Good Morning KBF,
明けましておめでとうございます! I have tried to wish you all a new year over the past few weeks, however, if I have not yet seen you this year or had a chance to greet you, Happy New Year! I hope that 2020 turns out to be a wonderful year for you!
Tis a new year and I am glad that you are here. I am excited to discover what God has in store for KBF this year. This church is filled with wonderful people, and as we come together to worship God and strive to live out our faith as authentically as possible, I am filled with hope. I know that it will not always be easy, but God will be with us every step of the way.
This morning, I have a message for us, but, I would also like to tie it into a discussion about the vision and the mission of KBF. I am hoping that we can, together, establish a beautiful foundation for the year that will serve as a springboard to the way that God will lead us as a church.
So, message first, vision second. I’m not trying to be confusing, but if you are a little unsure as to how it will all work right now, please be patient. I hope that everything will be clear by the end.
So, without further ado – let us jump in!
The Season of Epiphany
In the Church calendar, we are now in the season of Epiphany. Many years ago, people much wiser than myself, matched a church calendar to the yearly calendar. The idea is to ensure that we explore the life of Christ within and through the patterns of our lives. As an example, in December we celebrate the season of Advent, where we take time in the month to meditate on the coming of Christ. In amidst the pattern of life with all of its Christmas activities we are called to remember the people who were filled with anticipation and longing for their Messiah or savior. We are called to remember that and discern how that might encourage and inspire our own faith.
The next major holiday on the Church calendar is of course, Easter. For those who don’t know how that story played out, I won’t ruin it for you now, but in the time between Christmas and Easter there is the season of Epiphany and the season of Lent. We are now in the season of Epiphany and it is named this because it calls our attention to the life and ministry of Christ. More specifically, it calls our attention to the ‘lightbulb’ moments, the moments when people had epiphanies of who Jesus really was. Epiphany means ‘a moment of sudden or great realization or revelation’. What a cool name for a season.
This morning is week 2 in the season of Epiphany, and we are led to the Gospel of John where today we are going to talk about two topics that offer great realizations and revelations. I hope you are encouraged and challenged this morning!
Part 1: The Lamb of God
The first thing we are going to look at is a term that came from our reading this morning, the term is, ‘Lamb of God’.
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared,
“Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’
31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.”
The person speaking here is John the Baptist. We learned about him during the advent season. He was, in some ways, a miracle baby. His parents were old and past the natural ages of child bearing. An angel came and announced the birth of John, and now here he is preparing the way for the Lord!
John sees Jesus and declares;
“Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
When you think of ‘Lamb of God’ what do you think of? One of these cute animals? I mean, look at it! Kawaaaai! A lovely smile, sleeping so peacefully. It is so innocent and cuddly! Is this what John means when he says ‘lamb of God’? Here is Jesus, a cute cuddly, large eared man with a great smile?
Maybe Jesus did have a beautiful smile and gave out great hugs, but there is far more to this name.
In the Old Testament the book of Exodus speaks of God leading a group of people out of slavery. They were slaves in Egypt and God led them to freedom. In Chapter 12 you can read about the slaves getting ready to leave. God promises to punish the slave masters on the same night that the slaves are supposed to escape. To make sure that the ‘spirit of the Lord’ did not punish any of the slaves, they were supposed to sacrifice a lamb.
They were told to mark their doors with a little bit of the blood. God told the slaves that he would see the blood on the door and he would pass over the house and spare them from punishment. That is where the name ‘passover’ comes from.
The slaves were then told to eat the lamb. Lamb is as delicious as it is cute, lucky them, and these slaves were told that before they ate they should dress as though they were ready to run away. They were to eat and go, dine and dash And, that is exactly how it played out. That very night, the Egyptian slave masters were punished and Pharaoh expelled the Israelites and the slaves were free from their masters.
The lamb is essential to this story and it has a sacrificial reference. The sacrifice of the Lamb was the sign of the Israelites obedience to God. It was the sign that spared them from the punishment that was given to the slave masters
The Lamb was also a meal. Usually when we think about sacrificing things to a God – like people do here at the temple, they make a sacrifice to the gods to make the gods happy. Usually, you have to leave that sacrifice at the temple. You give it up. This time, the sacrifice became the food that the slaves ate when they got their freedom.
There are two other symbolic details to bring up. In Exodus 12:5 and Leviticus 23:12, 18 – we read that the Lambs that they were commanded to select for this sacrifice were supposed “males without defect”. The Lambs were to be innocent and pure.
