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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lord of the Coffee Cup

I am sitting at my desk, 7:57AM. It's a Tuesday. I have been in the building for about 12 minutes. I have been at my desk for about 2. (I had to first go to the kitchen and putter around making the coffee).

I am a pastor, so my work day is supposed to be spiritual, meaningful, and significant. I begin with a prayer.

"Lord, I ask that you be the Lord of my coffee cup."

Say what? What kind of prayer is that?

In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, "No one can serve two masters ... you cannot serve God and wealth." So, I read that, and I substitute whatever I would serve in place of serving God. In this instance, coffee.

Richard Foster talks about praying with a cup of coffee in his hand - letting the prayer last as long as the coffee is warm. The coffee is kind of a prayer guide, a rosary acceptable to Quakers. He even says he holds the cup to his cheek to feel the warmth and be reminded that he is filled with the warmth of the Holy Spirit.

I don't get quite as intimate with my morning java. But I sure do consume a lot of it. I have a consuming approach to food and drink (and maybe to life). That's not always bad. The Holy Spirit reminds us that the bridegroom has come. But out consuming must be an acknowledgement that all good things are based in Jesus. All good comes from God through Jesus. I too often consume because my appetite, no my tastes, are ravenous.

I don't eat or drink because of hunger but because I enjoy the feel of food in my mouth, the sensation of it landing in my throat. When it finally lands, my stomach says, "Hey, it's getting pretty crowded in here! We're going to need to bust out a wall and expand." My ego rejected the expansion proposal, but my stomach, in cahoots with my desire to be eating and drinking at all times, went ahead with it anyway.

My life is this constant tension - I want God to be master. Yet, my impulses lead to excess in spending, in eating, in debates (which become obsessive and distracting), and in other things. I have reached a point where I need to truly reach out to God and plead for Him to take back the lost territory. I need God, revealed in Jesus Christ, to be master of everything in my life. And giving life to Him is going to be tough. The stomach and the taste buds and the swallow muscles have not reached the same epiphany that my heart and mind and soul have reached. I need God to help me win this war. I need God to be Lord of everything in me.

Including this cup of coffee.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The End of the World

The mistake of Harold Camping and all who followed him and waited for the rapture and cataclysmic end of days on May 21, 2011 has entirely to do with how one reads the Bible. Camping read the Bible in search of secret clues - a hidden code that reveals the truth. To read in such a way is to misunderstand the word. The Bible doesn't need to be deciphered.

Translation is necessary - it was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Cultural understanding is necessary - the books of the Bible assumed the readers would have a working knowledge of the contexts of the time of composition. That familiarity is not available to 21st century readers, so we need the help of historians and archaeologists and theologians.

But, what is not needed is a complicated deciphering of what's behind the text or hidden in the text. The books of the Bible are intended to reveal God - God's love, God's purposes, God's design. The story and the teaching is not a front behind which a secret timeline unveils the exact date of the end. Camping's mistake was he missed the trees in search of the forest.

Rather than attempting to unearth some hidden message, we do well to see the message that is plain in the text. Love God. Love the neighbor. Obey God. Serve without expectation. No matter how good or bad life becomes, believe and live in faith. Be committed to studying the word, gathering with the church for worship, serving, sharing the gospel, and prayer.

No algorithms or secret knowledge is needed to glean these things. If we live in faith and live in love and focus on Jesus, our lives will be filled with joy, we will find ourselves helping people, we'll have a positive outlook, and we'll be giving away good news to everyone we meet. We will live in pure joy. And when we get to heaven, we'll recognize the place because we will have spent our life following the God who resides there.

My latest sermon, posted on this blog, is about focusing on the main thing - Jesus. Check it out.

Jesus in our Speech, Thought

It’s All About Jesus (John 14:5-7)

Rob Tennant, Sunday, May 5, 2011

You’ve just been to a film, the movie everyone’s talking about. Your friend comes and says, “Tell me about it.”

“Oh, it was fantastic,” you say. “The theater is brand new and the seats are so comfortable. You can lean back. There’s plenty of legroom. It hasn’t been around long enough for there to be a pervasive stickiness where people have spilled sodas and rubbed sticky hands. It all feels clean and new. It’s really wonderful.”

