged, but was not understood. And thus, as consequence, we have been offered as Jesus was offered for the Glory of God. The fulfillment of a compelling thirst we could not name.

Amen.    

 

May 26

John 14:23-29 Rejoice

         What do we read in the Psalm? Is it possible, and for what are we asking? The word is, “The earth has brought forth her increase. May God, our own God, give us his blessing.” It is all, what we are and what we have done, all increase of the earth. We are an increase of the earth, and the earth balances increase and decrease. And the earth is more concerned with the balance than what is in the scales. And, “May God, our own God, give us his blessing.” Why? So we feel good about ourselves, protected and saved, righteous in war and famine and poverty, and yet suspecting that in twenty years, Missouri will be a desert? But why should we desire God’s blessing, the blessing of our God? For what?

         There was a great theologian of the fourth Century Church, Cyprian of Antioch, and he said, as I remember, something we might think bizarre. He said, “God rules with Jesus in his right hand and Satan in his left.” The meaning is there is nothing outside the rule of God, whether we would judge good or bad for us. The earth has brought forth her increase, and God manages with forces of birth and death, formation and destruction, elevation and fall, ever coming to be and passing away. God’s management is the way the increase of the earth burgeons forth, through billions of turns about the sun.

The Psalm we have prayed is about tithing the harvest. So consider that we come along, and want a blessing at harvest time, bringing before God a tithe of human culture, from Grandmother Lucy three million years on down. The increase we have brought forth of the earth, as we are of the earth. Bless us for more of the same. Maybe. Probably not.

         The biblical understanding of human being is that we are capable of heaven. Or, better, we can be transmuted to resurrection, an utterly God serving self-life after bodily death. That we have capacity as beings for a nearness to God, to be God-full, and offer God-presence, and do God things, like manage the balance. That is, we may best and most powerfully live in a divine ecology, a realm transcendent to the increase of the earth. Think again, about John’s vision on the Isle of Patmos. He has seen in vision the earth and heavens pass away. Then, carried away in the spirit to a great high mountain, he sees, “The New Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God. Having the glory of God, and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal…and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein. For the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of sun, neither of the moon to shine in it. For the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof.” Apparently an ecology that would suit us, a life capacity and world most natural to us. The capacity for that, as a human being, we presently carry within ourselves. And if the realm all through is clear as crystal, and the street is of pure gold, transparent as glass, how shall we be, as the increase, of the New Jerusalem? And what’s the ticket that would arouse and empower that capacity to be there, nourished by the river of crystal water that flows out from the roots of the Tree of Life?

         This is it: Jesus said, “If you love me…” Agapay, if you would be one with me, I in thee, and thou in me – love such as that. And then what? “You will keep my word.” Loving Jesus empowers fulfilling his word to us. And the word of Jesus is spoken through him by his Father, a clean prophetic channel of Spirit. Love Jesus to receive power to keep God’s word. And that power comes of nearness with God, for “…those my Father will love, and we will come unto them, and make our abode with them.” And we hear this echo from the vision of John, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with humans, and God will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and he shall be their God.”

Then Jesus tells them he is going away. So how love him? His Father will send the Holy Spirit, who will give witness to the name of Jesus, as the full promise of freedom from death. And the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, will enliven the disciples, bringing, “…all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” Bringing, for instance, the Gospel of John to his remembrance. Remembering, “If you love me, you will keep my word.” And he is going away to die, murdered for sedition and blasphemy.

There is the great spiritual challenge of faith. Who are we loving, such a one to live and die as Jesus? Who would the disciples grieve for? Their faith is to love him, and so come to be with him, of one offering by the Spirit for liberation of the full spiritual destiny of human being. Coming to be, as disciples, of one offering with the slain lamb from whom shines the light of the Holy City. And if our faith is like that for love of Jesus, then the Creator and Jesus will love us, and abide with us. And that seems good, being as it is, that the love of Jesus is the purest form of love, that itself, is God’s presence.

And so Jesus leaves a spiritual gift with his disciples, fearful, and with troubled hearts. He gives them his peace. In the world we might be sure that being bound, abused, tortured and crucified would disturb one’s peace. But it seems Jesus realized the power of resurrection to glorify his Father as the whole truth of his being, so that he remained on a rock of peace through the violence. So he loved his Father. Jesus gives his disciples that peace, for as he goes, so they will also go, carrying a cross as they already are. But further, not just that Jesus is going away, will die, and mark their destiny for violence. But this: “I go away, and come again unto you.” How? Because he is going to his Father, going from the lesser, the Man from Galilee, to the greater, the Creator. That expansion of personhood bears fruit as resurrection. So rejoice. The Holy Spirit will come, Jesus promises, and I, and my name, shall be manifest, and I will be with you as resurrection. Those are the words, Jesus said, and, “I have told you before it comes to pass, that when it is come to pass, you might believe.” Yes, thank you, Lord.

