Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Crafting of a Sermon - #10

Worshiping at Redeemer
I've carried my sermon notes around for the past two days. I've made changes, got illuminated by the Spirit on some things, and worked the material over into the notes below. These are the notes I'll take with me as I preach tomorrow. Here are some final thoughts about sermon-making.
  • Study the text. Study it hard and deep. "Rightly handle the word of God." Everything in me wants to get the interpretation right.
  • Pray the text. I ask God what He wants to say through me. As God speaks to me in the process I write it down.
  • I write out my sermons. I know many who do. This helps me not ramble on and get off the subject. (One of the greatest preachers I've ever heard, John Maxwell, wrote his sermons out before he preached them.)
  • The more time I have, week after week, to soak in the scriptures and notes, the less note-dependent I'll be on Sunday mornings.
  • There's many "living words" in the sermon to be given tomorrow. Much application.
  • The sermon must be clear. I think: just be clear, John, and watch what God does.
  • God will go beyond my sermon notes. What I preach tomorrow will be different, in some or even many ways, from these notes. One reason will be that God gives me insight that I do not currently have. Or God will stop me on a particular point.
  • I do not yet know how the sermon will end. I trust that God will let me know when we get there. I cannot box God in.
  • God often leads days before the message is preached. That's why I keep writing things down.
  • Tomorrow morning I will probably drive around for an hour prior to our service, looking at the message for one last time.
  • I need to be able to stand before God and my people knowing I've given this message everything I can give. That will be true tomorrow morning.
  • I am excited about tomorrow's message! There's new learning and new revelation, for me, in it.
  • If you've been following these posts, and are there tomorrow morning, let's watch how God shakes the whole thing down and encounter us with love and truth.

August 15, 2010

Today is Easter Sunday in August at Redeemer! Jesus is risen!


John 20:10-11 - Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying.

The term κλαίω (klaio) "denotes the loud wailing typical of people in the Ancient Near East." (Kostenberger, John, 567)

Mary of Magdala… is wailing… is in deep mourning… for Jesus… and all she has lost.

She was at the cross with Jesus. She saw him dying… she saw him die… she heard his words…

She was at the tomb… when Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus laid Jesus’ body in the tomb. (Matt. 27:61)

Now his body is missing. Someone, she is certain, has stolen his body.

Mary is sobbing… grief-filled… at this loss.

She is heartbroken. She thinks the body has been stolen. She doesn't know where Jesus' body is.

Now I've got a lot of thoughts going through me. How would I feel if Linda died, was buried, and grave-robbers stole her body?

Even though she was dead I know I would feel for her. The body of the love of my life is in someone else's possession.

I feel violated. I also feel for her, though she does not feel at all. I'm angry and sad and concerned.

I’ve lost my life-partner. How will I do life without her?

Mary has lost… her compass. Her Lord.

She’s lost her healer and deliverer….her Shepherd… her life-coach…

Mary had been delivered… of “7 demons”… which probably means she had given herself over to demonic spiritual activity.

The demonic was Mary’s drug of choice. It was her way of manipulating reality.

Jesus delivered her and healed her and led her and spoken to her… the One she has been following beginning way up north in Galilee…

Many times freedom comes in stages… gradually…

In Mary’s case “freedom” was instant… immediate… and it lasted!

That happened way up north… in Magdala… a little town on the Sea of Galilee.

…How is she going to live without Him?

N.T. Wright calls Mary an “exile.” She, like a lot of people, is trying to get out of “Egypt”… out of exile… to become “post-exilic.”

In the exile of the kingdom of darkness… what is normal is death.

Mary's teacher is dead, and they have stolen his dead body. So things are worse, as if they could be any worse.

Mary represents all people who have wept over this death-world that, frankly, at times just plain sucks.

NTW says: Here we have "the world's grief, Israel's grief, concentrated in Mary's grief." (Ib., 146)

Mary still lives in the land of the dead… not the land of the living.

