Jesus vs. Rules (John 5:1-15)

Some of us have been taught about "gentle Jesus, meek and mild." If that's who you think Jesus is, you may be surprised when you read about his life. For the past few weeks, we've been looking at selected stories about Jesus, compiled by one of his best friends and followers, John. John chose these stories because they had significance, because they made a point. Today we're going to look at a story you may have heard before, but I'm going to try to frame it in the bigger picture of what John and Jesus were communicating.John is all about challenging the religion of the day. The first part of John's gospel is a direct challenge against some of the main institutions of that religion. Jesus used symbols of that religion to point to its emptiness; he cleansed its Temple; he talked to a rabbi; he met an untouchable at a religious site. Today, we're going to look at a story that took place during the second part of John's gospel. It's easy to miss, but John is taking aim at the religious festivals and holidays of the religion of that day, which were a really big deal back then. We're going to discover that it has something to say to us today as well.If you have a Bible with you, let's look at John 5. This story is the only one that John records from Jesus' second year of ministry, so it's pretty significant. It took place during one of the Jewish holidays. There are all kinds of theories on which one, but the bottom line is that we don't know. Every Jew for at least twenty miles of Jerusalem was required to travel to Jerusalem for the festival. Sometimes they traveled further.John writes, "Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people-blind, lame, or paralyzed-lay on the porches" (John 5:1-3). You can travel to Jerusalem today and visit the probable site where this took place, near the present-day Saint Anne's church. It's strange that Jesus came near here. The Sheep Gate was an area that most people tried to avoid. The pool wouldn't have been a pleasant place either. Folk religion taught that an angel stirred the water, and the first one in would be healed. It's more likely that there was some type of underwater spring or something. It's a pretty sad picture to think about - blind, lame and paralyzed people racing to throw themselves in the water. Not a great scene to imagine."One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew how long he had been ill, he asked him, 'Would you like to get well?'" (John 5:5-6) This man probably didn't have bowel or bladder control, and nobody was there to help him. After thirty-eight years, he wouldn't have had any strength in his legs, even if he hadn't been paralyzed. He didn't approach Jesus for help. Instead, Jesus asked him if he wanted to get better - a question with a pretty obvious answer.
"I can't, sir," the sick man said, "for I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred up. While I am trying to get there, someone else always gets in ahead of me."Jesus told him, "Stand up, pick up your sleeping mat, and walk!"Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up the mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath day. (John 5:7-9)
Okay, it's the last phrase that gets me. A man has been healed. Not only is he healed of his paralysis, but he suddenly has the strength to stand after thirty-eight years of atrophied muscles. There really ought to be no "but" in the next sentence. This should have been enough to silence everyone who opposed Jesus. It's amazing that Jesus got in trouble for helping somebody out on the Sabbath day.The problem is that Jesus had violated the religion of the day. God had commanded, "Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy" (Exodus 20:8). By the time Jesus came, the religious leaders had added thirty-nine categories of things that were forbidden on the Sabbath, and one of them was carrying something like a matt. Things were so muddled that the religious leaders couldn't keep straight what God had commanded and what they had commanded. This was the first time that the religious leaders showed their cards. It's the first time you realize how much they hated Jesus, and it's because he violated one of their man-made rules.
