In the beginning – our translation today says a wind from God sweeps over the face of the waters. But this could also be translated as the spirit of God hovered, the breath of God danced, the soul of God fluttered.
Much like a dove’s flight.
A dove’s flight tells Noah when the waters are receding.
The Spirit, like a descending dove, alight upon Jesus at his baptism in waters bringing God’s personal words of love.
Water in the Bible is the source of life. Out of water, God brings forth peoples and animals, plants and insects, birds and fish. Out of water, to this day, we are born from our mothers. Water is life.
Water is cleansing! Water is used as a holy bath before approaching the temple of God. Water is used to cleanse hands before prayer, and feet upon entering houses, and, of course, our baptisms.
Yet, water is also death. The Red Sea parts for escaping Moses, but it comes back together to kill the Egyptians. Noah and his family survive the flood, but that flood kills all other humans and animals and life.
Hand in hand, life and death, water is given to us.
Baptisms are the same water. The water God first made, and the water that Jesus walked upon… but also the water that makes up blood, spilled on battle field after battle field, city after city, and upon the cross.
Water changes, is renewed, but remains the very same water, same molecules, through all time. Through rain and snow, through rivers and underground creeks, through oceans and through the organs of animals and leaves of plants. I’m sure you’ve heard the joke that we’re drinking dinosaur pee. We are. But we’re also drinking the water that Abraham gave to visiting strangers – angels! – and the water God gave to Hagar and the water that anointed Jesus.
Water is death and life. Water is full of billions of previous creature’s lives and it enables the current life of billions of creatures.
The spirit of God dances throughout it.
When we are baptized, we are baptized not just in the name of God, Christ, and Spirit… but we are baptized into the DEATH of Jesus.
Symbolically, we drown. We go down. We die. We return to water, or rather, return the waters God gifted us.
Symbolically, we cease.
Spiritually, the old us DOES die.
And in the baptism, with coming up, with drying off the water, we are baptized into the LIFE of Jesus. A new life. Reborn. Reborn of not just water, but also the Spirit of God.
Symbolically, we have over come death.
Symbolically, we have emerged back into the world anew.
Spiritually, we are a new creation.
In baptism, we die and conquered death. We follow Christ to the grave and beyond. We see and affirm that nothing can separate us from the Love of God. We see and affirm the Spirit that dances all through creation also dances within us. We see and affirm the way of Christ is one of life and death, joys and sorrows, mixed blessings, muddy waters that are hard to discern and crystal clear waters that refresh us again and again. We see and affirm we are followers of Christ.
We see and affirm we are the children of God, loved, beloved, and with whom God is well pleased.
Rejoice in your baptisms! Remembered or not. Rejoice in other’s baptisms! Seen, or not. Rejoice in the baptisms that have happened, are happening, and will happen – for the Spirit unites us all as one in holy rites such as these.
Rev. Anathea Portier Young quotes the Israelites, ““Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7). What proof and signs can persuade a thirsting, frightened people that God is with them and leads them in the wilderness?
If God is the God who saves, who gives and sustains life, then God in their midst and in their inmost parts must provide, at the very least, that which is necessary for survival.
One hundred hours. That’s the oft-cited statistic for how long a human body can typically survive at “average” temperatures without access to water. Today’s Sinai Peninsula,” where the Israelites are wandering, “averages 82° Fahrenheit in May and 91°F in June. For those same months, average high temperatures are 95°F and 104°F respectively. In such extreme heat and with exposure to sun, the timeline for survival shortens” by half.
“Now we’re down to fifty hours. Exertion — such as walking long distances in the day time, carrying one’s belongings, tents, and small children, and wrangling livestock along the way (compare Exodus 17:3) — shortens the timeline further…”sustained high sweat rates can reduce estimated survival time without drinking water to as little as seven hours, or approximately the time it takes to walk twenty miles.” One long, day’s march on an unusually, but not impossibly, hot, June day was all it would take to finish God’s people. Because they had no water.
It’s 90°F in Puerto Rico right now. And raining. It feels like it is 102° with the humidity.