She lives in the land of holding on to dead bodies and placing them in tombs and visiting graveyards… and collecting their bones after a year and placing the bones in an ossuary…

…that’s got the family name on it… and storing and caring for the ossuary.

If there is a land where this does not happen… then Mary is exiled from it.

For you and me… if Christ did not rise… then we’re just left crying over dead bodies and holding on to dead bodies.

John 20:10-12 - Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

Mary bends down… and again looks into the tomb. Maybe she just didn’t see his body?

When you’ve lost something… you say… “I know I looked there already… but I don’t know where else to look… so I’ll look again…”

Angels appear to Mary. I spoke a few weeks ago about angels, as we've slow-cooked in the empty tomb stories. I believe in the existence of angels.

I always have… since that day… 40 years ago… When God came to me…

I know there are many who are Jesus-followers who struggle with the idea of angels and demons. I interpret that as a matter of our Eurocentric, Western enculturization.

I’ve met Jesus-followers for whom angels and demons are “theoretical.”

“In theory… angels exist.”

Or… they are part of our historical past…

Here at the tomb Mary of Magdala did not meet two theoretical angels.

In preaching I do not want to come at the text from a Cartesian or Humean worldview.

There are two angels – messengers from God – in the tomb, in the place where Jesus’ body lay.

When John writes that Mary saw two angels this does not imply that she recognized them as such.

Mary "probably did not recognize" that the two white-garmented beings were angels.

Mary thinks she's talking to two ordinary people, and not to angels. She does not have a response of fear, which is typical of people when they see an angel.

But… they were wearing "white!" So what?

I wore white a few weeks ago on Sunday morning and no one said “Look – an angel!”

"Worshipers wore white or linen in worship services," and priests generally wore white linen. So it seems that the mere wearing of white is not evidence that the white-wearer is an angel.

Craig Keener writes: "The angels were at the head and feet of where Jesus had been, marking the holiness of the site of the resurrection."

John 10:13 – They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him."

Maybe the angels know? What the heck has happened to my Lord's body!!! She cries this out amidst tears and desperation. Jesus' body is missing. With a trace. I.e., with grave clothes intact. I know the feeling of losing something or someone precious. It's gone. It's a very weird feeling. It can be accompanied by fear if you think you've been robbed. Who would have done such a thing? Who could have done such a thing?

EXAMPLE: When Linda and I had our car stolen, with our wedding pictures in it.

The feeling of being violated.

N.T. Wright asks us to stand with Mary, peeking into the tomb. We bring our cares to these angels, saying... "They've taken away... my home... my husband... my children... my rights... my dignity... my hopes... my life."

“They have taken away my master."

John 20:14 - At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

• Mary turns around and there stands the Missing One.

o She wonders where the body is… and there’s the body standing right before her eyes.

• Only she does not recognize him. How is this possible?

I thought of the old Superman tv show… and Superman comics and Superman movies.

Superman’s disguise” is: to put on a pair of glasses.

I never bought into the idea that Superman could disguise himself from the entire world by merely putting on a pair of glasses. I know that if I put on glasses and walked around the house everyone + my dog would know who I am, and especially my dog.

OK – Mary Magdalene does not recognize Jesus. How is this possible?

When you are not at all expecting to see something you might not really "see" it even if it is right before your eyes.

AND… Jesus’ body is transformed. It’s a “resurrection body.” Not a “resuscitated body” (like Lazarus’s body).

• The last time Mary saw Jesus, his body was a wreck… perhaps almost unrecognizable…

Her eyes are flooded with tears, so physically maybe she doesn't see so clearly.

EXAMPLE: The photo of Linda and me. All of you recognized Linda. Some of you asked who was that guy standing next to you?

• So I don’t find it surprising that Mary doesn’t recognize Jesus… right before her eyes.

• She’s so grief-filled she doesn’t recognize anything… the angels… or Jesus…

V. 15 - "Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."

Mary thinks this man is the gardener.

