160417 – Do You Feel Me

Yr C ~ Easter 4 ~ John 10:22-30

Our suggested set of readings does a strange thing to us today. Last week we were looking at the final chapter in John’s gospel – after the resurrection of Jesus – and today we’re all the way back in the middle of the book with Jesus teaching in the temple. He’s in the portico of Solomon, which is usually called Solomon’s Porch. It’s a place where they would gather to hear people offer their scriptural interpretations and then they’d discuss, debate, and challenge one another. This idea of wrestling with spiritual ideas is deep in the Jewish tradition and a big part of understanding how to read Jesus.do-you-feel-me

What’s fascinating here is that we have a clash of worldviews. On the one side are those badgering Jesus to “tell us plainly” whether he’s the Messiah or not. Jesus answers that he’s already told them but they didn’t hear.

Make no mistake – these folks are animated about this question. It’s very important to them – not because they want him to be the Messiah necessarily but because they think he’s breaking the rules.
The text says they’re gathered around him but that is entirely too soft a translation. The word means more like besieging, or swarming him. They’re in his face, jabbing fingers in his chest, demanding he “tell us plainly.”

And Jesus responds by saying they can’t understand him because they don’t know him.
They want proof. — He offers relationship.

27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.

I hear lots of voices every day – hopefully not just in my head! – but I don’t follow them all. Voices tell me to buy this, vote for that, hate these, avoid those, so many voices. Jesus asks us to hear his voice – to let it cut through the noise and move you.
How do you learn to recognize Jesus’ voice amid the din? It’s a relationship.
How do you build a relationship? You already know this!

You get to know someone by spending time together, investing in the relationship, being vulnerable enough to allow the other to know you. Couples can finish their partner’s sentences sometimes. It’s because they’re together so much or so long that they really KNOW one another.

How do you think you grow a relationship with Jesus? Obviously you can’t take him to Timmy’s for a coffee or sit and binge watch TV on Netflix. But you can spend time together. You can be vulnerable and open.

Maybe this will help. Think about water.

If God and Jesus and Spirit are water, how do you interact with it? If you’re like those finger-poking questioners you want the water in a bottle that you can open when it suits you. You want access to a tap that can power your shower or feed your lawn. Those are fine uses for water, but Jesus says you can’t really know water that way.

Instead, draw a bath and soak in it for a while. That’s a real relationship!
Go for a swim, be immersed, let yourself float such that you’re not in charge anymore and you’re not dictating the flow.
Surrender to the buoyancy and just be.

In the first way the water belongs to you – it exists for your benefit or usefulness.
In the bath, in the ocean, you belong to the water.
You are in a relationship. You know the water in a deeper, more intimate way.

27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.

Now imagine you’re talking about water with someone and you’re going on about luxuriating in it, and abandoning yourself to it, and letting it enfold you and refresh you – and their only understanding is a water bottle or a tap. It would be like you’re speaking another language.

24 “Tell us plainly!”

25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you (have never really given yourself to the water. You don’t understand because we have no relationship).

Have you ever heard the expression, “now you’re speaking my language!”? Until you’re speaking the same language you’re often talking past one another.
Think about all the slang sayings you’ve heard – or maybe not heard!

I’m hip enough to know that when you want to say something is good you used to say it was bad, and then you said it was dope, and now you say it’s sickening. I know that Cynthia’s my bae, that when you read this sermon I hope you’ll swipe right and not swipe left and not throw me any shade ‘cause that’ll give me all the feels, and I know that in this robe I am totes on fleek! (look it up!)

If you didn’t understand any of that you’re starting to get what was going on in Solomon’s Porch that day.
D’ya feel me?

What do the questioners want? They want the Messiah. Today they’d want clear rules to follow, answers, “how to get to heaven.”
What does Jesus offer? Eternal life – which is different!
D’ya feel me?

Jesus often butted heads with the Pharisees because of this. In their own way they were being very religious and faithful. They believed that being faithful meant living by the letter of the law, and the law was the Law of Moses – the Torah, the first 5 books of the Jewish scriptures.

This narrow focus on law is the heart of much of the fundamentalism of our time too. People living rigidly by external rules without a transformation of consciousness or a change of heart and then trying to impose their rigidity on others, often with tragic consequences.

