4/19/2015 Sermon: Because of Him #2 – “One Heart and Soul”

I mentioned last week that there is a series on NBC called A.D. – The Bible Continues.”  The way the TV people are promoting it, you’d think they’d put together a wild adventure story.  And you know what?  It is a wild adventure story.   It began with the end of the Gospel stories.  Jesus is crucified and then rises from the dead.  To prove he is real, he appears, lets people touch him, and eats a meal.  It really is him!

To know what the A.D. series is doing, now you need to start reading the Book of Acts and follow along.  There might be a deep thought every now and then, but like I said, it’s mostly an adventure story! And it all hinges on one pivotal moment – the resurrection of Jesus.  If that had not happened, there would have been no Book of Acts, and no TV series.  Actually, it’s bigger than that.  The Christian faith would have no reason for being and we would not be here today.

Jesus taught a lot of amazing things.  He did astonishing miracles.  But none of that had anything to do with why we are here.  If we only followed the amazing, profound teaching of Jesus, and believed he was a great healer, all we’ve got is a somewhat diluted religion of rules and nice thoughts.

But Jesus rising from the dead changes everything.  As Paul said to the church in Rome…

 “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”  (Romans 10:9)

Because of Him headerWe are here because of him – we are here because he is alive.  The belief, the faith, the trust that he is alive is what changes us.  From the first moments those first believers embraced the living Jesus, they changed, and it was an overnight transformation.

6th century mosaic, Ravenna, Italy
6th century mosaic, Ravenna, Italy

I know you might think of those first disciples of Jesus as a kind of peaceful bunch of people who sat around in togas with haloes over their heads, doing nothing but thinking deep thoughts.

But that group of twelve only came together because Jesus asked them to follow.  And they were willing. Maybe they were impressed with the way Jesus asked.  Maybe they didn’t have anything better to do. But it seems like most of the time, they didn’t really get what Jesus was doing, and honesty, they didn’t get along with each other especially well.

Fishermen on the Sea of Galilee.  CN - 1989.
Fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. CN – 1989.

The core group was fishermen.  If you’ve lived on a coast, maybe you know that fishermen can be a rough group.  In some of the “Jesus movies,” no one seems to like Matthew the tax collector.  If he is in the room, there is conflict.  It shouldn’t have been surprising that one of them betrayed Jesus to his death, although Jesus saw it coming.

The next miracle that God did was to give that group of people a personality transplant.  Together, they began to talk about the living Jesus to anybody who would listen.  See if this sounds like the same people…

Acts 4:32-35.  Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

What was the catalyst for all this?  What were they talking about?  What had the great power?  “The resurrection of the Lord Jesus.”  (v. 33)  Everything hinges on that. That was the game-changer.  Then…

They believed.  Each of them was willing to say to Jesus “I believe in you; I believe you are alive.”

They gave testimony.  They were willing to talk about what God was doing with them, how God was changing them.

They experienced grace.  They knew God was taking care of them and they would be okay.  God took away their fears and worries.

They distributed to each as any had need.  Once they believed and God helped them feel okay about themselves, they were willing to give the things that everybody else needed.  They were generous.  Faith led to generosity.  Do you see how God worked on inner changes that became outward reality? 

Before and after.  These were not the same people, but they were.  They looked the same, but they changed.  They changed individually and as a group.  The individual changes were amazing. The change in their group personality was miraculous.  Only God could have done that. But it’s not just history.  This is what God still does with people like us who believe.

When you were in high school, do you remember what the cliques were?  You remember high school, and who was hanging out with whom? Do you remember “The Breakfast Club,”  the movie from the 1980’s about a group of kids in detention, and they were each in some clique – or not in one.  The movie is about how they learn to talk to each while they are locked in the same space.

I’m not sure what the history of high school cliques is, but in our mid-western high school many years ago (1960’s & 70’s), you could look around and tell if somebody was one of the…

Jocks – people who were involved with sports, especially football in the fall and wore letter jackets outside and letter sweaters inside.

