Reflections on Easter 2016 (Excerpts of Borg)

(A Reflection based on a sermon  by Marcus Borg)

Luke 24:1-12           The Message (MSG)

Looking for the Living One in a Cemetery

1-3 At the crack of dawn on Sunday, the women came to the tomb carrying the burial spices they had prepared. They found the entrance stone rolled back from the tomb, so they walked in. But once inside, they couldn’t find the body of the Master Jesus.

4-8 They were puzzled, wondering what to make of this. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, two men, light cascading over them, stood there. The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship. The men said, “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up. Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?” Then they remembered Jesus’ words.

9-11 They left the tomb and broke the news of all this to the Eleven and the rest. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them kept telling these things to the apostles, but the apostles didn’t believe a word of it, thought they were making it all up.

12 But Peter jumped to his feet and ran to the tomb. He stooped to look in and saw a few grave clothes, that’s all. He walked away puzzled, shaking his head.

Homily

Reflections on Easter

Hymn – Because He Lives — Bill Gaither

“an empty tomb is there to prove my savior lives” –

For many, the focus is on an empty tomb – so Jesus HAD to have been raised…

______

So, if we dig up Elvis and the coffin is empty… was Elvis raised

A noted theologian, Marcus Borg, offers a interesting reflection on the resurrection…

He talks of reading a poll of American Christians about the resurrection of Jesus, that reported that more than 90% of American Christians say that the resurrection of Jesus matters greatly to them. I agree – without the affirmation of Jesus’ resurrection, Christianity makes no important sense.

Borg states that he was disappointed that these Christians responded with “Yes” to the question whether Jesus’ resurrection was “physical” and “bodily.”

Thinking that this way of understanding Easter is a distraction.

It makes Easter just a spectacular event that happened ONCE upon a time…

And a message that death is not the end for us,

That Easter is primarily about the promise of an afterlife.

But stories in the rest of the NT show that the resurrection is more significant-

NOT dependent on a bodily resurrection. – but on the appearances of Jesus to his followers after his death….

Some of his followers had experiences him as a living reality of the present, not just as a figure of the past.

The recorded BODILY experiences happened in the forty days between Easter and Ascension

Other experiences were visions – such as when Jesus “appeared” to them – and to Paul.

 

Borg argues that some may say visions were no big deal—some visions are hallucinations, an encounter with something that is not real.

When this is the case, they are most often dysfunctional.

But some visions carry a deep sense of an encounter with reality, and they are life-changing and not dysfunctional at all.

For Jesus’ followers, their visions led to the conviction:

Jesus lives – he is a present reality, not just a much-beloved figure of the past.

This meaning is expressed in John’s gospel when the risen Jesus appears to Thomas. Thomas does not simply say, “

You’re alive,” but exclaims,

“My Lord and my God!” ‘’

Jesus is alive

Jesus is Lord

As it was for the early Christians…

________

It has even been called the earliest Christian creed. “Jesus is Lord” –

____________________

At the tomb, Mary is asked:

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

________

We don’t find Jesus in the land of the dead…

He lives —

His enemies killed him – but could not stop him

He Lives…

They crucified him – buried him in a borrowed tomb that could not hold him…

He Lives…

Within our hearts…

Still recruiting people to share his passion for the Kingdom of God..

Easter is not just about victory over death…and heaven.. and after life…

It is about transforming the world…

About a NEW BEGINNING –

Alleluia!

Deeper Waters

 Luke 5: 1-11   Message

5 1-3 Once when he was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, the crowd was pushing in on him to better hear the Word of God. He noticed two boats tied up. The fishermen had just left them and were out scrubbing their nets. He climbed into the boat that was Simon’s and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Sitting there, using the boat for a pulpit, he taught the crowd.

4 When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, “Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.”

5-7 Simon said, “Master, we’ve been fishing hard all night and haven’t caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.” It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch.

8-10 Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. “Master, leave. I’m a sinner and can’t handle this holiness. Leave me to myself.” When they pulled in that catch of fish, awe overwhelmed Simon and everyone with him. It was the same with James and John, Zebedee’s sons, coworkers with Simon.

10-11 Jesus said to Simon, “There is nothing to fear. From now on you’ll be fishing for men and women.” They pulled their boats up on the beach, left them, nets and all, and followed him.

