Monday, May 2, 2011

Easter Sermon- Three Dimensional Resurrection

Three Dimensional Resurrection

Matt 28:1-10; Luke 24:1-11; John 20:1-16

Three stories about One resurrection of Jesus the Christ.
For some, the three perspectives are confusing-
Was there one women or two or three at the tomb?
Were there men in dazzling clothes or angels who greeted the
women at the tomb with the story of the resurrection?
Did the disciples respond to the women’s testimony
with amazement, or disbelief or action?

For others it is encouraging to know how much these stories
Agree with each other even though they were written by
different authors at different time from different perspectives,
they were inspired by One Spirit and testimony to one Christ.
Each tells the story of the empty tomb,
Each tells the story of women who went to the tomb early,
Each tells the story of witnessing at the tomb,
And how difficult it was for people to believe the Gospel
That the women shared with other believers.
There is a truth that runs through each of these stories
And it is the truth of the resurrection of Christ.

For me, the power and common purpose of these different accounts
Of the one resurrection of Jesus Christ is to give us
A Three dimensional perspective on the resurrection.
It is not a flat two dimensional picture that looks the same
From every angle but rather it has texture, depth and substance.

For example the resurrection speaks to us when we feel God is absent
As the body of Christ was absent from the empty tomb and
Yet the beloved disciple “saw and believed.”

But the story is equally poignant when we encounter the Risen Christ
In our daily lives. We might mistake him for the gardener but
When he speaks our name “Mary” we know it is “The Teacher”.

The three different sources help us to see three dimensionally.
Of course three dimensional movies are the rage right now.

It seems that every movie we see today has a 3-D option.
And the way three dimensional movies work is that they
Trick the eye and the mind into thinking there are
At least two different angles to every shot.
They shoot the movie from a 45 degree and 135 degree angle.
Each eye sees a different angle to give the illusion of 3-D.

And yet in today’s scripture we have not just 2 perspectives
But we have three perspective (and we could have four)
and within the stories themselves we also have
a variety of perspectives on the story so that
we are not just tricking our eye and mind
into thinking three dimensionally
but we are helping believers to know the multiple dimensions
of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that is real and personal,
Inclusive and yet beyond even our wildest imagination.

You see the story of Jesus resurrection is not a story that seems
To reach out to us and take place right in front of our eyes.
But it is the story of God who came down into this world
That God created to actually touch us, talk with us, live in us.
It is not the story that takes place in virtual reality but rather
As story that takes us into hyper-reality. And by that I mean-
A reality that recognizes the paradoxes of life, the purpose
and problems of life and the presence of God
Who is willing to be present in all that reality.

So I call the three versions of the resurrection of Jesus Christ
A three dimension understanding of the resurrection.
And unlike the 3-D movies we see with special glasses
This is not an illusion, or a trick.

It is the continuation of the incarnation story where God came down,

Not longer was God simply spoken of by the prophets but now
God spoke to us directly as Jesus said to the crowd in Luke
“Today the scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

No longer did God exercise God’s sovereign control from afar
But God walked with us in Jesus and ate with us
And entered into our lives as he did with Cleopas
And his companion on the road to Emmaus:
“Their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”

No longer did God promise healing from heaven above,
But God entered into our pain in Jesus on the cross,
healed us with his spittle as he healed the blind man,
Allowed us with Thomas to touch his wounds,
Even as he touched and healed our woundedness.
“Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe”

No longer does God simply promise us life after death,
But Jesus cries with us as he did in the death of Lazarus
and dies with us on the cross at Calvary so that
we might be raised with Christ to life eternal.

So the real question we must ask on this Easter morning
As we consider the three dimensional resurrection of Jesus
Is who will we be in this story…

Will we be the disciples who thought that this was just an idle tale
And did not believe?

Will we be Peter who went home amazed at what happened?

Will we be the beloved disciple, John, who looked into the tomb
Saw the empty tomb…and believed.

Will we be the women in Matthew who took hold of Jesus’ feet
And worshipped him?

Or will we be Mary who went to the other disciples and told them,
“I have seen the Lord”?