Greasers – people who put a lot of stuff in their hair, wore leather jackets, and worked on cars a lot, usually trying to make them go faster.

Surfers – people who the latest clothes, worked on a tan, and tried to be as blonde as they could be. They wore madras (plaid). I think they listened to Beach Boys records.

Druggies – These kids  may or may not have smoked pot, etc.  You were identified as a druggie mostly by the excessive length of your hair and what you wore: denim with patches and holes.  I think that most of the druggie-types that I knew actually had a moral objection to using drugs!  But they liked the clothes and the hairstyle.

Nerds – people who knew how to run audio-visual equipment, got good grades, and wore stripes and plaids together.

I know that those weren’t the only groups you could identify.  Each group had its own particular – peculiar – behavior.

Maybe the high school kids think this is some new phenomenon, but it’s been going on since there have been high schools.  The social dynamics of high school aren’t that different from your parents’ or grandparents’ time, it’s just a little more technologically complicated.

I think everybody here relates to this in some way, depending on where and when you went to school.  I look back now and it seems a little comical.  But so many people would be drawn to one group or the other by this irresistible force, this need to belong.  At least for a time in each of our lives, there is an impulse to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

On a rock 2Some years ago, when I was teaching art in a public high school and leading a church youth group, every now and then I would pass around a survey to the kids, just to see what they were thinking about.  Among other things, I asked them what issues they were most concerned about in their lives, and for several years, they said their number one problem was dealing with loneliness: the fear of being alone, being apart from other people.  Who are my friends?  Do I have friends?  What if I walk into the cafeteria at lunch time and there isn’t anybody I know to eat with?  Loneliness.  Then the number one issue became stress.  And I began to see kids stressed and feeling alone.  Stressed and alone in a sea of people.

Back then, these weren’t problems for everybody, but year after year, they kept coming up as the number one issues. Being separate, being stressed and alone, are problems for adults too.  Surveys have shown that the main reason people join churches like is… the beautiful facilities?  the music?  the outstanding preaching?  the mission?  Maybe sometimes.

No, it’s the fact that you believe in something powerful, and we can share that together.  People come in stressed and feeling alone.  They find out that there is a force that can help lift the burdens and bring us together in way that never could have happened without the power of God.  That is faith at work: the power of God in the living Christ, eliminating the loneliness in people’s lives; helping people take their walls down, sharing their burdens, then sharing themselves with a  community full of stressed, lonely people.

There is a big difference between people who are practicing their religion and people who are of “of one heart and soul” like those first believers.

God’s advice?  Take the risk of relationships.  Believing in the living Jesus is taking the risk of a relationship with God.  This is allowing God to live in us and love through us.  This is the foundation that allows every Christian to believe in other Christians – with no walls between them.  Take the risk of being of “one heart and soul” with the other Christians here.

It’s growth we do together.  It starts with belief, which leads to sharing with someone else, joining with a bigger group of people who are experiencing grace – the power of being together, and together, making a generous difference in our community.

Prayer

O God, we believe; help our unbelief.  Take us to a deeper place with you.  Give us the courage to open up.  Then show us how to share, how to give ourselves away.  Help us see others as the friends we haven’t met yet.  Help us know you through our faith in Christ, who was and is the best friend people ever had.  Use our faith as the tool that re-works our lives to reflect our relationship with a God who loves; change our attitudes and lifestyles, then help us change our community.  We pray with faith in the power of the resurrection of Jesus.  Amen.

4/12/2015 Sermon: Because of Him #1 – “Disbelieving for Joy”

I don’t know if you’ve been catching it, but there is a new series on NBC called “A.D. – The Bible Continues.”  It’s about what happens after the gospel stories of Jesus end and the Book of Acts begins.  I’ve only seen the first episode and I think it’s actually not bad.  I’d say, read the end of each gospel story, then start reading the Book of Acts and follow along.  That’s my prescription!