In Leviticus 23: 20 ‘The priest shall then wave them with the bread of the first fruits for a wave offering with two lambs before the Lord; they are to be holy to the Lord for the priest.’
There is a lot of symbolism and imagery surrounding the word ‘Lamb’. Passover is still celebrated in the Jewish community to this day, and they still eat Lamb in remembrance of being delivered from slavery. The lamb is not just a cute animal but a deeply symbolic sign of freedom and emancipation.
Therefore when John the Baptist is declaring about Jesus that;
“Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
It is a statement that gets to the very heart of this community. If we take into consideration all of what we have just spoken about should we be encouraged to understand the statement as:
Jesus, the Lamb of God. One who is;
- Innocent and peaceful
- One who is a male without defect
- A sacrifice that brings freedom
- One who is Holy to the Lord
- The very food or source of strength/sustenance in the pursuit of freedom.
With this in mind, let me read the words of John the Baptist again,
“Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
Here in John 1 we discover, Jesus being revealed as the Lamb of God who is here to take away the sin (singular) of the world. Let us take a moment and let this imagery sink in. Let us take 20 seconds to think about this in silence. As we do, let me ask if it leads to any epiphanies?
Part 2: Meno meaning ‘Abiding Together’
The second thing we are exploring this morning is the greek word ‘Meno’. Let us return to our reading this morning. In verses 32-39 we read:
32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.
33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’
And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?”39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.
Our reading this morning was in english and japanese so we have not yet seen the word Meno which is Greek. It means:
Meno: (Greek) remain, stay, abide; live, dwell; last, endure, continue; trans. await, wait for.
It is a difficult word to translate because it holds such a rich and intense meaning. So the people translating the book of John had decisions to make. It is tricky to use all of those words, so they chose ones that they felt fit best. In our passage it appears that the word is translated as ‘remain’ or ‘stay’.
- “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. (v32)
- He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ (v33)
- Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” (v38)
- They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. (v39)
In preparation for this morning, I was reading a commentary that was examining how this word ‘meno’ was used throughout the Gospel of John. Apparently the word appears 40 times, however, it is not always translated into english in the same way. Here we see it as ‘remain’ or ‘stay’ but there are other ways it is used.
One example is the famous verses in John 15:4-7
Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
In these 4 verses the word appears 8 times! It is as if the concept of ‘meno’; remain, stay, abide; live, dwell; last, endure, continue; trans. await, wait for, is being emphasized.
This example encourages us to understand this word ‘meno’ as a way of thinking about how you are to be in God, as God is in you. It might sound a little strange, but I want to encourage you to devote your life to understanding this mystery. Learn how to remain, stay, abide; live, dwell; last, endure, continue; trans. await, wait for in God, in the same way that you try and figure out how to let God remain, stay, abide; live, dwell; last, endure, continue; trans. await, wait for, in you!
Bringing it back to our reading this morning, this same commentary encourages the reader to consider what happens when if we change ‘remain’ and ‘stay’ or ‘abide’.
And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abided on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and abide is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’
The spirit of god remained, stayed, abided; lived, dwelled; lasted, endured, continued; awaited on/in Jesus.
If we continue, there is a beautiful and poignant pun that emerges. I don’t know if a pun has ever been described as beautiful and poignant before but consider this.
When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you abiding?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was abiding, and they abided with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. (John 1:38-39)
When John testifies, he talks of a spirit that comes and abides. It remains and stays and dwells within Jesus. It is a beautiful description. Those listening to John take this in a literal sense. They hear John, then see Jesus and then they ask, where are you abiding? In other words, where is your abode? Jesus’s response to them is, come and see!
Take us to your abode so we might be able to abide with you. But does Jesus have a home, a temple or a church where abiding should take place? Remember,
“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58)
In our reading, Jesus does take them to a place for that day, however, we are going to read in the Gospels that Jesus is about to teach these followers a whole new way of abiding. He is going to teach them about ‘Meno’ – He is going to teach them about a way of being in relationship with God where, no matter what happens, you can; remain, stay, abide; live, dwell; last, endure, continue; await, wait for.
Through Jesus, being with God is no longer about going into a temple. It is no longer about going into the holiest of holies, it is about ‘meno’. People and God in an abiding relationship that continues wherever they go.
Let us pause for a moment there. Take 20 seconds and think about whether there might be any epiphanies about how this word ‘meno’ might influence your understanding of God.
