In my view, anyone who elevates the Bible above all other literature, cultures, and morays is doing it a disservice. The Bible should be interpreted in context alongside all the other bodies of knowledge handed down through generations. Was the gospel Paul preached written prior to him preaching or did he claim a new Spirit revealed gospel? In the 1st century, he was labeled a heretic by the religious community. His gospel survived because he fashioned it to answer a dilemma regarding the salvation of Gentiles and their status with Jews. It was in his mind a new revelation and he suffered to give it Birth. We have such challenges to salvation in our time that need bold voices to speak and reveal what God is saying in our time. Anyone who lives by scripture and verse has not allowed the Spirit to speak. Even Paul cautions against such dogmatic positions. I’m sure Paul did not envision his letters being canonized in a book by an oppressive regime and given as the final Word of God in any matter. In fact, Paul urged people to pray and ask the Holy Spirit for understanding and deeper insight. Even the Law of Moses was not final for Jesus in many sermons reinterpreted it and issued a new edict based on a higher knowledge of God’s Intention. We should be students of the Word engaging our total being in a conversation with God and the Word people have shared regarding God’s Word revealed to them. The Holy Spirit empowers such boldness and I pray for more disciples like Paul who will take the steps to hear a fresh word from God in this season and not a stale cultural bread steeped in the past.
Subject: Post-Resurrection Power for Pre-Resurrection Failure
Text: John 13:21-32
21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23 One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. 27 After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. 31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.
Well, it’s been about 3 years and much has happened. Jesus intentionally chose 12 men to follow him as disciples and women raised funds to ensure his ministry would be successful. But for this moment let us consider what happens when your inner circle breaks down when it betrays and denies you right before your very eyes. For this is not a backdoor affair, this is a public denial by those whom Jesus handpicked to take his ministry to another level. That is the case within our text. The entire 12 abandon our Lord when he should have been able to count on them most. It’s amazing what pressure on your convictions can produce.
So Jesus is seated at the table with his disciples, breaking bread with them and the Holy Spirit gives him a glimpse of what he will have to endure in the coming days. Among this revelation, Jesus sees Judas, his treasurer betray him, his closest ally, Peter denies him, and then the other 11 desert him. Talking about a vision from God, Jesus certainly had one.
These are not strangers, these are close associates, his disciples. Men who supposedly have left all to follow Jesus, all ambitions, all worldly pursuits, all worldly desires for power and prestige. Men who have traveled with Jesus across the Palestinian valleys and the Judaean hills. They have crossed the Sea of Galilee with him, even endured criticism of him, and have had intense debates regarding theology with him. They know him, and yet they don’t know him as well as they should. The fact is it is in the hour of greatest adversity, that they get a chance to discover that they are not who they think they are. They are not the courageous 12, they are more like the hateful 8. They’re a hot mess; they are pre-resurrection disciples in need of post-resurrection power to be effective witnesses. Hallelujah!
This turn of events, this traumatic incident in his life, caused Jesus to reflect on the words of King David, the Psalmist King. King David, when faced with the dire circumstance of betrayal, lamented in Psalm 41:9, “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.” I wonder if he was being prophetic or if Absalom’s betrayal hurt him just as much as Judas’ betrayal tormented Jesus. But let us move on, it’s lunchtime and we cannot linger here.
It is traumatic because Judas does not betray Jesus until Judas is blessed by Jesus. It is only after he receives the bread that Judas yields himself to Satan. Can you imagine that? You bless your inner circle and then your inner circle betrays you. Lord, have mercy!
That’s a message all by itself; let us move on. The Holy Spirit gives Jesus a vision only of betrayal, denial, and abandonment or so it seems; because despite his tortured soul at this revelation from the Holy Spirit, Jesus sees what will happen post-resurrection.
And that’s why we celebrate Holy Week. We assemble because we understand the blessing of post-resurrection. Yes, when pressure is applied, we may fail, but that’s pre-resurrection. Yes, we may betray friends, deny allies, and even abandon loved ones in their hour of greatest need, but that is pre-resurrection. Pre-resurrection happens in the face of unforeseen circumstances wherein we thought we could stand only to discover the pressures of life beat back our resolve and revealed our cowardice.
