On Sunday, we begin the commemoration of the central events of the Christian story. In the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, we believe that God acted to bring about the defeat of darkness, and established his Reign of the New Age. During Holy Week, we walk with Jesus through the last week of his earthly life, and are able to ponder deeply the characters and events. It is most important that we listen deeply, opening our hearts and minds to a deeper understanding of God’s grace and love.
The epistle reading for Palm Sunday says, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,”. This is our goal in Holy Week, to let the mind of Christ be formed in us.
Please take time to be in the Scriptures and prayer during this week.
P. S. There are collects for each day of Holy Week. They are found on page 219-222 of the BCP. These would be a good way to start your daily meditations.
Remember, in these chapters Jesus is giving his final instuctions to his disciples. His final instuctions in his embodied life, that is. He continues his promise that the Advocate will come, and Jesus and the Father will be with them through the Spirit. But now, Jesus provides a warning to his disciples, and by extention to us. Listen well!
A point of truth, an inescapable fact – there is a fundamental dividing line between the world and Jesus and his disciples. The world is on one side, Jesus, his disciples, and the Father are on the other side. This is a fundamental division; no grey area here – you are either on one side or the other. The world does not like to acknowledge this dividing line. The world wants to say that we are all the same, that there is no basic difference between humans. Commitment to Jesus and God’s Kingdom in the eyes of the world is just a choice of preference. The world does not see this choice as having ultimate consequences. When Jesus entered the human sphere, did the work of the Father, chose his disciples, and proclaimed God’s kingdom, he was establishing this division. And the world does not like it. In fact, the world becomes hostile and even deadly. It killed Jesus. We need to face this fact if we are going to follow Jesus.
A crucial question – are we so identified with Jesus that the world finds us objectionable, even hates us. This is not about being an obnoxious Christian, and alienating everyone through our rudeness. It is about being so identified with Jesus that the world is called into question by our life. Something to ponder.
For this week we are reading John 15:18 through 16:5. More on this later.
I have been reading a massive study of Paul, the Apostle, by Bishop N. T. Wright, one of my favorite Bible scholars. In the first volume of the book, he describes in depth the religious, philosophical, and political world of the first century. The Mediterranean world was dominated by Greek, Roman, and Jewish thought. In the face of this massive world of thought, Jesus chooses twelve and pours his life into them. He teaches them, works with them, sends them out into the world to do what he does, corrects their failures, works with their doubts, and now the time has come to leave them.
And what does he give them. A promise! There is no bible, no seminaries, no theological books, no church buildings, no priests or preachers, no spiritual conferences, nothing, nada, zip; except this radical promise – the Father will send the Advocate, who will make me indwell in you, so that I am always with you. Always.
All you have to do is stay connected with me, and love each other.
The audacity of this astounds me. Jesus clearly intends to overcome evil through the cross, establish God’s kingdom on earth, overcome all the works of darkness, and establish the New Age promised by the prophets. And he is going to do it through these twelve, and their converts, and all he gives them as he leaves is this promise. I am the vine, stay connected, the Spirit will indwell you. That is all you need!
Must be enough.
I like to eat fruit, but I do not like fruit that is past its prime. When I buy bananas, the crucial issue is whether the fruit is ripe not green, but not too ripe. For me it is about texture more than taste. Taste is important, but if the texture isn’t right I don’t want it. As soon as the fruit is picked from the tree, decay sets in. It may take a little while, and some fruit even ripens for a short time after it is picked, but soon decay will be manifested – mushy over-ripe fruit.
I remark on my idiosyncracies about fruit because it reminds me of the most essential truth – staying connected to Jesus through the Holy Spirit is what it is all about. I believe this is a daily, hourly focus. I think that is what ‘abiding’ means. When we as Christians stop abiding, the LIFE that flows into us through Jesus begins to wane. Eventually, some form of rottenness will become manifest. Jana Wilson pointed out in her comments to the last post that it is what God does through us that is important. Try to be loving as Jesus commanded us on your own. You will quickly run up against your own ‘fleshly nature’. But when we are connected to God through Jesus Christ, the love of God will flow through us.
Frank Laubach, an American missionary to the Phillipines in the 20th century, wrote a little devotional book called, The Game with Minutes. He urged Christians to try to turn one’s thoughts toward God for one second out of every minute of the day. Although it took some time and struggle, he trained himself to do this. His letters reveal the powerful impact that it had on his life. Dallas Willard wrote a short article about Laubach that you cann access at www.dwillard/articles/artview.asp?artID=43.
There are other ways to approach this ‘staying connected’. The technique isn’t important, the reality is – staying connected to God through Jesus so that his love flows through us. This abiding in Christ.