Lenten Daily Devotional, Feb. 16 – by Gene Erickson

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Topic: “I am the way, and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” John 14:6

Question: How has your perspective changed on this “I Am” over time?
 

There have been some who say that Jesus was just a great prophet and that He is not divine - that is He is not the Son of God but only human. Where would they get this idea? They say that Christ did not rise from the dead. Why not? They say that things that are true must be able to be repeated. This is true in science where an experiment that cannot be repeated by other scientists with the same result is deemed false. Therefore since no one can be crucified and raised from the dead today, then Christ could not have been raised from the dead either. They are leaving God out of the equation. Could not the all powerful God who created the universe perform a miracle? Creation was a miracle. So the almighty God could surely perform the great miracle of Christ’s death and resurrection. This does require faith in God.

There are others who say there are many ways to salvation so that if you truly believe in a certain way, then you will attain salvation. However, Christ makes it quite clear when He said I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father but by Me. What fantastically great love has been shown by God that we disobedient people should have eternal life with God through Jesus Christ. As St. Paul writes to us in Romans 5:8 God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. What a wonderful promise! We do have an awesome God!

Dear heavenly Father, thank you for the wonderful promise that if we believe in Christ as our means of salvation, we shall inherit eternal life. Forgive us for doubting but strengthen us in our faith. Bless us and our congregation that we may seek your will for our lives. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Lenten Daily Devotion, Feb. 17 – Pr. John Christopherson

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Lent – Art Reflection on “I AM the Way, Truth and Life”
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7; RSV. Emphasis added.)

According to one New Testament scholar, “This [“I Am” of Jesus in John 14:6] is the heart of St. John’s gospel message, which admits of no compromise with non-Christian religions” (J.H. Bernard, John II:537). We are immediately struck here by the relational way in which Jesus joins us together with God as Father (John 1:18; 10:30; 14:6-24; cf. Luke 11:1-4). God is not some abstract “prime mover” (Aristotle) or “highest good” (Plato) … hidden beyond some distant star; rather, as Martin Luther phrased it, “Christ is the mirror of God’s fatherly heart in whom God himself appears to us” (LW 24:61; cf. John 1:18; Colossians 1:15). During my graduate years of theological study in Chicago and Boston – including five years that gave “close readings” to the world religions – it became very clear that what is unique about the Christian faith is that it is a grace-filled way of knowing God. Unlike other religions, it is not cold and legalistic (e.g. “If you do x then God will do y”). Moreover, Christianity points beyond itself (note the pointing figure of John the Baptist in Matthias Grunewald’s “Crucifixion” painting) to the truth that is embodied in Christ, a truth that is incarnational and personal (John 1:14), not one that is propositional in nature, needing to be figured or “worked-out.” As A.N. Whitehead, the famous scholar of comparative religion at Harvard observed: “The Buddha gave us his great teachings, but Christ gave us his life” (Religion in the Making, p.55). So it is that Jesus is himself the way and the truth. His way and truth is one of the cross, by which there is forgiveness of sin and the way of eternal life. And this finally leads us to ask: “What then of Jesus saying that ‘I Am … the life’”? (Cf. John 10:10).

Isenheim Altarpiece, Matthias Grünewald, c 1512-1516

Isenheim Altarpiece, Matthias Grünewald, c 1512-1516

In both the church and the academy I have found this question classically formulated, as I’m sure you have as well, in the following: “So, what about those who have not heard the gospel of Jesus Christ? Will they also have eternal-life or will they go to the no-life of hell?” I offer a two-fold response… First, each of us must discover our particular gifts and be faithful in ministering these God-given gifts to the Church and in the world with love (Ephesians 3:10) – hopeful and prayerful that the Holy Spirit will use the ministering of these gifts in bringing the whole world whom God so deeply loves (John 3:16) to Christ and so into salvation. Second, is the ultimate mystery of God. Salvation of the world is of God and not man and thus finally is a mystery: Jesus accomplished salvation. How, meanwhile, he intends to incorporate those outside the scope of his Church into his salvation, we leave in the mystery of God’s gracious hands. As Jesus perks our ears earlier in John’s gospel: “And I have other sheep, who are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16).
 