Mary thought Jesus was a "gardener." That makes sense, since the tomb was in a garden (the word can be better translated as "orchard," or "plantation").

It's early morning. Other mourners could be there. Gardeners attending to the grounds would have been the only other people around.

 Craig comments: "That Mary offers to carry Jesus away if the present burial site was inappropriate suggests great devotion; to protect his body from the dishonor of an unmarked or unmourned grave, she is willing to exert what, for Mary by herself, would have likely involved tremendous physical effort." (Ib., 1190)"The one whose body she is seeking is asked for a solution to the mystery of the empty tomb." (Ib., 568)

• That would be like you coming up to me and asking me where I am.

• In all of this it's important to keep in mind how distressed Mary is. She has just been agonizing and wailing.

They have a little dialogue. Jesus goes with the dialogue.

Part of me wonders… Why? Why doesn't he take of his glasses immediately and say "Mary, it's me, Superman!" Why this little game? Or perhaps: Why not? There's no logical inconsistency here. And maybe this is not a game at all?

Maybe Jesus is breaking it to her slowly? After all, Jesus once cast 7 demons out of her. He knows what's in her heart and what she is capable of.

John 20:16 - Jesus said to her, "Mary."

Jesus reveals his identity to Mary by simply revealing her name to her. "Mary."

God has a history of calling people by name. For example:

• Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied. (Genesis 22:1)

• The angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied. (Gen. 22:11)

• And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, "Jacob! Jacob!"

"Here I am," he replied. (Gen. 46:2)

• When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am." (Exodus 3:4)

• The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening." (1 Sam. 3:10)

• "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things... (Luke 10:41)

• "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. (Luke 22:31)

• He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4)

God often got his people's attention by calling them by name, often a double name." (Ib.)

OK. But I call a lot of people by name. This seems important to me.

"What's the uniqueness about that?"

Yet I remain touched, when Jesus says "Mary." My own father, at the end of his life, called me by name when he said, "John I love you."

I can barely write that sentence... it means so very much to me... that he spoke my name.. the name he had given me.

It feels far more powerful than had he left my name out and simply said "I love you." That would have been great. Yet the addition of my name, the personalization of this encounter, takes the words "I love you" out of the ballpark. What was already a home run has become a 700 foot home run.

I find myself touched when Jesus speaks "Mary," and that becomes the moment of recognition.

Now, right now, I feel touched by this. It feels beautiful and loving to me.

The way Jesus says her name... it's unique.

The fact that he addresses her by name... it's personal and intimate.

However she hears this, it is enough and dead-on.

Mary is a spiritual exile… liv ing w/o her Lord… dwelling in a land of shattered hopes and unfulfilled dreams… and no rescue in sight…

Then… Jesus says "Mary" and it's like turning on a light switch in her heart.

It's the illuminative moment.

When my own father called my name and told me he loved me… that was a lot different than the many times other people call me by name.

WHEN YOUR LORD… not just some other person… YOUR SAVIOR… calls your name…

Jesus has already said that "his own sheep would recognize his voice, especially when he called them by name (10:3-5)." (Ib., 1190-1191)

John 10:2-5 - 2The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice."

I like this very much! In fact, it happened at my conversion.

One moment I didn't believe in a God who was experientially with us; the next moment my world is rocked and I meet Him.

When Jesus calls Mary of Magdala by name… It's a revelation of his real presence happening in the place of total non-expectation.

Craig Keener calls Mary's encounter with Jesus one of several "recognition scenes" in the Gospel of John. (Ib., 1189) I like this.

This is a "My Lord and my God!" moment. It's dramatic. The eyes widen. The heart beats faster.

I think I am so very touched by what Jesus does here… because I was once spiritually fatherless, a stranger with no hope… [that’s the “exile” thing]…

…Your kindness wakened me, wakened me from my sleep…

Personally, Jesus called my name. I am now on a first-name basis with Jesus.