How many times have we resolutely proclaimed a stand for righteousness, justice, and equality only to back down in the face of our opponents? How often have we made vows to God only to see ourselves fail to fulfill our vows? This is the stuff of pre-resurrection. Stuff we are called to overcome with post-resurrection power.
But isn’t it good to know that there is fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s vein and sinner’s plunge beneath that flood lose all their guilt and shame. I’m so glad that God has given us a solution to our pre-resurrection blues. For I hear the Apostle Paul declare, “When I would do good, evil is always present within me.” And then Paul asks the Questions: “Who shall deliver us from these pre-resurrection struggles?” “I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord!” These words led the hymn writer to exclaim, “What can wipe away my sins, nothing but the blood of Jesus! What can make me whole again, nothing but the blood of Jesus!’
I stop by here on this Wednesday of Holy Week to share with you that there is post-resurrection power for pre-resurrection failure. His Name is Jesus.
And if your inner circle breaks down, if your life has been turned upside down just remember that it was in a similar incident that Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.” It is in that hour when your entire world is turned upside down, that God will get some glory out of your life. It’s a matter of perspective
Sometimes, you have to be left alone, ostracized, rejected and abandoned in order to see the glory of God in your life. Remember beloved, God is not dependent on your friends or your associates to use you. God does not need you to get over 1,000 social media followers in order to make you a sponsor of the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus saw his betrayal, denial, and abandonment as an opportunity for God to be glorified and so should you.
Let us pray. Heavenly Father, may we be able to surrender our will to yours, our friends and family to you even in pre-resurrection circumstances. For we believe that your post-resurrection power is more than enough to bring glory to your name. Let us view our situations as Christ viewed his: as an opportunity for you to show up and show out. Bless your word today, in Jesus Name, Amen.
Text: Isaiah 12:1-6
(v. 1) You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me. (v. 2) Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. (v. 3) With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (v. 4) And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. (v. 5) Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. (v. 6) Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
This brief chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah is a song of praise. Reminiscent of a Davidic psalm, this composition heralds the prospect of a reunited people, a “new Jerusalem,” and new world order. It points to the future Church and Kingdom redeemed and ruled by the righteous Messiah who will judge and save.
It speaks of a personal deliverance expressed in collective salvation. The content of the song is, therefore, spiritual and political. The song begins with acknowledgement of the exile experience as evidence of judgment. A post-exilic remnant seeks redemption in spite of spiritual and physical separation. They also seek a political-economic restoration that attends a restored kingdom. Consequently, the preeminent grace of God’s salvation wins out and is worthy of thanksgiving praise.
As with many psalms set for worship, this song of praise evokes physical expressions that demonstrate the meaning of the sentiment “to give thanks.” The Hebrew word for praise employed here is yadah, which signifies the stretching out of one’s hands in thanks while singing. It is a confession of utter dependence upon God for the inferred gift, namely God’s deliverance. A people who were once scattered and symbolically disconnected from their God are now reunited, and thus reconnected to the One who has created them. There is an eschatological hope that has been fulfilled “in that day.”
Their profound longings for “home” are now met in a glorious family reunion made possible by a God who promised not to forsake them. More importantly, they can bow before their true King without inhibition or recrimination. They can now wave their hands in joyous gratitude, for three essential reasons: God remembers, God redeems and God restores.
First of all, God remembers. Verse one states: “You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me.” The original meaning of remembrance is “to re-member” or recollect. In other words, what was once literally and figuratively detached and incoherent is now connected and coherent.
One of the most egregious offenses that any Hebrew could commit was to forget who God was and what God has done. Likewise, the worst tragedy that any Hebrew could experience was for God to forget them. God’s wrath and judgment on a people resulted in a lack of memory of them, i.e. their abandonment and alienation from God and one another. Likewise, our African ancestors’ ultimate act of honor was to “keep alive” the saints in living memory. One is “forgotten” when their name and legacy are no longer mentioned. The fact that the remnant, once displaced and disconnected, has been re-collected is reason to give thanks.
It should also be noted that an act of remembrance can be a profoundly political act. There is a kind of “anamnestic solidarity,”1 to use Archie Smith’s term, in a communal worship that recounts their common past and collective salvation.