Putting The Two Terms Together
The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world showing what it means to meno, to have God remain, stay, abide; live, dwell; last, endure, continue; trans. await, wait for in you and him in you.
I hope that this has not been too technical or boring. I hope you are with me! All of this sounds somewhat lofty but there are some simple applications that we can find. So far we have only focused up until verse 39 but there are still a few verses to go.
40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
Our story this morning ends beautifully.
There has been a declaration about the identity of Jesus by John the Baptist.
It appears that Andrew becomes a follower and in turn repeats the declaration.
And now we get an interaction between Jesus and a man we will come to know as Peter.
This man has come to see the Messiah (the Lamb of God), and Jesus says, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas.’
As Simon has come to (meno) discover, remain, stay, abide with this man who is the Messiah, Jesus demonstrates that he knows who Simon is and gives him the opportunity to be welcomed into a new identity. Jesus sees the old and the new.
I think this is a beautiful way to think about our Christian walk. We are called to see the true identity of Christ, this Lamb of God. We are called to unpack and understand what it means for God to abide in us as we abide in God. We get to understand these declarations in the Bible, we get to become followers, and then we get to extend this invitation.
So how does this all relate to KBF and this supposed ‘vision Sunday’?
Great Question! As we kick into gear this year, I thought it would be a great time to discuss and speak to our identity and vision for this year.
Let us start by looking back and acknowledging last year – 2019 was a Time of Transition, I felt like it was a time of unification. Remembering and celebrating the reasons we love God, and love one another in this community.
- January – Salt and Light
- February, March, April, May – The Book of Acts –
In their transition from a Jesus lead community to a Holy Spirit Lead community what made them a salt and light community?
- June – Stewardship & Colossians
How are we encouraged to look after the faith that we have been given
- July – Jonah: Getting Out of Our Own Way
Through Jonah, identifying the obstacles that can prevent us from seeing God’s bigger picture. Call to work with God rather than work against him.
- August – Jesus in John
Celebration of our Saviour
- September- The Upside Down Kingdom in the Parables
Intentionally thinking about how we are encouraged to follow, and what we are encouraged to Build as ‘co-workers in the kingdom’
- Responding to the Upside Down Kingdom
- October – Here I am to Worship
- November – 30 Days of Prayer
- December: Advent – Preparing for the Birth of Christ
But it wasn’t just the Teaching. Worship has grown, more people are scripture readers, we have had new preachers from inside our community, JAM is being lead by some exceptional young leaders, some of whom got to go to a conference in the Ukraine – thanks in a large part because of a united generous community that pulled together and gave and prayed! Not only that, we have celebrated a massive BBQ where 200 burgers got eaten, and people had wonderful dinners in their homes for the thankfulness dinners. On it goes! We will never be perfect, but I felt as though there was a shift in the atmosphere as we worked to unify as a church. I am excited and encouraged by it. God is working in KBF!
So where does that leave us now?
Well, we want to keep going. We want to continue to be a community that has fresh epiphanies about Jesus, the messiah, this beautiful Lamb of God. And, we want to be a community that abides in God as God abides in us.
We will not be able to anticipate everything that comes with that so there is no full year plan, however I want to propose a vision and a mission for this year in particular.
I propose that we strive to become people with this vision –
To partner with Christ in His invitation to every language and nation.
In essence, we want all people to know God and make him known. We want to understand what it means to ‘meno’ abide in Christ, we want to understand what it means for God to ‘meno’ and we want to partner with Christ to indiscriminately share that invitation to all people.
To work toward this vision, I want to propose that we adopt the following as our mission. That is, the way we will work towards achieving the vision is to work together in this way.
“Kurume Bible Fellowship is a diverse church community where our study of the Bible is comprehensive, our fellowship is healing, and our service is sincere.”
I hope that this is intentional that it inspires you to think about how you might be involved and how you might contribute. I hope that it is also open enough that it gives you the freedom to come as you are and contribute as you can! I hope it also demonstrates a few ways that we might be able to continue to know that God is working in this community.
Our study is comprehensive, our fellowship contributes to healing, and our service will be sincere. If Vision and Mission are important to you, I would like to invite you to a sermon-discussion today in room 201. I am hoping that we can talk about this, and as we are a congregational church, have more voices contribute to this conversation.
Together may we continue to be a community that learns and appreciates more deeply what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah, the Lamb of God. Through this, may we be a people who abide in God, as God abides in us.
May this be a year where our unity in Christ equips us to go and bear good fruit!
January 19, 2020
By Lorne Anderson