Then there’s what I would call “stereotypical American Christianity” which is utterly focused on saying and doing the right things in order to get, and then not lose, your ticket to heaven.

Here’s what I mean. There’s a seemingly cute little joke about what the bible really is: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (B.I.B.L.E.). Get it?

Now think about what that’s saying. It tells you in 5 words what this person’s understanding of both the bible and Christianity are. It says the bible is an instruction book, like a manual. Follow these simple, basic steps and you’re in! I’m not saying the bible isn’t instructive – of course it is. I’ve devoted my career to studying, interpreting, and teaching the insights in it. But it’s no instruction book.
What a shockingly insulting and limiting thing to say.

Basic instructions…before leaving earth. That’s apparently the purpose of Christianity – get the instructions right and you get to leave earth, which obviously means go to heaven. It’s a rules and regulations, requirements and reward approach. It’s very popular because it’s black and white, it’s easy to explain (in 5 words), and it doesn’t actually require much of a person.

If you’ve hung around here for any length of time you’ll know that interpreting and understanding scripture is anything but black and white. If you come to our Porch (our bible study) on a Monday morning (or participate via our Facebook page) you’ll learn a lot and usually end up going away with more questions than you came in with. But they’re deeper questions! They’re thoughts that you have to chew on for a few days, or years, and they can help you see the world differently.

Sadly, most people seem to come to religion for answers.
And here you’ll get some, but you’ll get more questions.
Instead of a water bottle you get an ocean.
D’ya feel me?

So it drove those Pharisees nuts that Jesus was talking about a different measuring stick. Instead of rules imposed from outside Jesus taught that once you reoriented your life (turn, embrace a new way, come to a new consciousness, repent, which literally means to get a new mind, a new way to see the world) – once you did that Jesus said that the love and light and Spirit of God was alive within you in a marvellously new and powerful way, and that you’d be inspired – literally! – to live faithfully and righteously.
Your measure would be from the inside out.

Jesus had a couple of different names for this.
In Matthew he called it the kingdom of Heaven.
In Mark and Luke he called it the kingdom of God.
And here in John he’s calling it eternal life.

28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.

This is a really important distinction that I’m hoping you really take to heart.
We’ve tended to define the idea of “eternal life” far too narrowly. Yes, it means a life that is never-ending but it means so much more than that. The Greek word also carries the strong meaning of the quality and character of that life.
Eternal life is a life that has at its centre the character of God.

It’s a life filled with “God-ness.”
Eternal life isn’t something that starts when this physical life ends – it’s a spiritual life that starts as soon as you hear Jesus’ voice.
It’s not a reward for being good when you die, it’s a gift for every moment of your living right now!
Eternal life is not our end game, it’s our now game.

The challenge is that embracing such a life means being vulnerable and willing to allow your life to be changed, your will to be shaped by God’s, your character to be shaped by Jesus’ character.

Eternal, God-present, Christ-centred, Spirit-filled life is yours, here and now and always, and has always been here,
for those with ears to hear,
for those with eyes to see
– for those who hear his voice
– for those willing to yield.

The black and white, requirements and rewards folks say, “We want heaven!”
Jesus says, “I give you eternal life!”
“We want answers.”
“I only have deeper questions.”
“Tell us plainly!”
“I am! D’ya feel me?”

They didn’t.
Do you?

If you were to read on from today you’d see that they picked up rocks to stone him. It was because of the last thing he said. To wrap it all up he said:

30 The Father and I are one.”

In their black and white reasoning Jesus was claiming to be God. But is being one with God the same as being “the same” as God?
Think about marriage. In a marriage ceremony we often say that two are becoming one. Does that mean the partners are becoming the same? Two become one, but they’re not the same.
“The Father and I are one” is more like the marriage idea.
The Message bible translation puts it this way: Jesus said, “I and the Father are of one heart and mind.”
D’ya feel me?

So, now the question.
Why the heck is this text given to us in the Easter season? What is so Eastery about this?

Easter is the celebration after the resurrection of Jesus.

There is life, there is an ending, and there is a renewed life in God. There is a way, there is an end to that way, there is a new way.
There is a thirst; there is an offer of water; there is an immersion.
There is a paradigm; there is an end to that paradigm; there is a new paradigm.
There are questioners; there is a voice; there are those who know and hear the voice.

There is you; there is Jesus; there is eternal life.
D’ya feel me?