The beauty of this three dimensional understanding
of the Resurrection is that the depth and dynamic experience
of the resurrection does not illicit just one response-
there are as many responses to the Resurrected Christ
as there are disciples- the “Bible tells us so.”
There are days in which we hear God call upon our lives
As personally as Mary heard Jesus call her name.

There are other days when we leap into mission
with the boldness of Peter only to go home
amazed but exhausted and spent
Still other days when we experience what other people
Might consider to be the absence of God in life
As John experienced the empty tomb and
We remember something he told us
And we believe.

But if we believe a three dimension resurrection
As God who enters into the reality of our lives,
And opens us up to a reality beyond the bounds of our vision
Then we know, that God will use us to proclaim God’s kingdom.
And that is the mystery, the wonder and meaning of Easter. Amen

Monday, April 18, 2011

Lesson Plan for Chapters 9-14 of "Geography of God"

“Geography of God” Lesson Plan for Chapters 9- 14

Life on the Road

Chapter Nine: Geography of God

Symbols of the Trinity
Triquetra Knot ; Celtic Cross ; Shamrock ; Trinity Shield ; Presbyterian Symbol ; Catholic Sign of the Trinity ; Rublev’s Trinity- Genesis 18

Trinitarian Affirmation
• II Corinthians 13:13 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit”
• The Words of Jesus in John “I am the way, the truth and the life”
• God doesn’t just show us the way, the Triune God is the way (Lindvall, pg. 52)
• “The most transforming affirmation embedded in the Trinity…an understanding of a God who is love, a God who is relationship, a God who is communion.” (pg. 52, Lindvall)

Three Forms of Devotions- Chap 10

• Worship
• Bible reading
• Prayer
Devotion is not either/or - It is both/and
– Corporate and Individual
– Discipline and discipleship are related
– Humans crave BOTH tradition and innovation

Chapter 11: Worship- Turning to the Center

• Worship is neither entertainment, therapy or education. These are all directed to the worshipper. So what is it?...
• It is God directed. God is the audience and the whole congregation are the actors, singers, readers, dancers performing for God’s good pleasure.
• Question “What did you get out of the service?” should be replaced with “What did you lose, give, or offer.”
• The opportunity we are met with on Sunday is to give ourselves again to God, to lose ourselves in the Absolute, to turn away from self and re-center on God

Packing a Bible- Chap 12

• “The way to defend the Bible is the same way that you defend a Lion. You let it lose.” Charles Spurgeon
• Three-fold word of God.
– Living word in Jesus Christ
– The written word of scripture
– The proclaimed word of the church

“Imagine the Bible as a great conversation of people who have witnessed what God has done history.”
• Three Things you bring to Bible study
• Identity- who are you in the story of the prodigal son…the good Samaritan…
• Recognition- what is the truth that comes to you; the “A-ha” moment. What do you discover about yourself in your relationship to God in the stories of scripture.
• Imagination- dare to enter into the world of scripture. Karl Barth calls it the “Strange new world of the Bible”

What best describes you sense of Scripture?
• Road map
• Lens through which we see Christ (Calvin)
• Love letter between God and God’s people.
• Cradle in which the Christ child is held
• Rule book
• The revelation of God’s love
• Other_________________________

On Your Knees- Chapter 13

• “Prayer is none other than expanding our heart in the presence of God” Calvin

• “To pray is to edge into relationship with God…in prayer the vector of your purpose comes to be more and more curved to God.” Lindvall, pg. 82

• “Prayer is not merely about changing the course of events…prayer is also about changing me in my relationship with God” Lindvall, pg. 81

List with the class the ways you pray
• ACTS of Prayer
• Prayers of Adoration
• Prayers of Thanksgiving
• Prayer of Confession
• Prayers of Supplication (for self and world)

Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and glory, forever and ever. Amen (Matt. 6:9-13)

Ways to pray
• Praying Scripture: Lectio Divina
• Praying the Psalms (check out Psalm 22/23)
• Prayer Phrases: Psalm 103 “Bless the Lord O my soul and all that is within me bless His holy name. Bless the Lord O my soul and forget not all His benefits.”
• Prayer Books: Presbyterian Book of Common Prayer
• Prayer woven into life- Brother Lawrence “Practicing the Presence of God”

Traveling Companions, Chapter 14

• “We are built for relationship” pg. 87
• “If the deepest truth about God is that God is relationship, love, communion, the implications for those who would be in relationship with God are stunning.”
• “We who name a Trinitarian God are called to live in relationships of deep communion that are nothing less than an earthly reflection of the life of God.” pg. 88

Where do we find, live, build up Community?

