Palm Sunday: Proceed, Without Caution

rlongman1:

Palm Sunday

Originally posted on Bob's Blog of Wonder:

(In a downloadable mp3 form, too.)

Save Us!
Matthew 21:1-17

This was a strange procession. A guy on a donkey. (No doubt the scoffers likened him to that poor animal.) Tagging along with him were a bunch of fishermen, rural herdsmen, and even (shudder) a taxman. A crowd, mostly of just plain folks, got into it. They’d apparently heard about this Jesus of Galilee (v. 11), and had a high regard for him. Maybe this was the man who’d save them from the hands of the Roman conquerors. Maybe this was the man who’d save them from the effects of a chasm that set the keepers of the Temple system apart from the ordinary Jew. Maybe this was the man who’d save them from their own frustration and loss of hope in the God who chose them.

So they laid palm branches before him as he went in, and cried…

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Fifth Sunday in Lent

Originally posted on Bob's Blog of Wonder:

Ezekiel 37:1-14 ;
Romans 8:6-11 ;
John 11:1-46

“This wouldn’t have happened if you’d been here!”

Martha said it. Mary said it. Some of the mourners were likely to have said it. Lazarus had taken ill. Surely if Jesus were there, He would have healed him. After all, He had healed all sorts of strangers — many of them were the strangest of strangers. Now, the brother of two of his most devoted followers gets deathly ill, and what does Jesus do?

He waits.

And waits..

And waits

… until Lazarus dies. Jesus lets him die!

It would seem unseemly to talk about a purpose behind the act of not acting to heal Lazarus. But Jesus Himself raises the issue. He says, “It’s good that I wasn’t there.” Huh?? How could that be?? Jesus had something bigger in mind than just another run-of-the-mill, everyday, amazing sensational miracle healing. It…

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4th Sunday in Lent – How to See

1  Samuel 16:1-13 ; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5: 8-14.
John 9:1-41

Jesus taught far and wide, and by all accounts also did amazing healings.  It was a key part of what made him famous in Galilee. While he was traveling with the disciples they saw a man born blind, and asked, “Who committed the sin that caused this?” Jesus answered by saying no one’s sin caused it, but then turned the question around. To Jesus, it was an opportunity to show what God is up to. Let’s see… some spit, some mud, packed onto his eyes. But the last step was for the blind man to do: the God-Sent One sent the blind man to a pool of water named Sent.  He went, and he could see! Of course, this was life-changing news!

People saw this, and brought him to the Jewish leaders for them to see for themselves.  But they knew full well what this meant: someone else had the authority from God that they were claiming.  So they excommunicated him, threw him out of the Jewish community.  But all this guy knows is that he can see, and that could only be done by someone who had the power of God behind him.

Jesus heard about this, and was not going to abandon him in this hour of need. So he got up close and personal once again, seeking him out. And it is here that Jesus lets the formerly-blind outcast in on the same secret he revealed to the outcast woman at the well: that He is the One foretold, the One sent to rescue the people.

People can see, but have no vision. People can see, but refuse to believe it, even with evidence. The closed mind might as well be blind, for all the good seeing does it.

Lord Jesus, giver of all good things, give us eyes to see and ears to hear.  Make what we learn from our senses burn its way into us, and let the Spirit teach us you ways through it. Amen.

A challenge: When Jesus heard what the religious leaders had done to the man born blind, he went out to find him. Have you had occasion to give personal support to one who was wrongly accused?  Is there anyone now in your life that’s in that situation?

My Facebook responses to Online quizzes

These are real responses I wrote in the past month. #online #quizzes

Which Medieval Theologian Are You? (uquiz.com)
I got Thingol of Withal. Legend has it that he formulated the belief that God intended all humans to lay around and sleep as much of the day as possible. Dream sleep, he held, was our communication with God. He tried to have a 96-hour snooze several times, but got up and left the premises after 20 or so hours, mostly out of sheer boredom.

What is your mental age?  (whatisyourmentalage.com)
2.

What Instrument Would You Play In Your Fantasy Band? (http://www.buzzfeed.com)
I am the Cowbell Player. I double on tambourine. (Anyone can double on tambourine. Even bassists.) I get girls after the keyboard player and before the drummer; we all get the ones the lead guitarist leaves behind. Fortunately, he has very lousy judgement in women.