Black worship is a type of liturgical anamnesis, the opposite of amnesia. Anamnesis means “to recollect the forgotten past and to participate in a common memory and a common hope.”2 Authentic corporate worship takes seriously the scripture, “Where two or three are gathered in my Name, I am in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)
Christ becomes fully present as both redeemer and liberator. James H. White discusses anamnesis as an objective of the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper, “No single English word conveys its full meaning; remembrance, recalling, representation, experiencing are all weak approximations.
Anamnesis expresses the sense that in repeating these actions one experiences once again the reality of Jesus himself present.”3 This certainly characterizes the spirit of the sentiment that an African American congregation has not “had church” until the presence of Jesus is felt in the house. Consequently, Thanksgiving is about “re-membering” who we are and whose we are. It is a defining feature of black worship that serves a psycho-social purpose in liberation and salvation. This enables black folk to shout, “Thank you!” in spite of receiving unmerited suffering, historically and presently. We remember to give thanks because God remembers us.
Second, God redeems. Verses 2-3 state: “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Every Hebrew embodied a sacred identity derived from their relationship to God. Separation from God resulted in a fractured identity. Before one could be restored, one had to be redeemed, and only God could redeem an alienated people.
Ed Wimberly describes redemption through John Wesley’s “therapeutic soteriology,”4 a key component of the evangelical enterprise that Africans in America first understood about the Gospel, as it was re-presented to an oppressed people. Sin, personal and social, separated individuals and communities from God. In the ancient worldview, to be disconnected from God is to not be a person.
A people who have been redeemed have a reason to give thanks: God has redeemed their privilege as a child of God and as a member of the redeemed community. I can sing, “I am redeemed, bought with a price. Jesus has changed my whole life. If anybody asks you, just who I am, tell them, I am redeemed.” (Jesse Dixon and the Chicago Community Choir)
Finally, God restores. Verses 4-6 state: “Among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” This second “stanza” of the hymn signals a crescendo of appreciation for being redeemed and restored to privileged status as “royal Zion.”
The people of God are reminded to consider their present favor in light of their former plight. They have been restored, in the way that the book of I Peter asserts: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (I Peter 2:9-10). This is what the saints had in mind when they sang, “When I think of the goodness of Jesus and all he has done for me. My soul sings ‘hallelujah.’ I thank God for saving me!”
And so Mt. Olive, God is our redeemer and the one who restores us. God wants us to remember his acts of mercy and kindness by giving him thanks. God wants us to appreciate just how far he has brought us.
He has brought us from slavery to emancipation, from emancipation to liberation, from liberation to freedom. God has brought us from the outhouse to the white house. That’s the kind of God we serve; I know I’m right about it.
And this redemption, this restoration is not a singular event. Every time I turn around, God keeps on blessing me. I don’t know about you, but God picked me up this week. God lit a fire under me and caused me to get up from my chair of depression and put on me a garment of hope. God caused me to see beyond my suffering into his divine plan for my life. And I can truly say, thank you.
Thank you Lord for all you’ve done and continue to do for me. Thank you Father for continuing to forgive me, bless me, and defend me. Thank you Father for making a way out of no way. Thank you Father for blessing me when I didn’t deserve a blessing; thank you Father for picking me up out of the miry clay and planting my feet on a rock to stay. Hallelujah! Hallelujah to your name. Praise be unto our God and His Christ. I thank you Lord for this great salvation!
Hope is not a strategy” ~ John Maxwell
But don’t you just love it anyway. Hope is an outstretched neck poised with anticipation of what will happen. You know something wonderful, something adventurous, something new is coming. It is not frivolous; it’s based on a plan that you’ve implemented and you’re working diligently to see come to fruition. You hope inwardly, silently, and then with outward jubilation because you just know.
Hope is powerful indeed; it chases depression, attacks despair, and exterminates doubt. What are you hoping for based on what you’re working toward? Promises have been made, collaborations have been formed, all that remains is accomplishment of the dream.
Emily Dickinson said, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.” I’m singing because I just believe something good is about to happen! Can’t you sense something on the horizon? Sing a new song; it’s 2014 – hope, believe, dream, let it capture your soul!
The rainbow shouts, “It’s not over yet! Sunshine is coming!” So perk up, dance, and sing. You’ve got another chance. Barbara Kingsolver said, “The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” I totally agree; live in hope based on faith that your work will reap a great harvest. Dare to Hope in 2014!