There is no public power. And there won’t be any for months.
Some people have generators.
Their generators are out of gas.
The gas stations are out of gas.
No AC. No ice. Not even fans… and sweating in 102 degrees.
Water is life.
The Israelites plead with Moses – they are going to die without water.
The Puerto Ricans are pleading with the world – they are going to die without water.
Lucky Puerto Ricans have access to springs or well water, like we have here at the church. But how much water are we going to get without electricity? We don’t have many hand pumps many more. They don’t have many hand pumps either.
And what happens to our bathrooms? A week with no shower, no flushing the toilet, no washing hands, no washing clothes, no brushing teeth, no… watering the animals?
Puerto Ricans are living out of bottles of water or small springs or open rivers. Last month they were people just like you and I – American Citizens living normal lives. Today they are fighting for every second of life.
No gasoline for generators means stores close. No place to buy water. Not like there is any left, anyways.
You may have heard on the news there are 9000 shipping containers in the ports of the island. That is correct – but they were there before Hurricane Irma and Maria hit. They have shoes, TVs, computers, and things businesses and people ordered before the hurricanes. Not a single container of food, medicine, or diapers is left.
Let alone water. What is in the stores does not satisfy.
No gasoline means no way to travel but by foot to get to a spring. And wait in a long line. And carry that water back jug by jug.
Nothing but spring water by foot means every elderly person is at the pure mercy of neighbors and friends and family and strangers to help them survive.
Baby formula made with river water – unfiltered, and can’t be boiled because the wood is all soaked for fires and there is no gas for electricity or a stove.
Dysentery. Dehydration. Death is settling into the cities and villages and rural houses of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Clean drinking water is life. The Bible was written in a time and place where people understood that so innately and KNEW what it meant to face times of water shortage.
We are blessed here in Ohio with an abundance of fresh water.
But if we were hit with a 50 mile wide tornado — which is what the hurricane was like — many, many of us would have issues getting drinking water after a week or two of no power, no gas, no aid.
Moses pleads with God, “What shall I do?!” And God answers – step out and act.
Jesus sits today and tells the people it’s not our words God wants, but our actions.
Pray for the world and ACT for the world.
See the need and donate funds.
See the injustice and cry out for those who are silenced.
See the hurt and offer your help.
Come to the table this morning thinking of Christ’s words: come for what satisfies – not 9000 boxes of shoes and TVs and books – but food, and drink, community and Christ. Think of those who sit with us taking communion sweating in churches, thirsty, on hot islands. We are all one body. They are the Body of Christ just as you are the Body of Christ.
Come, let us recommit ourselves as rainbows of hope after storms for our hurting world.
I wonder, was Jesus ever told that? What about Paul? Or Moses? Or God? Because none of them preach forgive and forget! Actually, they taught the exact opposite… to forgive, and don’t forget.
I get told to forgive and forget when someone does me a wrong. As a teen, it was me saying “I’m so angry SoAndSo stole from my purse! I should confront them!”
And I was told, “Now, now, it’s better to forgive and forget. Let it be.”
As an adult, I’ve had people tell me of their spouse beating them, and then the victim says, “But if I hold my love’s violence against them, then I’m not forgiving them. So I choose to forgive and forget. I know in their heart they didn’t mean it.”
Good Christians – don’t forgive and forget. You are NOT floor mats, to be stomped on, ripped and torn, and hurt. You don’t have to be a victim to be Christian. You don’t have to forget who and how others hurt you. You are not called to abuse.
“However, if by “forgive and forget” one means, “I will act as if the sin had never occurred and live as if I don’t remember it,” then we can run into trouble. For example, a rape victim can choose to forgive the rapist, but that does not mean she should act as if that sin had never happened. To spend time alone with the rapist, especially if he is unrepentant, is not what Scripture teaches. Forgiveness involves not holding a sin against a person any longer, but forgiveness is different from trust. It is wise to take precautions, and sometimes the dynamics of a relationship will have to change. “Being cautious doesn’t mean we haven’t forgiven.” ((https://www.gotquestions.org/forgive-forget.html))
Listen to our scripture today:
Peter asks Jesus “how many times should I forgive a brother?” and offers the generous 7 times. Then, just as now, we say something like fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Or, 3 strikes you’re out. Seven times is an awful lot of “second” chances.
