5th Sunday of Easter
1 Peter 2:2-10
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from the way the truth and the life. Amen
Today it’s all about Jesus.
I mean we talk about Jesus a lot in church
but today’s gospel lesson is extra Jesusy.
John takes a lot of words and some confusing sentence structures to do it
but in this passage he is reemphasizing
the heart of his very simple message:
that Jesus is the revelation of God,
It’s all about Jesus,
When we want to know who God is we look to Jesus
When we want to know what God thinks we ask Jesus
When we want to know how God relates to the world we look to Jesus
When we want to be in relationship with God we relate to Jesus.
It’s so simple,
and yet it’s an incredible difficult thing
to get our minds around,
perhaps because of its simplicity.
The disciples certainly had trouble with the concept
they were used to relating to God through the temple,
in their Judaism, that’s where God lived,
if you wanted to communicate with God
you had to go to the temple and make an offering,
to get into the temple you had to be ritually pure
according to the laws,
to make an offering
you had to have the resources to procure the bird or lamb or cow
to give to the priests who make the offering on your behalf.
God is revealed in the laws that set this all up
and in the covenant promise to the ancestors
to be with the people
and in the teachers that know more than you
because they spend time studying the law.
And then the disciples meet Jesus
who they can tell is something special,
a really good teacher
who puts up with their nonsense and continuous questions,
who knows them
and who as they get to know him is revealed as more and more special,
he keeps doing these miraculous signs,
he turns water into wine, feeds thousands,
raises a man from the dead,
could he be the messiah?
The one sent by God to save the people?
That is still within the realm of possibility,
where they get stuck is Jesus’ claim of intimacy with God,
who Jesus calls daddy
who now Jesus says that he is the way to get to God,
echoing the name God gives Moses at the burning bush
Jesus says “I am”
“I am the way the truth and the life.
I am in the Father and the father is in me.”
So how does that work?
It seems simple enough and yet the disciples are incredibly confused.
Witnessing the resurrection helps,
And though the disciples still had their moments
they followed Jesus’ command
to tell others the simple beautiful message,
that in Jesus God is revealed to us,
that the way to relate to God
is to be in relationship with Jesus
who continues his work of revelation through his followers
and the good news spread
and communities gathered together
to live with the revelation of God in Jesus,
communities like the one the gospel of John was written for,
They were the next generation of believers
who accepted and proclaimed that Jesus is the revelation of God
Their struggle with this simple yet difficult message
seems to have been with their families and communities
who were divided over Jesus,
in the gospel
are blamed for a lot of things
which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense
because Jesus and his disciples were Jews.
Scholars think that this language
is a reflection of the hurt the community experienced
when they were kicked out of their synagogues and communities
for proclaiming Jesus,
in our lesson for today their faith in Jesus is proclaimed
when Jesus says
“No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, you will know my father also.”
The community is making a very specific statement about God,
God is not a generic deity
but is particularly known through the incarnation of Jesus.
Jesus makes the truth about God available to the world
and this community celebrates their faith
that it’s all about Jesus.
It’s a simple yet difficult message.
We struggle with it too,
particularly in a world
where people proclaim
that God has been revealed in a variety of ways
from the Torah, to Jesus to the qu’ran,
where the joyful proclamation by John’s community
of what they have discovered
- that Jesus is the way to know God-
has been taken and used as a way categorically state
that particular people or groups will be excluded from heaven,
an attempt at spreading what we consider good life giving news
through scare tactics and the threat of exclusion
essentially the taking away of life-
but that is not the God I find revealed in Jesus,
the God I find revealed in Jesus
is one who continually works to widen the circle,
one who lovingly gets to know each member of creation,
who provides a way to be in relationship with God
even though I continually mess up, I turn away,
I find a God who names and claims me in the waters of baptism,
who meets me at the table forgiving me again in again,
I find a God who continually surprises me
by bringing new life out of death.
And yes it can be difficult
because we are part of those who have not seen Jesus like the disciples
and yet have come to believe.
and yet here we are,
because whether we can explain it or not,
we know we have found the way the truth and the life.