• Church- ecclesia- “The gathered”(Matt 16:18; Acts 14: 27 and 15:3- The Church gathered and sent); “The Body of Christ”; I Corinthians 12:12-27

• Marriage and Family- Genesis 1 “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make a helpmate for him”; Eph 5:21 “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ…husband love your wives as Christ loved the church.” koinos- “household” is the Greek word for community, partnership.

• Friendship: phileos; “I no longer call you servants but friends” John 15:15)

Lesson 6 "All or Nothing"

Lesson Six “A Geography of God: Exploring the Christian Journey”
Chapters 18-20 “All or Nothing”

Chapter 18 “Stuff and Work”

Michael Lindvall challenges us to find a balance point in Stuff and Work. When either our work or stuff becomes central to our life we risk idolatry.

What do you think of Lindvall’s claim that consumerism and careerism become idolatry when “what we have” or “what we do” defines us.

Do you think that the stuff we buy should have a warning on it “Warning: This thing, like all things, could be dangerous to your spiritual health.” Reflect on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) and the rich ruler (Luke 18:18-30), “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Lk. 18: 25) the Beatitude “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received you consolation.” (Luke 6:24)

And yet Lindvall claims that “the incarnation is necessarily an affirmation of the potential goodness of the physical.” (p. 119) How does Jesus redeem the physical part of life for God’s use?

Similarly, Lindvall challenges our “workaholic” nature as idolatrous when our work defines us, or when we seek our salvation through work or it becomes the center of our lives.

Contrast this with the Christian notion of “vocation”. Frederick Buechner once defined Christian vocation as “Our calling is where our deepest gladness and the world's hunger meet.”

Lindvall also contrasts the imagined stories of two great writers Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Karl Barth entering heaven with their life works “Confessions” and “Church Dogmatics”; Rousseau believing this is a great gift to the angels and Barth imagining that they would use his life’s work as waste paper on the floor. What do you think about each of these men’s assessments of their life work?

The ultimate workaholic remedy “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.”

Chapter 19 “An Expansive Lifestyle”

“The God encountered in Scripture and Christian tradition is a radically expansive deity”. (Lindvall, p. 124)

J. B Phillips wrote a book in the 1952 “Your God is Too Small” in which he claims “that we have not found a God big enough for our modern needs. In varying degrees we suffer from a limited idea of God. Phillips exposes such inadequate conceptions of God as ‘Resident Policeman’, ‘Grand Old Man’, ‘Meek and Mild’, ‘Managing Director” and explores ways that we can find a truly meaningful and constructive Gods for ourselves.”

Can you imagine ways that you might have limited God in your own thinking of God? Read Psalm 8 as a remedy to this little God syndrome. “O Lord our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory about the heavens’…When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that your have established, what are human beings that you are ever mindful of them, mortals that you care for them.”

Lindvall talks about a circle from God to us to others to all humanity (pg. 125) He also talks about the vertical (God to us) and horizontal (us to our neighbor) dimensions of the cross and the commandments “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and might” and “Love your neighbor as yourself”.

Chris Kettler (Professor at Friends University) speaks of the twofold movement of God in Christ. In the incarnation God reaches down to earth to redeem us but we often forget that even as we respond with faith to the God who redeems us that it is only in Christ that we can reach up to God in the worship and mission that God desires. Kettler calls this the “Vicarious humanity of Christ” or the two-fold movement of God in Christ.

Lindvall says that “the expansive love of the church is traditionally divided between evangelism and mission.” (Lindvall, p. 128) Reflect on both Lindvall and Kettler’s understanding of God’s expansive love and our limited response of mission, evangelism and worship.

