Thursday, April 21, 2011

Footwashing, The Lord Gets His Hands Dirty and We Get Clean, John 13

Beloved of the Lord,

I want to talk about Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. Notice all the detail. John wants to call our attention to a very simple fact. Jesus is actually washing feet. What Jesus is doing here is not just an idea, an abstraction, Jesus is taking off his outer garments, girding himself, the basin, the water, and washing the mire and the muck off the feet of his followers. So before we get to Jesus washing the feet of his disciples as a symbol, as an example, first let’s just examine the bare fact: Jesus washing feet.
In those days a real need. Many went barefoot on unpaved roads, roads with all manner of mire and gook. When you came into a hospitable house, the master would direct a slave to wash your feet. Comforting to get all the dust off, maybe blood too from the stones, caked mire...get that off, ready to enjoy the party.
And before we go on I just want to pause and notice that God was always this way. God does come all the way down. God gets his hands dirty literally. Think of the very beginning, how God made Adam out of clay, getting his hands dirty. it says in Jeremiah, a prophecy of messiah, in that day Lord, you will do justice in the clay, in the dirt, in the earth. And we see that, Jesus remember how he spits in the dirt and makes clay and puts it in the blind man’s eyes, just a few chapters ago in John 9. Does justice literally in the earth.
But I just want to emphasize one more time, that it was always so, God walks in the garden, not floating, walks in the dust, God walks in the desert with his people Israel.
Example: Geography of Jerusalem not just with maps but under our feet. Good to do, God does it.
Example: Twitter, email, facebook, it’s the easy way of connecting, but we have to use it not be abused by it. Use it to make real friendship, the kind where there is sight and smell and touch. God didn’t wash the disciples feet by remote control, he got down there, on his knees, hands on their feet, fingers between their toes and cleaned them.

Now this is a symbol, but we have to understand what a symbol is. Sym bol, throw with, it’s like the first ball of a ball game, it is a sign of the rest. Better for me, (Barth) “audiovisual”. Communion helps. John’s gospel has the washing of the disciples feet instead of the Lord’s supper, but both things are audiovisuals forever audiovisuals, both things both communion and foot washing are audiovisuals of the cross, Peter says to Jesus, “Lord, you are going to wash my feet? Jesus answered, “you do not see what I am doing now but after these things you will know. After these things, “these things” are Jesus suffering, death and resurrection. After these things, you will understand what I am doing now. Washing the disciples feet is an audiovisual of the cross, just like communion is our audiovisual of the cross.
Picture the Lord’s supper in the early church, a full meal, picture a table filled with good things, delicious roast beef, steaming mashed potatoes, hot rolls and butter, good fresh salads with tomato and avocado. Think of it the shared cup of wine that began the meal then the meal and then in the midst of the hilarity, the minister, takes the bread and gives all a touch of solemnity, this is my body broken for you and then the shared cup after the meal to close it all off, this is the cup of the new covenant sealed in my blood. This meal that I am describing is the symbol of what God has given on the cross. It’s an audiovisual of the cross. Isn’t that amazing. I am very grateful for the communion we have now
Example:(experience at Seminary....) it too is an audiovisual, it too is a symbol but maybe more like a symbol of a symbol
footwashing is an audiovisual of the cross. God comes all the way down, he not just rolls up his sleeves he takes off his shirt to slave for us, to cleanse us. And he does it. Such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified.
Now-- why don’t we have foot washing like we have communion? Peoples feet aren’t dirty. Sacrament on the margins. However, there might be some places in Africa that have real foot washing. the people come in dusty from the road in their flip flops or bare feet, maybe the elders, ready got their towels, stripped to waist, got the basin and maybe that’s the way they begin church. Beautiful I’d say were I visiting, what they’ve got going is the cross not explained in some sermon, but explained through action. The word of God not just in a sermon but in deed.

