Sunday, January 03, 2016

Welcome to 2016: Focus on Sent

After a two-week break, I return to work tomorrow and am trying to get in the frame of mind.  I plan to present a series of blog posts on spirituality and on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but want to emphasize quality rather than quantity and will probably keep it to one a week.  In fact, that is my goal for 2016:  simplicity, quality, less is more, focus.

I taught (although my time was curtailed and I didn't get it all in) on the word "Sent" in the book of John (and I may do a series of posts on John, too, my favorite book if that is allowed).  It is below, with caveats that I am not attacking another religion (in this case Buddhism) but making observations about the American version vs. the original.

Which diagram seems to describe God and His world? (the small circles represent the world and the big ones God)

I tend to go with the third, although the second might make sense to some of us.  The first reminds me of the Bette Midler song about twenty years ago, "God is Watching Us from a Distance."  According to the Bible, God is not just watching us from on high in a sad but disinterested way and letting us do whatever we want.   When Jesus came to earth, he didn’t come like an alien to check us out or just bring a message.  He was fully a human and fully God Himself. 

The word for this lesson is “Sent.”  This is probably one of the most important words or verbs in the Christian faith, and very important in the book of John, where it is used sixty times to describe Jesus the Son, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, and us.  The word “apostle” means “sent one.” (sort of like post office!)

The word “sent” speaks to me of action.  God acted, Jesus acted, we act in the power of God.  We do not just take things as they are, we act upon the world around us, enter into it, do not shy away from it.  But at the same time we do not act upon our own initiative and power, but at God’s command. 

I am reminded of an experience I had in 2014, one that I have had much opportunity to reflect upon.  I was faced with people of other religious persuasions in a classroom setting.  One was a Buddhist, a religion that some Americans have been drawn to in the last thirty years.  She was trying to show how meaningful it was to her, and seemed very sincere.  In many cases Americans have reinterpreted Buddhism to fit our culture, but they end up with something that really isn’t the original Buddhism in Asia.  Whenever you see a picture of Buddha, what is he doing?  Sitting, either fat or thin (due to fasting).
Buddhism is about meditating in a certain frame of mind to find inner peace. Buddhism is also atheistic (in the sense that worship of a God being is not the point), so being a Buddhist Christian is impossible.
What did Jesus do?  He took action.  He said to pray to change reality. 

John 8:18.
P 132. 
What is the significance of Jesus referring to Himself again and again as sent by the Father?
Why do you think John emphasized this truth so much?
Quote on p. 133.

John 20:19-23
Think of all the post resurrection appearances of Jesus.  What did he say?
 Believe it’s me.  Don’t be afraid.
Dealt with Peter’s betrayal and Thomas’s and Mary.
Tell.  Go.
As the Father has sent me, so send I you.  Our faith is an active, going, moving faith. 
It is interesting that he said “Peace.” 

What is the place of peace in our lives?  What is the opposite of peace?
Anxiety.  Worry.  Anger.  Restlessness.  Impatience. 
So peace means security.  Confidence, rest, lack of anger.  Patience.
My story yesterday.  I was upset, not for waiting but for two people going ahead of me.  I was cranky about it, though.  How do we keep patience without being used?

Ultimately, we are sent into the world the same way Jesus was (not as aliens into a world that is not our own, but as people who belong there).  That is why we study the life of Christ.  He was in the flesh, he always told the truth, he was not fearful, he came to save not condemn, he served, he healed, he went to places that where “unclean” (lepers), he prayed, etc. 

Finally, the Holy Spirit was sent.  Not so much to replace Jesus, but to take on the next stage of the mission. 

John 14:26:  the Holy Spirit will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.  Not new stuff.  This is actually a big debate now in Christian circles.  Did the revelation end in the first century, or is God giving us new truth today?  No, we are being taught to apply and understand, but not given new doctrine. I have been guilty of saying, “God told me” and I think I will stop that.  I do believe the Holy Spirit talks to us to remind us of the Bible but we must be careful.  The heart is deceptively wicked and we can convince ourselves of all kinds of stuff. 

Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Counselor or Consoler.  What kinds of thing would the Holy Spirit remind us of if He is our Counselor?

In a sense, Jesus elaborates on that in John 16:5-11.
The Holy Spirit indwells, teaches, counsels, guides, and empowers

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