But Jesus says no – forgive your brother an unlimited amount… and then he tells a parable to explain what he means.
In this parable, a king has loaned an absurd amount of money to his servant. The king called this guy in and said it is time to pay back what you borrowed — but the man didn’t have an absurd amount of money to return. So the king said – well, then, we’ll sell you and your wife and kids and home and all you own into slavery.
The guy in insane debt fell on his knees and begged for forgiveness. He promised to make all things right if given time. He begged for mercy.
The king had pity. Instead of saying – okay, I’ll give you another year. Or, okay, I’ll sell only you and not your family into slavery. Instead, the king said — I forgive you of this 300 million dollars. You don’t have to pay me back. The indebted man got so much more than what he asked for.
Note – the king did this when the servant asked for forgiveness from his heart. Additionally, the king did it out of pity — you can only have pity on someone or something from a position of power. Otherwise, you commiserate. The king looks down on this guy, and out of his power over the man, chooses to forgive everything when the weak one asks.
This isn’t a situation of an abused person forgiving their abuser. That would be the weak forgiving the powerful. This is a case like your bank choosing to forgive your house mortgage entirely because you wrote to them about how you can’t pay the mortgage right now and you’d like more time before they foreclose.
So the deeply forgiven man heads out. He passes someone else who owes him some cash and he says – hey! Pay up!
Just like the forgiven man had done, this guy also falls on his knees and pleas – give me some more time! I’ll pay you everything back!
But the forgiven man doesn’t forgive this guy or give this guy more time. Instead, he throws the man in prison.
Sorta like your bank forgives your whole mortgage, but then you sue your cousin because he missed a payment on the car you cosigned for him.
So word gets back to the king about what the forgiven man has done. The king summons the man back, and says – hey! What’s the deal? You pleaded with me for more time, and I gave you way, way more than more time. Your coworker pleaded for more time from you, and you didn’t forgive his debt like I did yours, or even give him the time. Instead, you chose to throw him in jail. I guess that’s the way you want to be treated too. So, into jail with you until you pay the absurd amount you borrowed from me — just like you did to your brother.
Jesus then concludes his story by saying God treats us the same way – if we forgive, we are forgiven. If we demand payment, God will demand payment.
Now… did anyone FORGET in this story?
Absolutely not. Actually, remembering is a major part of the forgiveness. The forgiven guy is supposed to remember how much mercy — unwarranted gifts — he has been given. He is supposed to remember the kindness he has been shown. And then he is supposed to give that mercy and kindness to others when they are in the same situation he was in.
The king remembers too. He remembered the forgiven guy wronged him, but that the guy had asked for more time to make it right. The king remembers he gave the slave great generosity. And he remembers that the slave chose to respond to this generosity not with love and gratitude, but with greediness.
If someone you forgive uses your mercy as a blank check to do more and more wrong… don’t forget. Take that mercy back.
Forgiveness is never supposed to be power to do harm. It is supposed to be a balm to bring people back together into right relationships.
Forgiveness is not something to do and forget.
And the Bible says no where that it is easy.
We’re told about forgiveness in the Bible from the perspective of the person who forgives, the person who asks for mercy, and the people who witness it. Everywhere, scripture notes… forgiveness is hard.
The prodigal son must reach utter rock bottom before he is willing to admit he has done wrong. He is so stubborn! When he comes back, he comes back about crawling on his belly. He is deeply ashamed. He intends to beg his father to take him in as a slave – not as a son. This year, scientists looked at our brains and our bodies when we are proven wrong. They found that it PHYSICALLY hurts — hurts like being slapped — when we know we’re in the wrong. People avoid admitting their wrongs not just out of pride, but out of fear of the pain, and fear of rejection, and the dual punishment the wronged person and their own bodies will do. When someone actually admits their wrong to you, and asks for forgiveness, they have already suffered and are suffering.
