Week of 4/28 – 5/4: John 17:1-11 – Ascension Sunday

Sermon Texts for 5/4/08

John 17:1-11– which includes “That they may be one as we are.” Here, during the Last Supper, Jesus has prayed for our unity , which is part of how Jesus was sent by the Father – in a unity of Father, Son & Spirit. Likewise we are sent in that same unity. How do we pursue unity among ourselves as a part of our witness, and with other Christians, as a part of our witness – Christ ascended and left this work to us in+flesh. Acts 1:6-14: Jesus promises the Spirit, ascends, and the disciples go and wait for God’s next move – in prayer together; 1 Peter 4:12 – 5:11: Suffering for the sake of Christ and the Gospel should be a cause for our glory; The Elders must serve humbly and faithfully; The church must resist the devil – to the end that “after you have suffered for a little while, the god of all grace who has called you into his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.“; Psalm 68:  God lifts up the humble, redeems prisoners, and gives power and strength to his people.

NOTES:
·      This week we begin looking at all 4 lectionary texts. Read them each and listen for what the Lord might be saying to you (us) in the text. Then read the context in the particular book to get a sense of the broader story or argument being made. Then listen for a common theme or spirit that runs through two or more of the texts for the week.
 
Questions for reflection:  
· John 17 – “Protect them…so that they may be one” – Why do we need protection? Because there is a thief, whose “purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.” But, Jesus’ “purpose is to give life in all its fullness” (John 10:10) How do you experience that battle? The need for God’s protection from the ‘thief’, and when have you known the oneness which is the outgrowth and fruit of this protection?
 · Acts 1 – What might it mean in your/our life to wait on the Lord to send a gift to empower and launch a ministry/mission?
 · 1 Peter – Again, a promise of protection & provision
 · Psalm 68 – how often do you praise God for mercy and goodness shown to the poor and oppressed? How are you/we a part of God’s program to bring restoration and relief to those who are under such burdens?
 
PRAYER: God our redeemer and provider, we praise you for your mercy toward those who suffer. May we see the suffering of others as you see it, and long for their wholeness with your heart, and commit ourselves to your service for their sakes. Call to our own hearts and minds where you have saved, redeemed, provided for and  empowered us, and place on our lips a song of praise to your glory. Amen.
Upcoming Texts:
Week of 5/5-5/11:  John 7:37-39; Acts 2:1-21; 1 Cor 12:3-13; Psalm 104:24-35
Week of 5/5-5/11:  Genesis 1:1-4; Psalm 8; Matthew 28:16-20; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Week of 4/14 – 4/20: John 14:1-14

Sermon for 4/20/08

 (To Peter, Jesus said,)1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. 7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”
8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. 12 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.  (NKJV)
 
NOTES:

·      To know Jesus is to know the Father. Jesus is the fullness of what it means to be a human in covenant relationship with the Father. One expression of that relationship will be our own redemptive transforming ministries which will be imbued with guidance and power through prayer.
·      To “ask in my name…” carries the meaning of a servant transacting business on behalf of the master – to only do that which the master would do, in the way that the master would do it. Not acting on one’s own, but as a representative, a surrogate.
·      Hebrews tells us that Jesus is continually interceding for us before the Father (Hebrews 7:25)
 
Questions for reflection:  
·      Notice that Jesus speaks each of these paragraphs to an individual in the presence of the group. What might that mean for our faith lived out in community?
·      What happens in you as you overhear Jesus say to Peter, “Let not your heart be troubled”?
·      When you hear Him say to Thomas, “From now on you know Him and have seen Him”?
·      To Phillip, “Greater works than these, you will do”?
 