So the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, "You can't work on the Sabbath! It's illegal to carry that sleeping mat!"He replied, "The man who healed me said to me, 'Pick up your sleeping mat and walk.'" [He didn't even know who Jesus was!]"Who said such a thing as that?" they demanded.The man didn't know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd. But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, "Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you." Then the man went to find the Jewish leaders and told them it was Jesus who had healed him. (John 5:10-15)
There's a lot we could look at here - the relation between sin and sickness, the fact that Jesus kept slipping away from the opposition until he knew it was time to die. But the main point is a little more glaring. A man who hadn't walked in thirty-eight years was healed. Nobody questioned whether or not the healing really happened. They didn't think it was a fake healing. They did see it as a problem. They were willing to miss out on what God was doing right in front of them because it violated one of their petty little rules, which they had mistaken for one of God's rules.There's a message for us, because I'm not so sure that we're very different. I think it's human nature to take what God has given us, and to add our own guidelines and interpretations and cautions, and over time to begin to mistake our opinions for God's opinions. Think of some of the issues that are contentious in churches today. They're not really about commands that God has given. More often they're about the way that we're accustomed to doing things. After a while, we forget that it's about our preference. We think that God really likes us to do things in a certain way - the way we've always done them.It's funny that you're sitting in rows facing the front and watching a person talk to you for half an hour in a one-way conversation. Have you ever stopped to realize how we equate this with church, or at least what a church service is? If somebody stood up and proposed that we eliminate sitting in rows, signing off a screen or out of a book, and then listening to the pastor lecture, we would probably freak out. That's the way we've always done it. That's the way it's always been done, or so we think. We even think that this is the way that God prescribed it to happen. But really, it's not. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with it - that's a different discussion! - it's just to show that we can easily confuse the way we do it with God's prescription, and when God goes and acts outside of our preferences, we can begin to have a real problem with God.Do you know who's most in danger of missing what God is doing because it doesn't fit into our ideas of church? I'll give you two hints. It's not unbelievers, and it's not new Christians. It's those of us who are more mature Christians, or at least we're supposed to be. It's not unbelievers or new believers who wreck churches. It's more often the older believers, those of us who have been doing church for a while. I'm one of you, so I can say that we're the group most in danger of missing what God is doing because it doesn't fit into our ideas of what he should do.We're all in danger of placing self-made guidelines and regulations on others, thinking that it's part of what it means to follow Jesus. This is called legalism. Pretty soon, you don't know what's biblical and what's not. It leads to bondage and pride. It leads to missing out on what God is doing. It leads to the preservation of institutions and churches rather than to a living and obvious relationship with Jesus. It leads to missing the point entirely of what Jesus came to do.One of the greatest difficulties we have is that we confuse God and culture. We bring Christ into our culture, which is inevitable (nobody can live apart from the context of culture), but pretty soon we confuse God with that culture. We think that the elements of our culture - our dress, our music, the way we do things - is part of what God likes. We stop believing that God can work quite well outside of that culture, and we miss out on what God is doing because it doesn't fit with our expectations. Not only do we miss out, but we condemn those who do things a different way.One man (Karl Barth) put it this way. He compared the church to a canal, built through the wilderness. Great sacrifices were made to build it. It cost a lot, and many died in the construction. Still, the canal was built, and it brought new life to the wilderness. Ironically, over time, the canal ran dry. You could look at the canal and see evidence that water once ran there. People still maintained the canal, named their children after its builders and engineers, still told stories about it. But nobody drank from it. And nobody remembered what it was like when water ran through it.
The possibility exists that my life, my church, my tradition, my denomination, even my Bible will become relics of religious curiosity instead of living instruments of God. Men and women will be ordained, earn Ph.D.s, and launch evangelical magazines, publishing houses, colleges, and seminaries with solid evangelical commitments, and it will all be for nothing. Empty canals. There are specialists who can cite Scripture and verse, who can measure orthodoxy with exacting precision, who can identify the religious speck in someone's eye from a great distance, but in whom love for God does not exist. (Gary M. Burge, NIV Life Application Bible: John)
Let me give you four situations I've been thinking about this week, and let me ask you how you'd respond.When I was a kid, a man in his young twenties returned to church after a period of rebellion. He had been baptized, but had done everything wrong after that. He returned and asked for the forgiveness and support of the church. How would you respond? (He didn't fit in the categories of the more mature Christians, and they asked, "How do we know you won't let us down again?" They missed out on what God was doing in his life.)This next story happened in Toronto. A man came to a church picnic. He had a package of cigarettes stuffed in the arm of his shirt. After a while, he went to his cooler and said, "Man, I'm hot. Pastor, do you want a beer?" How would you respond? How do you respond to people who are just at the early stage of God working in their lives, but they don't fit into our church culture?Imagine you're on holidays. You decide you'll go to church. You pull up in the parking lot but hear this dreadful music coming through the windows. Some of you just imagined electric guitars and drums; some of you just pictured a church organ. Whatever. Make it the music you don't like. You really don't want to attend if they're going to be playing that music. Do you drive away, and miss out what God may be doing in that church, because it doesn't fit in your picture of what church should be?You look behind you one day in church. You see a young woman, dressed in Muslim dress. She looks down. She's in church for a reason, but you really don't know how to welcome her. What do you do? How do you respond?When God does a miracle right in front of me, I don't want a "but" to follow. I don't want to miss out on what God is doing, right in front of my face, because of some self-made restriction I've put on God. I don't want to miss what God is doing because I've blinded myself with my own rules.Prayer:
That God would give us discernment on where we've erected barriers and rules.That God would open our eyes to what he's doing, even if it doesn't fit our preconceived notions.That we (individually and as a church) wouldn't be like dry canals - that we would be coursing with life from the Spirit.

