Tag Archives: John

Seeking Infinity

How can we be  in God and God in us?

On that day you will know that
I am in my Father,
and you in me,
and I in you.
— John 14:20

Can a three-dimensional object have only one edge and one side?

Try this at home. Put a half twist in a strip of paper then tape the two ends together forming a loop. This loop is called a Mobius Strip; a three-dimensional object with only one surface and one edge.

To prove that it has only one side, draw a line down the middle of the strip by sliding it under a marker. With a little patience you will come back to where you started and line now appears on both sides of the original strip. If you attempt to cut a third off of one edge, you will get a loop twice the diameter as the original loop plus the middle third of the original loop. Both of these experiments show that a Mobius Strip is three-dimensional object with only one side and one edge. Thus it should not be too much of a jump to thinking about one God being Father, Son, AND Holy Spirit; about one God being in us and our being in God.

But the best part of being in Christ and having Christ in us, is that we become an extension of Christ and Christ’s actions become an extension of Christ’s ministry in the world. When our actions reflect Christ, those that demonstrate Christ’s love for the whole world, we keep his commandments and the Father grants our petitions, for then we will be doing God’s will.

I will do whatever you ask in my name,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

— John 14:13

I will have more to say about John 14:12-21 and being in Christ on Sunday, May 21st at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Robert Shaw, Pastor

Called to Live

Apart from trust in God, the world is a cemetery.

Calling Lazarus from the tomb disturbed many people.

  • John reports Jesus snorted in spirit and was deeply agitated: perhaps because Mary, like Martha, had regretted that he had not arrived soon enough to prevent Lazarus from dying, or perhaps because Lazarus was his friend and he regretted that his friend had to suffer through death, or perhaps because of the bitterness of death which is the wages of sin.
  • Many who saw the great sign, of Jesus calling a dead man from the tomb to walk among them, were sufficiently disturbed to believe in Jesus.
  • Others who had also seen the sign feared what Jesus would do to the status quo, feared him taking power from the fear of death that allowed the powerful to control people.

Belief in the resurrection, not only of Jesus which we will celebrate on Easter, but also of all whom God loves, should disturb many people: emboldening some to dare to challenge the status quo while making others fear that the future will be different. The promise of the resurrection has emboldened disciples to dare to proclaim the Good News even in the face of certain death and continues to do so even today.

Since death is not the end, what might we accomplish?

I will have more to say about John 11:1-45 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church on Sunday, April 2nd, at 8:15 AM and 10:00 AM.

Robert Shaw, Pastor

Seeing Jesus

Meeting a blind man in the New York Port Authority Terminal building formed my understanding of people with disabilities.

Hundreds of people rush through this building every minute, especially during the early evening hours. As I recall that building: subways trains would continually drop off and pickup passengers on at least two levels below the main level while buses disgorged and swallow passengers on at least two levels above the main concourse and above the buses were several levels of car parking. That building continually absorbs and wrings out enough traffic to fill an interstate highway.

I had met my father at his work earlier that day and we were heading to the bus that would take us home when my father recognized and hailed a friend of the family wending his way across the concourse swinging and tapping his red tipped white cane. We chatted for a minute or two when he flipped open the bezel of his watch, felt the position of its hands then told he might miss his bus. After explaining that he had lost count of his steps during our conversation, he asked if I would guide him to his bus. I agreed then he pushed me across the floor and up the escalator and to where his bus stood waiting. Slightly disoriented I mused aloud about getting to my bus, then he proceeded to give me accurate directions to my bus. Although fully blind, he had seen where I had not.

When Jesus healed a man born blind, his entire community failed him: his neighbors could no longer recognize him as his identifying disability had disappeared; the authorities would not recognize how he had been healed, as it did not fit the story they wished to tell; and his parents could not celebrate his healing as they feared the authorities. Only Jesus remained.

What blind spots do we have that keep us from seeing people around us for what they can do to build the kingdom of heaven?

I will have more to say about John 9:1-41 on Sunday, March 19th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Robert Shaw, Pastor

The First Evangelist

Are you seeking that big faucet in the sky?

Are you living the rat race, at least occasionally wondering which rats are winning or if its worth even running? Are you wondering how your contributions fit into the Kingdom of God? Are making an eternal difference, helping to usher in Jesus’ promised future on earth as it is in Heaven? May be you look around and want to make sense of the confusion of life all around us.

The woman Jesus met at the well had to carry a bucket down into the well, fill it, then carry it back up to her home probably several times a day. The modern convenience of tap water was beyond her imagination. She used a different term. She called the idea of running water “living water.” But she was so busy struggling with lugging water each day she missed the Living Water right in front of her.

The disciples had gone looking for food and were perplex by Jesus’ statement about his having food to eat that they did not know about, for they had missed the Bread of Life right in front of them.

In Cana the wine steward at a wedding was so perplexed with the wine that Jesus had made from water he missed the Wine of Salvation right in front of him.

Everyday people around us hunger and thirst for fulfillment for we are so caught up in the living we miss the Kingdom of Heaven.

