There is a really good story that comes out of WWII Poland, about a man who was well known for his care and compassion for others and who was deeply loved because of his radical hospitality to villagers and strangers. When the man died, the villagers prepared his body for burial and proceeded to the village church where they asked the Priest to perform the burial service and to bury the man in the church cemetery. The priest, who also knew and loved the man, agreed to conduct the funeral service – but despite many pleas from the villagers, he could not bury the man inside the hallowed ground of the church cemetery because he was not baptized.
Insisting that the rules of the faith were clear and could be not be broken, the priest came up with what he thought was a compromise. He would bury him on church land but just beyond the fenced consecrated grounds of the cemetery. During the night after the grave had been filled and the stone placed, the fence that surrounded the cemetery had been moved by some of the villagers – so that it now took in the grave in which the man had been buried.
We have to be very careful that we don’t build the kind of house that David wanted to build based on the self-perceived elevation of his own glory, or the kind of house that the physical church in this small village became. I believe that God did not intend for his presence to be forever ruled by “walls” but rather guided by the heart. The house that God wants us to build is our relationship with him, so that others may see and have access to this household of faith through his son Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of God’s covenant of promises and faithfulness. Just as the villagers expanded the fence, which enclosed hallowed ground to include the grave of the man whom they loved – so God, through Christ, expands the boundaries to include those who believe in him. We now are the dwelling place for God’s presence, a house without walls, not a house built to divide, judge or exclude, but a house which reconciles us to God and to one another.
2 Samuel 7:1-14a I will raise up your offspring after you,… and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
Psalm 89:20-37 I will not break my covenant, nor change what has gone out of my lips. His line shall endure forever…It shall stand fast for evermore…
Ephesians 2:111-22 …remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel…But now in Christ Jesus …have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall…
Herod’s story helps us to understand several things. First, that John’s message was for everyone. Second, not everyone who hears the message of repentance will be committed to it. Third, for those who hear and receive it, they will make the choice to prepare themselves so that God can enter in and live according to God’s will and not the will of the self. By doing so it doesn’t make us perfect and we won’t always make the right decision but the spirit that condemns us will lead us back to John’s message of repentance of the heart. What story would we be telling if Herod chose not to honor his daughter’s request? How many decisions have we made in our own lives simply for our own self-preservation out of pride, arrogance, selfishness and fear? How many times have we in hindsight, with knowledge of Christ, wish we had made a different decision, not for things in which we have no relationship like the color of carpet, but rather in those matters that reflect our relationship to others? However, in spite of our selves and out past, God chooses to be in relationship with us, as blameless before him according to his love, which is revealed to us through Christ. As we strive to live according to God’s love, a Herod’s dilemma becomes less prevalent in our lives as we travel this journey.
Throughout this Easter season we spend a lot of time being encouraged to abide in God’s love and to love one another as Christ loved us. This emphasis on love requires that we be in relationship. Sometimes it’s very difficult as humans to love something in which we have no relationship. In fact I believe it’s perhaps even more difficult to love something with which we are not in right relationship. It is at this point where Judas’ relationship with Christ is given some attention. Just before Jesus is arrested, condemned and put to death, Jesus prays for his disciples saying; “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one… I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.” Christ words help us to understand the significance of a right relationship with God and one another, something Judas was never able to comprehend. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just be taken out of this world? You know the world with all its pride and prejudice, greed and licentiousness. However, this world by itself is not evil and I have come to realize that just being taken out of the world doesn’t actually solve any problems. In this journey we are confronted with every temptation that is produced in the world, and no one new this better than Jesus. So what does Judas’ part in Jesus ministry really mean for us today?
“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Gen. 8:22) There is always someone to be fed, someone to be clothed and someone to be comforted. Through us, God provides abundantly. Our blessings and gifts great and small are intended to be shared. Find someone to share them with everyday and God’s Love is continually released in the world.
If everything we do is done for God. there is no such thing as part-time.
1 John 3:16-24 How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the worlds goods, and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
1 Peter 4:10-11 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Resurrection ‘Woman, why are you weeping? John 20:1-18
Mark 16:1-8 ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.
Lent: Day 35 – For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God! Hebrews 9:11-15
No longer will the sacrifice of things alone, atone for our transgressions. Nor can we sacrifice one another. Each of us must be willing to sacrifice the self, as Christ sacrificed himself and together we will enter into God’s glory unscathed.
John 12:1-11 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
Psalm 36:5-11 …you save humans and animals alike, O Lord. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
Lent: Day 22 – All storms, famines and turmoil in our lives serve (intentionally or unintentionally) for the purpose of separating us from God’s Love, that being Jesus Christ. Abundant blessings can have a tendency to allow us to forget that attacks on God’s Love within us do exist. If we find ourselves struggling to endure them, Paul reminds us that even our biblical ancestors were blessed abundantly and yet struggled with fear and doubt. He also assures us that the guide, who led them out, is also our guide who will lead us to the way out and onto the peaceful side of those storms. What exactly is the way out? Jesus Christ within us is the way, the truth, and our life. We must be careful not to let our response to these attacks change who we are and forget that Christ within has not left us and will forever be with us when the storm passes over.
Genesis 47:27-48:7 Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the region of Goshen; and they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied exceedingly.
Mark 7:1-23 …‘there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.’
1 Corinthians 10:1-13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures for ever…
who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;…
It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;…
O give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures for ever.