Why Do You Ask? (John 4:43-54)

Last week, we started looking at some of the stories in the book of John about some of the miracles that Jesus performed. We looked at the fact that John was a very careful writer, and that he chose specific stories to communicate certain important facts about Jesus' mission. Last week we looked at the first miracle that Jesus performed in John, the miracle of turning water into wine. We found that it's not just a story. Jesus was saying something about the religion of the day. If Jesus came into church today and performed this miracle, he might have used one of the symbols of what we do as church - the pulpit, maybe - to make a say, "Religion is empty. It's me you're looking for." He might have agreed with some of the critical statements that people make about religion, even the church, today.Today we're going to look at a second miracle that Jesus performed. John calls it the second sign. Calling it a sign means that it has significance beyond its action - it's communicating something. John 4:54 says, "This was Jesus' second miraculous sign in Galilee after coming from Judea." This really wasn't the second miracle that Jesus performed. John 2:23 says, "Because of the miraculous signs he did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many people were convinced that he was indeed the Messiah." It is, though, the second one that John records to communicate something important about Jesus.When the Bible was written, it wasn't divided into chapters and verses, so people had to look for literary clues to find out where the sections ended. This is the end of the first section of the book of John. It's the bookend. On either side of this section is a miracle that he performs in Galilee. What's the message of this story?John 4:43-45 says:
At the end of the two days' stay, Jesus went on into Galilee. He had previously said, "A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own country." The Galileans welcomed him, for they had been in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration and had seen all his miraculous signs.
Galilee is in the middle of nowhere. It's not where all the major stuff happened. It's out of the way. It's strange to read in verse 44 that Jesus had already concluded that he wouldn't be welcome in Galilee, which is his home area, especially since the next verse says that the people there did welcome him. I've read a lot of studies on this passage in the past week, and discovered no less than ten theories about how to put these two verses together. I think that we can take them at face value. John's giving us a hint that the welcome really wasn't genuine. He's already hinting at the message behind this story.Verses 46-47 say:
In the course of his journey through Galilee, he arrived at the town of Cana, where he had turned the water into wine. There was a government official in the city of Capernaum whose son was very sick. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea and was traveling in Galilee, he went over to Cana. He found Jesus and begged him to come to Capernaum with him to heal his son, who was about to die.
Cana and Capernaum were about 20 miles apart, separated by hills. You could do the walk in a few hours. This man comes - a man who's pretty high up in government - and he keeps begging Jesus to come and heal his son. It's not a one-time request. He keeps asking and asking.Jesus responds strangely. If I had been the father, I might have been offended. Read verse 48: "Jesus asked, 'Must I do miraculous signs and wonders before you people will believe in me?'" That's not the response you'd expect. This is an important verse in the story. It's a verse that gets to the heart of why this story is here. Hold that sentence in your mind and we'll return to it to try to figure out what this story is all about.The man's reply to Jesus doesn't really come across too well in the English. My version says, "The official pleaded, 'Lord, please come now before my little boy dies'" (John 4:49). It's actually a bit more abrupt than that. It's more like an order. He said, "Come down, for my little child dies." Jesus' reply was just as abrupt. He said, "Go back home. Your son will live!" (John 4:50). The man issued an order; Jesus issued an order back. The man now had a choice of how to respond. He had wanted Jesus to come all the way to his house to deal with the problem. He had begged Jesus, even ordered Jesus. Jesus wasn't doing what he had expected. Still, he responded well. The rest of the story goes like this:And the man believed Jesus' word and started home.
