Pastor Phil

Wine and Whips!

You missed church on Sunday…we were closed for the big storm that wasn’t…it was miserable Saturday and Sunday, that’s for sure.

So what do you do with a sermon that was never preached? We didn’t have worship on Sunday morning, maybe it was supposed to be that way, especially with a sermon entitled, “Wine and Whips”

This past Sunday we were going to focus on Jesus first miracle in the gospel of John.  John is a metaphorical or spiritual gospel.  The author is trying to make a confession of who he understands Jesus to be.  Be very careful of taking everything in this Gospel literally.  Jesus dies before Passover in the gospel of John.  In Mathew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus has the last supper with his disciples in the upper room as they celebrate Passover together.  In John Jesus dies before Passover.  (John 13:1, 18:28, 19:14, 31, 42).  The reason?  John likes to think of Jesus as the Passover Lamb (John 1:29), and what did the Jews do on the day before the Passover, the day of Preparation…they killed the lamb to prepare for the Passover feast the next day.  In John’s gospel Jesus dies before the Passover.

While I’m at it, look at the last meal with the disciples beginning with the oldest written gospel, Mark.  Mark uses 11 verses to describe this last meal, Mk 14:12-25; next written, Matthew uses 12 verses, Mt 26:17-29, and Luke last written of the three, uses 13 verses, Lk 22:7-20.  John blows them away!  John needs 5 chapters to explain the last meal with the disciples, John 13:1-17:26.

Something crazy is going on in John.  I love his metaphorical/spiritual nature because he exposes a truth that facts can’t discover.  There is not one parable in John, some believe that the whole gospel might be a parable……(I’ll save that for another day), and Doubting Thomas found only in the gospel of John.  I could go on and on about the uniqueness of John’s gospel.

Jesus first miracle in John is recorded only there.  No other gospel records it.  It is the wedding at Cana, when Jesus turns a huge amount of water, like 50 gallons, into wine. (John 2:1-11)  Better yet, it’s a really great vintage.  In order to understand what John is doing you have to understand that a big party, a banquet, was a symbolic concept for ancient Israel in which they would be restored to prominence and peace and in some cases, not only them, but with all other peoples of the world.  It was the “party” that we all would hope for when we can put down guns and take up peace.  A time in which we don’t see difference as division but embrace it as evidence of the uniqueness of how God made us.  This party metaphor is worthy to hope for, then, as well as it is today.

Isaiah 25:6 (NRSV)
6  On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.

Isaiah 55:1-2 (NRSV)
1  Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
2  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.

Joel 2:24-26 (NRSV)
24  The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.  25  I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you.  26  You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.

This party theme is picked up in the New Testament as well.  Many believe that John is using the miracle at Cana as a story that claims Jesus to be the one who ushers in such a glorious time.  All will be filled and satisfied.  John is building upon the imagery of the Old Testament.  John believes that the time has come in which God will bless people, through Jesus.  This blessing will come through who Jesus was and what Jesus taught and did.

Check out what Jesus does next….the wedding at Cana is followed by Jesus making “a Whip of Cords”. (John 2:13)  The next story following this banquet feast is far from a celebration.  I guess for some it would be…..Jesus enters the temple and makes a whip of cords and drives out the money changers.  Jesus brings about change and transformation.  Although some will celebrate, others, who have made religion into a market place to exploit people, will be disappointed.

Jesus goes from wine to whips in a matter of a few verses.  Changes are about to happen, if this new era, this “Party” is to be ushered in.  Jesus starts at the top…changing religious practices because he believes that the temple belongs to God and all people.  God is the father of all people, not only the Jews, or the rich, not only those who sacrifice, but all people, the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, doubting Thomas, Nicodemus, (all figures that appear only one place in the Bible, in the Gospel of John)

Are you regretting the religious past of yesterday, or joining in the celebration open to all people….ALL PEOPLE.

 

 

September 4, 1752 never existed!

It’s not only September 4, it’s the 3-13th of September 1752!  Those dates do not exist.  The British Empire was slow to synchronize their calendar with large parts of the western culture into one unified Gregorian Calendar.  Certain countries resisted this needed change into the 20th Century.  Why did this correction need to happen?  Our first estimates of the orbit of the earth around the sun was accurate but not precise.  A year is not actually 365 days per year, it’s 365 ¼ days, that is why every 4 years we have a leap year, in order to add that extra day.  Actually 365 ¼ is not correct either!  Did you know leap year does not occur every 4 years?  In order to correct for the precise measurement of the earth’s orbit around the sun, all century dates do not include a leap year, except those century dates that are divisible by 400.  1600CE was a leap year.  1700 no leap year, it’s not divisible by 400.  1800, no leap year.  2000 yes, I remember that leap year, it is divisible by 400.

Adopting a new calendar is not easy.  The world resisted.  On February 24, 1582, Pope Gregory XIII instituted the change from Julian to Gregorian, sometimes known as the Christian calendar.  This was after the Reformation.  Britain due to its infancy in its own new Christian Tradition, the Anglican Tradition, was not excited to listen to the Pope, and did not relent until 1707.  Russia finally gave way in the 1920’s.

