163: April 17, 2016
323: May 12, 2019
Voice in the Wilderness: JEFF NELSON
Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan
Why we don’t like John as much - no stories. Walter Brueggemann: “Let the text be the sermon illustration.”
Good Shepherd Sunday
Strange chopping of story
Comes right after the “I am the good shepherd” saying, but some time has passed. It is not intended to be a continuation of that passage.
Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Festival of Dedication is Hanukkah.
“Solomon’s Porch” is a public place on south end of The Temple
Antiochus IV, a Greek Seleucid Emperor, installed a statue of Zeus in the Temple, sacrificed pigs, and banned circumcision.
After Macabeean Revolt, the Jews cleansed and rededicated the Temple. Hanukkah became an eight day festival of burning oil and celebration.
Response of the “Jewish Opposition” is to stone him, saying “You are human, but you make yourself out to be God”
Jesus with creative reading of Psalm 82
Calls out their hypocrisy, couched in a way that criticizes their Biblical literalism.
Still, they wanted to arrest him, but he escaped (no further explanation).
Next story: Jesus crosses the Jordan River again, preaches where John had been baptizing, then discovers that Lazarus is ill.
Question is posed “How long will you test our patience? Are you the Christ, tell us plainly?”
Immediately before this, John tells us that “there was division among the Jews.” Now we hear from ‘the opposition.’
Feels like an adversarial confrontation, but Common English does this a little. They add “opposition” to what other translations just refer to as “The Jews.” This is a good thing, in that it helps to alleviate some of the rabid anti Jewishness that is inherent in the Gospel of John. It is a problem however, in that it was just established that the Jews were divided. It is unclear if this question comes from the opposition or from those that are supportive, but maybe a little skeptical, and need to learn more
Jesus’ answer, “I’ve told you, but you don’t believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me””
Does he mean “I’ve told you that I am, but you don’t believe,” or “I’ve told you that the works I do in my Father's name testify about me, but you don’t believe me”
Either way, Jesus reminds them that his works are what matters. They should know whether or not he is the Messiah by what he’s been doing.
Reminiscent of his response to John’s followers in Luke 7 and Matthew 11.
They want to know “Are you the one,” and he tells them, “Go and tell him what I’ve been doing.”
“Jesus answer reminds us that an understanding of who he is cannot be simply a matter of deciding whether Jesus measures up to some preconceived notion of how a divine figure ought to act. Jesus eludes prior categories, totally redefines even those cherished titles drawn from Israel’s past… Jesus transcends and transforms them all.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year C, p. 303. Emphasis added by Cousar).
“Knowledge of the Messiah has to do with a reorientation of the knower, a change of location from one community to another. (Cousar, p. 303)
What do Jesus works mean?
Is believing in Jesus simply an act of acknowledging his great works?
There must be more to his identity than doing cool tricks.
There has to be more to following Jesus than proper i.d.
“The works testify to Jesus not because they are extraordinary and attention-getting… and not because they offer conclusive proof of his Messiahship, but because they are the Father’s works.” (Cousar, p. 304)
The works only matter because of Jesus’ relationship with God. Jesus and God have a relationship so intimate that they cannot be separated. Therefore, Jesus works are seen simply as God’s works.
The proper i.d. For Jesus is a full change in identity. Acknowledging Jesus is itself a transformative act.
Dismissive of the questioner.
“You just don’t get it, and you never will.”
It is encouraging the community that they are, in fact, in the flock. But it can go deeper than that.
David Lose in Working Preacher:
“This time he explains that, in a sense, there is little point in more conversation because those who are part of Jesus’ flock will recognize and follow his voice, while those who are not will simply not believe. All of which raises a question: Is any of this fair? I mean, it almost sounds like all of this is determined ahead of time.”
“Then, as now, I was fascinated by why we behave as we do. One of the most interesting things I learned in my first psychology class was that while I tended to think that belief shapes behavior – that is, our actions follow our convictions – the truth turned out to be the exact opposite: more often than not, our behavior shapes our beliefs.”
“All of this helps me make sense of what Jesus is saying. Yes, those who believe in him are part of his flock and follow him. And, at the same time, those who are following him are more likely to believe in him and identify as part of his flock. We tend to separate out “believing” and “following,” but according both to Jesus and modern psychologists the two actually go together. Or, to put it another way, it’s really, really hard to be an armchair Christian. Only by getting out of our chairs – or, as the case may be, pews – and actually living the Christian life do we come to deeper faith and commitment.”
Thoughts and Questions
Cutting off the lection at 30 deprives the hearers of this story a chance to be challenged. Jesus quotes Scripture and rattles our clear understandings of godliness. Even though he says, “I and the Father are one,” he doesn’t go so far as to say that this is a totally unique relationship. He forces us to question what his messiahship looks like. Is Jesus Messiah because he turns water into wine? Why is he called Son of God? Why is Jesus unique? This exchange offers us a chance to really think about things like Jesus, divinity, humanity, messiah. In the end, Jesus reminds us that the question that matters is, How are we to be transformed by this relationship?