While he was on his way, some of his servants met him with the news that his son was alive and well. He asked them when the boy had begun to feel better, and they replied, "Yesterday afternoon at one o'clock his fever suddenly disappeared!" Then the father realized it was the same time that Jesus had told him, "Your son will live." And the officer and his entire household believed in Jesus. This was Jesus' second miraculous sign in Galilee after coming from Judea. (John 4:50-54)
Okay, nice story. It may be a little hard for you to believe; that's okay. The question is, what's the point of the story? Why has John included it here? If John didn't just put this story in as another episode in the life of Jesus, what purpose does it serve here? What's the message for today?If you look at this story, you pick up a few themes. You pick up the thought that it's possible to welcome Jesus, and get excited about Jesus, but not really understand what he's all about. It's possible to want miracles, but not be aware of what God is really doing among us. I think Jesus and John are getting at the question of motives. Why do you follow Jesus? Why do you ask him to do certain things? Here's an even deeper question. Why are you giving him commands, instead of taking commands from him? What happens when he doesn't respond to you the way that you want him to?We're all the same in some ways. We're all looking for God to do something. Isn't that true? We're all praying, at least from time to time. We pray when we need God to come through for us, to help our marriage, to take away an illness, to do whatever. We all pray, we all ask God to come through for us. That, in itself, isn't a bad thing, but it can become a problem.God looks at us and knows what's in our best interests. He knows that it's best for everyone if we don't just see him as a dispenser of our wants, a granter of our wishes. I mentioned the Simpsons last week, and I hate to bring them up again, because you may figure out that I really like the show. Last week, Homer started praying to get God to do whatever he wanted. He prayed crazy stuff like, "Oh Lord, thou who has made two types of clam chowder, I beseech you to..." He started to get the idea that God was there to serve him, to do his bidding. It's a danger that we all face.Read this story again. This government official actually issues a command to Jesus. I think there's this danger in all of us to begin to think that God exists for our benefit. We begin to think that God is there to do us good, and to make our lives better. We're here because we want better marriages, better lives, eternal life. That's okay, but it's easy to begin to follow God because we're interested in what he can do for us.Have you ever thought, "Man, God should be grateful that I showed up in church today. What if nobody showed? How embarrassing would that be for God?" You probably haven't put it that way, but we come close to thinking that sometime. We begin to think that we're doing God a favor with our obedience and worship. Without even realizing it, we put ourselves in God's place, and we begin to ask him to serve us, rather than the other way around.Here's the crux of the question that this story is getting at: Why do you serve him? Why do you want to follow him? Are you serving him for what he'll do for you, or simply because he's God? How will you respond if he doesn't do what you expect, and you never get some of your questions answered? The reality is that even if God never did anything for us, he's still worthy of our devotion and praise. Are you following him because he's God, or because you think he'll do something for you?Last year was a tough year for me in a lot of ways. One of the things I had to wrestle with was my preaching. I was unhappy with it, but I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong. After a while, it seemed that God was telling me two things. I discovered that my problem wasn't one of technique, but one of the heart. I had lost a bit of my passion. But the other problem was with my content. It seemed that sometimes I focused too much on us, on our needs, on solutions to our problems. It's easy to begin to see God as someone who's there to help us, to make our lives better. I began to realize that instead of offering simple answers to complex questions, it's better to show people Jesus.Why do we serve him? Ultimately, because he's God. Even if he never answers another one of our prayers, and even if many of our questions are never answered, and our lives are unbearably hard, it's enough that he's God. That's why we follow him. Not because we can give him orders, but because he is who he is.The irony is that when we clarify this question, God usually gives us what we need anyway. Once God clarifies why we serve, he provides what we always wanted but we never wanted to surrender to him. Remember Abraham and Isaac? God asked for Isaac. Abraham said yes, and God said, "That's okay, you can have him." Sometimes I wonder if some of the issues we face in our lives are because we've never really clarified whether we think we're serving God, or he's serving us. Until we get it straight that we're serving him, and until we serve him unconditionally, we never experience what Jesus promised: "Whoever clings to this life will lose it, and whoever loses this life will save it" (Luke 17:33). We're all looking for God to do something, but we never really find out what a relationship with God is like in which we serve him not because he'll do something for us, but because he's God.This week, we find out if Joe Millionaire gets his girl when she figures out he's not a millionaire. I know that you're much too cultured to watch that show, and I really hesitate to draw any comparison between Joe Millionaire and God. But the issue is the same. What's the motive? Why are you serving him? What happens when you don't get what you think you're going to get?I never noticed before this week, but the guy in this story turns around and goes home after Jesus tells him to. He leaves at around 1:00 pm, and it's a twenty mile trip. Some people think that he could have made it back home, and would have been motivated to do so since his son was so sick. But he doesn't. He stays the night, and his servants meet him the next day. He hadn't seen the answer, maybe hadn't had all his questions answered, but he believed Jesus. It was okay. It's enough that Jesus has spoken, even if I haven't seen the answer yet.Prayer
Forgive us that we sometimes make the mistake of following you for what you'll do for us. Forgive us for commanding you, rather than taking commands from you.We serve you because you are God. We believe.

