How Are We Known?

Teaching: Emily Owlsley

March 18, 2018

The lectionary passages for today are about how we are known and how we know God.  How we are forgiven and the fact of being forgiven as part of our identity.  We also have the foretelling of Easter and Jesus’ death allowing for new life.  And the analogy of plants dying and providing seeds that create new life.  Jesus explains that this is how new life happens. 

I’m going to talk through the lectionary passages this morning and then ask you all if you’re willing to share about particular times in your life, or the life of the community, or someone close to you, when something had to be given up, or die, to allow for new life to happen.  So keep that in mind as I go through the scriptures. 

Jeremiah 31:31-34:

  • Jeremiah is told that a new covenant is coming; it will be different from the other covenants. 

“I will put my law into their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.  No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother saying, ‘Know the Lord.’ because they will all know me from the least of them to the greatest.” declares the Lord.

  • “Put my law in their minds and write in on their hearts.  They will all know me from the least of them to the greatest.”  This is not just for the priests to be able to learn and teach others; it is accessible to all.  We can all know God!
  • God is opening up a new way for us to know him and be connected to him that is tied to the Holy Spirit being real to all.  Jesus creates the space for forgiveness of us, and the ability to forgive each other.  It includes all. 

Psalm 51:1-12:

  • Psalm written by David after he was confronted by the prophet Nathan about his affair with Bathsheba. 
  • David is asking for mercy. 
  • He really knows God.  He calls out different characteristics and abilities of God—compassion, the ability to wash away his iniquity, to cleanse him from sin. 
  • He also says that he knows his sin.  This is something I think we can relate to.  When you feel really guilty about something, you feel as though it consumes you, and you know it so well.  David knows that God desires more for him.

“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.  Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.  Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.  Create in me a pure, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

  • David understands the breadth of God, even before the more spacious ‘new covenant’ happened.  He knows the power of God’s forgiveness and his presence.  He experiences the Holy Spirit’s presence, “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  The Message version says, “do not fail to breathe holiness into me.”

Psalm 119:9-16:

  • Trying to live by God’s commandments. 
  • “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
  • Delighting in God’s words and ways of living, in his wisdom. 
  • Being God’s servant.
  • This part of the Psalm is pure praise of God’s ways and the joy that comes to this person from living them out. 

John 12:20-33:

  • Here is where the lectionary gets tied back to Lent and Easter in a more literal way. 
  • The other passages are all alluding to the new covenant/way that comes through or with Jesus.
  • We learn about the power of death in creating new life. 
  • In this passage Jesus shares that it’s the time for his death.  He had been anointed by Mary’s perfume, as a preparation for burial.  He had been celebrated in the procession at Bethany (which we’ll celebrate next week with Palm Sunday), and now he shares that his death will come very soon.

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

  • Appropriate for Lent as we are trying to learn more about God by giving up some part of life or trying to practice something faithfully to grow closer to God.  This requires some letting go of our egos, or denying some sort of pleasure.  We have to temporarily let something die to create space for something else. 
  • Is there a time when you had to do this?  What was it, and what did it help you to learn?  How did it help you and/or others to grow?  What new life was created as a result?

Open time for sharing around this question

In the way of human life, we get overlap between life, death, and the new life.  This is how we learn from each other and continue the story of life; how our lives serve and follow Christ…

  • In the John passage Jesus asks for God’s name to be glorified.  God speaks, “I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.”  There is some talking about what that voice/sound was; some people say it was thunder… Jesus says, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.”
  • Let us live into this trust that God has been glorified and continues to be in the presence of him in our lives.  In how we can learn this way of letting go of things to let new life come.

I’ll close with a poem from Rumi which can be thought of as a description of God’s extravagance in his love for us:

                Love recklessness, not reason.
                Reason seeks profit,
                Love comes on strong, consuming herself,
                             Unabashed.

                Yet in the midst of suffering
                Love proceeds like a millstone,
                Hard-surfaced and straight-forward.

                Having died to self-interest,
                She risks everything and asks for nothing.
                Love gambles away every gift God bestows.