“Uh, huh,” your friend replies. “And …?”

You say, “Well the concession stand is amazing. When we went, it was packed. But the concession stand is so long and has extra registers. The wait in line was not bad. And, the concession stand is fully loaded. Every kind of candy, popcorn, everything – they have it all. The popcorn was out of this world.”

“But what about the movie?” You friend asks.

“The picture on the screen is spectacular. The quality of both picture and sound is breathtaking.” Now, you’re getting excited as you talk. “Yes,” you continue, “It’s a great movie experience. Plus, before the film, they showed 7 previews of upcoming attractions and the previews were really cool.”

Now, you’ve talked all about the evening. You’ve shared your experience with zeal. You’ve given substance and detail. You’d go again right now. Why is your friend so frustrated? You’ve never mentioned the actual movie!

In John 13 and 14, the disciples are with Jesus at the last Supper. Judas Iscariot has already gone out. They don’t know why Judas left, but they can tell from his tone and the expression on his face that Jesus is completely serious about what he’s saying. It’s a moment they know they need to pay close attention, and they do. Furthermore, they ask questions.

My guess is many questions were asked in this dialogue, and that shows the environment Jesus created. He wanted his disciples to be thinking men and women. Often they were wrong in their assumptions, but he invited them to keep thinking, keeping asking, keep growing. Four of the inquiries are recorded.

Jesus tells them, “I am only with you a little longer. … Where I am going you cannot go” (13:33). Of course Simon Peter leads off. “Lord, where are you going?” In an answer Dr. Seuss would appreciate, Jesus responds, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow me afterward.” With ignorance and bombast, Peter dismisses what Jesus said and pledges to lay down his life. Jesus then predicts Peter’s denial.

Jesus continues to teach them with words of reassurance. “In my Father’s house are many rooms … I go and prepare a place for you” (14:2-3). This time, Thomas takes up the questioning, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” We’re going to come back to the answer Jesus gives Thomas.

After Jesus responds to him, it is Philip’s turn. “Lord, show us the Father.” Jesus says, “Have I been with you all this time Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

As I said, I think John gives us just some of what said and many other questions were asked. But, the final recorded question of the disciples in this dialogue comes from Judas (the other Judas, not Judas Iscariot). “Lord, how is it that you reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus says to Judas, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (14:23).

The disciples didn’t want to know about peripherals – the box office, the theater lights, or the sound system. They wanted Jesus to tell them the main story – where is he going and how do they get there? Every answer he gives is not about a location, but rather with a person, Jesus himself. Peter will deny knowing Jesus. If Philip wants to see God, he should look to Jesus. The reason Judas gets to see Jesus whereas Jesus is not revealed to others outside the circle of disciples is Judas and the disciples loved him and listened to him. When we listen to Jesus and look to Him, we come into relationship with God.

The disciples were trying to wrap their minds around this, but the lesson wouldn’t sink in until after the resurrection and after they had been filled with the Holy Spirit. Today, it is 2000 years was Jesus was raised. We know that happened. The Holy Spirit has come in full force. For those reasons our understanding should be deep and mature.

So why when Christians talk about their faith do they so often mention their favorite song on K-Love or some other Christian station, or a C.S. Lewis novel, or the president’s faith, or what some celebrity said about God? Why can we talk about these a million other things, some very important others not so much, but we fail to focus on the main thing? Why do we get so tongue-tied when the conversation is about Jesus?

Here’s what Jesus said when Thomas asked, “How can we know the way to where you are going?” Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” We don’t need a road map. To get to Heaven, we don’t to fly into space and hang a left just past the Big Dipper. To walk in the Kingdom of God, we don’t have to find it. It is not a place in the sense that Franklin Street or Raleigh or the beach are places.

How can we know the way? Jesus is the way. Retired Oxford Professor John Ashton points out that John, the fourth evangelist, is not trying to fill the reader with knowledge. He wants to help the reader come to faith.[i] In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God. ‘Life’ or ‘Eternal Life’ are phrases in John that function in the same way. Jesus is talking about a complete transformation of the way humans relate to one another and to God. This transformation reaches its completion at the last judgment. We begin our participation in it, in the life, in the Kingdom, when we follow Jesus, and have His Spirit in our hearts. When we are in Christ, we are in the kingdom. He is the way.