NIV

5 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a] the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

HOMILY

In 1992, Country Singing Artist, Kathy Mettea released a single titled

Knee Deep in a River, and Dying of Thirst.

The lyrics talk of how one misses out on life because of overlooking the positive that is all around …

Standing in the shallows, when the good things in life are found in the deeper water…

The writer of LUKE shares a story about fishermen coming up empty after fishing all night and about a carpenter, who commandeers a boat, preaches a sermon, and tells the fishermen where the fish are.

After hundreds of pounds of fish are finally caught,

a fisherman, Simon,

immediately resigns from fishing and starts fishing for people.

_____________

Why does this story hold such an important lesson?

What is Jesus teaching here?

__________

Jesus approaches exhausted and frustrated fishermen who were trying to get their nets repaired, their gear stowed and get home for some food and sleep.

Jesus, a carpenter, climbs into Simon’s boat, and instructs him to move the boat out into the shallows… there he taught the crowd that was following him…

Simon obeyed… and I would imagine he continued to work on his net as he listened to Jesus.

When Jesus finished, he instructed Simon to row the boat farther out into deeper water, and let down his net again.

Simon almost makes this mistake.  He tells Jesus in that exasperated tone, “Hey, we’ve been fishing all night.  We know fish.  The fish don’t run in the day.  Aren’t you a carpenter moonlighting as a preacher anyway?”

Simon was tired and even though he respected Jesus, he knew it was a wasted effort to fish in the daytime. He knew more about fishing than a carpenter.

Don’t we also respond like Simon when we hear God instruct us to move into deeper waters?

Do we argue with God that it is pleasant in the shallows…

I can see the bottom in the shallows …

I am comfortable in the shallows….

BUT God calls us into deeper waters

love our enemies…. Feed the hungry… clothe the poor…. GIVE abundantly…. Visit the homeless…forgive extravagantly….and live a life of abundance….

But the deep water is dark —

It is over our heads

It takes faith and courage

And it is in the deep water that we CATCH what God has for us…

_________

Sadly, many who claim to follow Jesus never venture farther than the shallows.

They remain in a safe place, cast their nets, and wonder why the nets come back empty.

———–

Moving into deep waters requires us pull up our anchor keeping us in place and to turn over our control to God.

After a while, as we move deeper and deeper, we are in over our heads and moving around place to place unrestrained … with our nets out…

And soon are filled with blessings

QUESTION

What is the miracle of this story?

Some say it is the net full of fish…

Is it?

Or is the miracle that Simon decided that God was God?

Just look at what Simon says before the miracles begin to happen, “But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.

When Simon obeyed Jesus to go into deeper waters… is when Simon began to understand that God was God.

When God instructs us into deep water…

Do we hesitate to answer?

Do we linger in the shallows?

There was a cartoon in the New Yorker magazine with the following caption:

“This morning opportunity knocked at my door,

but by the time I pushed back the bolt,

turned the two locks,

unlatched the chain, and

shut off the alarm system it was gone.”

Let us pray –

Spirit Creator – we are listening… we are ready for deep water… Amen

Forgiveness or Throwing Stones

John 8:1-11 The Message (MSG)

8 1-2 Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them.

3-6 The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.

6-8 Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.

9-10 Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”

11 “No one, Master.”

“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”

HOMILY

ILLUSTRATION A young boy lived in the country. His family had to use an outhouse, which the young boy hated. It was hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and always smelly.

The outhouse was located near the creek so the boy decided that he would push it into the water.

After a spring rain, the creek swelled so the boy pushed it in. Later that night his dad told him that he and the boy needed to make a trip to the woodshed.

The boy knew this meant punishment.

He asked his father why to which his dad replied,

“Because someone pushed the outhouse into the creek and I think that someone was you.      Was it?”

The boy responded that it was. Then he added,

“Remember when George Washington’s father asked him if he had chopped down the cherry tree?

He didn’t get into trouble because he told the truth.” “That is correct,” the dad said, “but his father was not in the cherry tree when he cut it down

——————————————————————–

The opening words of the Declaration of Independence declare that they held

“these truths to be self-evident:

That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” _____________ we in America have been blessed with many freedoms that other nations don’t have.

But even with that foundation for our country, there is one freedom that America cannot give it’s citizens.