Now you have the power. The upper hand. This person has admitted they are in the wrong. You are in the right. What will you do? The law and common sense says you can take all the revenge and should take all that you’re owed. Sue them for every penny. Burn the relationship to the ground. Tell everyone what a mess up they are. It is your right.
And the Bible says that we are permitted to loosen and bind what we will. You can choose punishment in this situation for the wronged person. You can also choose mercy. You can choose love. You can choose to walk away even without an answer.
The power and right is in your hands. What will you do with it?
Giving it away, forgive- forgo- to give away – means giving up your right to extract vengeance for the wrong committed to you. This is just as hard as asking for forgiveness. This is acting against our nature, and acting against our culture. It is purposefully stepping out of the patterns of the world around us and forging a new way.
Who wants to give up power? Who wants to lower themselves and say – we are equals? Who wants to admit someone did them a horrible wrong, and then say ‘but I am choosing not to get my pound of flesh from them.’
Forgiving, and asking forgiveness, is very hard.
So, too, is witnessing it. Remember that brother of the prodigal son is furious. And often people who watch Jesus forgive sins are incensed. How can he do this? It isn’t just! It is against the balance books! It isn’t fair.
Forgiving isn’t fair. It is mercy. It is unearned favor.
Forgiving is not how the world works.
Forgiving is choosing to live into God’s realm.
Remember, part two of Jesus’ story says rules we apply to others, God will apply to us. What we do on Earth is reflected in heaven. If we demand every penny be paid back to us, God will demand we pay back every penny we owe others – and owe God.
Jesus suggests our debt to others and God is so absurdly large, that we can never pay it back. Instead, we need forgiveness and mercy. Therefore, we should practice forgiveness and mercy.
Because forgiveness is not an easy task, not easily given.
Remembering is what makes forgiveness worth so much.
The Israelites have traveled and traveled and traveled from Egypt and at long last, have reached the Promised Land… but they find it is already occupied. So they send in 10 spies to check out who is living in this area.
In our reading, the spies come back with the report that the people already living there are the children of Nephillim — angels or giants. They’re so big and strong that the Israelites feel like grasshoppers around them. Tiny little bugs! When they hear the report, everyone in the camp begins to fret and worry.
But Caleb stands up and says: hey! We should trust God’s promises. God says this is where we’re supposed to go, let’s go!
But no one wants to listen to Caleb.
Moses and God have a talk about what to do. God is upset – why do the Israelites keep not trusting me? Didn’t I do miracles in Egypt to get the people free from Pharaoh? Didn’t I do miracles at the Red Sea, and miracles in the desert with manna, and water, and birds to eat? This situation looks hopeless, but I AM GOD! I DO MIRACLES! WHY CAN’T THE PEOPLE GET THIS?!
God decides to order the Israelites to wander around in the desert for 40 years. And in those 40 years, everyone who is complaining and regretting leaving Egypt will pass away from old age. A new generation will return to the Promised Land and maybe they will believe God this time. But Caleb will live a long life and enter the land because he has a different spirit, a spirit that trusts God wholeheartedly.
Jesus, too, tells us to live with a different spirit in us. The Holy Spirit. A Spirit that comes upon us with our baptisms and keeps faith in hopeless situations, keeps trust in God through hardships and trials, and strives to live a life of love for God, and for others.
We’re called to live our lives in ways that make believers of all nations. Caleb lived this way. And our Caleb is called to live this way. No one is able to do it alone. It takes the whole body of Christ.
So you, who have the different spirit, the Holy Spirit, be the guide to disciple Christ’s newest follower – our little Caleb. Be his parents’ support, his sister’s assurance, his own encouragement. Live your life in a way that leads him towards the promised land. And remind him of this day – the day we affirmed he is baptized in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, and he is a part of Saint Michael’s UCC, and a part of the Body of Christ universal.
Let me set the scene for you in Numbers: the people are complaining. Give us meat to eat, Moses! We had meat in Egypt. Give us leaks or cucumbers or anything other than this manna! Day in and day out – all we have is manna. Moses!
