I Will Do a New Thing

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Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 148
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

Some additional readings for this lesson: Isaiah 43:19a, Behold, I will do a new thingKJV Jeremiah 31:31, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant. KJV Isaiah 65:17a, For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earthKJV 2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is united with the Messiah, he is a new creationCJB Matthew 9:16-17, New wine is stored in new wineskinsNLT

These passages, and others, prepare us for the vision of John. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. (v. 1) And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” (v. 5) NLT

We can speculate about a new earth, one without mosquitos perhaps, but we do know how that newness applies to this old earth. Jesus told his disciples before his arrest, I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one anotherNJB The command is new in that following that one command will fulfill all the commandments of God. The command is old in that it has always been in scripture from Genesis on, we just are not very good at obeying that command.

Peter had to learn a hard lesson about how far love goes: he ate forbidden food with forbidden people. Today, we struggle with the idea of loving Muslims, gays, street people, and druggies. Immigration is a hot topic politically and we need to find God’s way of loving them. What we want to do is avoid having to love people who make us uncomfortable by insulating ourselves from them.

We also demonize “those people” by saying they smell, are not Christians, carry disease, are stupid, talk funny, murder people. It is not easy to get past our own bigotry and move into love. Yet, that is the new way.

Jesus spent most of his time with fellow Jews, including those who thought he was dangerous. When he did meet outsiders, he did not condemn or preach, he helped them as they were. He did not tell the Samaritan woman to become a proper Jew, he encouraged her to become more morally right with God. Not a word was spoken to the Centurion about giving up the Roman soldier’s life and becoming a Jew. Each individual must come to God within the context of his own culture. Sometimes, that may not be possible and may require a change of culture.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Lamb at the Center

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Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:22-30

 

We begin today with the most often quoted Psalm of all, Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still watersKJV

The Psalm gives glory to God, who protects us in our daily lives. Of course, we suffer in this world. Sometimes when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we do die (but only once). That does not mean that God is not with us. God did not create us to suffer, but we chose to cut ourselves off from God, so suffering is the result. Even so, God is with us, giving us His Peace in all that we face.

In the reading from John, we see Jesus questioned yet again by the Temple authorities who put it to Jesus very bluntly: “Yes or no, are you the Messiah?” Jesus’ most direct response in the Gospels is recorded by John. I and the Father are oneCJB

We do not know the exact words spoken by Jesus, first, because he most likely spoke either Aramaic or Hebrew; and second, this was written in Greek by John 30-60 years later. It is nonetheless an authoritative statement that would be easy to remember.

The authorities heard him say he was God, but is that the actual claim? We tend to jump to that conclusion without thought, so let us think about it here. In Matthew 19:3-6, Jesus responded to the question about divorce. The key statement is: the two are united into oneNLT

The two claims of equality made by Jesus may well have the same meaning. We understand that when a man and woman marry, they do not cease to be man and woman; they do, however, become a partnership in addition to being individuals.

I believe that is the claim that Jesus made: he declared a partnership with God. He claimed to have the same relationship with God that man had with God before sin. He claimed to be a human who had not sinned.

If we believe that Jesus is, and was, God, then going to the cross was not a sacrifice. But if we accept the message of the Four Gospels, Jesus was born human and remained so all his life. In Revelation, John records seeing Jesus as distinct from God. Jesus was human.

Yet, he was the only human on earth, at least since Adam, who lived in complete and unbroken connection with God. He never did anything that God did not want him to do. More than that, Jesus always felt the warmth and presence of God. He could hear God as clearly as we hear one another. That might have been why he was sweating blood as he prayed in the Garden.

Jesus also told the authorities that he was the Messiah by saying: The proof is the work I do in my Father’s nameNLT We are all known by our works. If I am one with God, I will do His work. In Acts, we read of Peter raising a woman from the dead, doing what Jesus did. We have been called to care for others in many ways, that is what God wants us to do.

We close with Revelation in the same sense that Psalm 23 began the lesson. The Lamb who is in the centre of the throne will be their shepherd and will lead them to springs of living waterPhillips Here, the water is the living water from which we will no longer thirst.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Worthy is the Lamb

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Acts 9:1-6, (7-20)
Psalm 30
Revelation 5:11-14
John 21:1-19

 

And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the LordKJV We downplay how Saul’s attitude before his conversion. He really wanted to murder all of the followers of the demigod, Jesus. Saul was the ISIS of his day.

His conversion was not from Judaism to Christianity, but from hater to lover.

Anger is not what we are called to do.

This commentary on the words of John in today’s Gospel reading give us insight into our mission. Why, having passed by the others, does he speak with Peter on these matters? He does so because he was the chosen one of the apostles, the mouthpiece of the disciples and the leader of the band. This is why Paul went up, at one time, to inquire of him rather than of the others. And at the same time he does this to show him that he must now be joyful since the denial was put behind him. And so, Jesus entrusts to him primacy over his brothers. He does not bring up the denial, nor does he reproach him for what had taken place. Rather, he says, If you love me, preside over your brothers, and now show them the warmth of love that you have always shown and in which you rejoiced. And the life that you said you would lay down for me, now give for my sheepACCS Chrysostom about 390 AD.

Notice that Jesus gave Simon Peter three chances to profess his love. It was not so he could earn his position; not so he could make up for his three denials; not so he could impress the other disciples. Yes, Jesus did it in small part to give Peter renewed confidence after his disgraceful performance after the rest, but more to stress the importance of the role of love in his future leadership.

We Americans are in love with power. We want to elect Presidents who will do what it takes to get the job done and keep the US number One. We love our military’s ability to attack any enemy and succeed against them.

Yet, that is not the way of the Lamb.

We who choose the Way must give up the blood lust, just as Saul had to do. We must tamp down our desire to be first and be willing to be last.

When we look ahead to the end of Revelation, we see that even in that final battle with the Evil One, the Worthy Lamb defeats him by speaking the Word of God.

We must live by that Word and no other.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence