Thursday, May 22, 2014

John 14:15-21  

With reference to the wind, the poet Christina Rossetti wrote:  

Who has seen the wind?  
Neither you nor I.  
But when the trees bow down their              
heads   The wind is passing by.  

The invisibility of wind - the ordinary insubstantiality of air - is contrasted to its ability to affect and change the environment.  It bends trees, shapes landscape and casts the water up into waves.  Jesus used the image once to good effect with Nicodemus.  The wind has its own origins.   It rises unbidden.   It changes direction.  It blows where it will.  The frustration of Nicodemus is palpable in the face of this metaphor.  He might well have preferred to be told who God is rather than what he is like.  Nothing is given to him which he can control and file away in the way he wants to.  In this week's Gospel reading, Jesus says to his disciples that he
"...will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever." 
He ushers in yet another metaphor - that of the Advocate.  Here again, we are promised something yet still effectively denied the ability to define things with enough precision to control what will happen.  On this Sunday, when we gather as adults and young people at Christ Church to hear the promises of Christ to his people, we might well seek out a word which is clear about what the future will look like for us and for the ones we love best.  What are we getting into?  What will become of us?  What will become of our young people?  What Jesus tells us, instead, is that his people will not be alone.  God will be present to them in his Spirit.  He will intervene for them.  He will give them the words to speak when they need them.  He will stand between them and the consequence of human sin.  He is on their side.

Like the disciples gathered with Jesus at this point, God's people stand together at the beginning of a life of faith.  You are embarking on an adventure.  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

John 14:1-14

There is a bumper sticker I saw once that said  “The Bible says it, I believe it and that settles it”

There are no fewer than 98 instances of the verb “to believe” in John’s Gospel.  There are  invitations, as in this Sunday’s Gospel, to begin to believe.   There are as well, descriptions of individuals and crowds who had, in fact, come to believe over the course of the Gospel.  Where the bumper sticker seems to be describing someone who is the way he is and will remain so forever, belief in the New Testament describes a more dynamic process.  People come to believe because of Jesus.   They change their beliefs about God because of Jesus.   They are forever changed because of something Jesus has said or done.   Something has welled up within them in response. 

It’s a word we use in common language in a number of ways:  “believing that” something is the case is a very different thing than “believing about” or “believing in”.   We tend to be a bit promiscuous about the things we “believe in” - ideas mostly - which we inherited or have come to believe in as a way of making sense of the world and identifying ourselves within it.  Free Enterprise or Universal Health Care or the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God - things that are “believed in” tend to sprout capital letters with time.  It is perhaps natural that belief in God or belief in Jesus might be things we file away in the same envelope.  Are these not beliefs which define our families or perhaps, even, our national communities?  From these beliefs “in” something, certain actions and attitudes will proceed which are consistent with such beliefs.  We would like to be consistent in our beliefs.  That may be why we stick bumper stickers on our cars - just in case something new and unclassifiable comes into the room and we forget and change our minds.

And there’s the rub.  Belief in the Gospel leads to departures and changes - not the endless reinforcement of old slogans and the adages we learned at our grandparents’ knees. 

Are we flexible enough?  Are we open enough to believe?