Sunday, March 26, 2006

April 2, 2006 - Year B - Lent 5

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:1-12 or Psalm 119:9-16
Hebrews 5:5-10
John 12:20-33

Two ways to refreshment and reorientation: Reapplication of the past and a shift of orientation toward the future. Both can bear much good fruit and when combined offer a quantum leap of presence in an iffy world.

This week count how many changes you ring on the past. This will give you a clue about your ability to not be bound by its tendrils.

This week count how well you are able to live with an ambiguous, guarantee-less future. This will give you a clue about your ability to wait for the prompting of Spirit.


  1. John 12:20-33

    There is quite a pecking order in order to see Jesus - Philip to Andrew and both had to have their respective keys for a nuclear strike order ready to simultaneously see Jesus. This arrangement can be a lens through which to view Jesus' next comments. Note that John records no meeting with the Greeks that started this scene. In fact, Jesus subsequently departs and hides from everyone.

    We could read this, because of the crowd scene mentioned in verse 29, that Philip and the Greeks were on the outer edge of a crowd and the Greeks didn't have a faith that was active enough to push and shove their way to the center, to be with Jesus. Looking for an intermediary that won't require one's life is enough to keep one from life.

    To this end, it would be instructive to put Jesus' words about glory in our own mouths. If this is a teaching for us rather than a self-reflection by Jesus it would begin to give us our daily minimum requirement of brazenness, chutzpah, and active faith. We would be thunderstruck at what was possible for us beyond politely working through butlers like Philip. Thus we would find Jesus' final words here reflective of our life, "While you have the light (active faith), believe (act) in the light, so that you may become children of light."

    This is close to Peter Bohler's advice to John Wesley to, "Preach faith until you have it. And then because you have it you will preach faith." A place to see this at work in denominational advertising is at the United Methodist's Igniting Ministries

  2. Hebrews 5:5-10

    There is an interesting wordplay in verse 8 that links "learning" with "through which he suffered".

    One interest is the picture that Jesus learns. This is different from the eternal, co-creator with God, king of the universe image of Jesus who thus has every situation well-in-hand. One might posit, without having to go to any particular foreign scenario, that the blank places in Jesus' biography are times of learning. This would also account for Jesus' understanding that a key aspect of a coming Holy Spirit would be teaching us that which was too difficult for us up to this point.

    Another interest is re-looking at the issue of suffering to move it away from an immediate connection with pain. It is not the amount of pain that Jesus suffered that makes his life redemptive, but the amount of living and learning that he did. This larger way of looking at the metaphor of suffering is a helpful antidote to overemphasis on the passion of the christ.

    How else might you play, given your particular life experiences, with this wordplay to bring this passage into view?

  3. Psalm 51:1-12 or Psalm 119:9-16

    We cry out for mercy. When asked about a consequence of receiving same it is so easy to start bargaining, talking about works that one will do in response. You give me mercy and I'll do whatever you say. Give me mercy and I'll hedge myself round with the law so I will never have to ask for mercy again.

    The more difficult route is to receive mercy and humbly ask for more. This presumes that there is not a static juridical balance point for blind justice. Receiving mercy is to live boldly again, not to hide away in respectability. Receiving mercy is to pass mercy on, not handy one-liner proverbs or aphorisms. Receiving mercy is to see one's secret heart, to know creation is good, and to experience the spirit of the law. Yes, to be law-observant or dutiful is a minor virtue. To live mercy is the better part of virtue.

    On this last point check out the whole Charles Wesley Hymn based on Psalm 116 or hear a shortened version with music at CyberHymnal.

  4. Jeremiah 31:31-34

    We live in anticipation of a new covenant. One aspect of this is the sense that there is more than what we currently experience. There is a larger vision within which we might better make sense of the present. It is this more-ness that will make a next covenant different than any one or combination of previous covenants.

    A part of the struggle of emergent theologies and communities is to articulate a key element of a next or new covenant. This is something that will coalesce our sense of more-life beyond whatever stage of maturity we currently posit as ours.

    There will be something about this new covenant that will break the barriers we currently affirm, the dilemmas we are currently between. Here it is forgiveness that sets the least and the greatest into a new relationship.

    Today we hear much about an increasing gap between the least and the greatest, economically and in many other ways. Where do you see the fulcrum point to place the lever of your life to again nudge us into new, common relationships? It is at this point that you help the rest of us figure out how to hear a far-off hymn (covenant), pick up its tune and lyric, and join in the singing. Until then we continue to deconstruct the hymns, covenants, scriptures we have used that have gotten us to our current gap.

  5. Hebrews 5:5-10

    Handy mnemonic device - Melchizedek can be sung to the Mickey Mouse Club theme song. Try it, you won't soon forget how to spell it. And . . . forever hold His banner high!

    It seems true that "Christ did not glorify himself in becoming...." Can we leave it there without going on to the High Priest stuff?

    How soon we forget that High Priests have one function and lowly prophets another. My sense is that we need to reclaim Jesus as lowly prophet, remembering the Priestly function is part of what he lived against. To be hung on our walls as a Great High Priest, with all the rest of us being pale imitations, doesn't seem in keeping with the Jesus I hang out with.

    As a lowly prophet Jesus engages our brokenness to shift our focus toward wholeness. This is different than the distance of Priestly perfection that magically, ipso facto and quid pro quo, slips us in to the eternal realm and bars others.

  6. John 12:20-33

    "I have glorified [my being] , and I will glorify it again." So says G*D. This is to be a word for our sake (the crowd).

    Jesus goes on to talk about his death and his presence with the people. It would be very easy to presume that the future glorification is about Jesus' death and judgment.

    We can catch a larger glimpse if this glory has something to do with our lives (including our deaths). G*D intends to be glorified in you and me and we.

    Will we reflect as does Jesus, "Shall I be saved from this glory?" Will we respond in more than words, "No, it is for this I am alive!"

    It is time to turn up the universal Glory rheostat by engaging our lives and loves with the larger life and love of G*D and one another. Enjoy the warmth, we've been too cold for too long.


Thank you for blessing us with your response.