New Wine (John 2:1-11)

Nobody came here today with just a desire to sit around and listen to me speak, and to stand around and sing songs. You came here with a desire to connect with God, to experience his presence. You may not have worded it that way, but if you came willingly (not because you were dragged here), you either came out of habit, or because you wanted to experience God.If you wanted to introduce someone to God, where would you take them? Did you answer church? We know that church isn't a place, it's a group of people. A lot of us hope that if we could introduce someone to a particular group of people, that they would immediately sense that something is different, that Someone is present that they've never met before. We read about this happening in the Bible. People were filled with awe and fear as they encountered a group of people who were like everyone else, except that God was present with them.Many of us have experienced church like that. We've known church as a group of people who help us experience deep, rich intimacy with God.But we've also experienced the opposite. A lot of us have experienced church as a disappointment. I'm probably a pretty good representation of my generation, because we tend to be pretty discouraged about parts of the church. Sometimes it feels like the last group of people that would help introduce others to God.One of my favorite Simpsons episodes starts in the First Church of Springfield. Reverend Lovejoy (my role model) is droning on and on. Pretty soon, Homer falls asleep and bumps his head, which causes Reverend Lovejoy to lose his place. He starts all over again on the nine tenants of constancy. Pretty soon everyone is asleep. When the Simpson family finally gets home from church, they don't even get through the front door before all their church clothes are off. Here's their conversation:
Marge: Hey, calm down. You're wrinkling your church clothes.Homer: Who cares? This is the best part of the week.Lisa: It's the longest possible time before more church!Marge: Church shouldn't be a chore; it should help you in your daily life.Homer: It should but it doesn't. Now, who's going with Daddy to the dump?
Can you relate?A dictionary of the emerging church (A for Abductive, by Leonard Sweet, Brian D. McLaren, and Jerry Haselmayer) reflects this tension with two definitions of the church:
C is for church (lowercase)
The worst form of community ever devised, except for all the others...Too often, sociological structures filled with pachyderms solving problems that no longer exist, or answering questions that no one is asking.In Amsterdam in the early 1990s, postmoderns were asked whether they were interested in God; 100% answered yes. Then they were asked if they were interested in church. 1% answered yes; 99% answered no. If you look on the bright side, you'll say that at least the church isn't competing with God. If you look otherwise, you'll cry.
C is for Church (uppercase)
The body of Christ - an organic being; The communion of saints; A spiritual portal into the kingdom of God.
Can you relate to the tension? We experience this frustration with the church, but we also see the incredible value of uppercase Church - what could and should be experienced in the living, organic body of Christ.I'd like to look at an event in Jesus' life that speaks to this. It's found in John 2. If you're familiar with this story, you may never have seen it in this light before. It's the story of when Jesus turned water into wine. There are all kinds of wonderful interpretations of this passage. I've heard it used to say that Jesus loves weddings and parties, or that drinking is okay, or that his first miracle was about grace (turning water into wine) just as Moses' first miracle was about judgment (turning water into blood). All sorts of wonderful interpretations - but probably not the real point. There is an element of truth in all of them. I think you could at least say that Jesus isn't just the God of saving souls. He is the God who goes to weddings, who is involved in everyday life.The person who wrote this book, John, didn't just randomly select events to include. He had a purpose. In fact, he even calls the miracles that he records "signs". They're not just miracles; they point to something. They're almost like sermons in action.When you take a big-picture look at this book, you realize that all the events that John writes about in the first part of the book are about the same theme. They're all about the religious system of the day - Judaism. He clears the temple; he teaches a prominent Pharisee; he talks to someone that the religious people would have avoided; he heals on the Sabbath; he reshapes and challenges some of the religious celebrations of the day. Today's story fits around the same theme. It's about the very thing that we've been talking about. Let's look at the story and see what happens.John 2:1-2 says, "The next day Jesus' mother was a guest at a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration." We don't know why Jesus was invited. He wasn't well known yet. It may have been a family event. It appears that Mary was the main guest, and Jesus and the disciples came along."The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus' mother spoke to him about the problem. 