Important – you cannot force this on people!

I’m calling it… a revelation of God’s real presence happening in the place of total non-expectation.

This is the tender, intimate moment. Jesus says, "Mary." Mary answers, "Rabboni!"

John 20:16 - She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).

John writes the Aramaic word, which serves to "create a heightened sense of intimacy." (Ib.)

Mary responds, very personally, with the words "my teacher." That's more intimate than simply "teacher." It's like "I am my beloved's and he is mine..." Mary is saying, "You, Jesus, are my guide, my instructor, my Rabbi... you belong to me... you are the one I take direction from... you are the one in whom I place my trust... You are my mentor... my Sherpa... my platoon leader... my coach... my Shepherd..."

17Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "

18Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Jesus tells Mary, "Don't hold on to me." Or: "Don't touch me." "Don't embrace me physically." Craig Keener says that "touch" probably refers to "embrace."

I assume, as many scholars assume…, that Mary of Magdala has grabbed hold of Jesus… maybe she’s embracing his feet…

…clutching his hands…

Craig Keener says that the Greek wording suggests the translation as: "Stop holding on to me."

Which would imply, of course, that Mary was already holding on to Jesus' physical body.

• The idea of Jesus saying "Don't hold on to me" is this: He's going to ascend, and the relationship is going to be deeper with him - in the background here is John 14-16 (again) - we'll dwell in him rather than just hold on to him.

 He is saying, "Mary, the whole thing is going to be different, there's kind of a new fellowship, a personal communion where I'm going to be inside of you, living in you."

Jesus' use of "my Father and your Father, my God and your God" is "fictive kinship language." (Ib.) It was "a way of emphasizing a common bond." (Ib.)

It's a way for Jesus to say, "Mary, you are in my family!" This is a huge statement, and I cannot just pass it by.


EXAMPLE: I'm now thinking of my neighbor Dave, who is a very cool guy and a great neighbor. He plants a huge garden every summer that produces beans and peppers and other delicacies, to include the summer delicacy of all delicacies, tomatoes. Linda and I LOVE tomatoes fresh from the garden. Dave has told me, re. his garden, "John, everything I have is yours." So, just a few hours ago, I walked back to Dave's garden... no, it's my garden, too, since Dave has told me that everything of his is mine..., and picked fresh tomatoes and fresh hot peppers and a green pepper, right off the vine.

“My garden is your garden.” "My tomatoes are your tomatoes."

What's cool and amazing about that is I have done nothing to grow Dave's garden. But I am the recipient of its bounty. When Jesus tells Mary that he's returning to "my Father and your Father," it says she is the recipient of all that the Father has for Jesus. That seems big to me.

Jesus, in our passage of concern, gives Mary of Magdala a "stunning invitation."

There she is, weeping, mourning. She is an exile.

Mary's teacher is dead, and they have stolen his dead body. So things are worse, as if they could be any worse.

Mary represents all people who have wept over this death-world that, frankly, at times just plain sucks.

NTW says: Here we have "the world's grief, Israel's grief, concentrated in Mary's grief." (Ib., 146)

Andreas Kostenberger writes: Here we have a turning "from the possibility of grave robbers to the reality of the invasion of God's power.”

Jesus asks her, "Who are you looking for?" Does Mary know? Yes, and no. Yes, of course, she knows Jesus. But Jesus is not alive "with a new sort of life, the like of which we'd never seen before." Wright then invites us. "Let Jesus call your own name, and the name of whoever you've brought with you, whoever needs his love and healing today." (Ib., 146)

From grave robbery to an invasion of God's power - nice!

EXAMPLE: A friend told me that once, in the church they were in, there was a time of worship & ministry at the altar…

She went forward. Then she had what she can only describe as a powerful, personal encounter with Jesus… right there… so that it was almost as if she saw Jesus with her own eyes.

It was so real, so startling, that her immediate response was: “Jesus, what are you doing here in church!”