As we start celebrating Epiphany and the star over Bethlehem, I think of the magi, wise men, or the kings.  Best guess, they were probably Babylonian Astrologers, educated in reading the stars, moon, and sun.  I am amazed by ancient people and their ability to read the stars and sun, and then figuring out that the Earth’s orbit is approximately 365 ¼ days.  The Julian calendar, named after Julius Caesar, added leap year around 40BCE.  The Egyptian Astronomer, Sosigenes who influenced Caesar, miscalculate the orbit of the earth by 11 minutes and 14 seconds.  Still EXCELLENT for BCE!

Over the Centuries, our calendars multiplied this 11 minutes and 14 seconds, each year, year after year, and soon the solar calendar did not match the Julian calendar and things needed to change.  Not everyone accepted this.  Change was slow.

I can only imagine those innovators who discover something…the length of the orbit of the earth, that the earth is not the center of the universe, the spiral helix of DNA, the colors of the spectrum, incandescent light bulbs to LED’s, from transistors to computer chips …so many discoveries.  How excited these innovators must have been with their discovery.  Discoveries can be concepts too, not provable by science but a step in the evolutionary cycle of life.  Moving from a Kingdom to a Democracy, ingenious, from eye for an eye to turning the other cheek, from a God of fire and brimstone to a God of love, from smoking aiding one’s health to smoking being a cancer risk.  Changes are always occurring in science and faith.  Some people jump at new ideas, new theology, others resist.  It’s true with nations, communities and individuals.

In this New Year do you need to embrace a healthy new theology that supports life, encourages questions and struggle?  Do you need to embrace Jesus’ teachings rather than what the church teaches through creeds and dogmas….It may not come quickly!  I find the Bible’s written documents, poems, letters, confessions, songs….all types of literature, reflecting someone’s EPIPHANY.  Someone understood a new mystery that illuminated their walk of faith, and wanted to share that with others, so they wrote it down.  I am so grateful for the Christian Bible.  It is a witness of people who took the tradition they received, and build upon it.  Our traditional interpretations of scripture are not GOD!  Let us not idolize “our interpretation”, or our “tradition of interpretation”, but instead use them as a spring board to move forward in our journey.  The living word of God revealed to us through a variety of means, for me, especially scripture, but also reason, experience, revelation, and tradition, challenges me to continue to evolve into the likeness of Jesus.

Change can come slowly for some; others see the light and jump!  Jumping didn’t happen on September 4, 1752 in England for sure.

How does God Provide?

It flows from the lips of a variety of religious people, “Don’t worry, God will provide.”  Really…Just how does that happen?

I’m perplexed by people who understand God actively making thing happen in our world.  Is God reaching down and moving a Pawn or a Knight, as if life were a chess game?  I am aware that the Bible often speaks of a very interventionist God.  My personal favorite story has God lengthening a day so that the Israelites would have more sunshine to kill their enemies in battle.

Joshua 10:12-14 (NRSV) 12 On the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to the LORD; and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.” 13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in midheaven, and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. 14 There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded a human voice; for the LORD fought for Israel.

Wow, did you miss this story in Sunday School?  The story of God giving more sunshine so there would be more time to kill people!  Do you believe in such an interventionist God?  Some Christians assume prayer works this way.  Ask God for what you want and “poof”…it happens.  Many faithful loving people, pray and pray, for healing and it never happens, while others who don’t believe in God get cured of cancer…Just how does God provide?  How does God intervene?  Does God intervene?

This past Sunday the first Sunday of Advent I embraced Jesus’ works from Luke that “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but not his words” (Luke 21:33)  Jesus’ words are eternal!  Can God provide for humanity through the words of Jesus?

Absolutely.

With one caveat.  The words are useless if not lived.  We are the living words of Jesus.  God provides for all of humanity.  Those who follow Jesus seek to live Jesus’ teachings, Jesus’ words.  Being the Living Words of Jesus involves constant daily attention.  It is not a simple task.  It takes effort, persistence and a determination to seek a deeper level of living.

God has provided.  This earth produces enough abundance for all people.  Our egos and fears get in the way of distributing this abundance for all God’s people.  I don’t believe in an interventionist God that will fix the world when we have the ability and capacity to do it.  I don’t need big daddy in the sky to fix thing that people have created.  God has created us in God’s image to manage and bless the whole creation.

Although Heaven and Earth pass away I believe the word of God is eternal.  This eternal word is centered in love, God’s love, AGAPE.  The New Testament authors had an understanding that we have that ability to love as God loves.  To a group of conflicted and fighting Christians in the town of Corinth, St. Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians, “I will show you a more excellent way”, (1 Cor. 12:13).  That way, is the way of love.  I doubt Paul would commend this “way” to the early arguing Christians if he did not think they could live it.  Paul ends his description of “the way”, with a familiar phrase often read at weddings.  It is great advice to newlyweds, and to all people, but especially to arguing people, “Faith, Hope, and Love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.”  And that love is not a feeling, but an action to be empathetic, caring, considerate, gracious, and cooperative in the midst of arguments.  In a divided nation we need that mutual respect of one another.

In Advent we remember Emmanuel, “God is with us”.  God is with us to PROVIDE!  God provides through people living the teachings of Jesus.  Not easy!  But very necessary in our world.

As we seek to follow the words of Jesus we become “the living words of Jesus”.  Join that Journey and seek to learn to love like Jesus!

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