Seeing with Jesus’ Eyes

Don Elly, M.Div.

John’s purpose is to describe for the world a “Cosmic Jesus” that embodies the love of God for all no matter their ethnic roots or previous religious identity. Here some Greeks have come to Jerusalem for the Passover.  This is not unusual, for Judaism is before the time of Jesus, a world-wide reality, created by the fact that Israel for much of it’s history was the battlefield of the great powers–Egypt, Assyria and Babylon.  All had been powerful in their turn, now it is Rome who is dominant, seeking to maintain an Empire that controls the world.  In John 10:16, Jesus said to his followers, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold (the Nation of Israel).” Now some of these sheep show  up and seek out Phillip who is from Bethsaida, near the Decapolis, one of the ten Gentile cities. They request “Sir, we wish to see Jesus”. Could this fuel the fear of the religious  authorities that the entire world is following Jesus?(2)

Trevor Hudson writes, “Christian faith involves a new way of seeing. When Jesus becomes part of our lives we see people and things more clearly…God’s grace opens blind eyes that they might see with the eyes of Christ.” (1) How  does seeking Jesus sharpen our eyesight?  

First, we become aware because of Jesus that God does not judge us but desires to love us.  Secondly, the power that Jesus shares is the power to serve and sacrifice and finally in Jesus’ obedience to God we are given a means of overcoming violence that is still today a light shinning in the darkness of the human heart seeking only to provide for itself.  Seeing with the eyes of Jesus is to see “glory” not as status enforced by military control, but as the love of God given to make grace, gratitude, love and peace the most powerful symbols of life arising from death.

Prayer: Thankful for Jesus’ gift of sight, may we always be ready to serve God realizing that in doing so we are dying to ourselves but discovering a more meaningful life that reflects God’s peace, love and grace. Amen.

1.Trevor Hudson. Pauses for Lent, 2015, p, 20.   2. Allen. Preaching the Gospels without Blaming the Jews, 2004, pgs 116-117

March 18, 2018; Cycle B; 5th Sunday of Lent

Jeremiah 31:31-34       Psalm 51:1-12          Hebrew 5:5-10       *John 12:20-33

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A World So Loved

Don R. Elly, M.Div.

Alice L. Camille identified  “A World so Loved” as her theme for this 4th Sunday of Lent.  The focus is on God’s desire for relationship.  Through loving enemies, doing works of hospitality and inclusion, we make clear that we have gotten the message of God’s love in Jesus. Our fear of God as judge, and the erosion of our God-given worth the world can seem anything but loving.

We often read this passage as a total condemnation of the world.  Not so.   Ephesians puts John’s truth in these words, “For grace you have been saved through faith… this is not your own doing; it is God’s gift.” What would our quality of life look like if we look at the   world so loved by God?  Jesus is God’s neon sign of love.  He is the light that disperses darkness, the one who chose to be lifted up to bring healing.  John went back in the Old Testament to recall a time when the people of Israel complained once too many times of God’s failing them.

Nothing was good enough—not the accommodations, or the food or even the company of God.  God sent poisonous serpents who bit the complainers who they died.  Turning around, the people repented.  God had Moses make an image of poisonous snake and those who looked up were saved.  Jesus for John is the ultimate sign of a World so loved by God.  Rather than condemn us, God acts to save us.  This act of mercy and grace offers us a world so loved and illumines who God is.   God takes the pain and suffering we often inflict on ourselves and others and transforms it into a sign of salvation. This symbol is the medical sign of healing, a forerunner of the cross.  

Do you wear a cross?  If so touch it and remember God has transformed an instrument of torture into a sign of love. You have been given a World so loved by God.  How will you care for it and the people in it?   God does have the whole world in God’s hands; now let us take care of it.

March 11, 2018; Cycle B; 4th Sunday of Lent

Num. 21:4-9; Ps. 107:1-3, 17-22; Eph. 2:1-10; *John 3:14-21    

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Donald R. Elly, M.Div.

It is tempting to focus on the conflict between Jesus and the sellers, buyers and money changers that had become part of the temple culture in the time of Jesus but what caught my attention was the phrase, “His disciples remembered…” in verse 17and in verse 22.  “After he was raised from the dead, “his disciples remembered that he had said this.”