I will have more to say about John 4:5-42 at 8:15 AM or 10 AM on Sunday, March 19th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

 

Transformations

When I walked out through the gates, my work stayed behind me. This was one of the great advantages of working on classified programs. The requirements of the workplace demanded that I compartmentalize my life. Work had to remain locked up inside the safe inside my office. Conversely during my time at work, my employer expected me to focus on work problems and not on family or church matters.

Nicodemus may have wanted to keep his contacts with Jesus separate from his daily pursuits as a Pharisee. Would other Pharisees understand if they had found out that he had sought Jesus’s teaching? Thus he came at night so that others might not find out.

Throughout history people have tried to separate their religious life from other pursuits thinking that one ought not to affect the other. Christ had instructed John of Patmos to write a letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus including:

Yet this is to your credit: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
— Revelation 2:6 (NRSV)

The Nicolaitans likely practiced pagan rites while claiming to be “Christians,” as if they could compartmentalize their Christian belief apart from the pagan practices of their culture.

The Nazis similarly expected Christians to compartmentalize their religion from the expectations of the State. Instead, representatives of the confessing church replied:

We reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords — areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.
— “The Declaration of Barmen,” paragraph 8.15. Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): Part I, Book of Confessions The Office of the General Assembly, 1999.

Jesus had challenged Nicodemus: “I tell you all the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born over.” An intriguingly ambiguous phrase implying at the same time to mean: to be born again, a second time; and to be born from above, spiritually as well as physically. A phrase that implies Nicodemus’s faith was somehow not quite mature enough, not quite fully gesticulated.

How do we continue to keep Christ out of parts of our lives? Are we fully ready to be born over?

I will have more to say about John 3:1-21 at 8:15 AM or 10 AM on Sunday, March 12th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Prayers for Good Friday

On Good Friday, the day Christians remember Jesus having been betrayed, arrested, quickly tried and convicted, then crucified and buried.

On the Friday between Palm Sunday and Easter our sanctuary will be open from noon until 3 pm for anyone interested in quiet meditation and prayers. Should you be unable to come here, we offer the following for your family or personal devotions.

Welcome

The ancients called this day “Triumph of the Cross” reminding us to gather not to mourn this day, but to celebrate Christ’s life-giving passion and thus find strength and hope in the tree of life.

As you consider these readings, listen carefully for signs that
affirm
God is Good.

Throughout this day, as you ponder these readings, members of our Worship Committee or Congregational Care Committee or the Pastor will be available to sit with you and pray alongside you.

Please silence all cell phones and other devices to enhance your time with God.

cross-944475_640

Invitation To Worship Isaiah 53:4

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
All the while we thought
that his suffering was punishment sent by God.

But because of our sins he was wounded,
beaten because of the evil we did.

We are healed by the punishment he suffered,
made whole by the blows he received.
All of us were like sheep that were lost,
each of us going his own way.
But the LORD made the punishment fall on him,
the punishment all of us deserved.

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God,
for our sake Christ Jesus allowed us to betray him,
and allowed himself to be given into angry hands,
and allowed himself to suffer death on a cross;
look with mercy on your people again,
may we confess our sins, turn back to you,
and receive your overflowing love.

Moment of silent reflection…

This we ask in the name of our Lord Jesus the Christ,
who now lives with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever and ever. Amen!

Scripture Readings:

John chapters 18 and 19

In these two chapters, John summarizes Jesus’ arrest, trial, conviction, crucifixion, and burial.

Some cultures consider a rooster to be a Christian symbol.
How have you responded when “the rooster” called for you?

Psalm 22

Mathew and Mark record Jesus reciting the first verse of this Psalm as he hung from the cross. At that time, before chapter and verse numbers were invented, merely citing an opening verse indicated reading of an entire Psalm or chapter.
How does this Psalm offer hope in the face of trial?

Hebrews 10:16-25

Having gained complete restoration through Christ,
how have you encouraged one another?

Prayers From and For the People and The Lord’s Prayer

O crucified Jesus, Son of the Father,
conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of Mary,
eternal Word of God, we worship you.
You came into the world not to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through you,
so that all who trust in you
might be delivered from the power of sin and death
and become heirs to eternal life.

Hear our/my prayers for the whole Church:
for its witness and service wherever it is found,
for its leaders and the people whom they serve,
increase your love and preserve your peace in it.

Silence

Hear our/my prayers for all nations and all peoples:
for those in authority and those who seek office,
and for all who serve for the common good.
Assist them, O Spirit,
that they may seek your justice and truth
so all people may live in peace and harmony.

Silence

Hear our/my prayers for all who suffer in body, mind or spirit:
for the hungry and the homeless,
for the destitute and the oppressed,
for those suffering persecution, doubt, or despair,
for the sorrowful and bereaved,
and especially for …
Comfort and relive them, O Father,
grant them knowledge of your love,
stir up in us/me patience and desire to minister with them.

Silence

Hear our/my prayer for all who have not received your Good News:
for those who have never heard the words of salvation,
for those who have lost their faith,
for those who have become indifferent to Christ,
for those who are enemies of your cross and your disciples.
Open their hearts to truth, O Christ,
teach us/me how to lead them to faith and obedience.