Close by saying it is an example: now we can’t do foot washing yet in U.S. Example: Benny Hinn, got down with hankie and dusted, moving, but a little misleading, not the cross,
but we learn from foot washing

God joyfully cleanses our filthy feet and he joyfully cleanse our filthy selves on the cross. This is our Messiah. And so, we need not be afraid in our churches in our denomination to be janitors
Example at my Dad’s church, dust, scrub, pick up cake crumbs, sewers overflowed my dad left with dry guck and stench. In our denomination there may be a lot of stinky things that we are called into, but God will not give us more than we can handle and he will enable us to handle the things he gives us. Presbyterians, realm of ideas, but now we may, in his grace, be called to be janitors.
Example: the terrible smell in Dad’s church’s basement: guck, he knew of this enzymatic cleaner, ate up the guck, no smell, God is going to give us enzymatic cleaner to clean up all spiritual enemies, inside and out. Fear not little children it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom, fear not for I have overcome ( the mire, the deep filth) the world.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Galatians 6:1-10 , On Restoration, Sunday, March 13th 2011

Dear friends, brethren, saints,

Today, really, I just want to talk about the first two verses of Galatians 6. And here we have Paul giving some very practical advice. Down to earth advice that comes straight from the kingdom of heaven. He says, “brothers if indeed a man is overtaken in some transgression you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourselves that you are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Anointed.” First things first, let’s go point by point. What does that mean overtaken in some transgression? Yes, it means overwhelmed by sin, but it also means caught in some sin. I think first of all the woman caught in adultery. Her sin caught her, caught up with her. She’s been "outted", exposed.
But being caught in sin, having your sin exposed can be more subtle too. I think of Zacchaeus, the little man, the tax collector who goes up the tree to see Jesus. Remember him? Zacchaeus’ sin and treachery are certainly known but the exposure, his being “caught” is more subtle but just as clear. He has done wrong that’s why he’s trying to make up for it, by turning his life around, giving to the poor, returning four fold what he has stolen. Or another case, Peter-- Peter denied Jesus three times, and remember at the end of John Jesus asks him three times, do you love me.? Peter’s sin, denying Jesus has clearly caught up to him. If we had forgotten that Peter had denied Jesus three times, when Jesus asks him three times “Do you love me?” that point, we remember it.
In our own day, I can think of two prominent preachers who were overwhelmed by their sin and caught in their sin: Jimmy Swaggart, a popular evangelist, Ted Haggard, megachurch pastor, very influential. Jimmy Swaggart was messing around with a call girl or call girls back in the 80s and Ted Haggard was messing around with a call-guy and it all came out. Their sin caught up to them. So what does Paul say to do when dealing with those whose sins have caught up to them--- Real practical words but kind of a surprise to me at least. He says, You who are spiritual one should restore such a one in a spirit of meekness. Notice the details. Those are attempting to restore the person should have the Holy Spirit. You’re gonna need it.
I spoke of Ted Haggard, was a prominent minister who had done some very immoral things, James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, evangelical group, he said, I can’t do it, too much a commitment. Good for James Dobson, restoration is serious business, not for those who aren’t able to commit to it.
For instance, there are different remedies for different diseases, and you need the Holy Spirit to know 1) the different diseases and 2) the different remedies. For Zacchaeus the remedy is to give to the poor and restore fourfold, for the rich young ruler? -- sell all that you have give to the poor and follow me. For Peter, it was Jesus making breakfast, breaking Peter’s heart in the gentlest way, do you love me, Lord you know I love you, feed my sheep. Different strokes for different folks.
And look at Paul’s next sentence: more than that, Watch yourself that you not also be tempted. What does Paul mean? Counseling, the work of reconciliation takes a toll. Let’s say you are trying to restore someone who took millions of dollars and she’s describing the homes, the vacation homes, the spas, the boats, the minks. You might get to thinking, I need a new coat, maybe it wouldn’t be wrong to fudge some of those numbers on my tax return. Or you’re hearing as you do the work of restoration with someone, you hear about the depths to which they have fallen, maybe you come out of a session, you feel rotten, your mind has been poisoned with bleech. Now, when Paul says to look to yourself, he’s not just saying examine yourself. Remember that verse that says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling because it is God at work within you”? That’s what is going on here. Look to yourself, look to God’s word within you. Look to God’s word. As the Corinthians learned, even if you are filled with the Holy Spirit you need to be in the word of God. In fact, the Holy Spirit leads us and counsels us to open this book and guides us once we are in it and unlocks the most wonderful secrets and discoveries to renew your heart, but as with the Corinthians, we are all too ready to go off on our own tangents, lean on our own strength so Paul says be in the Spirit and look to the word, as Scripture says of God, morning by morning he wakens my ear. To deal with the poisons, the dregs that are being poured into our ear as we counsel people, we need a purifier too, everyday, the word of God goin’ in the other ear. Then we’ll be able to walk tall and straight.
and this restoration is done in meekness. Think of Moses, Moses had so much of the holy spirit, a small part of his spirit was given to the 70 elders and it filled them and they were prophesying and they ate and drank before God. Moses was filled with the Holy Spirit and he was the meekest of all men on earth.
--You know I was reading on Jimmy Swaggart’s webpage.... now he’s got a ministry and he seems to be doing well but he wrote this about the time when he was caught and exposed before the whole world and it has wisdom
Aside -- this was the surprise part for me, I want to punish the well to do and the well known but for Paul, when somebody’s down and out, punishment is not what’s called for.
Second Aside-- Now there is a time not to be gentle, Two who was weary of well doing, and Mary or Mom example...when somebody’s about to throw himself off the cliff, bar the door!
From Jimmy Swaggart’s website: “When a person is down, and can do nothing to defend himself, and anyone can do any negative thing to him they so desire, and will not only not be reprimanded, but rather applauded, then one finds out just how many true Christians there really are. 
When a man has been caught in some sin, and he’s down and out, can do nothing to defend himself, that’s the time for meekness and gentleness on the part of his counselors.
And we see this in Jesus.
The woman caught in adultery, how gentle Jesus' restoration of her is and yet, how piercing,
John 8--The pharisees are testing Jesus... Rabbi, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such a one. What do you say? But notice what Jesus does, he bends down and begins to write in the earth in the dust. There is a secret to what Jesus is doing.
In Jeremiah we hear this
"O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake thee shall be ashamed and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water. Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved, for thou art my praise"

