Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Story of Scripture: Just Like I Said
Deuteronomy 6:1-9, I John 1:5-2:14, John 6:60-69

Parenting brings a completely new and different self-understanding regarding our relationship with God.

Sometimes, and possibly for some of you, I am conjecturing here, might say to yourself, when the screams are loud and the tears are flowing and the legs are kicking and the body is quivering over such audacious requests as ‘time to come to the table’ or ‘we’ll finish watching the tv show later’…in those moments, we might, just might, ask God…

Could we really be this stubborn? This self-focused? Could we really have this short of an attention span? This close to falling off the spiritual equivalent of steps and beds and couches?

At the same time, there are also multiple moments when we also look at children and think of God and wonder…

Could we really be this loved? Could we really bring this much joy and delight to God? Are we really this beautiful?

In short, the answer is yes.

Because we are fully loved by God, and because we can be clueless, we need Jesus to be our teacher. We need him to show us the way.

Jesus is fully God and fully human. He is perfectly qualified to be our teacher. He came to speak and live God’s righteousness and goodness.

In Christ, we find the a heaven-sent teacher, whose substance speaks to the very source of everlasting life.

Teaching the Greatest Commandment: Deuteronomy
In our first passage, Moses is preparing the people to finally enter the land that was promised a generation before. Remember, the people disobey God after the Exodus and have the equivalent of a 40 year time-out. But now they are ready. Moses has gathered them and gotten them ready for their new set of rules for their new home. These rules came from God, for the people. They are rules to be taught, for they are God’s commandments, to be applied in the nation’s daily life.

Why be taught?
--you, your children and grandchildren may fear the Lord God
by keeping the commandments
--and so that you may enjoy long life.

What is God’s commandment?
HEAR: Israel, God is One. Hear that. Listen and embrace that.
OBEY: be careful to obey. Don’t be stubborn, if you follow, there
is a lot of blessing to be had.
LOVE: the greatest commandment in the Bible: Love. Love God
with all your heart, soul and strength.

What do we do with the commandments?
IMPRESS: Impress them upon your children TALK: when you sit at home and walk along the road.

(If I may interject one thought for how this verse applies to our modern living, I would like to say this, which is my personal opinion. It is good to use your eating and travel time to talk together as a family. I know there are a plethora of entertainment options. I’m not saying it is wrong to have a special night where you eat pizza in front of the TV watching a family movie, or that you blare the radio while driving. But, there is a lot of time in meal and travel time that can be used for talk, and important talk, and, from a parental perspective, teaching talk. It is a discipline of time. It is an investment of time, energy and focus. But, it is also an investment with biblical support.)

TIE/BIND/WRITE: There were specific Jewish traditions that
emerge out of this verse. But there are also spiritual value in our day
to having a meaningful verse or saying near you, or displayed for
people to see what your values are.

Teaching the Difficult Commandment: John
This Easter season, we will focus on the Story of Scripture’s central figure: Jesus Christ. Last week, we learned of Jesus as fully God and fully human. This week, we are focusing on Jesus as teacher. The Gospels tell of Jesus’ first teaching: Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near. They also speak of Jesus gathering large crowds and amazing his audiences with wisdom, insight and his power of words. Today’s reading sheds light on a different side of Jesus’ teaching: his words can be difficult to hear and obey.

Jesus was giving a discourse on being the bread of God. The bread from God, not unlike human bread, was to be eaten, and digested.
Jesus told his disciples that ‘He is the body and blood of God, and
the one who wants to live must take his body and blood’

The reaction to this teaching is that many of the disciples grumble. There were more than 12 disciples who followed Jesus. At this point in his ministry, he was wildly popular, and many followed him. But upon hearing a difficult concept, one that stretched and challenged the hearers, the people react much like we might expect. The reaction to a difficult teaching is to recoil, for it challenges our comfortable standard of living we have created for ourselves. This is hard, who can accept this?

