God reveals the Holy Name to Moses so that the people know who God is and God’s power to save
“The GOD We Can Know:
Exploring the ‘I AM’ Sayings of Jesus”
Introduction to the Preaching Series and Lenten Study
This Sunday, our journey to the cross and resurrection begins in Exodus 3:1-15, as God appears to Moses in a burning bush that is not consumed! God invites Moses into a dynamic and robust relationship for God’s mission of salvation and liberation. God reveals the divine name to Moses, offering empowerment, reassurance, and presence. It is very good news that the great “I AM” wants to be known and invites people to share in these good and eternal purposes.
Fast forward to the Gospel of John; Jesus explicitly identifies himself with the God of Moses and the Old Testament, assuring us that he and the Father are One. Jesus is the continuation of God’s story with Israel: God’s mercy endures forever, God’s faithfulness is to all generations.
Jesus explicitly identifies himself with the person and work of the Father, and then Jesus uses “the ordinary” to help people understand the new thing God is doing in him-in his person and work. Jesus says, I AM the true Bread, the Light of the world, the Good Shepherd, the Door, the Gate for the sheep, the True Vine, the Way, Truth, and Life; Jesus says, I AM the Resurrection and Life. Jesus then uses these same images to help us understand the new thing God is doing in, among, and through all those who abide and believe in him.
It is interesting that these ancient and ordinary images often accompany the wilderness-type experiences of God’s covenant people, yet Jesus takes these images and redeems them, turning them into new possibilities! In Jesus there is new hope and life!
Just as God invites Moses into relationship, God invites us into a dynamic and robust relationship through Jesus. Moreover-this invitation is not just for us-it is for all who will receive! Even today, in the person and work of Jesus, and by the power of the Holy Spirit God offers us ongoing empowerment, reassurance, and presence. It is very good news that the great “I AM” wants to be known and invites all to share in God’s good and eternal purposes.
In the cross and resurrection-God in Christ appears to us and draws close to us-so let us draw close to God and to each other, all for God’s mission in this world. See you on Sunday.
THE BREAD LINE
It is with no small measure of pride that I report to you that I have successfully avoided being “one of those people” rushing to the grocery store each of the last two weeks. However, candor compels me to admit that this is more a matter of raw good luck than significant advance planning. We happened to grocery shop each week a few days before the weather turned bad. So, we were well stocked and had no need to rush out.
Some of you, perhaps, stood in line for bread and milk. Don’t you find it interesting that those are what disappear first – bread and milk? If it were me, it would be potato chips, popcorn, and soda (yes, soda). But our first instinct is to grab bread and milk.
There is something about bread that is universal and for which we will stand in line. Even some of my friends who have gone gluten free confess to missing bread. Bread somehow represents life and sustenance. More, though, it represents fellowship and table talk. We speak of “breaking bread together,” not “masticating meat” or “vivisecting vegetables.” Shared bread is the symbol of life and community.
The children of Israel got that. As they wandered in the wilderness, freed at last from Egypt but not yet home, they complained to Moses of lack of bread. Without bread, the community began to break itself apart. There was no fellowship.
Jesus understood that truth, too. He feeds a multitude by the Sea of Galilee with a little bread and less fish. And the crowd asks for more. Jesus (surprise, surprise) sees this as a teaching opportunity. “You want bread?” he asks. “I’ll give you bread.” And then he tells them “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry…” He offers us a satisfaction that nothing else can fill.
This Sunday, as we gather around the Word, we will hear John 6:26-40 and think together about what it means when Jesus says “I AM…the Bread of Life.” Then, we’ll join together at the Lord’s table. That’s a bread line worth standing in and I hope to bump into you there.
Grace and peace.
SHED SOME LIGHT ON THE MATTER
The Quaker mystic, Douglas Steere, wrote once of attending a dinner party where the guests played a parlor game (I apologize for not recalling the exact reference). He related that everyone was given one minute to study the room in which they were gathered. They were then to turn their backs to the room and make a list of every item they could recall in the room. Anything in the room at all that they noticed should be written down. The “winner” was the person who recalled the most items and, in particular, noticed the one item that the hostess had “hidden” for the purposes of the game.
Steere recalled that the guests present were all amazed at how little or how much they noticed in a minute when they focused their concentration. What he noted was that no one, no one at all, made mention of the most important feature of the room – the light by which they were able to see all other things.
We take light for granted. We think nothing of walking into a darkened room and flipping a switch that immediately illumines everything around us. We assume that light will be available to us in ways our ancestors did not, indeed could not. I found it striking and significant that at the turn of the millennium Time magazine named Thomas Edison the most significant person of the millennium. One of the most prolific innovators and inventors in history, Edison changed the course of life with the incandescent light. The night became as day. Most everything else that we take for granted electronically followed from this one innovation in human life. And now we take it for granted.
Light guides us, grants us vision. It also illumines and shows the dusty corners and hidden objects that we would rather not have shown. Truth is that we sometimes prefer the dark. At the very least, we would prefer to direct what the light shines on.
So, it may be good news or it may not be to hear Jesus say, “I am the light of the world.” His is a light that guides us, directs us, leads us home. It is also a light that reveals the secrets of our hearts and the things we would rather keep hidden. In other words, a light we may wish to switch off (which was, by the way, the preferred option of the Sanhedrin as they ‘plotted his death.’).
This Sunday, we will continue our “Getting to Know You” sermon series by sitting around John 8:12-20, by hearing Jesus remind us that he is the light of the world, and by thinking together about what that means for us as his disciples and for the world that he came to save.
In other words, I hope you’ll choose not to sit in the dark but join us Sunday as we try to “shed some light on the matter.”
Grace and peace.
Jesus illumines the path to God and guides us on our journey
ENCOUNTERING GOD THE GARDENER
I am not going to lie, I don’t know much of anything about farming or gardening. My Dad, father-in-law, and brother are all into gardening, but for whatever reason I could never get into it. Furthermore, I simply did not inherit a green thumb. It is a stretch for me to keep alive potted plants let alone consider actually growing fruits and vegetables. However, one of the things I have come to appreciate with farming/gardening is the patience and the reliance upon God that it requires. As a gardener, you can only do so much: clear the ground, improve the soil, pick the right plants/seeds. A farmer can get the conditions right for fruit and vegetables to be able to grow, but is reliant on sun, rain, and the weather for something to actually grow. A farmer can’t make something grow because God does all the growing.
This week, Jesus declares “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.” Jesus goes on to talk about this business of bearing fruit – that as disciples we are to bear fruit. However, it is Jesus that actually makes the fruit grow. All we are called to do is abide in Him. In worship this week, we will investigate this fruit bearing business as well as what it means to abide. I look forward to seeing you Sunday as we encounter God the gardener.
Rev. Colin Snider