Read the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) in light of Deuteronomy 23:1-8 (Law against foreigners and Eunuchs in the temple), Isaiah 53:1-5 (passage about Jesus sacrifice) and Isaiah 56:1-7 (Passage opening up the Kingdom of God specifically to Eunuchs and foreigners.)

Chapter 20 “All or Nothing”

When you were baptized was there anything that you would have liked to “hold back”? What is the hardest part of your life to offer up to God?

Reflect on the Greek word Metanoia. We often translate this word as “repentance” and sometimes talk about it as change. What are the implications of this idea if we buy into the notion that it means a 180 degree turn in our life?

Reflect on the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), What would you do if Jesus just invited himself into your house? “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay in your house today”.

Lesson 5 "As Good as It Gets"

Lesson # 5 Lenten Study Series “Geography of God”

Chapter 15 “As Good as it Gets”

Why do we do good as people of God?

What about sin? Can people change? Is repentance really possible?
“In order for people to change, something must die: Old habits of the heart must die, dear and self-centeredness must die, complaining and peevishness must die, anger and hatefulness must die…All that which is sin must be crucified, dead and buried.” Michael Lindvall, pg. 96

Other sources to look at on sin
“Whatever Became of Sin?” by Karl Menninger
“Moral Man and Immoral Society” by Reinhold Niebuhr

A good word for hypocrites: “We are a bunch of hypocrites”

A good word for love
“The core of Christian ethics is a tough and insistent love. This love draws into itself three gifts: obedience, imitation, inspiration…Love is not a feeling but an act of will, a commitment to act.” Lindvall, p. 103

Chapter 16 “Seventy times Seven”

David Freeman’s summary of the message of scripture (Old and New Testament) is: “There is forgiveness”

We struggle to forgive because we “underestimate the forgiveness of God.”
Read Matthew 18:21-35 (1 talent= 15 years wages so 10,000*15*$20K= $3 bill)
“To refuse forgiveness is to refuse God whose very nature is to forgive” (p.105)
Desmond Tutu “There is no future without forgiveness”
“How many lives have I seen eaten away by the acid of unforgiven hurt.” Lindvall, p. 105

Forgiveness is not to diminish the offense. Forgiveness also does not depend on our goodness. Lastly forgiveness does not even depend on the perpetrator asking for forgiveness?!?

Chapter 17 “Deserts and Wild Beasts”

“If God is good, why do bad things happen?”
Quick answers: “It’s God’s will”….”It’s not partly cloudy- It’s partly sunny”..
What about “I found God in the wilderness?”
St. Thomas of the Cross “Dark Night of the Soul”
Ultimate comfort “God is with me”
23 Psalm “Ye, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me…”

Matthew 1:24 “…and they shall call his name Emmanuel which means “God is with us”

Matthew 28:20 “And remember, I am with you to the close of the age”
Rev. 21:3 “See the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples and God himself will be with them, he will wipe away every tear from their eyes”.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Class Two of "The Geography of God"

Session Two Study Guide for “Geography of God” by Michael Lindvall
Prepared for First Presbyterian Church by Rev Rob Erickson
Session Two- The Way
Read scripture and look and listen for the Trinity:
Genesis 1:1-5 and John 1:1-5- The Story of Creation
Matthew 3:13-17- The baptism of Jesus
Luke 23:46- The Crucifixion of Christ

Chapter 6 “Beside Yourself: I believe in God”
Think about the world with us at the center of it (pg. 26 in Geography). What does that world look like to you? What happens if we take ourselves out of the center and put God in the center? Read Matthew 16:24-25
When we think of God as Father, “Abba” what attributes of God do we think about?