It is the end of the first week of training camp
It is the final few days of an extended business trip.
It is the third week of a diet.
This is hard, is it worth it? The disciples ask themselves.

In addition, Jesus hears the complaint, “Are you offended?”
It is Just as I said, “no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him..

What is the reaction? Many disciples leave. They turn their back on Jesus and no longer follow him.

What a tragic end to a story. This is more than giving up the corner office or fast track career, or benefits of club membership. This is being face to face with the One sent by God. This is eating and listening and working alongside the Son of God, and then saying, NO THANKS. This is a big deal.

Out of this shocking turn in the story, Jesus turns to the twelve. With an astounding confidence, devotion to his mission, and self-awareness, Jesus says: how about you? Are you in or are you out?

Peter, the one who often would put his foot in his mouth, he got it. Where else would we go? Seriously, there is no other place on earth that I’d rather be than the road that leads to heaven (SCC). Jesus, I’m in. You have the words of eternal life. They may be difficult, they may challenge every fiber of my being. But I can’t stay away. I can’t stay away from you.

We like to tame Jesus, keep him in a cage and bring him out at our convenience, showing him off like something we own. But the Scripture describes Jesus in a different light. Some descriptions include the Lion from Judah. He is the bread that gives eternal life. He is the bright morning star. He shines in darkness. I am the beginning and the end. I am A through Z. I am the great shepherd who kills the wolves that seek my sheep. I am the one who speaks to demons and commands them to be quiet. Jesus is our teacher. And he is God’s teacher, saying what God wanted to be said. Convenient or not.

Jesus is not neutral. His teachings are not neutral. Sometimes, his teachings are difficult. But they are always good and for our good, and they lead to everlasting life.

Teaching the New Commandment: I John
John, one of those twelve disciples, who would later write to the larger church, includes amazingly profound but simple sayings in his first letter to the church.

--God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all
--If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is
not in us
--If we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another
--We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands
--Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

These are beautiful and true sayings. In our grey world, they sort of shock our system. There must be some wiggle room in these verses, we rationalize. But in many of John’s words, it is exactly what he says it is.

In the rules of interpretion, rule number one is that the plain and simple reading is correct.

There is a new commandment:

You can’t hate your brother (or sister)
When you love your brother (or sister), you live in the light, and nothing is going to make you stumble.

John includes a poem that has been open to some debate, especially when you look at the greek words that he used. In Koine Greek, there was often multiple ways to say what modern languages have one word for. But generally speaking, this is a poem that speaks to the life cycle, and to spiritual phases that we all go through.

If I may bring a scripture from another part of the Bible, the Apostle Paul is reviewing his life in his letter to Timothy, he tells his disciple: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7)

--Your sins have been forgiven
--You have known the Father

Young Adults:
--You have overcome the evil one
--You are strong, and the word of God lives in you

--You have known him who is from the beginning

Today, on Mother’s Day, we have a family stand up for baptism. In fact, a father and his son both receive the sacrament this day. This child's parents will learn to teach, to teach the truth and to teach what is just and right. And believe it or not, as he grows older, the child might question you. (I know, I know, this is shocking). But you stick to your message. You teach. You teach about one who is greater than you or I. And when he gets it, and when God stands by his promise, you get to say something very gratifying to your child: It is just like I said.

And the reason it is gratifying is not because you win in that moment. It is not because you have emerged for one moment, triumphant in the long game we call parenthood. It is because in that moment, we understand a little bit about what God is like: For God has taught us, and when we have listened, we look to God, like a child looks to his or her parent, looking for that approval, and God’s response is the same: Just like I said.

Today, let us be taught, let us teach, and let us learn from the One whose promise is good, whose performance is faithful and whose perfection brings us to glory.

Whoever claims to live in Christ must walk as Jesus did. And when you obey Christ’s word, God’s love is truly made complete in you.

Just as he said.

Christ is Risen.
He is risen indeed.

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