John’s goal is revelation, not information. God is revealed to those who set their lives on Jesus. It truly is all about Him. “It” refers to our attitudes toward life; toward people; toward pain; toward money; toward our experiences and our history; toward our future. Everything in life is interpreted according to the teaching of Jesus; the way he modeled relationship, prayer, and faith; and his actions. We have to know Him as He presented in the New Testament; in the history of the church; in the voice of the church today; and in our own experience with Him through the Holy Spirit.

In Christianity Today magazine, Carolyn Arends writes, “I have never liked thinking about my own death. But I’ve considered it enough to know I hope I go down singing, or at least speaking or thinking, something about Jesus.”[ii]

A church member is in the car driving to work, thinking over and over about someone at work who has made him extremely angry. That person was mean, and unfair and dishonest. So, how does Jesus lead the church member, a Christian, to act toward this dirty, cheating person he’s going to run into at work again? The answer will very from day to day. One day, the believer may have to confront the other’s dirty deeds. Another day, the Christ-follower may have to turn the other cheek. And the next day it will be something else. But each day, each step of each day, is taken with Jesus in mind. Jesus determines our lives. He is the way, the truth, and the life.

The example of facing someone who is underhanded, has implications. Saying Jesus is the way has implications. So too does the second half of the statement Jesus made to Thomas. Thomas said, “How can we know the way to where you are going?” Jesus responded, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” And here’s the part I didn’t read initially. “No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The heart of the matter – the movie itself – is Jesus. And there’s no way to be in the Kingdom and be in relationship with God except through Jesus. This statement has heavy implications, because it implies something rather definitive about people who do not walk the way of Jesus. They are cut off from God.

More on that in a moment, but first, notice the invitation that is obvious but not stated. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus; everyone who goes through Jesus gets to the Father. He said to the other Judas (not Iscariot) those who love him, keep his word. Obedience and love – when this is our approach and we acknowledge Jesus as Lord, he says that He and the Father make their home with us. All who come to Jesus are welcomed by God.

But what about those who don’t come to Jesus?

Do we just write them off as being lost? If we want to play this out all the way, do we say they are going to Hell when they die? They don’t believe in Jesus, they are not walking in Him, the way, they don’t believe in Him, the truth, and so they are not living the life. Is that the end of it?

We could say a simple “yes,” and go on for our Sunday lunch. That would be great if John’s Gospel were a reference book. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to Father except through him. If one does not go through him, one does not get to the Father. To be eternally cut-off from the Father is Hell. We’re done. Except, John is not a reference book. John is a story. A true story, but a story nonetheless. John is trying to give revelation, not information. It’s state clearly in John 20:31. This gospel was not written so we would know the facts. It was written so we would believe and have life, and not just any life, but life in the name of Jesus.

So when Jesus says he is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to Father except through him, what is being revealed?

God is being revealed in a man. Clearly from the fact that Jesus commissioned his followers and the fact that the stated purpose of the gospel is that it lead people to belief, we have a commission. We who have read and have been filled by the Spirit have a job to do. Our job is not to tell about how awesome our church is. Doing our job may include describing our congregation here, but at the heart, that’s not our job. Our church is here to help us do our job.

Our job is not to argue with others about the issues of the day like abortion or “just war” theories or alcohol consumption or a proper faith response to poverty or capital punishment. Those issues are important and a part of our job and a part of our response to Jesus might be to have an opinion on those issues and to express that opinion. But our job is not to politick along the lines of those issues on their own merit.

Furthermore, our job is not to determine who is in Heaven and who isn’t. I hope this is not unsatisfactory, but in none of the commissions, not in Matthew, not in Luke, not in Acts, not in John – in none are we called to identify who in the world around us is headed for Hell. We don’t make that decision. God does. Hell is real. God will decide what it is like, who goes there, and how long they stay. People make definitive statements about Heaven and Hell, all the time, and yet the same people fail to talk much about the heart of the matter.