To me, that’s when the real story for Christians begins.  Three of the four gospels make a big deal out of the fact Jesus rose from the dead and then appeared to a lot of people.  That’s when believing people began to change because of him; we are who we are because of him, we are here because of him, we are changing the world because of him, and so we’re calling this new series of messages: Because of Him.

Because of Him headerDo you remember what was going on a week and a half ago?  The world watched Jesus die, and it wasn’t pretty.  It was actually pretty horrific, but can you put yourself in that crowd, allow yourself a flashback?  His body was put in a tomb and he’s been there for a couple of days.

We’re still back in last Sunday and we followers of Jesus are hiding in a windowless room with the door locked.  We are afraid we’ll be recognized if we go outside.  (in the A.D. series, Peter says, “he said he’d rise on the third day; we can give him at least three days)  Now, some of the women in our group have been to his tomb, but it was empty.  Angels told them he had risen from the dead.  When they told us, when we heard this story, we thought it was nonsense.  (Luke 24:1-12)

A little later in the day, two guys in our group escaped the city and said they had a long conversation with Jesus on the road to Emmaus (about 6 miles west of town).  They said they didn’t know it was him until he sat down for dinner…  then he suddenly disappeared.  (Luke 24:13-35)  Weird.  They immediately came back to Jerusalem to tell the rest of us and…

Luke 24:36-48.  While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.

44 Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.

Let’s say you’ve settled back for comfortable afternoon in the recliner.  The book is in your lap, your eyes are getting heavy…

And then the doorbell rings – how annoying.  Climbing out of your recliner, a little cranky because you were almost asleep, you shuffle to the door and pull it open. To your shock and amazement, you find glaring lights, cameras and a guy holding an over-sized check for ten million dollars. Against all odds, you have won the sweepstakes, the lottery, the big cash giveaway. What do you think might be your first reaction?  The video of most of these big winners usually shows them with their mouths and their eyes wide open, dancing around, screaming “I don’t believe it! I don’t believe it!” Or maybe just screaming.

First: disbelief.  “Nobody I know ever wins these things” and then total joy – “Yes, it’s true, it’s really happened… to me!  Our lives are changed forever. It’s what we’ve always hoped for!”

Later on, a lot of these lucky people find out that this huge amount of money adds a huge complication to life and they aren’t as happy as they thought they’d be, but sweepstakes winners are a good example of how people look and react when they “disbelieve for joy.”

DSC_5383That’s Luke’s description of the reaction of Jesus’ disciples when the living Jesus came to them, and it’s perfect — they “disbelieved for joy.”  They couldn’t believe it!  When Jesus died on that cross, they had buried all their hopes in that tomb with him, and probably some of themselves too.  Maybe, somewhere in the backs of their minds, they still heard Jesus talking about his death and resurrection. But like winning a big lottery jackpot, the chances of a miracle like that actually happening were, what, one in . . . never?  They are thinking… not a chance.  And then, there he was. Standing right in front of them eating a fish!  In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes a fish dinner for everybody.  (John 21:9)

And they disbelieved for joy.  When was the last time you felt joy?  Now, let’s tell the truth. When you think of all the possible places you might find yourself totally surprised by a good thing and “disbelieving for joy,” is church the first place you think of?  You might find some joy at a family holiday. Maybe a wedding, or a birth, or a graduation.  Or maybe when seeing an old friend or relative you lost touch with. Or maybe by catching sight of a beautiful sunset.  Sunday mornings in church aren’t usually our first pick of joyful moments.

And that’s our own fault.  We want this time to be controlled and predictable, and predictability has its place.  But the church should be the place where we expect to be shaken up by the Spirit, grabbed by the power of the God and bounced from this place to spread some enthusiasm, some joy.  Jesus showed up alive and stood there, physically, right in front of us eating a fish!  But wait, let’s be respectable, comfortable, understandable, predictable.  We’ve got an hour.  Three hymns (songs) and a sermon.