Amen.

May 19

John 13:31-35 God World

Jesus calls his disciples, “little children.” How charming, endearing, gentle and undemanding. No, not the right tone. “Little children” means of the disciples, they are just beginning to understand. They are not mature enough to know and serve as they are called to do. They cannot understand that soon, the bread that they break will be body of Jesus, and the wine they share will be the blood of Jesus. Cannot yet put that together. Jesus often asked, “Do you have ears to hear?” He is listening for how we respond to know how well or dimly we see the Kingdom of God. To see, to realize, not merely give some meaning to the words. It sounds fine, a good guide line – Jesus said, “Love one another as I love you.” But the disciples are “little children” at that.

We must be clear – “As” I have loved you. Not “like.” “As I have loved you, ye also should love one another.” We are not to imitate something, but to do it of the wakefullness, the energy, the intelligence, of his heart and mind. Now there I feel myself a little child. I do not understand how I am to love as he loves. Yet, if I am to be known as his disciple, I must, someway, come to do as my master does. But, of course, the master chooses the disciples, and takes responsibility for their waking up in the Kingdom of God. That promises help.

Here is an example of how Jesus helps maturing in the way of love, an unconditional love unqualified by identity, wealth or power. Or “…what God has sanctified, do not call that worthless.”  Peter, led by the Spirit, goes to Roman soldiers. Their commanding officer was told by and angel, to call Peter to speak. Peter has resisted in the same way that he would not eat pork. So Peter speaks to an unclean lot of gentiles who have heard that when he speaks, they will be freed from death. Peter speaks of the death of Jesus to cleanse from sin, and immediately then, the Holy Spirit falls and fills them.

 Peter reports his to the elders in Jerusalem, confessing, “as the Holy Spirit fell on us at the beginning.” That is, when they, the disciples, were yet “little children” in their God-awareness, at their beginning, when the Holy Spirit fell on them. Peter speaking remembers Jesus said, “John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Jesus would baptize them that their eyes may be opened to see and know him as he is. They did not realize his truth until Pentecost, not on their shared way to the Cross. Baptism is initiation to be learners by the Holy Spirit. That is a gift disciples receive so that they may see the reality of Jesus. And that is all there is to school, so realize, finally, the actuality of Jesus. And in so knowing, to be that, to love as he loves. Peter saw God give this gift, the gift that gave birth to the liberating faith of Jesus, to unclean Gentiles. God gave them his best love gift. And Peter said, “What am I to stand against God?”

Now Peter had reported all this to the elders in Jerusalem, who lost all prejudice. “And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.’” God has granted them a turning unto life. The gift of the Holy Spirit is to turn us unto life. The whole curriculum of salvation, a repentance, is a turning unto life. Who receives the gift that teaches and guides the turn? And what form will expression of the gift take? It may seem decent, indecent, recent, orthodox or decadent, all that at times. But this must be important, here, in the matter of discipleship. Because the fullness of discipleship is to love as Jesus loves through the awakening power of the Holy Spirit. The gift for the turning unto life – what might be the experience and fruit of that?

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth were passed away. And there was no more sea.” John sees new heaven and earth, still a heaven and earth, but new. And the chasmic sea of the first creation is no more. For the Spirit does not hover over the waters, but is all the radiance and life of the new creation. And the new, to the eyes of John wrapt and entranced in the Holy Spirit, is “…a holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” This is the tent, the tabernacle of God, living within the Bride, the Holy City. John is seeing in the Holy Spirit this city, as described, a cube 1330 miles to the side of transparent gold, radiant with the splendor of God cast every where through the lamb that was slain, the lamp of God. This is the city of love power, their God dwelling with the people. And they have come out of suffering, death and grief. But, “God will wipe away their tears, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, nor pain.” For all of the old earth and heavens, and their ways of death, grief and pain, is no more. John realizes in a vision a fulfilled turning to life, of dwelling with God in the God world, where the point is not who we are, but to free from suffering and death by God’s life.

It is a vision of the reality Jesus was sent to empower, a revelation of the truth of creation. Jesus exercises universal compassion by birthing disciples anywhere at any time by the Holy Spirit. And awakening them to realize heaven and earth as God’s tabernacle, to see that all is ever new. And how might we come to that? “He that sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And he said unto me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’ And he said unto me, it is done. ‘I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto those that thirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.’” The one who makes all things new, who is very truth, who is the beginning and end, names the primary gift of divine mission. From the fountain of the water of life springs the living water of the Holy Spirit. That is the gift for those that thirst, the gift of the water of life springing up in the new creation. Drink it now, and, as John says, “Now are we children of God. It does not yet appear what we shall be. But we know that when he shall appear, we shall be as he is, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone that has this hope is purified to his purity.”

 

Amen.