Tag Archives: Word

Jesus the Poet

The Gospel of John is the current focus of my preaching. I am excited, challenged and transformed by the Word of God encountered in John. The powerful language, metaphors and word images stir new thoughts and perspectives. I cannot read John passively; I am called into an encounter with Jesus.

From the start, John uses poetic symbols and metaphors to describe Jesus. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Marcus Borg, a New Testament scholar, writes,

John’s use of symbolic language is extraordinarily powerful. His images are often “archetypal” (literally, imprinted in human psyches from the beginning). They flow out of the depths of human experience and longing. We see this with great clarity in the “I am” statements that he attributes to Jesus:

“I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). The archetypal image is darkness and light and it close relative blindness and seeing. The image is not only in John’s prologue, but also in the story of Nicodemus (John 3), who comes to Jesus “by night” —he is still in the dark. In John 9, the overcoming of blindness and Jesus as the “light of the world” are juxtaposed. (Marcus Borg, Evolution of the Word, p. 305-306)

John’s use of metaphor can often be confusing and unsettling—that is his intention. Take the story of Nicodemus in John 3. Nicodemus is a religious leader, a Pharisee, who comes to talk with Jesus by night. He starts with a clear declaration of respect, “Rabbi, we know that you are teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Nicodemus calls Jesus Rabbi—teacher—and Nic appear ready to learn.

But Jesus’ use of language seems only to confuse Nic. “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above (or again)” Nic does not catch the true impact of Jesus. He is not simply a teacher who give more data, but rather God who give birth to a new cosmos. Nic responds, “How does someone climb back up into his mom’s uterus?”

Nic comes to Jesus like an engineer or scientist, wanting the new set of blueprints for remodeling one’s life. Jesus responds like a fiery poet, burning down Nic’s safe path to religious enlightenment with the declaration that one needs a fresh birth (implying the death of the old and a new birth with a new perspective?). Like a poet Jesus uses dramatic graphic language: birth from above, born of water and Spirit, the wind blows where it will. All this leaves Nic confused, questioning, wondering, “How can these things be?”

As a reader, I am often like Nic, wrestling with questions and concepts. I need to die to my simple approach that wants to fit Jesus into my life. Rather Jesus comes to “break open” my religious perspective and start a new creation in my life. The new creation is not always clear, but I know that staying close to the poet Jesus, I will find the way, the truth and life.

Lord Jesus, speak your word of new birth for me today.

Underground Work

Horizontal Drill working at Resurrection

Horizontal Drill working at Resurrection

This week at Resurrection there has been plenty of working going on, but most has been invisible. A horizontal drilling machine was on site and it drilled a 350 foot tunnel under our parking lot so that a sewer pipe could connect our building to the county sewer line. It encountered rocks and layers of stone that slowed progress but the drill eventually broke through and the connection made.

Meanwhile our pumpkin patch continues to flourish and will soon be ready for our annual Harvest Festival on Sunday, October 6. The small seedling that were planted last June have flourished over the summer and more than 500 pumpkins that were once hidden by leafy vines are now visible.   They are ready for the harvest.

Harvest Festival brings much joy.

Harvest Festival brings much joy.

The Harvest Festival is a celebration of local farm heritage and your participation is encouraged, both as volunteers and participants.  Discover how you can help make this day special by volunteering here.

All this underground work reminds me of Jesus’ parable in Mark 4.

Jesus also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Jesus’ parable states that the kingdom is growing all around us, often in invisible ways that we do not fully comprehend. Jesus calls us to be faithful in scattering the seed, God’s Word of promise and hope for all people.  The Word is often mysterious in how it calls people to faith in God.  I am one who wants to see tangible results right away, but God’s Word sometimes needs to be like the horizontal drill, pushing through a stony sinful heart. I need to persevere in my spreading of God’s Word.   The harvest of faith will eventually come.  And oh what joy comes with the harvest!

I am confident that all the underground work done this week will eventually bring glory to God’s kingdom. We need to remain patient in our trust of God’s promise of a fruitful harvest.

In what ways have you had to be patient with God’s underground work?

Lord Jesus, work your Word into my life and world.

Seeing the Word

Among the many presenters at the Festival of Homiletics this week, Barbara Lundblad is one that I wanted to hear.  She is one of the first women preacher to develop a national reputation as communicator of the gospel.  She is also a Lutheran and has ruffled many feathers with some of her controversial statements. 

She gave a workshop Tuesday called “Seeing the Word.”  Barbara is a professor of Old Testament and she focused on the Advent scripture texts from Isaiah.  She encouraged us to see the significance of using visual metaphors to help the congregation not only hear the word, but see the word as well.  She asked us to engage the artists and designers in our congregations to create visual symbols that help the congregation fully enter the story of the texts.  

Barbara then told a humorous story about a young intern pastor spending nearly the entire annual budget for worship in her congregation on a long bolt of clothe.  He then ruined the church kitchen sink dyeing the fabric blue.  For Sunday worship, he rolled the blue cloth from the altar down the center aisle, through the narthex and out the church door and into their neighborhood.  He preached on Ezekiel 47 where the prophet describes a river of water flowing from the temple in Jerusalem into the Dead Sea.  The river was a symbol of life for Ezekiel and for us.  The intern’s  blue cloth symbolized the congregation becoming a God’s river of life in their community.  

forgiveness logI was reminded of last fall when our stewardship team encourage me to use some visual symbols as part of our “Fuel the Flame” stewardship theme.   Members of the congregation created logs that captured some of the words of faith and we used them in worship.   Later the logs became part of a congregational bonfire.  The logs became symbols of how our faith can catch fire with God’s love and in turn we can share the fire with others.

I am thankful for all that I can learn from some of the outstanding preachers in our country.

Lord Jesus, you are the Word made flesh for us.  Open our eyes to see your Word for us.