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)

The Truth of Becoming (Mark 8)

“…He asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.”
(Mark 8:27–30 NRSV)

Are You My Mother?

In the Story “Are You My Mother?” by PD Eastman a little bird is born while it’s mother is out.

The bird meets a kitten, dog, hen, cow, an old car, a steamboat, airplane and a steam-shovel. And the bird asks, or wonders, about each and every one being his mother.

[Show and explain the story. In each instance there’s a testing of relationship.]

On the surface the bird is on a quest to find it’s mother, but at a deeper level the bird is on a quest for identity.

Our identities are very much hooked to that which we desire and mirror ourselves after. It makes a big difference whether the bird finds his mother to nurture his self identity or he takes a dog to be his mom. Continue reading The Truth of Becoming (Mark 8)

Is the Empire Striking Back? (Mark 1)

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:9–15 NRSV)

The Empire Strikes Back?

There are many kinds of kingdoms that have been announced.

All with their heralds, some wielding guns, or wielding knives, and some even wielding Death Stars, and others – like this one we’ve just read about – comes bearing nothing more than a handful of short stories, and teachings and demonstrations of love.

I don’t know about you but Jesus announcing what he calls “the kingdom of God” stretches my imagination to the breaking point.

What is “the kingdom of God” exactly?

Part of the problem is that we don’t have a lot references for Kingdoms today, besides Downtown Abbey I think we’re out of luck. Continue reading Is the Empire Striking Back? (Mark 1)

The Nursery of Truth (John 15)

From the very beginning of the Quaker movement, Friends have liked asking questions. Part of this is because they got rid of the creeds, and something need to take their place.

So they used queries.

We could have t-shirts made up that says something like “The church of questions.”

(Q:) What do you think of that? Wouldn’t that be interesting?

It’s like being in a classroom within one of those really annoying teachers and you raise hand to ask a question “Professor, what is Paul’s anthropology?” And the professor responds back, “Well Johnny, what do you think it is?”

It’s hard to get answers out of someone like that.

George Fox was famous for saying, “the apostles say this, and the priest say that, but what canst thou say?”

For Quakers, the purpose of queries is to help spur on the growth of truth in our lives and meetings. Continue reading The Nursery of Truth (John 15)

The Taste of Truth (John 18:33-38)

“Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37–38 NRSV)

I, like Pilate, want to know what is truth.

I want to be able to identify truth the way that I can identify the notes of coffee from Ethiopia and distinguish it from coffee that came from Central America. I want to recognize the hints of truth the way I can recognize the hints of berries, chocolate, and orange in a fresh cup of Joe.

Pilate’s question, what is truth, is an honest one. It is a universal one. It sums up every question that has ever been asked. Is God there? Does she or he love me? Is this job the right job for me? Have I done good enough? What is the right thing to do?

Then Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” Continue reading The Taste of Truth (John 18:33-38)

The Maze Dull Truth (Mark 1:21-28)

Expectations and Maze Dull Rats

Robert Rosenthal was a psychologist who is famous for his experiment with rats in a maze. The experiment looked at “expectancy effects” and how our expectations have a direct effect on the outcome of what we are doing (link).

In 1963, Rosenthal took two groups of students to test how well they could get their rats through a maze. The students were to help guide their rats through the maze as fast as they could.

To one set of students he gave them, what he called, “Maze Dull” rats and to the other group he bestowed to wonderful “Maze Bright” rats.

Of course, in reality there were not differences at all between the rats, but the students didn’t know this.

Can you guess what happened? Continue reading The Maze Dull Truth (Mark 1:21-28)