29 April 2018
Fifth Sunday of Easter
Easter 5B (RCL)

Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 22:24-30
1 John 4:721
John 15:1-8

If you read these passages aloud, you will quickly discover that “abiding” is a theme for the Johannine author. The verb occurs six times in the passage from John’s first letter, and eight times in the passage from the Gospel. The letter appears to have been written during a conflict within the community (2 and 3 John seem to be cover letters for 1 John, one addressed to the leader of the community and one to the community itself; and both speak of those who have left the community). The only way of being fruitful is to abide. Continue reading “Abide”

Entrusting our lives

22 April 2018
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Good Shepherd Sunday
Easter 4B (RCL)

Acts 4:5-12
Psalm 23
1 John 3:16-24
John 10:11-18

John uses an interesting phrase in the Greek that we translate “lay down (his) life for.” The phrase is “tithein ten psychen hyper.” Translated literally, it would come out something like, “place his soul on account of.” I once asked a classical Greek scholar what the phrase meant. He suggested it meant something like, “entrust one’s life to.” It was used in military poetry, and describe what we might call a “trust fall.” A soldier unsheathed his sword and handed it to his comrade, and then exposed his neck. If his comrade didn’t lop off his head, then he could be trusted. One had entrusted one’s soul to one’s friend.

This is something very different from what we hear when we hear “lay down his life for his friends.” In the passage from the Gospel, Jesus says, “I set aside my soul so that I might take it up again.” He entrusts his life so that he might take it up again. Isn’t this true of all of us? We cannot live, except at the gift of others. We entrust our lives to others simply in order that we might live. We disguise that trust behind money, but without trust in the basic institutions of decency and honesty, we couldn’t live.

What is startling here, is that God in the Incarnate Jesus, entrusts God’s life to the sheep. In the final discourse, in Chapter 13, Jesus sets aside his garment, washes his disciples’ feet, and then takes it up again. The vocabulary is exactly the same. We only live by mutual trust and service.

Also startling here is Jesus’ claim to have other sheep who are not of this fold, whom he must call, so there will be one flock under one shepherd. We can tend to think of Church as a safe place, where we can always come. But we are mistaking the fold of the sheep for the destination. Jesus says that the shepherd comes to the fold and calls his sheep out, so that they may find pasture. Church is only where we come to rest, but if we are going to follow Jesus, we have to be willing to go out as well as come in. And we might well encounter that other flock outside the fold.

And recognition of them will come by listening, listening to the voice of the shepherd. We are often too prone to speak when encountering others, rather than listen. We think we have a corner on the truth, but if we are to hear the shepherd’s voice, we have to listen.

Broiled fish

15 April 2018
Third Sunday of Easter
Easter 3B (RCL)

Acts 3:12-19
Psalm 4
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48

I’ve never particularly liked the Book of Acts. I know many people read it as a pattern for what the Church should be today. I find Luke’s history to be far to idealized to be very useful. However, reading Peter’s speech to the religious authorities this time, I have taken another tack. These speeches always sound to me like the worst of Christian supersessionism: You killed Jesus, therefore God has given the promises to us. Continue reading “Broiled fish”

Locked for fear

8 April 2018
Second Sunday of Easter
Easter 2B (RCL)

Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 133
1 John 1:1 – 2:2
John 20:19-31

Poor Thomas — we call him doubting Thomas, but he doesn’t doubt. He absolutely refuses to believe. It is not from lack of courage that he refuses to believe, but because the group of other disciples are not forthcoming. Continue reading “Locked for fear”