From Africa Study Bible: “Many people and religions still refuse to accept Jesus. It is not because they doubt his power and miracles but because their traditions or religions do not allow them to believe that he is the Son of God. We need to help our neighbors, friends, and relatives see the love and compassion of Jesus before we help them see that Jesus is God. Like the people of Jesus’ day, they do not know what to think of Jesus’ claims. Pray that they can see who Jesus truly is. Pray that they will see him not just as a great prophet but also as the Son of God.”
Revelation and the End of All Things by Craig Koester
All Saints Day reading
What about chapter 6?! Chapter 6 is chapter of the 7 seals
Seals 1-4 are the four horsemen
Seal 5- the multitude of the martyrs dressed in white
Seal 6- earthquake, sun turns black and moon like blood and the stars fell to the earth
V.17 - who can stand? No one can be saved
Leads into chapter 7 - “Salvation belongs to God!”
A New Seal - the seal of the living God holding back the four winds of destruction
Chapter Seven can only be understood in light of chapter 6 and 7:1-4
Interpreted by Jehovah’s witnesses to be the faithful who must be converted in order to prepare for the end time
Pre-millenial Dispensationalists believe the 144000 must be composed of 12000 of each of the 12 tribes
Anti-semitic to demand the conversation of these Jews
It never actually says they convert, but rather that 12000 will be taken from each tribe
Perhaps this is a recognition of the place of Jews within God’s plan of salvation - a direct contradiction of more conservative interpretations
12000 from each of the 12 tribes is not necessarily an exact accounting but rather a symbol of completeness that all of the 12 tribes will be redeemed
So is it 144000 or a great multitude? YES
The grace of God is offered to the all the Jews (144000) and all the Gentiles (a great multitude)
Who are the ones in White?
Those who have accepted the saving grace of God
The ones who have suffered (6:9-11)- and yet have remained faithful throughout their suffering
Those who cry out in lament also sing praises to God (cf. Ps. 22)
Those who worship God continually
Those who are spared the trials and wrath of God
NOT spared from suffering though- just spared from suffering at the hands of God
Rev. 11:7; 12:11; 13:7-10
Echo of prophetic salvation
7:15 and Ezekiel 37:27 - “My dwelling will be with them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
7:16-17 and Isaiah 49:10 - “They won't hunger or thirst; the burning heat and sun won't strike them, because one who has compassion for them will lead them and will guide them by springs of water.”
7:17 and Isaiah 25:8 - “He will swallow up death forever. The LORD God will wipe tears from every face; he will remove his people's disgrace from off the whole earth, for the LORD has spoken.”
Chapter 5 - Lamb power over Lion power
Chapter 6 - Everything you have placed your confidence and trust in: nations, wealth, food, health will fall away and lead you into destruction
Chapter 7 - Those who place their confidence in God and accept God’s offer of loving grace and salvation will be saved/redeemed
Thoughts and Questions
Where do we place our trust, our energy, our time and resources? Health, Wealth, Gluttony (in various forms) What would happen if that same amount of energy were spent loving God, neighbor and self?
Trust in God
What is the purpose of hope for the sake of hope? What can hope inspire us to do or to refrain from doing?
GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY CONNECTION:
On Sunday morning the “saints” gather for worship and some have “been through the ringer”, they have lamented, are now asked to sing God songs of praise, only to go back into a broken world of suffering (like the Saints in this passage) how do we reconcile this juxtaposition
It is the Lamb- who died at the hands of human sinfulness and suffering who will now Shepherd the faithful through their own journeys of faith in the world.
Erik Heen - “It is this very same victim of human sinfulness who, in an odd reversal, has become the Shepherd who leads the faithful through their own encounters with evil.” Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide.
Marvin Ellison, Feasting on the Word – Year A, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ) - Excellent list of 7 preaching points- here are two:
“How might the reality of suffering, even martyrdom, be recognized as the lived experience of many in a broken, unjust world, but without slipping into a glorification of suffering? Battered women, for example, need a theological response to imposed suffering that calls for resistance and change, not merely for endurance and patience.”
“Are saints "churchy" persons who are strictly observant religiously, or are they those who take responsibility for the world and actively resist evil and injustice, as Jesus did?”
v1 The Lord is my shepherd…
name for kings, a title for YHWH
… I shall not want.
Invites a question of us: in what sense do we “not want?”
Revs: how is this disruptive in an entitlement culture
Tension in a world where a great many seem to be in want. Brueggemann- world as it is, as it could/should be?