Now really, this is all okay, but I’m convinced that God calls us, even commands us, to have fun – experience some joy.  Whatever it is that’s burden, let it go!  Seriously!

[At this point, in the first service, we broke into singing “When the Saints Go Marching In.”  During the second service, We sang “I’ll Fly Away,” accompanied by Grace Kensinger and her banjo.}

God likes it when things get surprising.  In this place, it’s praise for the good things God is doing.  It’s a sign that we’re alive.  If you can’t be happy here, where can you be happy?

So many people live life in survival-mode, just coping from one day to the next.  There’s a time for the serious side of things and for a hard look at life. I guess Maundy Thursday and Good Friday would be days like that.  But that was a week and a half ago!  I get serious when I think about what happened on those days and why it happened.  And there are major issues God needs us to face together.  It’s really not possible to live in a constant state of ecstasy – I think your head would hurt after a while – but I don’t think we allow for enough joy.  Or optimism.  Or confidence.  Sometimes, I don’t think we remember, or maybe didn’t get what we heard last week.  God won! Jesus isn’t just alive, he’s alive for you!  God has given all of us one major reason for joy and a bunch of small reasons.  God wants the joy we feel to be contagious.  Watch how this can work…

We come together with all sorts of reasons to feel lousy, and it’s true – each of us has something significant to worry about.  But we walk into worship, in so much pain and grief, that somebody has to rise from the dead to snap us out of it.  The world is a mess, and as Christians, it seems like we feel obligated to spend all our time talking about how bad things are. And that just make the struggle to live harder for everybody.  I distinctly remember Jesus saying, and he said this very clearly…

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  (John 10:10)

And where is the joy? God calls the church to faith and then to live life to the fullest.  In prison, at the edge of death, the Apostle Paul was able to say,

 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”  (Philippians 4:4)

That’s a life-verse for many people, but I’m not sure how many know that those words were written from a prison.

The last thing Jesus says to his people, at the end of this story is this:

 “You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:48)

The real test of Sunday is not how you come in but how you go out. The living Jesus comes to us while we’re in the dark place, hiding, hoping nobody finds us. Then while we’re disbelieving for joy, he gives us what we need. To those first believers, he gave physical, visible proof that he was alive.  He ate a fish.  To others, it was the comfort and support they needed. Encouragement.  Forgiveness.  He opens our minds that we might understand the scriptures. Then he sends us into the world as his witnesses.

You are a witness to the joy. A witness is somebody who tells the court what they have seen and heard.  Before the court of your world, you might be the only witness Jesus has. Somebody needs to be infected with your joy; plan something now to bring joy to someone as your personal mission.  We have an obligation as God’s church to find ways to bring joy to Manheim – or wherever you are – and anywhere else God sends us. That’s our mission.  Believing in the resurrection of Jesus and allowing the power of the Spirit to flow through us, creating joy is our mission.  What’s your part?

Prayer

God, thank you for life.  Thank you for new opportunities to face life and start over.  You are the God of the second chance, the one who brought Jesus out of a tomb.  Now bring us out of our own tombs.  Give us an attitude transplant and a new vision of what life can be with you.  Give us each a ministry of encouragement and joy.  In the powerful name of the risen Jesus we pray.  Amen.

4/5/2015 Sermon – “There’s Got to Be More!”

Mark 16:1-8.  When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.  And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. 

Early in my ministry, back in the 1980’s, I had an uncle who was a Methodist minister and he gave me some great advice: go to the Holy Land and be in the places where these stories happened.  He and my aunt made it possible for Kathy and I to go and I have to say, it was absolutely transforming, in many ways. Just to have a sense of the space and distance between things, the feel of certain places. I went back again a few years ago and I don’t know if I’m done yet.  It was transforming.

Eastern European woman at prayer n the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem.  CN - 2011.
Eastern European woman at prayer n the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem. CN – 2011.

