Easter is coming! Easter 5B “Sacred yet invasive vines”

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am the vine. You are the branches. Those who abide in me and me in them bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5-6)

Jesus speaks of vines and fruit and connected-ness. It is all about life and growth. In light of Easter, we claim that we are connected to Christ’s resurrection and the new life he brings to be resurrection people in world full of destruction and death.

There is an invasive vine in our backyard that has been difficult to destroy. I’ve cut it, dug it up, pulled on it to find other extensions, and have used different weed killing options to keep it from coming back once and for all. I have even burned the branches I have cut off in my fire pit. Yet it grows. It returns. Even under attack and adversity…the vine thrives. New life finds a way.

We are branches connected to the vine of Christ. In him new life keeps finding a way.  Especially when it is attacked, we grow. It becomes easy for us to focus on our individual branch, and we get discouraged when we aren’t as fruitful as we know we can be. We focus on the forces that want to cut us off, dig us up, chop us down, and relentlessly uproot us.

Yet in Christ, we grow.

We are called to be invasively fruitful by staying connected to the source of life – Jesus himself. He warns that when we go off on our own or start to believe we are cut off from him we will wither and die. Yet to abide in him is life. Life the world so desperately needs.

When do you feel cut-off from the Vine?

Remember that connected to Jesus we are the branches that continue to grow, bear fruit and thrive.

PGS

Sunday is coming! Easter 4B “The ‘Good’ Shepherd”

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays his life down for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away – and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.” (John 10:10-11)

A common image of Jesus depicts him holding a sheep. Often in these pictures, Jesus has a lamb draped across his shoulders. It is a sweet image – cute if not adorable. In many of these representations of Jesus, one can see the affection in his eyes. In others he looks to the distance assessing the danger at hand. Looking at such an image and thinking of Jesus as the “good ” shepherd can be a very pleasant, comforting, heart-warming experience.

The familiar psalm (23) echoes in our ears: “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.” We sing “Jesus loves me this I know” and it warms our hearts. We pray “now I lay me down to sleep” and think of ourselves as that cute little lamb sitting on his shoulders or carried in his arms.

But there is more…

Jesus goes on to say why he’s the “good” shepherd: he lays his life down for the sheep. Unlike those hired hands who are here today and gone tomorrow and wolves who trick and lead astray – Jesus loves his sheep to the point where he will sacrifice his own life for the sake of those he loves. That’s what makes him “good.”

In the context of John’s Gospel, Jesus calls out the religious leaders who are only concerned about their status, self-righteousness and making sure all the rules are followed. By their convictions they have lost their compassion for another person’s humanity. In the story that precedes these words (John 9), the religious leaders were more concerned about who had sinned, a man born blind or his parents, and ironically couldn’t see the restorative thing Jesus was doing by giving that man the gift of sight.

The warning here, of course, is for all religious people (both then and now) who miss what God is up to right in front of them. Too often we become too concerned about doing church right to notice real people in front of us. The promise of this passage is that Jesus will not only drape us on his shoulders in an affectionate way, but he will also both forgive us for running away as hired hands and will fight the wolves (and wolves in sheep’s clothing) who threaten us. He’s the “good” shepherd because Jesus dies for us. That we hear this story in the season of Easter expands the message to proclaim to us that Jesus not only dies – but is raised – lifting up our humanity, our dignity, our sense of calling to be see the humanity, dignity and calling in others as other sheep he loves.

There is another promise (and with it another warning too): Jesus is the “good” shepherd and we are not. Thanks be to God! Before we take on a messianic complex for ourselves or project it on others with Christlike expectations, let us remind each other that at our worst we can be the wolves that snatch up and scatter and at best we are hired hands that run away. Yet the dominant insight of Jesus being our “good” shepherd is that we are the sheep that Jesus has come to save. Most often we are that lost one of the flock – and it is Jesus (not anybody else) who comes to redeem us.

The Lord is my shepherd

The image the psalmist employs is not of a lamb on the Lord’s shoulders but of the shepherd who with a rod and staff leads us through the valley of the shadow of death to a feast in the midst of our enemies in the presence of God.

Jesus loves me this I know

Scripture proclaims that the love Jesus offers isn’t cute. It is agape – sacrificial love; the love that is shared with everything on the line as a matter of life and death; but with Jesus is a matter of death and life. It is the love only the “good ” shepherd gives.