Remembering is such a crucial part of our experience of being human.   Too often we take it for granted.  Only when someone develops dementia and cannot remember places, events, or relationships do we become aware just how important the gift of memory is and just how painful the loss is not just for an individual, but also for the family and community.  

Remembering in this passage is highlighted when the disciples recall scripture that stated, “Zeal for your house will consume me” and they understand Jesus’ intense love for the Temple as holy space where God meets us.  The second time is even more significant for us as followers who would trust him for we are urged to remember that in Jesus God has acted to give us a holy space and intimate relationship that like the temple is where God calls us to new life and purpose.  

Frederick Buechner in Beyond Words highlights powerfully what remembering Jesus’ actions can mean for us. He writes,When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are…It means that even when I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.” (1)

Lent is time then to remember those who have left their mark on us and we them.  Is this possibly a time to be thankful that in Jesus God continues to mark us as his?  Jesus challenges us to live as those, who shaped by God, offer good news to the world.  

Prayer:  In a time when it is easy to forget who we are and whose we are, remind us that we are not alone. Because of the conflicts and life’s pace help us to remember your Spirit’s guidance. May we live as those marked by God to help heal the world. Amen.

1.Frederick Buechner. Beyond Words, P 342  Remembering is a way of connecting in love beyond death.

March 4,2018 Cycle B 3rd Sunday of Lent. Ex. 20: 1-17 Psalm 19 1st Cor.1:18–25 *John2:13-22

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Now You Have It; Now You Don’t

Donald R. Elly, M. Div.

Peter is everyone who glimpses the truth then sees it evaporate. Now you have it, now you don’t.  Frustrated at Jesus’ strength and clarity of vision, Peter reacts to Jesus words.  One moment Peter is the pupil getting the gold star, then finds himself rebuked by Jesus in the company of his fellow disciples.  

No wonder Peter is confused, ashamed and stunned into silence.  We all have traveled in his shadow haven’t we? Can Jesus really mean life is about dying in service to God while waiting on others? Power is not the point.  Using violence to control, or get revenge is not Jesus’ Messianic agenda. The goals of God’s Kingdom—now present in Jesus—are justice, compassion, outreach, suffering, peace and forgiveness of enemies.

Taking up crosses and giving one’s life sound very noble, yet also very, very painful.   What will it accomplish?   Jesus is emphatic, “Losing is the way to finding life.”  Show me, Lord, what does that look like?   It’s hard to see, but the Kingdom arrives when I let go and trust the Holy Spirit.  It happens when I let go of me and seek good for you.  Then self is laid down and community can rise up.

God is pleased while Jesus proclaims, “Of you I am not ashamed!”  The promise of the Covenant begun, Abraham now continues as I give God my all.  In my service, obedience and trust, God’s Kingdom comes alive and the world is changed by not what I have but what God gives.

Prayer: Dying, losing, changing all require surrender! That is hard.  Lord, may growing closer to you and seeing the Father through your eyes give me strength to follow you to Jerusalem, the Cross and beyond. Amen

February 25, 2018; Cycle B; 2nd Sunday in Lent

Genesis 17:1-7,15-16; Ps. 22:23-33; Romans 4:13-25; *Mark 8:31-38

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Growing in the Spirit with Jesus

Donald R. Elly, M. Div.

What is your promise to yourself and God in this Lent?  What does it mean to go forward to receive the imposition of ashes?  Most often this is a moment to become aware of our mortality–we are one year closer to death and returning again to the earth from which our faith affirms that we were first created by God for life’s adventure.  

If I am honest, the awareness of my mortality is conveyed more by the death of loved ones, colleagues and friends. When my twin brother died in 2016 from cancer I live with an existential   reality of death that the ritual of ashes will never convey.  Now I don’t find myself depressed, sad, yes. Most of all I am grateful for his witness. My brother’s death was a community experience shared with his family. It was a celebration of his life and his 50 year ministry that make the resurrection and Easter real for me. His spirit is with me constantly. I am connected with the mystery of Jesus that takes away the fear of death and makes the unknown following death something I look forward to in God’s time.

