Jesus and the Promise of Home

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:9-12

The Comforts of Home

Every afternoon, when I am worn out by the day, I look forward to the moment when I can walk out to my car and silently comfort myself with the thought, “Let’s go home.” And in my life, home has been a moving target.

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The Gospel that Includes the Baptism that Includes

Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” Acts 8:35-36

Acts 8 tells the story of an Ethiopian, an official in the court of the queen, who was returning home following a trip to Jerusalem. On his trip, the official encountered Philip, on of the seven Christians chosen in Acts 6 for oversight of the Greek-speaking church.

What first caught my attention was this: Philip proclaimed the good news about Jesus to someone who knew nothing about it. The Ethiopian then immediately asked to be baptized.  It seems to imply that that Christian baptism was part of Philip’s story of good news.

Well, yes, but as I dug into the text I found that there is even more to the story.

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Did the Men Cook?

Image result for upper room nashville

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked. He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. Luke 22:7-13

Sometime back I was sitting in the Upper Room Chapel in Nashville when my mind wandered off the chapel activities to the carving behind the altar. It is a representation of Jesus’ last supper before his crucifixion, a copy of Leonardo DaVinci’s famous painting.

Luke says that the “apostles” – the sent ones – reclined at the table with Jesus, a group Luke identifies with the twelve. In renaissance style, DaVinci’s apostles sit with Jesus; they don’t recline. Still, it’s just the twelve and Jesus – all men. And the question came to my mind, “Who cooked the dinner?”

Did Luke intend to say that Peter and John cooked the meal when he said, “they prepared the Passover?” Were there others, perhaps some women included, behind the scenes who prepared the actual meal?

It’s amusing to think of the great apostles of the church standing beside the oven baking bread, washing vegetables and roasting lamb. Maybe Peter washed the dishes and John set the table. We should not think it beneath the dignity of the princes of the church to do the work of  servants. Even an apostle can put on an apron and get to work. The disciples may not wash feet in the synoptic gospels as they do in the Gospel of John, but Jesus still calls them to the ordinary task of setting the table.

Whoever performed these mundane functions, the supper had to be prepared before the table could be shared.

Does not the apostolic church still set the table for Jesus, so that he can offer himself anew to every new generation of believers?


Transfiguration: To See the Glory of the Lord

This Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday*, when we recall the revelation of Jesus’ glory on the mountain in the days before his final journey to Jerusalem.

The disciples had seen Jesus heal (miraculously), cast out demons, calm storms, feed the multitude, teach with authority, forgive sins, and bring lost sons and daughters of Abraham back home into the family of God. And he gave the twelve authority to do the same. That would have been incredible to experience. But despite the miraculous things Jesus did, and the miraculous things he empowered them to accomplish, it was their experience of Jesus’ glory on the mount of transfiguration that knocked the disciples off their feet.

It was also the experience of Jesus’ glory that empowered the early church for its ministry in the world. The early church was generous, compassionate and brave in the face of Caesar’s empire, and it adopted new members into its midst at an astonishing rate. But what kept it going was the experience of Jesus’ glorious presence in their midst. The Nicene faith developed not in abstract speculation, but because Christians knew that when they worshiped Jesus they were in the presence of light from light, true God from true God, of one being with the Father. They faced the lions and the executioners not because they had a great attachment to social service, but because they experienced Jesus to be the Son of God, beloved of the Father.

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I Will Build My Church

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.  (Matthew 16:13-20)

Jesus Takes Responsibility for Building the Church

“I will build my church.” These are the most important five words in Matthew 16:13-20. This passage announces the good news that Jesus is going to build a church that even the power of death (“the gates of hades”) cannot defeat. That’s the gospel in this passage.

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