It’s all about Jesus. Our job is to love our neighbors as we love ourselves and to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. One of the best ways I can love someone is to introduce him to Jesus. And if Jesus is the way and I am walking in the way, then no matter what I am talking about, Jesus is on my mind.

We have some rabid UNC basketball fans in this church. A few years ago, Gerald Henderson of the hated Duke Blue Devils smashed the beloved Tyler Hansbro’s nose. The UNC fan’s emotions would boil over in seeing that. But, our job isn’t to react in that scenario as a raging UNC fanatics. Our job is to think ‘Jesus’ in that situation, and follow His lead in our words, in our hearts, in our facial expressions. It’s all about Jesus because he is the way, the truth, and the life.

People want to snatch John 14:6 out of context and use it as some kind of bludgeon. Whoever doesn’t have Jesus is going to Hell. No! This chapter doesn’t talk about Hell. Really, let God worry about who’s going to Hell. We are called to walk in the way and believe in the truth so we can live the life in the Kingdom.

In terms of John revealing God through Jesus and us responding to that revelation, William Willimon asks, what sort of lives does our faith produce?[iii] Instead of using John 14:6 as an angry declaration that all non-Christians are Hell-bound, try being formed by John 14:6. I really believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. So, how does that belief create me? Life is all about Jesus. Am I all about Jesus? And is Jesus in every little bit of my life? Every part? Every relationship? Every opinion? Every emotional reaction? Is Jesus driving me, creating who I am?

Is easy to say some formulaic prayer and then declare I belong to Jesus and then speak condemnation against everyone out there who hasn’t said that formula prayer, ‘the sinner’s prayer.’ I think every prayer is a sinner’s prayer.

It’s better to examine the questions the disciples asked – Peter, Thomas, Philip, Judas. And we add our questions. And we listen with our hearts to Jesus’ response. He invites us to look to Him. He says when we love Him, we obey Him. His command is that we love others, and bring them to Him. If this is how we live, in worship, in obedience, in evangelism, in holiness, in love – if this how we live, then our lives are all about Jesus.


[i] Ashton’s comments come from his chapter in Jesus in the Johanine Tradition, Robert Fortna, Tom Thatcher, editors (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2001), p.334.

[ii] Carolyn Arends, “Going Down Singing,” Christianity Today, April, 2011, p.56

[iii] Dr. Willimon, a Century editor at large, is minister to the university and professor of the practice of Christian ministry at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. This article appeared in the Christian Century, January 28, 1987, pps. s. 82-85. Copyright by the Christian Century Foundation; used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at This article prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Sunday after Easter

The Disciple Life in the Resurrection Age (John 20:19-23)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Jesus had been executed, and not just killed. He was subjected to the worst possible death, the Roman cross. So, the disciples, filled with fear, huddled behind a locked door hoping to go unnoticed. The political leaders in Jerusalem had already demonstrated they could influence Roman Governor Pilate to collude with them in bringing someone to death.

Who killed Jesus? The Romans? The temple leaders? Me in my sin, or us in our sins? God, for the sake of sin debt? Who is killed Jesus is not a question we will answer this morning. The important point John illustrates is that the disciples were terrified more killing might be coming. They locked themselves in.

It’s no way to live, but many do. I just read this week of an evangelist who was beaten to death by Muslims.[i] It’s scary for a Christ-follower, knowing Jesus commands us to witness, to live in a place where evangelism is not tolerated. It’s scary for a child to live with a parent who beats him or a wife to live with a husband who hits her. It’s scary to think one might lose her job, and she’s over 55, not yet able to retire, but old enough that potential employers overlook her. It’s no good to live in fear. It casts a heavy shadow over life that makes it difficult to sleep, difficult to dream. Fear is unsettling and demeaning.

The disciples hid behind a locked door, and there He is! They were afraid, now a glimmering brilliance fills the room and the shadows of fear flee with great haste. “Peace be with you.” “… The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.”

I feel a distance from the resurrection that I don’t like. It happened 2000 years ago. A final resurrection is coming at some unknown future date which will mark the Lord’s Second Coming and the Judgment Day. We live in between the times. So, we can’t always sense the force of the resurrection, either how important it was or how important it will be. The disciples were most likely as disoriented after Jesus materialized in their midst. Fear cast a gloomy blanket. Then Jesus shined a radiant light. They knew fear, but what prepares one for resurrection?