In fact, no government on the face of the earth can supply the freedom that Jesus talked about in John 8. ILLUS:

Back in the 80’s Ann Landers wrote about her experience as a newspaper “answer lady.” People would write to her with their problems and ask advice on how to deal with their children, their spouses, their bosses, etc.
In her book, Landers explained that one of the most difficult things that people struggled with is guilt and shame. “I’ve received letters brimming with self-recrimination –

letters that prove no punishment is so painful as the self-inflicted kind. Here are a few examples:

‘I let my boyfriend go too far. Now, when he sees me, he looks the other way. I’m so ashamed of myself I could just die.’ ‘I threw a dish towel in my mother-in-law’s face. She was trying to be helpful and I lost my temper. I hate myself.’ ‘I got caught cheating in a history exam today. All the kids know about it. I feel rotten.’ (“The Ann Landers Encyclopedia A to Z”) No matter how many freedoms our nation gives us,                                it can not give us the freedom from the shame and guilt imposed upon us by our sins. Hazel Felleman wrote a poem about this: “I wish there were some wonderful place Called the Land of Beginning Again Where all our mistakes, and all our heartaches And all our selfish griefs Could be cast like a shabby old coat at the door And never be put on again” it is a reality that many Christians (even those who understand the promise Jesus gave that day) still struggle with guilt and shame. Something they believe God would never forgive them of. Or perhaps they’re struggling with a sin that they just can’t quite handle. They believe that they’ve gone over the edge – and they’ll never make it back into God’s graces For many Christians there is a nagging question:

“How could God ever forgive me? I’ve really messed up as a Christian. How could He ever forgive me? How could He ever forget what I’ve done?” Now, this type of thinking is based upon a very human concept There is a word that has become quite popular in our culture lately that describes it. That word is “Karma

Karma is the belief that you get what you deserve: If you’ve done good things, then you’ll be rewarded with good things

But if you’ve done bad things… you’re going to pay big time. Many world religions are based upon that fundamental idea.
Even the Bible teaches something like that. Galatians 6:7 says “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” In other words: You get what you deserve. However, there is one distinct difference between this concept of Karma and what Jesus taught. Other world religions teach that you can work off your “bad Karma”. They teach that you really can do enough good to outweigh the bad. ILLUS: (Karma is the teaching that life is scales.

If you do evil things your life goes out of balance.

So, you need to do good things to create a healthy balance.

The more bad things you do, the more good things you have to do to balance out the scale

Now, there are a couple of problems with this mindset.

1st – if you end up doing too many “bad” things in your life… you may never be able to balance out the scales.

Islam has particular problems with this because they actually place much of their hope in heaven upon how much good they can do.

They never know if they’ve done enough good things to outweigh the bad. ____________

Hinduism and Buddhism cling heavily to this concept of Karma, and they have long realized that many people commit way too many bad deeds in their lives to be balanced out by good deeds in a single life time.

So they’ve developed the concept of going into “extra innings.”

Since one life time could never be enough for most people to make up for their bad Karma, they have to come back for another life… and another life… and another life… until they finally are able to pay off their evil and leave this world. The 2nd problem with this idea of Karma is that it never really “removes” any of the sin from a person’s life. Karma teaches that when you’ve put bad deeds on one side of the scale you have to put good ones on the other side. Loading the scales til they break
Because good does not replace the bad… Karma doesn’t work… because it cannot solve the pain of guilt and sh

ILLUS:

21st Century Philosopher – A man named Bono is the lead singer of a popular rock group U2 once made this observation: “At the center of all religions is the idea of Karma.

You know: what you put out comes back to you:

an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics-in physical laws-every action is met by an equal or an opposite one…

And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that. . . .

Love interrupts,

the consequences of your actions,

which in my case is very good news indeed,

because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.”

God will forgive us our sins – not because we deserve it, or have done enough good to outweigh our sins. God will forgive us for only one reason:

GOD loves us God loves us so much God is willing to forgive us for all our past sins… don’t you think God is willing to continue to forgive us because of that same love?

When this woman who had been caught in adultery stayed around after the crowd dispersed, she probably still felt the guilt and shame of what she had done… and she probably thought she would receive punishment from Jesus… since she deserved it…

And LOVE INTERRUPTED the consequences of her actions…