March 17, 2018

How Can You Have Life Through Death? (Lent 5)

Life through death is the paradox of Christianity. Jesus gives us the example of a grain of wheat. If you plant it in the ground it dies -- then grows into a plant with more seeds. He is explaining the great mystery of Faith. If you just focus on your own life you will lose that life. If you love God and your neighbor more than your own life you will gain a richer and eternal life. The Readings, beginning with the prophecy of a new covenant relationship by Jeremiah, explain how this happens.

1. Jesus teaches that by holding on to our life we will lose it (John 12.20-33)

We tend to think of life as our physical life on Earth. The goal then is to have a long life and measure this in terms of happiness.
  • ·        We tend to be self-centered
  • ·        Leads to finding ways to protect ourselves by striving for more security, more power, more control and materialism
  • ·        Striving for "happiness" puts us in conflict with others
  • ·        Competition for security and control also leads to conflict
  • ·        Conflict leads to a loss of happiness -- our "life"

 2. By giving up our life we gain a richer life 
Jesus is defining life differently. Jesus defines life as a relationship of love, joy and peace with God, ourselves and our neighbour. Love is more than a good feeling:
  • ·        Scott Peck defined love as extending yourself for the other
  • ·        Love is emotional caring for the other person
  • ·        Love for God and others brings us joy and love for ourselves
  • ·        Jesus is not saying we should punish ourselves -- we are to also love ourselves as the highpoint of God's creation
  • ·        Love is measured in personal sacrifice -- not good intentions
  • ·        Love is like dying to 'what I want' / my way, for a selfish happiness that does not satisfy
  • ·        Jesus modeled this new kind of love on the Cross by giving up His life so we could be freed from the sin-guilt that pollutes our spiritual life and separates us from God (who is holy)
  • ·        The need of the many was greater than the need of the one

 3. Jesus is the great high priest who gives us this new life
The work of a priest is to connect people to God. priests act as a bridge between people who are by nature fearful, selfish and rebellious; and God who is holy.
  • ·        God desires a love relationship with us
  • ·        Love requires God to give us free-will to be free to chose that relationship -- or not
  • ·        Being human (fallible) we make wrong choices, rebel, fall into sin and become unholy and unable to be in God's presence
  • ·        Jesus modelled a holy love relationship by obedience to God and was made perfect by suffering for this relationship
  • ·        Jesus divinity as the begotten Son of God (not Joseph) and moral perfection as fully human, qualified Him to act as a sacrifice for the sins of all believers
  • ·        Jesus became a High Priest through His life and death because this enabled believers to be forgiven,  made holy and stand in the presence of God

 4. New Covenant of Jesus gives believers the Holy Spirit
Believers in Jesus are born again spiritually into a new life in Jesus Christ. We are made holy and in right-relationship with God through our personal faith in the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus. As we are made whole or holy, Jesus sends the gift of the Holy Spirit as a tangible sign of our inclusion in the new Covenant of Jesus. This covenant is different from the Covenant of Moses (which the Hebrew people had broken):
  • ·        Hebrew people had the Ten Commandments and teachings of Moses and the prophets.
  •       Covenant of Jesus is for all peoples - note reference to Greeks coming to Jesus
    • ·        Covenant of Jesus is personal -- we enter individually
  • ·        As in the Jeremiah prophecy, the Law or conditions are written on our hearts (personal spirit) by the Holy Spirit
  • ·        Holy Spirit is our conscience, guide, teacher and healer


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