How can we enter the wonder and mystery, the awe and surprise the disciples experienced with Jesus in that locked house? We read the stories in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Every year, we read at least two of the four Easter accounts. We supplement with the brief appearances of the risen Christ in Acts and the book of Revelation. We hear Paul testify of his encounters with Jesus. But, it’s all old text, very old. How do we drink the new wine and share the newness of the Kingdom of God when our experiences of the Gospels are like watching? The show is fantastic, but it is still a rerun we’ve watched over and over and over.

One thing did startle me in John 20. Jesus said …

As(AF) the Father has sent me,(AG) even so I am sending you." 22And when he had said this, he(AH) breathed on them and said to them, (AI) "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23(AJ) If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld."

If the disciples forgive sins they are forgiven; and, if they don’t then the person is not forgiven. Early in his ministry, four men approached Jesus. Approached is understated. He was teaching in a crowded house, and these men cut their way through the roof so they could lower their paralyzed friend on a mat that Jesus might heal him. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Your sins are forgiven,” and some in the crowd did not like him saying that. They accused him of blasphemy and then said, “Who can forgive sins but God alone” (Mark 2:7)? Jesus responded, “So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins … I say to you [the paralyzed one] take your mat and go to your home.” The man who could not walk, stood and carried his own mat.

That’s all well and good. Jesus the miracle-worker is God in human flesh. He’s conquered death. He can forgive sins. But these disciples? They constantly misunderstood his message. They ran, abandoning him when he was arrested. Why would he say they could forgive or retain the sins of others? Is this exclusively for these we read about in John 20, or is what he says to them applicable to all who have the Holy Spirit. If we are filled with the Spirit can we forgive or retain sins? Are we filled with the Spirit or did we have to be there and have the resurrected Jesus fill us as he did them?

This is all a bit troubling because we can go through Acts and the later New Testament books and see where the disciples who made up the early church made a lot of mistakes. They weren’t all of a sudden perfect. We want Jesus to forgive our sins, but do we want these guys to have the power to forgive or withhold forgiveness? Worse, what if in fact we do have that authority?

I have known some people who by most technical definitions would be considered Christians. But, they have a vindictive streak. Do I want them to be able to retain sins, my sins, as Jesus says in John 20? Worse of all – do I want that responsibility?

A sin is an offense against God. A sin is a choice made to reject God’s ways and go our own way. A sure sign that someone is cut-off from God is that person is unrepentant in terms of his own mistakes, and is unconcerned with God’s commands. Forgiveness is important because sin cuts us from God and leads us to violence against each other. Sin rips human society apart. We desperately need forgiveness. When is it appropriate to “retain sins?” Why does Jesus say that?

I am thrilled with the resurrection even though it is hard to wrap my mind around. Fear of authorities had the disciples trembling behind locked doors and then the appearance of the risen Christ had them awe-struck. Those things are aspects of story I’ve read over and over, year after year. It is what the Risen Jesus says that startles us, has us shaking our heads, and wondering how we live in response to our Lord’s words. “If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

I can only make sense of it in terms of commission. What Jesus said to the frightened disciples gathered in the locked house the eve of the resurrection he says to us as well. But two statements come before the granted authority to forgive or retain sins. We understand Jesus’ word to us when we understand the three-fold commissioning and the way it relates to the rest of John’s gospel.

“As the father has sent me, so I send you.” Our mission as the church of Christ followers comes directly from Him. Jesus draws line of succession. God sent him and to do what? And how was he to do what the Father sent Him to do? When gathered with the disciples for the final meal, Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). What he came to do was reveal God. That’s our job. As the Father sent Jesus, so he sends us.

How? At that same supper, Jesus got down on the floor and washed the feet of his disciples. “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet,” He said. “For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (13:14-15). We say the Golden Rule is do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The Jesus rule is do to others and to each other what Jesus has done for us. He is sending us just as he was sent. He was sent to reveal God that the world might see and know, follow and worship God. We are to go and reveal Jesus, God in the flesh, to the world. How? Jesus did it gently, patiently, lovingly, and in acts of compassion and service. Our evangelism, our revealing of Jesus, is to be seen in our love of others, our service for them, and our compassion poured on their behalf. He sends us just as the Father send Him.

