fear and faith appearance (Jonah Series 2/8)

The boat is heaving on the waves – at one moment riding high on the crest of a wave – and the next moment plunging downward into a great trough. Water is coming across the bow and into the boat. Everyone on board is soaked and exhausted. Everyone is afraid.

And then, all of a sudden, in a flash, it’s over. The wind stops blowing. The waves stop their pounding. The boat stops its rising and falling. There is peace and calm.

Yet astonishingly, in this moment of peace, in this moment of calm – all those  on board the boat are suddenly afraid. The sea is suddenly placid, but in this new moment those on board live with a new kind of fear.

As we did last week, this morning we have to ask. Which boat are we talking about? From everything I’ve said so far, we could either be talking about the disciples in their boat on the Sea of Galilee or about the sailors on that ship of Tarshish on the Mediterranean Sea. Continue reading

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three easter conversions – which is yours?

There is a lot of running going on in John chapter 20 – a lot of running in the gospel’s narration of the events of that Easter morning. Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb early on the first day of the week, when the glow of morning has barely appeared on the horizon. All she sees is that the stone has been rolled away from the entrance – that’s enough for her, apparently. We read: “So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.” Mary Magdalene runs to the disciples upon finding the stone rolled away because something here matters to her – something animates her. In her case it is bad news that matters to her – bad news that animates her. She is convinced that someone has stolen, taken the body of Jesus.

When Peter and the other disciple (we suspect it is John) – when they hear the news from Mary, it is their turn to run. In the case of these two disciples, are they running because they have heard bad news (the body has been taken) or because they are hopeful (he’s not in the tomb – perhaps a live)? Whatever the reason, they break out in a run. And the urgency is so great that they aren’t actually running together – each of them is trying to get there as fast as he can. John is the faster runner, and so Peter falls behind. John arrives at the tomb first, breathless. Peter arrives second, and steps in to discover the tomb is indeed empty. The grave clothes that had been carefully wrapped around Jesus body just a few days earlier, are folded there.

With my kids (mostly with the younger two – the older one is getting too old for that) – very often a running race breaks out simply when we arrive home. It isn’t a race to see anything. It’s not that we’re running away from bad news. It’s not that we’re running toward good news. It is simply a race to see who is first. It’s a race to touch the front door. Continue reading

Biography of Faith: Bonhoeffer

The first sermon in a series of four that explore the lives of men and women who are models for us of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. For this sermon I relied in part on the biographical piece by Burton, in the Cambridge Companion to Bonhoeffer – particularly on the question of his conversion.

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Let me ask a couple of questions as we begin this morning:

What does it look like when someone is following Jesus? 

What does a genuinely Christian life look like?

And then another question that flows from these – perhaps a more important question:

 How do we learn to really follow Jesus, to live a genuinely Christian life?

These are fundamental questions for us. They are fundamental questions for those who claim to be Christian. What does it look like when someone is following Jesus? What does a truly Christian life look like? And, does my life look that way?

Continue reading