Silence

Eternal God of unchanging power and light,
look with mercy upon your whole Church.
Bring completion to your saving work.

Hear us/me now O Lord as we pray the prayer you taught us/me to say:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your Kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever.
Amen.

Serve the Good Wine

Should the changing of water into wine be called Mary’s miracle?

When the Mother of Jesus (John never refers to her as Mary) tells Jesus that their host has run out of wine, he objects saying: “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”

But she ignores his objection, demonstrating her trust that he can accomplish all things, and tells the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.”

wine-glassesWhat might we also accomplish if we could thoroughly trust Jesus to order our life’s circumstances? For Jesus does not stop with changing a little water into wine. He does not stop with just enough so the party can come to a reasonable end. He changes about 150 gallons of water into wine, enough for 4,000 servings!

The host for this dinner did like most would for a large party, he had served an adequate wine. One that people would readily drink (they did run out), but when compared with a great wine, the better would clearly stand out. Jesus did not give more of this adequate wine, even though the palates of many of those present might have been numbed by the host’s wine, he gave them a wine clearly better than adequate.

Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church again held a no audition, no rehearsal Christmas pageant, trusting that God would provide children to fill all of the parts, and that we would have costumes for every child who came. The “animals” danced with joy, the “angels” and “shepherds” watched in awe, and the “magi” brought gifts to “Mary” and “Joseph”. All resulting in a worship service that was more than adequate, and involved far more children than normally attend worship.

How might you trust God to provide an abundance in your future?

Bring your dinner to our discussion of John 2:1-11 at 6 pm on Wednesday, January 13th. I will have more to say about this passage on Sunday, January 17th, at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor

Committed to Worship – Thursday

“But the time is coming—and is here!—
when true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth.
God is spirit, and it is necessary to worship God in spirit and in truth.”

(John 4:23-24)

In John 4, Jesus encounters an astute theologian: a Samaritan woman, whom he meets at Jacob’s well. Their conversation touches on a wide range of topics, among them the difference between the worship of the Jews and the Samaritans. Jesus reveals himself to her as the Messiah of Israel and announces that through him, worship of God has undergone both a renewal and a transformation.

Jesus is not only concerned with the fervor and passion of our worship; he is also concerned with the subject of worship. Jesus instructs us that “it is necessary to worship God in spirit and in truth,” a puzzling phrase that grabs our attention. What does it mean? Jesus calls us to know God as God, thus worshiping truthfully. We are also to experience God as God truly is, resting our spirit upon our heart’s true home.

True worship engages the whole person, enabling us to increase in our knowledge of God and our love for God. We are then sent into the world to serve God with our hands, putting what we have received on display, pointing others back to Christ.

Holy Spirit, renew both my mind and my heart,
so that I might worship you in spirit and in truth. Amen.

From Committed to Christ: Tweets, Posts, and Prayers by Ben Simpson, Copyright © 2012 by Abingdon Press. Used by permission.

Committed to Prayer – Sunday

“I will do whatever you ask for in my name,
so that the Father can be glorified in the Son.
When you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)

There is a subtle logic contained in this saying of Jesus, one that could be missed. It is not simply a matter of asking Jesus for anything we desire in order to benefit ourselves. Jesus says he acts on our behalf “so that the Father can be glorified in the Son.”

Jesus acts to bring glory to God the Father through the granting of our requests. Therefore, the requests made in his name must take a certain shape, they must be “in Christ,” reflecting the character and heart of the one who declares he will grant us “anything.”
When you pray, ask God for anything, but remember God’s character. Ask that your soul might be formed in Christ-likeness. Then, as you grow, your petitions will become more and more glorifying to God, for they will reflect the heart of the one you follow and worship.

Father, teach me to pray in a way that will bring you glory.
Form Christ in me, so that my heart will become like his heart. Amen.

From Committed to Christ: Tweets, Posts, and Prayers by Ben Simpson, Copyright © 2012 by Abingdon Press. Used by permission.

Committed to Christ – Saturday

Jesus said to the Jews who believed in him,
“You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teaching.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
(John 8:31-32)

The saying “the truth will set your free” is well-known, but too few know where it is found, and even fewer have contemplated what it might mean. Jesus is challenging his disciples to follow his teachings and to find freedom in him.

Elsewhere in John, Jesus identifies himself as “the truth.” It is Jesus, and following his way, that can set you free. You can be set free from any sin, any hindrance, any pretension. You can learn to serve others, be a voice for the voiceless, stand for justice. You can make joy, love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self control your way of life. You can learn from Jesus the way of generosity and humility and speech-that-builds-up.

In order to learn these things, you’ll have to be set free from hatred, despair, restlessness, impatience, anger, pridefulness, and sloth. These sins will not die an easy death. But as John Wesley wrote, in Christ “sin remains, but does not reign.” Jesus has claimed the victory over sin and death, and works by the Spirit to transform you into a new creature.

Let him set you free.

God, freedom is found in you.
May I see and know your truth,
that I might leave behind all that hinders me,
and experience the freedom found in your grace. Amen.

From Committed to Christ: Tweets, Posts, and Prayers by Ben Simpson, Copyright © 2012 by Abingdon Press. Used by permission.