But not empty handed; after Jesus spoke, he filled his followers with the Holy Spirit. The language provokes memories. In Genesis, when God made man, he breathed into Him the breath of life. Humans are not humans until God breathes life into us. In Ezekiel 37, the prophet, at God’s prompting, calls a valley of dry bones to life. The bones take on shape, skin, flesh, muscle – they look like human beings, but are not alive. They only come to life when the prophet, again directed by God, prophesies to the winds. Similarly, Jesus breathes on the disciples and tells them to receive the Holy Spirit.

Only after they’ve been commissioned and only after they have been filled with the Holy Spirit are they ready for what Jesus says next, the line that stopped me in my tracks. We are sent. We are filled with the Spirit of Jesus. Then he says, “If you receives the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

We’re doing what Jesus did. Jesus did not retrain sins. John the Baptist, early on in the Gospel, says to two of his followers as they watch Jesus walk by, “Look! Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (1:29). He did not say, “Look, here is the Lamb of God who numbers the sins of the world.” Or, “Here is the Lamb of God who keeps track of the sins of the world.” Or, “Here is the Lamb of God who punishes the sins of the world.” What did Jesus do with sin? He got rid of it. As his followers, with His Spirit in us, guiding us as we do his work, we forgive.

In the resurrection age, the followers of Jesus model forgiveness for one another. We gratefully receive the grace and forgiveness he gives us, and thus we forgive ourselves and do not live in guilt. And, we forgive one another in the church. And we make grace a habit.

There are a lot of people whose words or actions infuriate us. We get mad at foreign dictators who kill their own people and perpetuate totalitarian regimes and sometimes hunger and starvation. We get mad at pastors and theologians who only preach judgment and are far too eager to name everyone who is going to Hell without an ounce of love or compassion for the lost. We get angry at people we love – people in the church; people in our families. In each instance of ill feelings toward another human, we must remember our commission.

(1) Jesus sends us – so our lives are lived on mission. It’s not a cheesy line from the Blues Brothers movie. If we want to be followers of Jesus, we really are on a mission from God and that mission is to help people see and know, worship and follow God as He is revealed in Jesus.

(2) Jesus fills us – we have His Spirit. So we’re acting with His power and doing His work. When we lose our way in trying to be passionate and devoted in our discipleship, we retreat back to the very Spirit that fills us. It truly God alive, active in us.

(3) Jesus directs us – we are directed right to the work of forgiveness. We’re supposed to forgive everyone Jesus forgave. As he was being crucified, he said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). I can’t think of any sins Jesus retained.

The commission in John’s Gospel is worded differently than in Matthew’s. Matthew’s is what history has entitled the Great Commission, and it truly is that. But John’s is just as important. The fourth evangelist underscores what he’s trying to do, why he wrote this account of Jesus’ life. In chapter 20, verses 30-31, we read, “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are no written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and through believing you may have life in His name.”

It ties back to what we read at the very beginning of the year from John 1:12. All who receive Jesus and believe in Him are given power to become children of God. At the beginning this morning, I bemoaned the lack of freshness in the resurrection story. We read of the resurrection every year and yet won’t understand it until we ourselves experience it. Thus, we cannot appreciate how new resurrection is or how powerful.> That’s not quite right.

We are disciples of Jesus Christ living in the Resurrection Age – the epoch of history when salvation is offered to everyone in the world and God speaks through his church. When we live in love and forgiveness and when we draw lost people into a community of love and forgiveness, we see the resurrection. We feel its force. We are the family God – his sons and daughters – and we find words to say what that is like. We experience His love and are forever changed by it.

So, no, our surprise is not the same as that of the disciples on the day of the resurrection. But our wonder is just as great. His love is deep. His presence is real.

My friends, as the Father sent Him, Jesus sends us. Receive the Holy Spirit. And forgive as Jesus forgave. Share the Gospel, the good news that we in Jesus.