Voice in the Wilderness: Melissa Meyers
Featured Musician:Jonathan Rundman
“Treasurer’s Report to Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians” from his album A Heartland Liturgy.
PSALMIST: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan
The final “I am”
Comes right before the Maundy Thursday Commandment
“He is going where they cannot come, at least for now, and thus his words take on the character of urgent instruction for what life is like without his physical presence.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year B, p. 314)
Major Themes: Abiding, bearing good fruit and Interconnectedness
If there was a Hebrew Bible text to go along with this, it could be Isaiah 5, a prophetic judgment against the vineyard that is supposed to produce fruit, but instead only produces bloodshed and oppression.
Jesus now the vine, allowing for the vineyard to be redeemed.
Jesus’ way of peace, generosity, and justice can be seen in direct contrast to what the vineyard had become in Isaiah 5.
Note on vines - “Going Wild” by Paul Bellan-Boyer
Vines can be persistent, beautiful, fruitful and life-giving - (kiwi fruit, squash, green beans, peas, melons) or wild constricting, overbearing, life-sucking pests (ivy, kudzu, jungle vines)
Many vines need a support- who will your support be?
Will we allow ourselves to be abide in God and tended by God or simply grow wild? Growth is not the goal- bearing fruit is!
“The word I have spoken to you”- Not an argument for fundamentalism or legalism.
“Is it the whole oral teaching of Jesus or the simple fact that he came from the Father who sent him? Message and medium - in this case a person - are the same in [John’s Gospel]. There is simply Jesus. His heavenly origins and his earthly task, which is to lay down his life for his friends, are one with his person. Believing this and doing his commands is accepting his word or words.” (Gerard Sloyan, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, John, p. 189).
The words that Jesus spoke and the Word that Jesus embodied are inseparable.
We follow the Word, not the words.
Abiding - dwelling with God
Should we still use the word Abide? To dwell or live with, enduring, holding out, staying in place
Jesus is the authentic (better translation) vine
as opposed to the inauthentic vine - what vine are we the branches of? Jesus or something else?
Abiding in God’s love, Christ’s love and love for one another- these are intertwined and inseparable
Bearing Fruit and being pruned
Jesus as the authentic vine is the source of all good fruit - to be separated from Jesus is to no longer bear good fruit
Opportunity to reclaim spiritual practices- to remind ourselves individually and communally what vine we are branching out from
Doing good works separated from the vine can lead to “selfish giving”
Pruning is not always a bad thing- pruning can lead to an overall healthy plant
In what ways is the fear of pruning keeping us from bearing fruit?
Interconnectedness and Mutuality
“The mutuality between Jesus and the disciples spoken of here is both a gift and task. The passage intermingles indicatives with imperatives. It declares that readers are branches and that the divine Gardener is at work to make the branches more productive… At the same time, readers are summoned to ‘abide’ in Jesus, which certainly entails a constantly renewed commitment. The mutuality and fruitfulness do not occur automatically… The demands [of discipleship] are surrounded on every side with grace.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year B, p. 315-316).
Community is not something apart from our lives- but is our life- we are inseparably connected to one another in love
Community is not a static institution but a living, growing, thriving and even changing organism
Each part affects the entire branch
African Proverb, Because we are, I am
Thoughts and Questions:
What does it mean to live in Jesus? How do we as a church (or individuals) live in Jesus in the way we worship, teach, welcome, spend money?
Who or what in our lives do we feel we cannot be separated from? Family? Friends possessions? What about the church community?
What needs to be pruned in your life/community/church?
Is the church a withering branch? Have we ceased to bear good fruit?
The love that is both the content and aim of Christ's gospel continues to be active in those who understand that what you do "to one of the least of one of these who are members of my family, you did it to me" - Stephen A Cooper, Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide.
Who is the Eunuch? Not much is known other than what we have
“the Ethiopian as someone wealthy enough to ride in a chariot, educated enough to read Greek, devout enough to study the prophet Isaiah, and humble enough to know that he cannot understand what he is reading without help. He is also hospitable. When Philip speaks to him (at the direction of the Holy Spirit), the Ethiopian invites the talkative pedestrian to join him in his chariot. For a modern parallel, imagine a diplomat in Washington, D.C., inviting a street preacher to join him in his late model Lexus for a little Bible study.” Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide.
Could have been Jewish (as could have Candance) there were Jewish teachings in Ethiopia going back to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba
Racism would not have been as much of an issue as sexual status (Karen Baker-Flitcher, Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide)
Was the eunuch even allowed to worship in the temple? Unknown. Depends on whether there was a strict reading of Deuteronomy or Isaiah
Eunuch - castrated male, typically castrated before puberty, be seen as “safe among women” and to perform social functions for royalty (like being a treasurer)
ironically stereotyped as sexually immoral
Jesus refers to “eunuchs from birth” in Matthew 19:12
Isaiah 53 - refers to one who is “shorn” and was a book of hope to eunuchs, captives and the poor.
This can be seen explicitly in Isaiah 56:4-5, “For thus says the LORD: To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant,I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”
This passage has also been lifted up as a passage of hope among many in the LGBT community for Philip does not acknowledge the eunuch being racially or sexually different, but instead shares the story of Jesus with him and Baptizes him- regardless of biology, sexual or sociocultural norms.