So Moses and God talk about this. And God says it is too much for Moses to be the only one leading the people. Gather up seventy men, God says, and I will gift them the Spirit. Then they can help lead.
So Moses obeys God, gathers up the seventy, and they go outside of the tent village where God descends upon them like mist, or a cloud, and they speak wonders.
Speaking the word of God has a lot of power. Scripture tells us that it was God’s Words that created everything from Light to you and me. It’s no wonder that people told Moses that Eldad and Medad were acting as prophets. Moses’ friends probably thought these two were trying to take control of the camp. And if they weren’t, at the least, they weren’t part of the 70 chosen to be prophets and so God may be furious at their speaking God’s Words.
Moses’ right hand says — stop them!
But Moses isn’t worried, or upset, or slighted, or jealous. He’s thrilled that others are speaking Gods words, spreading God’s message and says he’d be glad if everyone did this: “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put the Spirit on them!”
Indeed, if you recall, later in the letter to Corinthians we hear that it is only by the Holy Spirit we are able to say “Jesus is Lord.”
Moses knows anyone that is working for God, even if they don’t have official permission to do so, or aren’t pastors, or maybe even aren’t of the same faith… as long as they are doing God’s work and speaking the Spirit of Truth – let them be!
In the days of Joel, the prophet foretells the end of the world. A scary end times full of blood and fire and smoke. He calls these the Last Days.
In the days after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, there were people prophesying without official authority. Without official permission. Without clearance. Once again.
We hear how the early Christians are gathered together when violence strikes. This microburst of wind bellows through the house and tongues made of fire appear above the heads of everyone there — every person — and every person suddenly spoke other languages.
Just like at Babel, languages are spread out.
Just like at Babel, confusion reigns.
People come running to the house – what was that roar from heaven? What is this that everyone is speaking all these languages eloquently and they are NOT from our home counties? How are we to understand this?
Like with Moses, some said — stop them! They’re drunk and out of their minds.
Like with Moses, a leader stands up: this time it is Peter. And Peter, like Moses, says don’t stop the Spirit! Interpret what is happening through the prophet Joel — in the last days, God will pour out the Spirit on sons and daughters, young men and young women, old men and old women, babies and toddlers and preteens and teenagers and the married and unmarried and those who are free and those who are repressed; those who are upstanding citizens and those with criminal pasts — everyone will speak of God and God’s wonders.
As Joel said — there will be signs from heaven. And signs have happened. The Lord’s Great and Glorious day is here: the reign of God, Heaven itself, has come close. All who call upon God are welcome in.
In our days, now, there were people prophesying without official authority. Without official permission. Without clearance. Out of the mouth of babes are words praising the wonders of God. Out of the dreams of the elderly are visions of heaven and God’s good work. Out of the work of the middle aged are glimpses of the Kin-dom of God. What is to be done?
Wherever the Spirit moves, inspiring people to praise God and spread goodness, love, mercy and forgiveness — it should be permitted to flow freely. ((I also don’t think we could stop the Spirit if we tried.))
God’s Holy Spirit comes upon us at all ages and all times infusing us with the power to have faith, keep hope, and do good to one another. It is outside all establishments, cannot be ordered about, cannot be silenced — as Christ told us, we do not know where the wind comes from or where it goes. The Spirit moves, enlivens, and we move and are enlivened with it.
What does that mean? It means in our days, now, the Spirit is testing our church and our lives. Showing us how we need to be more open, more inclusive, and speak words of love and welcome to people we’d rather not… but the Spirit gives us that language and Jesus tells us to go. Go and speak of God’s wonders wherever you find yourself in whatever languages you are gifted to whomever you meet.
The official authority, official permission, official clearance to be a prophet, a witness of God, a pastoral presence, has been given to you. You here today received this when you were baptized with water and with the fire of the Spirit.
Therefore, we are all God’s prophets. All God’s witnesses; because we are all God’s children.
From everywhere – for Holy Humor Sunday – and any day!