PRAYER: Loving Father, revealed to us in Jesus, help us to see you as we listen and look to him. May we find from You peace for our troubled hearts. May we know in our lives with Him the path to You. May we receive with joy and expectation the promise and blessing that we will to great things in Jesus name for Your glory. Amen.
Upcoming Texts:
 
Week of 4/21 – 4/27:  John 14:15 – 21
Week of 4/28 – 5/4:  John 17:1-11

More on John 10:1-10 – Jesus as the Gate

Jesus is the gateway by which we gain access to the Father, and by which the Father makes connection with humanity once for all. As Jesus interacted with the blind man, his own disciples, and the Pharisees though the stories in John 9, we see the Pharisees trying to maintain barriers between people and God. They, as the experts in the Law, seek to exercise authority over people’s lives. Jesus refuses to allow them this privilege. They found their sense of identity in God, for sure, but this they took as an opportunity to deny others the same privilege. This sets them up as the wolves or thieves Jesus describes in John 10.
 
As we go out into the world as followers of Jesus, we are sent by him in the same way that he was sent by the Father (John 20:21). So we go to lead others toward the gate so that they may find hope, peace, mercy and grace, forgiveness – life abundant – like that experienced by the sheep in Psalm 23. Jesus is the passageway through which we travel – later in chapter 14 of John’s gospel Jesus will refer to himself as the way, truth, life – through whom/which we come to the Father. I think it is interesting that he teaches this privately to his disciples, not openly as in the sermon on the mount, or in the temle courtyard.
 
And we go… remembering that Jesus is not the barrier as if like a bouncer at the door, or some kind of test or obstacle course that we must navigate. Jesus is truth and life, which are the way to the Father – all other lies and death lead away from the Father – they are like trying to “climb in by another way” (Jn 10:1). Jesus wants desparately for us to have and share this abundant life. He wants it so much that he was willing to suffer and die rather than turn away from his purpose in God.
 
And he asks us to go with this same kind of commitment and passion. What else can it mean when he says: ‘take up your cross and follow me.'(Mr 8:34-35) In so doing, we die to self – to our own self will, desires, wants, and even perceived needs. We die to self that Christ might live in us in the world – that he might be incarnate – in+flesh – again.
 
We pass through Jesus, in and out (Jn 10:9) – moving through cycles of rest and action, feeding and serving, solitude and community. This is about abiding, dwelling, staying. Too often we treat Christian faith like buying an open train ticket that we can use anytime. In truth, Christian faith is getting on the train now, traveling wherever it takes us, and ministering to/with everyone we meet along the way. We can not know Jesus as the Shepherd, or the Gate, unless we spend much time listening to what he says, learning to discern his voice from the others around us – sometimes we must listen very closely. At times we may mis-hear and need to be rescued – to admit that we need help from those who can lead us back to/through him.
 
How then, to develop this abiding/dwelling/staying in Jesus? How to live and teach Christian Spiritual Formation and Theological Reflection in this crazy hectic distracting broken world? How to see and participate in what God is doing – for surely God is up to something! What does Christian Spirituality look like in a suburban context? is it different from Urban or Rural settings? Is it expressed differently in this limbo-age where Modernism is passing away and Post-modernisms are emerging? Can a local congregation become a center for Christian Spiritual Formation in a Suburban Context – a Center for Suburban Spirituality? And if so, how?

Week of 4/7 – 4/13: John 10:1-10

Sermon for 4/13/08

1 “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7 So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.   (NRSV)

NOTES:
·               The gate is an opening – not a barrier. The gate provides access, not prevents it.
 
Questions for reflection:  
·               Who is the Gate? The Gate Keeper? The sheep? What is the Sheepfold?
·               How are we like sheep with a shepherd? How do the sheep learn to, “know his voice…” v4?
·               What does ‘come in and go out and find pasture’ represent in our lives?
·               “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Steal what? Kill what? Destroy what?
·               I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly.” How much of Christian faith, and the world’s encounter with Christians and Church communicates the idea of abundant life (notice, not wealthy, prosperous, rich, etc.. but abundant!)
·               What does it mean for us to be sent by Christ as he was sent by the Father ‘so that they may have abundant life’ in+flesh.
 