Which European Country Do You Actually Belong In? (www.buzzfeed.com)
I got Malta. It sits out there in the middle of the Mediterranean as time goes on, busy with being itself.

Which Mythical Creature Are You? (www.buzzfeed.com)
I am the arrow that struck Achilles’ heel. That’s the mythical option, so mythical Buzzfeed didn’t think of it.
The real-life option is that I’m the insect that bit Alexander. He’s called ‘The Great’? Ha? Not after what *I* gave him! Yeah, I didn’t live to see him die (he was a good swatter), but mine was the last laugh.

Which Monarch Are You?  (http://www.buzzfeed.com)
I got Emperor Pedro II of Brazil. I know Buzzfeed never heard of him, but anyway… He ruled for 50 years, was highly popular, was overthrown by an unpopular cadre, which he didn’t resist and may have welcomed, and has since been held in high esteem for his shaping of the early independent Brazil.

So *there*. first-world snobs.

I took Zimbio’s ‘Princess Bride’ quiz and I’m Inigo Montoya! Who are you?
(zimbio.com)
This quiz does not mean what you think it means…

I took Zimbio’s ‘Avengers’ quiz and I’m Loki! Who are you? (zimbio.com)
I’m Bjorn. He was a blind Norse farmer who ran over several Norse heroes with a plow while they were resting in a field after a hard-won battle. He was also the first person to wear a cheese hat for a helmet. His descendents married Swedes, including the ancestors of the renown Muppet, the Swedish Chef.

What animal are you?  (quizony.com)
I am a Gila Monster. I felt like a big deal in the lizard world, until Godzilla came to town.

My Travoltified Name is Derren Mertin! (Slate.com)
Rod Wonman

I got Michel Foucault.! Which Philosopher Are You?
(www.buzzfeed.com)
I get Engelbert Lifschutz. He created the philosophy in which mobile phone selfies are the true measure of self-worth.

I took Zimbio’s ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘ quiz, and I’m Giles! Who are you?
(zimbio.com)
I came up Herman from the City blood bank. He has this uncanny knack for pulling a lot of blood out of people who are hanging out around vampires. With the lack of blood, there is less interest by the vampires in biting them. Saves many a life.

What animal are you?   (quizony.com)
Hmmm…. It says I’m an Asian Long Horned Beetle. I make my living killing maple trees. I’m invasive, and pervasive, and abrasive, and I don’t need to be persuasive.

I got Abigail! Which Biblical Heroine Are You?  (www.buzzfeed.com)
There is psych theory that says your real personality is shown by your pop-culture choices. Not that Buzzfeed would ever do that much work to make their pop culture polls. And not that they’d ever point someone to Keren-happuch (Job 42:14), no matter how obsessed she is with makeup. They only point to ‘heroes’, like Disney points to princesses.

Anyone come up with Jezebel yet? ;)

Which European Country Do You Actually Belong In? (www.buzzfeed.com)
I got San Marino. No significance whatsoever.

I got Late ’60s John Lennon! Which Beatle Are You?  (www.buzzfeed.com)
Did anyone come up with ‘Dead-Paul’? We had that too, for a short while.

I got Late ’60s John Lennon! Which Beatle Are You?  (www.buzzfeed.com)
Hmm… I came up Stu Sutcliffe…..

I got Upper West Side! Where Should You Actually Live In New York City?
(www.buzzfeed.com)
According to this, I’d be living alongside the Gowanus Canal. I’d find the third eyes and third and fourth arms I’d grow to be quite useful. Though it would be hard to hide at night, since I’d be glowing green.

I got Political Science! What Should Your College Major Actually Be?
(www.buzzfeed.com)
It says my major is Advanced Meme Creation. With a minor in Anger Mismanagement. Yes, I’m a man of my times.

 

Third Sunday of Lent : I’ll Let You In On This.

Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11.

John 4:5-42.

Jesus was going through Samaria.  For many if not most Jews, this was an odd side trip.  It was not strange for Galileans, since the way to Jerusalem passed through it. The road came near the town Sychar, outside of which was the land Jacob gave to Joseph, where Jacob’s Well was. Jesus came there to rest from a tiring long day’s walk. His disciples had gone to get food. The well was still in daily use, providing water to those who lived nearby. So, a woman from nearby came to draw water from the well. (This was a hard task that women had to do every day: travel to get the water, then lift to fill jugs, then carry the jugs back home.)  Jesus then asked her to get him a drink.  The request surprised her, since it was clear Jesus was a Jew and he was asking a favor from a Samaritan. A rare thing indeed, such was the hate Jews had for them.