A small boy told a Sunday school teacher: “When you die, God takes care of you like your parents did when you were alive — only God doesn’t yell at you all the time.”
A woman invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to her six-year-old daughter and said, “Would you like to say the blessing?”
“I wouldn’t know what to say,” the little girl replied.
“Just say what you hear Mommy say,” the mother said.
The little girl bowed her head and said: “Dear Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?”
A pastor was speaking to a group of second-graders about the resurrection of Jesus when one student asked, “What did Jesus say right after He came out of the grave?”
The pastor explained that the Gospels do not tell us what He said.
The hand of one little girl shot up. “I know what He said: He said, ‘Tah-dah!'”
Church Sign: “We welcome all denominations — $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100.”
Church of the Merciful posted this sign: “Trespassers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
In the bulletin of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, Palm Coast, FL: “We will have a Special Holiday Bingo & Dinner on Monday evening, Dec. 30. You will be given two bingo packs, which cover all games played, and your choice of children or roast beef for dinner.”
From the Dalton (GA) Daily Citizen News: “John Franklin, ordained as a deamon, will pastor two churches in Fannin County.”
When a young minister was still single, he preached a sermon he entitled, “Rules for Raising Children.” After he got married and had children of his own, he changed the title of the sermon to “Suggestions for Raising Children.” When his children got to be teenagers, he stopped preaching on that subject altogether.
A man had been shipwrecked on a remote island in the Pacific, and was alone for 20 years. When a ship finally arrived, his rescuers were impressed with the three buildings he had built and asked him about them.
“Well,” the man replied, “this is my house, and that building over there is my church. It’s a wonderful church and I hate to leave it.”
“And what is the third building yonder?” a rescuer asked.
“Oh, that is the church I used to go to,” the man replied.
Why couldn’t Jonah trust the ocean?
Because he knew there was something fishy about it.
Who was the greatest financier in the Bible?
Noah; he was floating his stock while everyone was in liquidation.
Where was Solomon’s temple located?
On the side of his head.
Where is the first tennis match mentioned in the Bible?
When Joseph served in Pharaoh’s court.
What excuse did Adam give to his children as to why he no longer lived in Eden?
Your mother ate us out of house and home.
What did Adam say on the day before Christmas?
It’s Christmas, Eve!
How does Moses make his coffee?
Did Eve ever have a date with Adam?
No, only an apple.
Why didn’t Noah go fishing?
Because he only had two worms.
How do we know Peter was a rich fisherman?
By his net income.
Who were Gumby’s favorite Bible characters?
Shadrack, Meshack & AhBENDago.
Who was the smartest man in the Bible?
Abraham. He knew a Lot.
Why didn’t they play cards on the Ark?
Because Noah was standing on the deck.
Who was the fastest runner in the race?
Adam, because he was first in the human race.
Why did the unemployed man get excited while looking through his Bible?
He thought he saw a job.
What animal could Noah not trust?
Who was the greatest comedian in the Bible?
Samson. He brought the house down.
What kind of man was Boaz before he married?
On the Ark, Noah probably got milk from the cows. What did he get from the ducks?
Which Bible Character is a locksmith?
Which Bible character had no parents?
Joshua, son of Nun (Joshua 1:1).
Where is the first baseball game in the Bible?
In the big inning. Eve stole first, Adam stole second. Cain struck out Abel. The Giants and the Angels were rained out.
How long did Cain hate his brother?
As long as he was Abel.
At Sunday School the children were learning how according to the Bible God created everything, including human beings.
Johnny paid particular attention when the teacher told him how Eve was created out of one of Adam’s ribs.
Later that week, Johnny’s mother found him lying on his bed as though he were ill, and asked him, “Johnny, what’s the matter?”
Johnny replied, “I’ve got a pain in my side. I think I’m going to have a wife.”
When is medicine first mentioned in the Bible?
When God gave Moses two tablets.
Who was the fastest guy in the Bible?
Adam – he was first in the human race.
What sort of lights were on Noah’s Ark?
At what time of day did God create Adam?
Just before Eve.
Which biblical character was the youngest to speak foul language?