So for me Lent, the period of preparation is a time, tame as it may sound, to grow in the Spirit with Jesus. What this means is explosively presented in the 1st chapter of Mark’s gospel where Jesus is baptized by John. Coming out of the water Jesus sees the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice from heaven (heaven and earth are joined here) saying “You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Wow! What is next? Then in rapid fire order Mark shares that growing in the Spirit with Jesus (in Lent) is a roller coaster that includes being driven by the Spirit (not Satan) into the wilderness, tempted.

Where is the good news here?  It’s in this detail: “…and the angels waited on him.”  Jesus, as are we, is still beloved by God. Growing means trusting more deeply in God. My goal this Lent is to allow the Spirit to be my guide. Lent will not be giving up something, but getting to know someone–God alive in Jesus as the energy that overcomes death.

February 18, 2018; Cycle B; 1st Sunday in Lent

Gen. 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1st Peter 3: 18-22; *Mark 1:9-15

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Donald R. Elly, M. Div.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus. (vs. 7-8)

What a scene is painted for us by Mark’s Gospel. Were we in the disciples place (and I believe that Mark intends for us to see ourselves in their place) wouldn’t we react as they did?  Already overwhelmed with the vision of Jesus, Moses and Elijah together, we might be excused for being  confused, if not fearful.  

Though the vision is powerful, for Mark and the earliest followers, Jesus is not a replacement for the Prophets. We are to listen because in Jesus God’s Kingdom is here now. We get so caught up in the scene that the optics can make us deaf to God’s identification of Jesus.  To listen is to do more than hear words; it is to surrender to Jesus as God’s Word coming alive in us.  To listen to Jesus does mean that God gives us power to act in his name, to  teach, heal and demonstrate in the community of all Christians that God is the source of life.

Secondly, and this is where Peter, like all of us, struggles with the reality of the Kingdom. Following Jesus means practicing a way that will bring us into conflict with previous religious values, and those cultural and political values may need to be replaced.  Instead of competition, Jesus calls us to cooperation.  Instead of war, Jesus calls us to be instruments of peace.  Instead of exploiting other human beings for personal gain, we are to work for justice and the sharing of the gifts of God because everyone regardless of national origin is made in God’s image. Listening means serving God not just our self interest. The Kingdom will require sacrifice and courage and maybe even death.  Peter drew the line here and so do we. But the Kingdom of God present in Jesus points beyond the pain to service that reflects God’s glory (i.e. the willingness to be obedient to God’s larger cause).

Prayer: Pay attention and we will discover God’s Kingdom unfolding in unexpected places—maybe even our ordinary lives.  That is Good News. Amen.

February 11, 2018; Cycle of the Lord

2nd Kings 2: 1-12       Ps. 50:1-6    2nd Cor.4:3-6     *Mark 9:2-9

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​Donald R. Elly, M. Div. This the Sabbath, not just another busy day. Jesus, the son of God is obedient to the authority of God’s command to worship. Mark paints a picture of Jesus’ Sabbath practice that seems quite unusual. For Jesus Sabbath is filled with one activity after another. When I began to reflect on Jesus Sabbath as described by Mark I found myself, like Jesus a bit tired and left with this question, What makes the Sabbath Holy and not just another busy day? Jesus is pressed on every side by the need to heal. In the Synagogue the torah instruction is interrupted by a demon-possessed man in need of healing. An odd detail is that making someone tormented whole is a violation of the Sabbath. Going to dinner after teaching in the Synagogue, Jesus is again confronted with the need to heal Peter’s mother in law, his hostess so she can serve. In a moment of tenderness, Jesus reaches out and raises her from her bed so she can fulfill her duties. Where do I need the touch of Jesus to lift me up and make the Sabbath more than another day? The pressure continues as the needs for healing threaten to overwhelm leaving Jesus no time even for prayer. Jesus makes clear that his ministry is more than being a celebrated healer. Jesus, the Son of God, is a sign of God breaking in restoring life’s balance called for by Isaiah with these words: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God…Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.” IT’S NOT JUST ANTOHER DAY, THIS IS THE LORD’S DAY. LET US REJOICE AND BE GLAD IN IT.” AMEN. February 4, 2018​​​​Cycle B​​5th Sunday of Epiphany Isaiah 40:21-31​Psalm 118:24​1st Cor. 9: 16-23​*Mark 1: 29-39

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