Monday, October 18, 2010

Sermon Scraps: The end of the “I am” series

I decided I’ve missed so many blogs, there is no way for me to remember what it was I wanted to blog about for the last 3 weeks. So what have I been thinking about with this series? I revealed this week (next week for you Bend folks) the grammar of the “I am” statements.

Why is the grammar important? The answer: because grammar is always important. I admit it; I’m a member of a group on facebook called, ‘I judge you when you use poor grammar.” Grammar is important, not just because of my judgement, but for the safety of grandmothers everywhere. Example:

Notice the difference in this sentence:

Let’s eat grandma.

Let’s eat, grandma.

That’s a very important comma. Nonetheless, you should all realize this little grammar lesson is brought to you by someone who couldn’t spell her way out of a paper bag. Seriously, I misspelled resurrection last week on the church sign. I tried to warn my Lotemians about my poor spelling ability, but they wouldn’t listen.

Anyway, back to the grammar of the I am statements. Jesus repeatedly uses the syntax ego eimi. Skipping a few steps, I’ll say this, the grammar of Koine Greek is such that we can translate this ego eimi as I am I am . . . For instance, I am I am, the bread of life. In these 7 I am statements, and in other places as well, Jesus is using the Divine Name for his own – meaning I am the one who is called I am, or I am I am, who is the bread of life.

Again, why is this important? These 7 statements are not just good sermon fodder. They tell us something about who Jesus is. Jesus is the perfect image of the Triune God (think, when you see me you have seen the Father), or said another way, God is most fully revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As such, these 7 I am statements tell us about who God is.

God is the Bread of Life: the basic staple of our lives. Or I should say, God wants to be our food. God is all we need, but we forget that. It is no accident that there is so much bread in Luke’s gospel. At the beginning of the gospel, the baby Jesus is placed (or seated, according to the verb) in a place for food. Throughout the gospel story, Jesus eats and eats and eats. We’re supposed to get that connection.

God is the True Vine: the source of our lives. When I think of this, I remember the 2nd creation account of the making of humanity. God formed the adam and breathed into his nostril the breath of life and the adam became a nephesh hiyah, or a living being. Our very breath is from God. Every time we breathe in we breathe in a gift from God. When we exhale, we give it back to God, only to be replenished again.

God is the Way, the Truth, and the Life: the path we should follow. I’ve blogged about my feelings about the ways this verse has been misused. One of the teachings I have taken from my time with Ruben Habito is this: we search for the path, for the truth, for the way, and in so searching, we miss that the path was there all along. We search for God, only to find that God has never moved.

God is the Door: the way. When we’ve searched and searched, and found that God has never left us, the only thing left to do is to come in. Do I need to say more?

God is the Light of the World: that which destroys darkness. In the Hebrew tradition, the glory of God or the cavod was bright, but it was more than just light. In that cavod was power and presence and something we can’t understand. God told Moses he could not see the glory of God and live, but he could see where God had been. In VELVET ELVIS, Rob Bell only briefly touches on this, but I’d like to take it a step further. We may not be able to see God directly, but we can see where God has been – we see the light of God remaining where God has been. Think about it. In the sanctuary in my church in Bedford, someone prayed over every seat before the service began. In a way that I can’t fully explain, when you left worship, you knew you had been in the presence of God. It left a mark or brightness on you.

God is the Good Shepherd: the one who always cares for us. Has it ever happened to you that when you felt most alone, someone called? It has for me. God gave us each other, and still God watches over us, caring for us, leading us beside still waters and through valleys of shadows.

God is the Resurrection and the Life: our hope when there is none. My favorite part of the Emmaus story in Luke’s gospel is the grammar (going full circle). Cleopas and his friend tell the as-yet-unrevealed Jesus that they had hoped Jesus was the messiah, the one. They speak in the past perfect, an event happened, but now it’s over. There grammar betrays that they now have no hope, only a memory of hope. That’s about as bad as it can get. And yet, they are walking beside the resurrected Jesus. I still have an unresolved theological issue at work here. Jesus really, really died. He wasn’t sleeping, or just badly wounded, in a coma, or pretending. He was dead. There was no hope. And then the tomb was empty. We are heirs to that promise, and as such, we always have hope. We always have light in the darkness.

These are just some final thoughts on this sermon series. Next week, I think I’ll post the sermon I gave for my RIM (Residency in Ministry) sermon. I hope you have enjoyed receiving this series as much as I have enjoyed preparing for it.