For some people, it can be overwhelming.  Every now and then, you find a news piece about people who suffer from what’s called “The Jerusalem Syndrome.” (e.g., Time Magazine – April 17, 1995, p. 22).  These are people who are overwhelmed by the religious history and atmosphere they find in Jerusalem.  When they come to Jerusalem they take on a new identity and feel compelled to act it out.  Sometimes, they spend a few days in the psychiatric ward of a Jerusalem hospital.

There was the bearded Italian man they found wandering in the hills around Bethlehem, dressed in a sack with cloth bags on his feet, totally oblivious to the snow that was falling, convinced he was Jesus Christ.  There was the angry German man who called police because the kitchen staff in his hotel refused to help him prepare for the Last Supper.  This hospital sees about 50 patients a year who suffer from the Jerusalem Syndrome.  Sometimes they have two or three Messiahs at the same time, but they don’t fight with each other; each one is convinced the other is a phony.

They’re used to it in Jerusalem; the hospital’s neighbors once brought in brought in a woman who was hysterical, and spoke nothing but Greek.  It turns out she was a tourist who had taken the wrong bus and didn’t know where she was.

Mosaic - Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, 12 century.  CN - 2011.
Mosaic – Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, 12 century. CN – 2011.

You realize that Jesus probably wouldn’t have been put to death if the people in power thought he was simply an annoying crazy person who was acting out some delusions.  Jesus was either who he said he was or he was one of those people suffering from the Jerusalem syndrome.  C. S. Lewis said, “Jesus is either the Son of God or he is in the same category as a man who thinks he is a poached egg.”

And what about us?  We are so used to hearing and telling the story, we don’t stop anymore to think about how incredible it sounds.  We are here today, in fact, we are here every Sunday because we believe a man was executed on a Friday and rose from the dead two days later.  We say we believe this.

The challenging thing about the Easter story is that when you hear it, when you really listen to what’s being said, you have to decide whether it’s true or not.  It’s a risk to believe this story, and the only proof is the power of change it has over us.  We change our world not because we have good morals on our side, or because we follow some great teaching, but because Jesus rose from the dead, we believe it, we believe in him, and God’s Spirit changes us; God’s Spirit working in us makes us alive and helps us see our world in new ways.

On Thursday night, during the Maundy Thursday service, we followed the Gospel of Mark as it described how Jesus was captured, went through a mock trial, was executed, and then his body placed in a tomb.  A very powerful, depressing story, with lots of detail.

But here’s a mystery; I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this before.  Look at the strange way the gospel of Mark ends.  We heard the first ending.  The women meet an angel who tells them that Jesus is not there; they leave in terror and don’t say anything to anyone.  Odd, right?  If you just stopped there, you’d naturally think, hey, wait a sec.!  There’s got to be more!

So look at the end of chapter 16 (NRSV).  You have two choices:  There’s the “shorter” ending and the “longer” ending.  The best explanation that I’ve heard for this is that the very first copy of Mark was being passed around so much that it got really beat up, the last page fell off, and the ending was lost.  Not long after, some early church leaders filled in a few pieces so it wouldn’t be so abrupt.

But I kind of like how we’re left hanging.  There’s got to be more to this story – and there is.

 “…he has been raised; he is not here…”

What was the last thing the man in the tomb said?  He’s been raised; he’s not here.  Maybe he is alive.  Believing that Jesus is alive is a step of faith.  Is he alive?  You have to find out for yourself.  People keep coming forward saying that they’ve met the living Jesus, usually in prayer and they are changed; they’re different.  So, there is more to the story.

How does the story end?  This is how the story ends: with a group of people in a place like Manheim who can say with confidence, “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!”  But there’s still more.  The Spirit of God within us says, “Don’t stop there.  Tell someone; live your faith.  Show the people around you by how you live that Jesus is alive.”  He is risen; he is risen indeed.