Jesus is the way to God
because Jesus is the revelation of God!
because he is truly God
and the life
because in him who created the universe life is abundant.
All we need is Jesus. Amen
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts 2: 42-47
1 Peter 2:19-25
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you
from the one whose voice we know,
who calls us by name. Amen
The lectionary gives us a lot of sheep today,
sheep and shepherds.
It’s an image found all throughout the Bible,
the Israelites were people who cared for sheep,
Jacob spent many years looking after his father in law’s flock,
David was only anointed king
after he was called in from the fields where he was watching the sheep,
shepherd was a common image used for kings and God.
Caring for sheep lay at the foundation of society.
Jesus, a good son of Israel
continues in the tradition
as he teaches his disciples
about what kind of messiah he is
using the images of the Shepherd and the gate.
As the Shepherd
Jesus spends time with his sheep
knowing each of them by name,
they learn the sound of his voice
and will follow him
because he has earned their trust through their time together,
leading them out of the sheepfold,
watching over them
showing them where there is food and water.
Jesus comes and spends time with his people,
he gets to know them each by name,
they follow him because he has earned their trust.
As the gate Jesus protects the sheep.
A gate is most effective both open and closed
depending on the time of day.
a closed gate is an important part of keeping the sheep safe,
a closed gate gathers the sheep together
and prevents wild animals from coming in.
During the day the gate is opened
to allow the sheep out to seek nourishment
guided by the shepherd.
Jesus both gathers in his people for their protection
as well as sends them out
depending on the what is most needed at the time.
There are times when we need to be gathered together as Jesus’ flock
and there are times when we need to go out,
guided by the shepherd into the world.
The disciples are confused by Jesus’ teaching
but in the end he says it all boils down to this:
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”
We get a glimpse of this with the shepherd and the gate,
the protection at night,
the guidance to nourishment during the day
the right thing for the right time
But what does Jesus mean by “abundant life”?
While we might be tempted
to think about abundance as something quantifiable,
a long life, health, or many possessions
with Jesus affluence does not equal abundance,
over and over Jesus has preached
that his followers must give up their possessions,
he has spent more time with those who have nothing
over those who have everything,
stuff is not what Jesus is talking about
when he proclaims that he has come to bring abundant life,
but rather abundant life
is life lived in the presence of God, w
ho knows our name
whose voice we recognize.
Nowhere do we get a better picture of this abundant life
than in the images of the beloved Psalm 23.
Whether it is in green pastures, beside still waters,
the shadow of the valley of death or the presence of enemies,
God is present alongside the psalmist
who wants for nothing
because God is there with the right thing at the right time
providing safe places to rest, guidance in unsure times,
comfort when things could get scary, blessing in the presence of enemies,
through whatever life brings.
The Bible never promises that life will be easy,
in fact most of its pages bear witness
to the difficult times of the people throughout the ages
but God is always there with the right thing at the right time.
Jesus continues in the tradition of his Father,
he never promises that life will be easy,
in fact there are times he tells the disciples
that there are difficult roads ahead,
but he promises to be with them,
send them an advocate to guide and comfort during those times,
to know their name,
so that life will be abundant.
Abundant life is what we want for everyone
but especially our graduates
as they enter a new phase of life
so far we have walked alongside them,
been there to guide them and cheer them on,
care for them when they get sick,
now we are opening the gate of the sheepfold
and letting them out on their own,
trusting that they have learned to distinguish the voice of the shepherd
over the voices of others who would lead them astray,
knowing that wherever they go
God will be with them,
guiding, comforting and calling them by name.
is life lived in the presence of God,
with the Lord as our Shepherd
we shall not be in want,
God knows our name
and goes with us on the journey of life,
guiding, restoring, comforting, blessing
whether we are in green pastures or the valley of the shadow of death,
life with God is abundant. Amen
Pastor Emily Johnson preaches weekly at Christ Lutheran. These are manuscripts of her sermons given at Christ Lutheran. Feel free to engage with them in the comments section of the blog.