PRAYER: God who calls us and welcomes us, we praise you today. Enable us to hear you and none other. As we enter through the Gate, teach us to humbly lead others through, not as the source, but as travelers, as sheep seeking shelter, food & water – life abundant. Amen.
Upcoming Texts:
 
Week of 4/14 – 4/20:  John 14:1-14
Week of 4/21-4/27:  John 14:1-14; 20:19-23

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
NAS Verse Count: Greek Word: Quvra ~ Transliterated Word: thura
  1. a door
    1. the vestibule
    2. used of any opening like a door, an entrance, way or passage into
    3. in a parable or metaphor
      1. the door through which sheep go in and out, the name of him who brings salvation to those who follow his guidance
      2. “an open door” is used of the opportunity of doing something
      3. the door of the kingdom of heaven (likened to a palace) denotes the conditions which must be complied with in order to be received into the kingdom of God
 

Spiritual Formation in the Local Congregation – A Model for Theological Integration and Prayerful Reflection

There seems to be a convergence of ideas and experiences in my ministry around this notion of congregationally based Spiritual Formation:
  1. Since my own seminary experience (1992-1996), I have longed to be part of a congregation that facilitated deep theological reflection for those who seek it – without scaring those who don’t.
  2. CPE (1995-1996) helped reinforce the Action/Reflection model of Spiritual Formation and Theological Integration
  3. Teaching @ Jarvis and Kilgore (1998-2001) gave me some experience with this kind of teaching.
  4. Coversations with John Moore (1998-2001) about ‘Chat-room Sunday School’ were based upon this goal.
  5. Pastoral Care Specialist training (2003-04) and ongoing dialogue around Family Systems Thinking (here’s a summary).
  6. Pursuing opportunities at FGCC to ‘nurture’ spiritual leaders since moving to Allen: Pam, Tyler, Andrew, Elders, Dena, Sandra, Shirley,
  7. NTA Committee on the Ministry
  8. Barnabas Coaching of New Church Planters
  9. Broader interest in Coaching as a model for leadership formation
  10. My own spiritual renewal which began in earnest early in 2007.
  11. The increase of ‘spiritual formation’ activities at FGCC – multiple worship opportunities, adult bible study opportunities, prayer times – and increased conversation and active participation in prayer among leadership – Board, Elders, Deacons, Ministry Council & Staff
So, now I think about my own ministry focus, and how to support this work through times of study and reflection. What are the best ways to continue to develop and to support FGCC and our broader community to develop in these areas.
What might it mean for FGCC to become a small, humble center of Prayerful Reflection and Theological Integration – where people can “be still than know that [God is] God,” and can then ask, “where is God in this situation, and what is God asking of me/us?”
These two goals are at the heart of Spiritual Formation in any setting, but particularly in the life of a local congregation – this is perhaps the primary reason why local congregations exist – to do this work.

Community and Incarnation

The community
  of knowing in common
is the seed
  of our life in this place.
 
There is not only no
better possibility, there is no
other, except for
chaos and darkness, the terrible ground of 
the only possible new start.
     From Wendell Berry, “A Country Funeral“, 1973

“The community of knowing in common is the seed of our life in this place.” Berry suggests here that there is some kind of common knowledge, a community mind or conscience and consciousness (not to be confused with ‘group-think’). As a pastor, and one actively on a spiritual quest into the center of my being, which is God, I hear Berry saying that in relationship with those of my community (congregation, family, neighborhood, city) will be found the touchstones that connect me to my source, that in fact become the seeds or sources of my life. How many of us can tell a story about going off on a journey ‘to find myself’ only to return empty handed and discover that ‘my self was right here, waiting for my return.’
How will I hear God call me into relationship with this community. The more I pray I find peace and freedom to be still, be myself, not answer or add to every conversation, to leave room for others. I imagine that my own desire to be liked has forced behavior so as to create a positive answer to my inner longing, “I wonder if they’ll like me…” When in truth, as I free myself to say, “God loves them. Dear God, teach me to love them as You love them,” there will I find my own wholeness – there will I find the seeds of my life. Right here, right now – not ‘out there’ somewhere.
This is one of the mysteries of Incarnation – in+flesh.