Prayer

O God, on this day you amazed the world.  There is more to life because of you.  You took the worst that the human race had to offer and turned it into the best thing that ever happened.  You saved us.  You make life out of death.  Now bring life to us.  Make the living Jesus real to us in ways we’ve never experienced or expected.  Help us make him our Lord.  Give us opportunities to show people that Jesus lives in us.  Heal our relationships, give us a supernatural ability to love and forgive.  Make us like him.  We pray with faith that as we give ourselves to you, you will give us a new kind of life that never dies, because of the risen Jesus.  Amen.

4/3/2015 Good Friday: “I Thirst”

hands & cup“After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.”  (John 19:29-30)

This is the beginning of the end.  Hanging on the cross, the end is just moments away, and the one who walked on water, the one who washed feet with water, gets vinegar to drink.

He is dying.  He wants a taste of water, and we are giving him sour wine, also known as vinegar.  Not that vinegar doesn’t have its uses.  It’s good with oil in salad dressing.  We clean out the coffee pot with it. In the last century, I used it as a darkroom chemical (stop bath).  It’s acetic acid; it’s what makes photographic prints stop developing. But you don’t drink it.  It smells bad.  In its concentrated form, it has a skull and crossbones on the bottle.

This is an ancient thing, vinegar; it’s been around for thousands of years.  Maybe this is an ancient drink, an acquired taste.  One of those ancient hard- to-understand customs.  Did people sit around sipping vinegar?  Hardly.  It smelled just as bad then as it does now.  Did they have a jug of this stuff on hand just for Jesus?  I don’t think so.  It’s a final gift for everyone who gets crucified; they want water, they get vinegar.

It’s an insult, it’s a final insult, and today it’s the last thing the human race has to offer the Messiah while he’s alive, and Jesus takes it.  He took our insult to the grave, and that’s the point: Jesus dies for the insult, dies for the sin of the world.  Jesus took our sin and put it to death.

In these last moments, in the flashbacks of his mind, maybe he’s seeing that wedding at Cana – that first miracle, that first sign, when he made more good wine that the people at that party could possibly drink (John 2:1-12).  Now there’s a contrast to the moment.  A crowd of people having a good time, laughing, enjoying themselves, drinking good wine.  A very good time.  Jesus on the edge of the crowd with a smile, happy he was able to help.

I wonder if any of those people are near the cross today.  I wonder if that wedding couple from Cana happened to walk into Jerusalem today, past the cross.

Maybe he thought for a brief second about that day in Galilee, by the lake, when he fed 5,000 people (John 6).  Now, the story doesn’t say that there was anything on the menu that day but fish and bread.  But there might have been a choice of beverage.  It’s not a stretch.  I think Jesus was smiling on that day too.  I wonder if any of those hungry people from Galilee are near the cross today.

And it was just after he walked on the water to his disciples in the boat that he said to them, “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”  (John 6:35)

Or, maybe he thought briefly about the Samaritan woman at the well, who gave him a drink one other time when he was thirsty.  Do you remember when he said, “…those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”?  (John 4:14)  I wonder if that woman is near the cross today.

This is painful to think about.  After Jesus said this, he didn’t have to suffer long.  The agony was finished.  The thirst was gone.  It’s a dark day and as they say, “This may be Friday, but Sunday’s comin’.”  The only thing good about this Friday is that the story doesn’t end here.

So does God ever get thirsty now?  I think God gets thirsty a lot.  Thirsty for our faith.  Thirsty for our love.  Thirsty for peace, especially in the churches.  Thirsty for justice.  Thirsty for good deeds that matter and make a real difference.  And sometimes, sometimes too often, God gets vinegar.  May God forgive us and lead toward lifestyles that thirst for the same things God does.

With that last taste of sour wine, the opposite of the good wine that he serves, the vinegar, Jesus takes on the final insult of the human race.  And he is poured out.  And the living water is about to flow.