But this was more than a request for help in quenching thirst. It was an attempt to start a conversation (Jews didn’t do that, either). Jesus drew her further in by talking about ‘living water’.  Now, to her, that phrase meant water that was moving, perhaps in a current deep at the bottom of the well.  But Jesus meant something different: water of which, once you drink it, you will never thirst again. This interested her, for it meant never having to lug the jugs again (v.15).  To show her that he wasn’t kidding, he got into her personal life. So she was amazed; how’d he know this!

This is a prophet, she thought, someone who could speak from God about what hurts her people, so she asks questions about what separates Samaritan religion from Jewish faith.  Jesus didn’t pander by saying that Samaritans were right, because they were not, and he said so.  But then he said something truly remarkable: the day was at hand when the whole matter would be a thing of the past, where what mattered was worshiping “in spirit and truth’.

She thought, this isn’t just a prophet. Only the Messiah chosen and sent from God could tell us about it. This was exactly where Jesus was leading her with his answers. So she came out with it: ‘you’re talking like the Messiah’.

That’s when Jesus makes the most astounding statement of all: “I AM“.  This tired Jewish guy by the well, the one with the nerve to discuss high matters of faith with a woman, and a Samaritan at that, the stranger who knew what her life was like — this one speaking to her was God Himself. He let her in on the greatest secret of all. No wonder she was so excited she left her water pots behind and ran back to tell everyone.

That, of course, was what the disciples saw as they came back. Hey, what would they know?

Second Sunday in Lent – Nicodemus Meets Jesus

Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 121; Romans 4

John 3:1-17

He had to come by night.  He couldn’t let others see him. After all, he was a leader among the Pharisees, and his colleagues were already starting to get nasty about this Jesus from Galillee.

But Nicodemus had questions. As a Pharisee, he was well-trained in asking and testing the Torah and among his colleagues about the daily details of living a holy life. He was really good at that. But being a leader among his people didn’t quiet the questions within him.  He had different kind of questions in mind.  Bigger, broader ones.  Questions that went to the core of it all, to what lay beneath what we can sense, to what drives it all. Questions of what life itself and especially the life of faith were all about.

Nicodemus had heard of the wonders Jesus was working, and knew Jesus was a teacher. If Jesus really had the power of God moving him, then this was the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to get to the bottom of this.

What Jesus told him astounded him.  Rebirth — an adult, starting all over again from birth?  Born to be fully free in the very Spirit of God? If the matters of life were so consuming of his thoughts, how much more mind-boggling were the matters of God?

John’s gospel, no doubt, gave us just a very brief, one-minute taste of this encounter.  Just enough to teach us what it was about. One can only imagine what more was said. The keys are: (1) that Nicodemus wanted to learn the ways of God, and (2) that he had finally come to the One who could teach him — Jesus, Son of Man and Son of God.

What are your questions for God?  Go ahead. Ask. You may be astounded.

God, the font of all wisdom, give us the courage to dare to ask You about what perplexed us. Open us to Your answers, and Your questions. Amen.

A Lenten challenge: take some time just to think about just one question that keeps coming back at you. Whatever it is. Write it down. Spend at least one hour today in prayer and study of Scripture and what others have learned about it. You probably won’t come to an ‘answer’, but God may reward you by moving you further along in your search.

First Sunday in Lent

Originally posted on Bob's Blog of Wonder:

(Also, as an mp3 audio file .)

Scriptures :
Genesis 9:8-17; Genesis 2:15-17 and Genesis 3:1-7; Deuteronomy 26:1-11.

Psalm 91; Psalm 103.
1 Peter 3:18-22

Matthew 4:1-11;
Luke 4:1-13;
Mark 1:9-15.

At the Rainbow’s End

In Genesis 9, God is blessing Noah and his sons, after the flood. At several points, it doesn’t sound all that much like a blessing (for instance, in v. 5, God tells them they and the animals will all eventually die). But then, God does something striking: the God of All, the Flood-Maker, the Flood-Remover, is now bound to fragile, small, perishable beings. (This is called a ‘covenant’, a sort of contract, only, this is one that’s declared unilaterally.) The God of the Flood is promising that the earth as a whole and all its creatures, including Noah and his descendents, will never again be destroyed by flood. And the sign…

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