Category Archives: Gospel of John
The gift(s) of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2.1-4; Galatians 4.1-7, 5.16-26; Luke 11.11-13) [Pentecost sermon 2017]2
May 31, 2017 by jmar198013
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March 8, 2017 by jmar198013
The story of this fig tree receiving special attention—extravagant mercy and generosity—calls us all to see ourselves as that tree. Like Jesus said elsewhere: “Much will be demanded from everyone who has been given much.” We’ve been given much. Maybe we need to see a warning hidden in all our blessings: a judgment is coming if we don’t bear fruit worthy of repentance.
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November 10, 2016 by jmar198013
Like Isaiah, we live in unsettled and unsettling times. Things are changing, which is a constant in our world. But so many feel left behind. Lost. Unheard. Many are afraid of what the future holds for them, if anything. Many live in despair. In fear. In rage. In confusion. We also live in a time when so many unclean lips go unchecked, and the words they speak do real harm. We are surrounded by the walking wounded. In such a time, may we be people with clean lips. God needs us to be his lips, to speak words of hope, comfort, and healing to our wounded neighbors. To use our words to build others up, not tear them down.
God’s invitation extends to us, from Isaiah’s day to our own: “Whom should I send, and who will go for us?”
May you and I—all of us—respond as Isaiah did: “I’m here; send me.”
June 29, 2016 by jmar198013
After Job lost everything in a single day–his flocks, his herds, his household servants, and all ten of his children–he famously uttered these words: “The LORD has given. The LORD has taken. Bless the LORD’s name.” These words have become a classic expression of piety; a source of comfort for people suffering inexplicable evil; and even popular hymnody.
But what if Job was wrong? Or at least, only half-right? And what if it’s okay that Job was wrong? Furthermore, what if the person telling the story wants us to know that Job is wrong?
What if it wasn’t the LORD who took?
May 21, 2016 by jmar198013
God has called the church to be communities of comfort. In our day and time, we might mistake that to mean a community where we are made comfortable. A gated community where everyone is making a comfortable living. And we all come home to the latest and best creature comforts. And if anything we’ve experienced that day has made us uncomfortable, we can smother it in comfort food. The problem with that idea of comfort is that it makes us ignore or bury our own troubles and suffering. And soon enough, we will also be ignoring or minimizing the troubles and sufferings of our neighbors.
The comfort Paul talks about in our reading today doesn’t end with us. It’s not a vaccine against suffering. It doesn’t blind us to someone else’s troubles, or deafen us to their cries. No, the comfort Paul wrote about comes through “Christ’s sufferings,” and from the “compassionate Father.” The basis is suffering and compassion. Fred Buechner said that “compassion is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.” The comfort that comes to us from the compassionate Father through the suffering Son makes us unable to ignore someone else’s troubles or sorrows. Remember, “God comforts us in all our trouble so that we can comfort other people who are in every kind of trouble.”
If you have received comfort that doesn’t move you to reach out to someone else, you may not have received that comfort from God.
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May 2, 2016 by jmar198013
What Jesus desires the world to see in the lives of his people is the love of God the Father. He prays to Father God that when the world sees us bound together in one heart and mind, “then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.”
It is not enough for the world to believe that a God, or God in general, sent Jesus. The problem is, as Jesus says, that the world has never known his Righteous Father.
Even God’s people have often fallen into the trap of believing in—and worshiping—a God who turns out upon closer examination to have been made in our image. A God who is nothing but a projection of how we would rule the world if we were still us, but really, really big, and with superpowers.
But that’s not the God Jesus wants the world to believe sent him. Jesus wants the world to believe that HIS FATHER sent him.
The cross shows us a God whose power is made perfect in the weakness of his crucified Son.
Father God is saying, through the cross and resurrection of his Son: “The world condemns and kills. The world makes crosses, and nails victims to them. That’s because the world doesn’t know me! I am not-the-world. I suffer with the condemned and humiliated. I raise up the victims. I break the power of crosses.”