Do you see what Jesus is "saying" to the elders and pharisees ringed about? He makes it even clearer when he says, "he who is without sin, let him cast the first stone." And Jesus at this again stoops down and writes in the dust. And the pharisees and scribes go away... one by one... beginning with the eldest.
And Jesus straightens up and says Woman, where are they, has no one judged you? No one Lord. And Jesus replies "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more." The woman had been privy to Jesus as he wrote on the ground. Not only is he speaking to the pharisees and scribes, asking them in effect, "Are you dust and ashes, departed from the Lord, cut off from living water?" He had also asked the woman this. Writing in the dust is just the same as saying to her, "Are you dry dust?" Do you need the waters of life? And then his words, "neither do I condemn you, Go and sin no more" "God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world would be saved"." It is God's goodness that leads us to repentance and we see that in Jesus' restoration of the woman caught in adultery.

And all of the this leads to what is undergirding these verses in Galatians--restoration. For Jimmy Swaggart, there was no serious attempt at restoration... and Ted Haggard, too little an attempt, I commend the attempt, but still... too little. Fact is, we don’t care about restoring people... but not God. God is in the business of restoration. “And he shall restore the hearts of the fathers to the sons and the heart of the sons to the fathers. Mal 3:7
Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of thy salvation and uphold within me a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will be converted to you. Psalm 51:10
Psalm 88 (Sept) David--restored again and again as the moon.
Psalm 67 (Sept) O God thou wilt grant to thine inheritance rain, for it was weary but thou didst refresh it.
Isaiah 1:26ff And I will return your judges as at first; and your advisors, as at the beginning; then you shall be called righteousness city, faithful town. Zion with judgment shall be redeemed and her returnees with righteousness
Jeremiah 30 For I will restore health unto thee and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord because they called thee an Outcast.
God restores Zion, the land, hearts, souls, communities, countries, creation, all things Acts 3:19ff

How is this possible?
You see the new covenant, the everlasting covenant that is given to us in Jesus is all about restoration, healing, making right.
I will restore health unto thee, I will heal thee of thy wounds
What is after all,the center of the good news, “by his stripes we are healed” restored...
Yes, the church is hospital because its leader, the church’s one pastor, is Jesus the Great Physician. By his stripes we are healed
THIS is the law that Paul is talking about in the last clause here, "thus fulfill the law of Jesus of Anointed." What is the law of Jesus? It’s the everlasting covenant. Law, covenant,-- same thing, the new covenant. Restoration is God’s business and he makes it and is making it... ours. God says I will give you the faithful pities of the David Messiah, I will give you the faith, the love...everything so you can be like Jesus, Jesus the healer, Jesus the restorer, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

_____Please note that my quotations are from the KJV, the NIV, and many times they are my own translation based on the Greek.