Memory of Love: Practicing Pregnant Absence

You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.” (Luke 24:48–53 NRSV)

The Interplay between Presence and Absence

Why should Jesus leave at all? Why have all these appearances at the end of John preparing his disciples for his departure, or this scene of Jesus being mysteriously whisked away in what is classically called the ascension?

I think it’s because his leaving was just as important as his coming.

Jesus knew that if he didn’t leave right there would be no way to sustain the movement that he began. He knew that until he left, his disciples would just remain students; In his leaving they would become the teachers.

In the Gospel of John Jesus said:

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)

But this is perspective, that it absence is as good as presence is a hard one to swallow in our day and age isn’t?

Availability and Unavailability

Our culture highly values presence. There are apps that you can use to log-in to stores, parks, and other locations you visit. There are plenty of ways to show photos from the places you travel and share them in ways that others feel like they are present with you on the trip. There are apps that measure your online presence and impact. And there is even an app called “presence” which monitors motion in your home while you are a way.

Could it be that presence is held almost to the point of idolatry? We prize availability far more than unavailability. Continue reading Memory of Love: Practicing Pregnant Absence

Peter’s Unfinished Love (John 21:15-23)

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

(John 21:15 NRSV)

This week, as I was thinking about the sermon, I asked my kids if they had anything they thought I should preach about.

This is taking my discernment to a whole new level.

I don’t think they knew exactly what I was asking at first so we talked for a little bit until they finally settled on an idea: Inspector Gadget.

That’s right. They wanted me to preach a message on inspector gadget. One of my absolute favorite childhood cartoons and now that Netflix has recreated the show, it’s theirs too.

The appeal of gadget for me growing up was, well, all his gadgets. I would get my mom to buy my pants that had pockets everywhere, and I would keep trinkets in them. She’d call them my inspector gadget pants. That may be why I like to wear vests now. More pockets for more gear. Continue reading Peter’s Unfinished Love (John 21:15-23)

Avoiding the Default Position (John 21:1-14)

That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

(John 21:7–8 NRSV)

Learning Motorcycle Safety

As some of you know, I purchased a Honda Shadow a few weeks back from my good friend, Alivia Biko. I had to have Cole Bridges drive down with me and ride it back because I didn’t want my very first time of riding a motorcycle to be an hour-long ride of the 5.

The deal that I had to make with Alivia, Peggy and Emily was that I would wait to get serious about riding until I took the motorcycle safety course.

A photo posted by C. Wess Daniels (@cwessd) on

Well, that course was this past Thursday and Friday. So look out!

Even though I’ve had my endorsement and been riding a scooter for 4 years, I am amazed at how much I learned from the course.

For instance, I learned that in a swerve you never brake because you could lock up your tires. Continue reading Avoiding the Default Position (John 21:1-14)

The Gift of Thomas (John 20)

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

(John 20:24–25 NRSV)

Thomas as the Grieving One

Traditionally, Thomas has been known as “doubting” Thomas throughout the centuries because of this passage. A doubter here is like a skeptic, a questioner, someone who is non-compliant. Jesus’ words at the end of this passage are taken as chastisement:

“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29 NRSV)

And maybe that’s how it was meant. But I want to attempt a different reading of this text, one that makes Thomas more relatable to our own experiences. Continue reading The Gift of Thomas (John 20)

Transgressing the Boundaries of the “Kingdom”

Here is the message I delivered at First Friends in Greensboro, N.C. on Palm Sunday.

Reading from John 12:12–16:

The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord— the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.” 

Thresholds

This morning I want us to look at Palm Sunday as an example of what it means for people of faith, starting with Jesus, to cross over certain thresholds in our world.

Now we all know what a threshold is. It is a boundary that delineates one space from another. When you walked through the doors to this meeting room, that was a threshold you crossed over. Thresholds are barriers, sometimes visible and sometimes invisible. Jerome Berryman says that “A threshold sets apart but it also provides the way into a different space.” Continue reading Transgressing the Boundaries of the “Kingdom”

Snakes on a pole or The Rut That I Love (John 3:13-21)

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:14–18 NRSV)

This morning I want to address the question: what is salvation? How are we to think about this work, especially in the context of what this famous little passage is saying?

Three images: * Healing * Connection and * Light

Healing

First, let’s begin this message about salvation and the love of God with something that seems unrelated: a snake on a pole.

[Read John 3:14–15]

This is connected to an obscure Old Testament reference – that I assume you all have memorized – where Moses is told by God to:

“Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.” (Numbers 21:8–9) Continue reading Snakes on a pole or The Rut That I Love (John 3:13-21)

Jesus, God’s Wrath and the Merchants of Truth (John 2)

“In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” (John 2:14–16)

The Temple

In our text this morning, Jesus bursts onto the scene of passover and gets all civil disobedient on the crowds.

This is not your typical buddy Jesus here and it makes us a little nervous doesn’t it? Rough and rowdy Jesus is not the Jesus we’re used to.

What is this all about?

This scene has often been referred to as the “temple cleansing” which gives you a lovely picture of Jesus with some warm soapy water and a bristle pad scrubbing off graffiti from the temple’s stone walls.

Except that’s not what’s happening here. Continue reading Jesus, God’s Wrath and the Merchants of Truth (John 2)