Author Archives: Rev. James M. Wilson
Some expectations are authentic and others are not, in that they do not reflect Christ Jesus’ call to be a community of disciples. The great danger here is playing the game of attempting to be what the church thinks people are expecting. That is neither faithful nor does it have integrity. The church must be faithful to its calling not what it perceives as the latest consumer expectation.
The point Jesus makes is we are expected to be in the Disciple-making business. And we do this by going into the whole world, to all the nations, no exceptions, no restrictions—even those next door, and sharing the Good News. We baptize them in the name of the Triune God, as we help usher them from the old life to the new. And then we teach them all that Christ Jesus taught.
Not only does Easter reorder our present, it also reshapes our future. The Easter message is a Word of Promise, a word that tells us that because God has raised Jesus from the dead, you and I are given a future, a future dominated not by death, but by hope, ruled not by fear, but by grace.
I am absolutely convinced that this discernment is a product of immersing ourselves in the story. As we ground our lives in the biblical story, and as we engage and are engaged by this story, we see with new eyes, beneath the surface and catch glimpses of how God’s love works.
“No,” is what Jesus said to the temptations offered by the “other voice” and the narrative it offered. He saw through the temptation and how it was contrary to what God called Him to be and do. So we must use this one little word as we deal with temptations. But Jesus also affirmed His identity and calling as he based that “NO” in Scripture, in the Word that shaped His life and calling.
God in Christ is much like the ridiculously gracious father. He waits patiently for us to turn toward home or to come in from the field. And when he sees us, God comes out to meet us and welcome us. By his grace, we are forgiven and restored to the family.
We are held accountable by God for how we live out our commitment. As the owner of the fig tree expected the tree to bear figs, so God in Christ expects you and me to bear the fruits of acts of compassion and deeds of justice. Accountability, however, is based not in fear but in grace.
God is not some amorphous blob we are free to shape any way we choose. Our God has a name—“Jesus.” Our God is revealed in the pages of Scriptures, in the stories of Israel, in the ministry and teachings of the church, in the historic creeds, and most fully and completely in the life, death and resurrection of the One named Jesus, the Son, the Chosen One, the Messiah, the Christ of God. This One says some things and not others; does some things and not others. He is the Father’s revelation not a human construction.
What do you think is the purpose of the sermon? Have you ever thought about that question? As Protestants, the preached Word remains the center of our worship experience. Over the years, I have reflected periodically on he purpose of the sermon and at times, not without risk, have asked lay people to reflect with me. I remember quite vividly the response of a 10 year old girl who answered my question about the purpose of the sermon by saying, “To make minutes become hours!” I am sure you understand.
This is the meaning of the story heard from the inside. The sign offers the light of radical good news, that we are forgiven and set free, that we are given new life, not because we deserve it, not because we have earned it, but because God is gracious and has provided the new wine of His gracious love.