Chapter 7 “Specifically Spiritual: I believe in Jesus Christ”
What are the influences on “that little voice” within us that helps us identify right from wrong? (See page 30 in Geography “My faith has carried me a long was. It’s Sheilaism. Just my own little voice.)
What does the “incarnation” mean to you? God “in the flesh”. What difference does it make?
Think of the word “Atonement” as “At-one-ment”. Review the atonement theories: 1) Forgiveness or “Substitution Theory of Atonement- Anselm; 2) Inspiration or “Moral Influence Theory”- Abelard; 3) Revelation- “I am the way the truth and the life”

Chapter 8 “Present Tense Divinity: I believe in the Holy Spirit”

The Hebrew word for Spirit, breath and wind is the word “Ruach”. The Greek word for Spirit is “Pneumas”. What do we know about God who is described as spirit, wind and breath? What do we know about God whose name is synonymous with power?
Read John 14: 25-27 (Jesus introduces the Holy Spirit); Acts 2:1-4 (The Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples in Pentecost); Matthew 4:1 (The Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness after his baptism to be tempted.)
What do you think about Lindvall’s notion that the Holy Spirit is “The Present Tense of God”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Leaving Home

Study Guide for “A Geography of God: Exploring the Christian Journey”
Prepared by Rev. Dr. Rob Erickson for First Presbyterian Church, Jefferson City, Mo.

Class One “Leaving for Home” Chapters 1-5
Genesis 12:1 “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”
In Chapter One Michael Lindvall writes about faith as a journey and entitles the first section “Leaving for Home”.
Share a little bit of your spiritual journey with the person next to you. Share with the group what you hope for in this spiritual journey and what are you a little bit nervous about.

Why get up in the morning? That’s the question Michael introduces in Chapter 2.
Do you know people like Albert Camus who are searching for purpose in their lives? (pg. 8)
What does the question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism have to say about this whole question of purpose?
Q.1. What is the chief end of humanity?
A. 1. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy God forever.

What’s so irresistible about Grace? That is the sub-question in Chapter 3 “Finding or Found”. C. S. Lewis describes man’s search for God as a mouse searching for a cat (pg. 10). Why might it be scary or inconvenient to seek God? Or is it?
Read Francis Thompson’s poem “Hound of Heaven”. Does it speak to you?
How did God find you or how is God finding you? Have you ever been lost and found by God as the song “Amazing Grace” implies?

Chapter 4 grapples with the “delicate balance between the sovereign power of God on one hand and human freedom on the other.” Why is that balance so important to God…to us?

The Greek word for faith is “pisteuo” which means “to believe or to trust. Explore as a group the difference between trusting someone or something and believing in someone or somethings. Why does Lindvall call this risky?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Geography of God Lenten Study

Lesson Plan for “Geography of God: Exploring the Christian Journey” by Rev. Michael Lindvall
This Lent we will be using Michael Lindvall’s book “A Geography of God” for our Lenten Study Groups. Michael uses this curious phrase “The Geography of God” as a title for his book and the title of chapter nine in his book to help move to a place of understanding who God is, what the terrain and the make up of God is as Trinity- Father, Son and Holy Spirit- so that we might walk with this Triune God. Michael is aware that to actually speak of God in Trinitarian language and to imagine that we might move in this Trinitarian language to greater understanding and not great confusion is a stretch for most people. And so he calls the book, “The Geography of God: Exploring the Christian Journey” and he speaks of understanding “this God who is love, a God who is relationship, a God who is communion. That is to say, the ultimate reality of the universe is a relationship of intense love and profound communion. This Way before us leads into participation in the very life of God who is communion The way of faith is not just toward God; it is not simply following God; it is not simply walking with God. The road itself is God.” (pg. 52) So I invite you to join us on the journey which is God.

The lesson plan for the Tuesday, 9:30 class will be:

Part One “Leaving Home”March 15 Lesson #1 Chapters 1 “Spiritual Maps” and Chapter 2 pages 3-9
Chapters 3 “Finding or Found”, 4 and 5 page 10-22

Part Two “The Way”March 22 Lesson #2 Chapters 6 “Beside Yourself” and Chapters 7-8 pages 23-50

Part Three “Life on the Road”March 29 Lesson #3 Chapters 9 “Geography of God” & Chapters 10-11 pages 51-66

April 5 Lesson #4 Chapters 12 “Packing a Bible” and Chap 13-14 pages 67-92

April 12 Lesson #5 Chapters 15 “As Good as You Get” & Chapters 16 -17 pg 93-115

April 19 Lesson #6 Chapters 18-20 “All or Nothing” pages 116-135