Now I lay me down to sleep

In a world that is full of death and destruction (too often to the vulnerable) only Jesus offers a safety in his presence the world cannot offer through its ‘might makes right’, ‘you are with or against us’ and ‘get yours while you can’ predominant attitudes.

The question this passage leaves us with is this:

Who are you going to follow?

Yourself?

The hired hand?

A wolf who only seeks to devour you?

Or Jesus, who dies that you may have life?

PGS

Episode 58: Why Pray?

Joe and Geoff take on Lent one and the question why pray?  Why is it important to pray?  What didfference does it make in our lives. Joe shares one of the greatest prayer experience in his life.

Episode 52: Reach the Beach with Knute Ogren

Welcome to the latest episode of the 2 Bald Pastors.  Sorry we have not had an episode in a few weeks.  The end of the summer has been busier than we thought.  We are happy to get back into the swing of things with a conversation with Knute Ogren.

Knute is the Director of Development and Communications at Camp Calumet in Freedom, NH.  He oversees Reach the Beach which is a Ragnar race.  You can learn more about it by listening to today’s episode.

To support this podcast we would like to invite you to a specially designed t-shirt created for this podcast.  Check out the shirt here: Be Good T-Shirt

Enjoy today’s Podcast

Links

Camp Calumet

Lutheran Church of the Nativity

Lutheran Disaster Response

Calumet.org/reachthebeach

calumet.org/followtherace

Conversation with Mark Huber

Conversation with Don Johnson

Knute’s Fundraising Page

Geoff’s Fundraising Page

Episode 47: The 2018 ELCA National Youth Gathering

Houston Here We Come

This week we talk with Molly Beck Dean who is the Director of the ELCA National Youth Gathering.  A tri-annual gathering of over 30,000 youth and adults.  In 2018 the gathering will take place in Houston, Tx.

Molly has a vast experience working with youth of the church and is the perfect person to lead this charge.  We had an amazing conversation with Molly and we hope you enjoy it!

Episode 46: Youth are Leading or Leaving

A Conversation with Lyle Griner

We had a great conversation about youth ministry.  Lyle is an expert in training youth to connect with youth.  His experience has changed thousands of lives.  Some of his background includes:

  • 16 years of dynamic congregational work
  • National Director of Peer Ministry Leadership
  • Leader of 3-week Certification School for Wartburg Theological Seminary and The Youth & Family Institute
  • Creator and Instructor for Living Room Summits on family ministry
  • 14 years with The Youth & Family Institute (renamed Vibrant Faith)
  • Youth ministry instructor at Augsburg College, Minneapolis and Concordia University, St. Paul
  • Coaching and Mentoring.
  • AA, Biblical Studies, MN Bible College
  • Major in Middle School Education
  • Masters in Youth and Family Ministry
  • Two year studies and Certification as a Spiritual Director
  • Presently also works with Youth ministry at Mount Calvary, Excelsior, MN

We hope you enjoy this episode of the 2 Bald Pastors

Episode 44: Holy Spokes with Laura Everett

Conversation with Laura Everett on Urban Spirituality

Laura Everett is the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches.  Almost ten years ago Laura found herself in need of transportation and ended up with a bike.  Thousands of miles later she can be found riding to and from work in the Boston area.

She talks about her life as a cycle commuter and what she has learned about riding and about her faith.

She has written a book titled Holy Spokes: The Search for Urban Spirituality on Two Wheels

You are invited to attend Laura’s Book Launch Party April 21st at the Dorchester Brewing Company

We hope you enjoy this episode of the 2 Bald Pastors.

Laura’s Website – https://reveverett.com/

Laura’s Twitter – https://twitter.com/RevEverett

Episode 38: Decolonize the Inauguration

Things you can do this day to connect with others

The 2 Bald Pastors sit down and talk with Lenny Duncan and Francisco Herrera and get updates to what is happening in #‎decolonizeLutheranism.  We also talk about things you can do to decolonize the Inauguration as Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States.

Links mentioned in the episode

Fuck This Shit Advent Devotional

Naked and Unashamed Facebook

Naked and Unashamed Website

#nakedlutherans

#MyKindaChurch

Lenny’s Post Election Blog Post