'They have no more wine,' she told him" (John 2:3). This would have been a pretty big deal. Weddings back then lasted up to a week. If you were invited to a wedding, you were expected to attend. If you didn't give a gift, you could be sued. If the party ran out of wine, they could be fined. It would be something that would haunt the couple the rest of their lives, much like a fist-fight between a bride and groom today. Thirty years later, people would be saying, "Hey, remember back when you were married, you ran out of wine?" It would have been disastrous.Jesus' mother told Jesus. It could have been a simple, "Hey, son, I need your help." But she did know who he is, and what he could do. Jesus responded, "'How does that concern you and me?' Jesus asked. 'My time has not yet come'" (John 2:4). He was talking about the time for his glory to be revealed. Ultimately, "my time" means his death and resurrection and return to his Father. He was on God's timetable, much more than his own mother's timetable. Verse 5 says, "But his mother told the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you.'"Let's read what happened. Don't miss what Jesus used to perform this miracle:
Six stone waterpots were standing there; they were used for Jewish ceremonial purposes [did you get that?] and held twenty to thirty gallons each. Jesus told the servants, "Fill the jars with water." When the jars had been filled to the brim, he said, "Dip some out and take it to the master of ceremonies." So they followed his instructions.When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. "Usually a host serves the best wine first," he said. "Then, when everyone is full and doesn't care, he brings out the less expensive wines. But you have kept the best until now!"This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was Jesus' first display of his glory. And his disciples believed in him. (John 2:6-11)
I'd never noticed before what Jesus used to perform this miracle. He used their stone waterpots. The people would have spent a lot of time washing their hands and the cups to stay ceremonially clean. Jesus uses these symbols to make a statement about the religion of the day - a statement that applies equally as well to the church today."They have no wine." That's more than a statement about alcohol. That's a comment on the world that Jesus entered, a comment even on religion. A more modern way of putting it would be, "Where's the beef?" Where's the substance?If you understand this story in light of John's theme, it's not just a story about a wedding and some wine. It's a comment on what Jesus came to do. John's saying that Jesus' arrival is the start of something new - a messianic banquet, a divine wedding feast. The vessels of Judaism and religion have been upended and replaced. The best is now being served.I wonder what symbol Jesus might have used if he did this miracle in our culture today. What statement would he have made about the rituals and customs that we use, that have everything to do with religious habits, but very little to do with God? How would Jesus communicate to us that it's not about external rites or customs. It's not about washing; it's about drinking. What symbols of our religion today would he have used?I'll tell you why this is so important. The ritual jars probably started out as something very good. Over time, the jars lost their meaning, until it was just something to do. There's a lot that we do that started out as good, but it doesn't take long before we're still going through the motions, but the heart is long gone. We're still doing the same thing - singing the same songs, hearing the same sermons - but without as much meaning. And there's a danger that we'll keep on doing the same things long after God has left, and we won't even have noticed.The landscape is littered with churches where people once gathered to passionately worship God, and where sermons were preached out of a passion for God to speak, where God's presence and power was once felt, where people were introduced to Jesus Christ for the first time. The churches are still there, but the passion's gone, and God's presence and power are no longer felt, and nobody's been introduced to Jesus in a long time. But nobody's noticed. They're going through the motions, and they don't even know it.But Jesus has arrived. Jesus came to transform what we do religiously and by habit. He wants an immediacy, an intimacy with us. Jesus said, not to a person, not to an unbeliever, but to a church: "Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends" (Revelation 3:20). I can imagine him saying, "Church, I've been away for a while. I've been gone so long, some of you got used to my absence, but I'm back. Church, let me back in. We'll have a worship service like we've never had before."I dream about being a people where maybe the music isn't the best, and maybe we've had better sermons and preachers, but man, God is there. I want to come together as God's people and know that we may not have it all together - but when we gather, Someone is there, and everyone knows it.Prayer:
What symbols is Jesus using today to say, "There's no wine - there's nothing there?"It's a heart issue - it's about drinking (internally) rather than washing (externally). It's about being rather than doing.Prayer for personal responsePrayer for our church to never be satisfied with the external, no matter how good it may be. Pray that we would long instead for the presence and power of Jesus.