A life of trust
v2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
not necessarily comfort (McCann)
forest of Hereth? (I Sam. 22:5)
v3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
v4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.
the voice of the text changes here
Ziph valley? (I Samuel 23)
Rabbi Harold Kushner on evil, trouble, terror (The Lord is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom from the 23rd Psalm)
v5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…
eating with Jawas and Sandpeople
Robot Chicken - lunch with Darth Vadar in the City of Clouds
…you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
“I shall not want” theme again
v6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…
Radaf! YHWH as badass stalker and other uncomfortable metaphors
Have you ever wanted to get away from God? Tevye in Fiddler, Psalm 39
Stuck with covenant God: Ps 139, John 10, I John 3
…and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
connotations of tabernacle, temple, clan, family
Acts in Eastertide:
Check out Matt Skinner’s guide on preaching Acts in Eastertide (http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?m=4377&post=5304)
Easter 3C – Acts 9:1-20: Conversion of Saul
Easter 4C – Acts 9:36-43: Raising of Tabitha
Easter 5C – Acts 11:1-18: Peter’s vision opens gospel to the Gentiles
Easter 6C – Acts 16:9-15: Conversion of Lydia (a Gentile that “loved God”)
Easter 7C – Acts 16:16-34: Conversion of the Jailer
Shift away from Paul to Peter and away from one of the most well known stories to one of the least known
A very strange miracle story
Not used evangelistically like in Acts 3 - there is no accompanying commentary or even invoking Jesus’ name (unlike the preceding story of Aeneas)
The who would witness to Peter’s actions are sent out of the room
No explanation regarding this miracle other than it raising Peter’s prestige
The lack of witnesses and explanation could lead to troubling interpretations
Peter as a wonder worker or magician healing through his own power and not wanting other to see the tricks of his trade
Tabitha as one being raised because of her multitude of good works (a kind of works righteousness)
Tabitha or Peter
Perhaps this is a story about Tabitha and not really about Peter at all
There is much more emphasis given to Tabitha’s good works
She is a disciple - only time this word in used in the feminine (GK: Mathetria), a widow, devoted to good works and acts, the sower of garments
As a woman and a widow she would have been “powerless” in the world, but the Gospel has “lifted up the lowly” (Luke 1:52) and given her a ministry of love and grace to other widows.
“Tabitha's work is too important to die, and I am grateful that the story records God's agreement as well, by empowering Peter to keep her alive.” Joseph S Harvard, Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide.
Or perhaps this is a story to build up Peter’s miraculous abilities of healing and even raising the dead before he spends time with Simon, a tanner (an unclean profession) and then carried the good news to the Gentiles (Acts 10)
Come to us without delay
The community doesn’t ask for resurrection, only for Peter’s presence. What are they expecting? Are they simply honoring Tabitha with her garments and memories of her ministry?
Perhaps they don’t know what to expect- they are simply gathered as a community in grief.
“The helpful distinction is between praying for a cure, which seems to dictate to God our desired outcome, and praying for healing, which can come in a hundred unexpected ways. God's Spirit will intervene on behalf of our prayers, yet the healing that comes often surprises us and causes us to catch our collective breath...Communal healing requires that we overcome the intense privacy and individualism that are the cultural icons of our day.” Stephen D. Jones, Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide
When it comes to putting broken lives back together—when it comes, in religious terms, to the saving of souls—the human best tends to be at odds with the holy best. To do for yourself the best that you have it in you to do—to grit your teeth and clench your fists in order to survive the world at its harshest and worst—is, by that very act, to be unable to let something be done for you and in you that is more wonderful still. The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up and transformed by the holy power that life itself comes from.” Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey
Thoughts and Questions
This is a troubling passage because:
it is so inconsistent with other healing and resurrection stories (lack of attribution to God’s power, the biography of the deceased, lack of any explanation or conversation about the healing, the lack of a request for healing).
We live in a world where we do not see the dead come back to life. May commentators refer to this passage as evidence that resurrection continues and where we think there is no solution- God finds a way forward. While the overall theology may be true, it is also true that in our experience - the dead remain dead. There is no miracle disciple who is going around raising the dead
Peter “showed her to be alive”
Perhaps we need to rethink life and death as we know it. Easter proclaims that death is not the end, yet Easter is much more than the resuscitation of the body. Tabitha was transformed by the Gospel from a widow into a Mathetria (a female disciple). In turn she transformed her community of widows by caring for the least of these, “devoted good works and acts of charity”, making clothes for the powerless (widows). Her death is deeply felt by the community - 2 messengers are sent to Peter and All the widows and saints mourn her passing.
These are not professional mourners, like in Luke 8, these are community members in deep grief.
When he shows them she is alive, perhaps is not about her resuscitation but her resurrection in them. As they honor her good works and are transformed by her witness, she lives on in the love she shared, the clothes she made, the lives she changed. Peter showed her to be alive in the community.
Note - they never ask him to raise her from the dead. Infact they prepare her body for burial and simply ask him to “come without delay”. Perhaps he this is not a miracle but the first funeral sermon of the Way.
An invitation to vulnerable grief that allows for miraculous healing
Perhaps this passage, as much as Acts 2:42, shows and example of how to be the church- specifically how to be the church in grief and in mourning. Can we be vulnerable with one another? Can we be open with one another and hole one another in common loss?
The community doesn’t blame one another (like they do around Lazarus) or come up with reason why Tabitha died (like they do with the blind man), or share stupid platitudes like “God needed another angel”, they honor her life and mourn her loss and in the midst of that- they find healing.
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Miserlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Bryan Odeen for our closing music.