“Philip simply teaches that the prophecies in Isaiah have been revealed and fulfilled in Jesus. The text in Isaiah 53:7-8, along with Isaiah 56:4-5 and Acts 8:5-12, does not mention gays and lesbians. This does not mean, however, that contemporary Christians are let off the hook regarding contemporary controversies surrounding human sexuality. The text does encourage us to accept persons who are biologically, sexually, different from dominant sociocultural norms. We, like Isaiah, Jesus, Philip, and the eunuch, are affirmed in the call to share the good news of the God of Israel revealed in Jesus without partiality or prejudice.”-Karen Baker-Flitcher, Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide (emphasis added)
In the Wilderness- both encounter God in one another
Eunuch finds God in a local who is able to travel with him for a ways and reveal the good news in the scriptures
Philip encounters God in one whom (at least some of) the religious authorities had declared unclean, yet the good news of Jesus sees the man-not as a eunuch but as someone in need of good news
“When Phillip joined this person who sought to worship God despite his exclusion, was it perhaps Phillip himself who was converted to the faith?” Nadia Bolz Weber, The Hardest Question
“So Philip baptized him, and when that black and mutilated potentate bobbed back to the surface, he was so carried away he couldn't even speak. The sounds of his joy were like the sounds of a brook rattling over pebbles, and Philip never saw him again and never had to.” Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words
Thoughts and Questions
How can I understand unless someone guides me?
This statement illuminates the eunuch’s need for guidance as well as Philips call to guide. How will you and your church guide those seeking good news?
“About whom...does the prophet say this?” Is a passage only relevant to Isaiah and his time or is this passage good news for the Eunuch? The basis of this question I think lies in the hearts of many Christians.
“The biblical word is never merely about "back then." It is always a word to us, to this moment, to these circumstances.” Tom Long, Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide
What is to prevent me from being Baptized? How would you or your church respond to this inquiry?
There is no indication that the eunuch believed in Jesus or truly understood who Jesus was, but somehow he heard the good news in Baptism
- “The text does encourage us to accept persons who are biologically, sexually, different from dominant sociocultural norms. We, like Isaiah, Jesus, Philip, and the eunuch, are affirmed in the call to share the good news of the God of Israel revealed in Jesus without partiality or prejudice.” Karen Baker-Fletcher - what does this mean in our increasingly divided world? How can we proclaim good news to ALL without partiality and injustice? Do we risk the safety of those “persons who are biologically, sexually, different from dominant sociocultural norms” by embracing those who would reject or harm them? I don’t think so- we proclaim the good news which is radical love and comfort to those who have been rejected and will challenge those who wish to maintain the status quo.
This is a dartboard passage. You could pin this passage to a wall, throw at it blindly with a dart, and whatever verse you hit, it’s golden.
The passage is so simple to understand, but surprisingly difficult to interpret. Partly because it is so simple and beautiful. The greatest challenge is to expound on what feels like a complete, and nearly perfect, thought.
God is Love
Because God is love, men and women are now free to reflect God’s love in their own love of both God and their neighbor.” (Texts for Preaching, Year B, p 307)
“God’s love lies at the heart of the life of faith, indeed, it lies at the heart of all of life.” (Texts for Preaching, Year B, p 307)
“Contrary to our inclination toward quid pro quo, God has decided in our favor apart from our ability to reciprocate, gracing us with love prior to and independent of any response we might offer, for no reason other than that love is the very nature of God that is knowable by human beings.... Love is not one thing among many that God does; everything that God does is loving” (Clifton Black, New Interpreter’s Bible, volume XII, p. 433).
Love is not just a feeling, it is a conscious decision to act for the good of others. Thus, love is easily seen. There is evidence of love that can be pointed to. It is not earned, but it is examined.
“The theology of 1 John contains a certain circularity in that the concepts of 1 John 4:7-21 mutually interpret one another. God is love. When we love, God abides in us. We cannot see God but when we love, we know God abides in us. If we do not love sisters and brothers whom we do see, then we cannot love God whom we cannot physically see. When we love our sisters and brothers, we love God which, in turn, shows that God is love.” (Ron Allen, from Process and Faith)
God is love. God’s love is revealed in Jesus. We are to abide in Jesus. This is revealed in how we love.
Thoughts and Questions
How do we talk about God’s love without trivializing or romanticizing it? How do we confess that God is love to those that do not feel God’s love? Peculiar start to Psalm 22 (which the lection cuts out) might be helpful. Even in forsakenness, God is love.
The Gospel and Epistle reading work so beautifully together, it is no wonder some call them the same author, and most consider them to be of the same community. Some even read the letters of John as the first Biblical commentary, and must be read in conjunction with the Gospel. Abiding in Jesus, being grafted into the vine, is done through love. There is no way to be a Christian and not love others.
- The part that is easily missed in this letter is the adversary. This letter is to a community that is under fire. There is conflict. There are false teachers. In the previous paragraph, the writer indirectly points to those who don’t “confess Jesus Christ has come as a human” (1 John 4:3). Yet the call to the abused community, time and again, is love. Never does the writer encourage those to seek out and destroy, defeat, or even convince the false teachers. They are simply encouraged to love as Christ loved. Love each other. That is all.
THANK YOU FOR LISTENING AND GET IN TOUCH:
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 (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).