Job, because he cursed the day he was born.
Why did the hawk sit on the church steeple?
Because it was a bird of pray.
A pastor decided to visit his church members one Saturday.
At one particular house it was clear to the pastor that someone was home, but nobody came to the door.
The pastor knocked and knocked but no-one answered so finally took out his card and wrote on the back:
Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him and he with me.”
The next day the same card showed up in the collection plate. Below the pastor’s message was another scripture passage.
Genesis 3:10 – “I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself.”
In the beginning, writes Genesis.
In the beginning, write John.
Genesis tells us God -spoke- and created all.
John tells us the Word was with God and through the Word all was created.
In Genesis, God is a Gardener. God makes a peaceful garden and places people in it – but people must flee in it tears when they disobey God.
In John, Jesus is mistaken as a gardener. People have fled to this sorrowful garden in tears. Mary leaves it with joy to obey God.
In Exodus to Moses- God says God is the I AM! In John, Jesus repeatedly says “I AM.”
John 6: 35, 48 I am the bread of life
John 8: 12, 9:5 I am the light of the world
John 10:9 I am the door
John 10:11 I am the good shepherd
John 11:25 I am the resurrection and the life
John 14:6 I am the way, the truth, and the life
John 15:1 I am the true vine
And, John 8: 58 “Before Abraham was, I am”
In this garden, humanity and the Great I AM meet once again. In this graveyard, new life springs forth. In this place of sorrow – unexpected joy is found.
“Resurrection is nothing short of re-creation. That the burial and resurrection of Jesus take place in a garden underscores the Fourth Gospel’s unrelenting commitment to holding the divine and the human together. Death is the reality of life, but resurrection points to the reality of abundant life.” (Karoline Lewis)
The Great I AM wants to recreate with us; wants to begin again; wants to restore our relationship.
Our scriptures, our faith, our God is all about restoring relationships. Today, we read the story of Mary and Jesus meeting, but we also know that this is also a story about humanity and God meeting and beginning again. This time, instead of leaving the garden in anger with each other, humanity and God leave the garden ready to work together.
Now this is all heady – so let’s bring it down to what that really means: it means living into God’s reign now. It means being Christ-like now. It means living that ever-renewing, abundant life now.
You see, people come to Jesus through personal encounters. 1 on 1. It’s 1 on 1 conversation that brings the Samaritan woman to understand Jesus as the Messiah. 1 on 1 debate for Nicodemus at night. 1 on 1 for Zaccheus in the tree. Doubting Thomas will stop doubting when he personally touches Jesus. Saul will turn from persecuting Christians when he personally meets Jesus. It is the personal encounter with Phillip and his faith that converts the Ethiopian man; and it is personal encounters with the disciples – the apostles, the women, all those who witness – that bring the faith in Jesus’ way from a small following of middle eastern men and women to a world religion.
How did you end up here, today? I bet someone personally told you about their faith, and you had a relationship with that someone – a mother, a father, grandparent, good friend, spouse – very, very few people (if any!) come to Christ through scripture alone. This is a faith of relationships. Of personal encounters.
Today – Mary is the first to have a personal encounter with the Risen Christ. And she shares this encounter.
Would you be here today if Mary hadn’t left the garden to tell the Good News?
The Garden of Eden was large, but it wasn’t the entire world. We have a new mission – to spread the Good News everywhere. To plant God’s garden everywhere. You and I are co-gardeners, co-creators, with God. We are tasked with feeding, clothing, and caring for one another. We are tasked with gardening the world – caring for its plants and animals, waters and skies. We are tasked with carrying hope into hopeless situations and responding with love in hateful situations. We are called – by name – to rise from our graves and live the abundant life God offers to us now.
The I AM told the prophet: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” Out of everlasting Love, God abides with us. Out of everlasting Love, God builds again. Out of everlasting Love, God bids us to go from the garden and take the good news to all peoples – for all peoples are the children of the great I AM.
I AM is Risen! I AM abides with us. I AM will come again!
Christ is Risen!
Go out and share this beautiful news like a spring flower with all peoples! Amen!