Lenten Devotional, Feb. 19 – by Nicholas Stark

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Scripture First Youth on “I AM the Way, Truth and Life”

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;” John 11:25 This verse reminds me that even though someone really close to me has past away, they still live on in heaven. Not too long ago my great grandpa past away, he was old so we kind of saw it coming but it was still very sad. Although I didn’t get to see him often, because I was busy and he lived six hours away, I still felt very close to him. He was really into golf and he’s the one that got me into it by hand making me my own driver when I was little. He was a great man and a great role model. My mom always talked about how he was hard on her to be a good kid and it has turned her into what she has become today. I want to grow up to be like my great grandpa and live a healthy long life with a great family. But now that he’s past away I still know he’s watching from heaven and cheering for me whenever I golf. John 12:23-25 says it perfectly: “Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’” I interpret that as if you live a good life, are happy, and believe in God, you will die because it’s natural, but you will live happy in heaven. But if you live self centered and don’t believe in God once you die you will live the same unhappy life for eternity. So make the most of your life and live happy and follow God’s word.

Dear God, thank you for another great day here on your wonderful earth. I ask for your forgiveness so that I may live a wonderful and prosperous life here on this earth and in heaven. In your name I pray. Amen.
 

Lenten Devotional, Feb. 20 – Jeff Backer, Intern Pastor

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Pastoral Reflection on “I AM the Way, Truth and Life”

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

This well known “I AM” statement that we hear from Jesus is part of a text that is often spoken in times at the end of life or at funerals. It summates the text about there being “many rooms in my Father’s house; and I go to prepare a place for you.” He goes on to give the assurance that he will come again to gather us to himself. 

Jesus makes this statement in a three-fold understanding: He is the way, he is the truth, and he is the life.

The “I AM” statement that he is “the way” leads one to a certain understanding that no one can come to God except through Christ. Before Christ, access to God was prohibited. Even Moses did not look on God’s face, but is given the name “I am who I am” out of the burning bush. If we look back into the Old Testament, the only persons that were allowed “access” were the Levites; the priests. Once each year, the high priest entered the “Holy of Holies” in the Tabernacle or Temple. This was the place that the Ark of the Covenant was kept, and was believed to be the place where God resided. In Christ, this understanding changed, we are given access through God’s choosing, in the form of his Son. In an interesting twist, in the book of Acts, we hear that Paul is on the road to Damascus to go and arrest those that are part of “the way,” that is believers in Christ. 
Jesus as truth can also be understood through the lens of scripture all the way from the beginning of the book of Genesis, though we as humans did not see this truth until God reveals his Son in the incarnation. Genesis starts, “In the beginning…” The prologue of the Gospel of John gives us the same sense of understanding. It begins, “In the beginning was the Word…” The Word of God for us is Christ himself. From the very beginnings of creation, the red thread throughout scripture is pointing to Jesus Christ. Jesus is the truth because he is the subject of the promises that God has given to humankind. 

Jesus Christ is the life. It is in the promises that claim us through the gospel that leans us forward. Those that are in Christ have already suffered death, and have been reborn in Christ. Many look at life as an A to Z timeline, birth to death. But those baptized into Christ were born, put to death in baptism, and are raised to know a life now in eternity where death has no dominion. This is true life. 

This sermon from Jesus Christ gives us a promise. He says, “I AM.” We have access to God, to hear the truth in Christ, and to live a life of faith. He gives us the gift of faith to trust that HE IS, to know with certainty that this promise is FOR YOU. It is through faith in the promise that allows us to live open-endedly!
 

Thursday, February 15 – By Kiri Jacobsen

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Week #1: “I AM the Way, Truth and Life” – John 14:6
Question: How is this “I Am” good news for you?

“I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” is a scripture verse heard quite often and in many different situations. It quickly becomes one of the first verses learned as a child and because of its natural rhythm becomes easy to not only memorize but mindlessly recite at the drop of a hat for years to come.

Unfortunately, this “muscle memory” prevents people from being forced to think about what the text truly says AND MEANS. What does it mean when Jesus tells his disciples that he is the way, truth, and life? Why does it matter?

When God brought his one and only son Jesus Christ into the world, Jesus became the bridge between God and the people on Earth. Jesus lived among the people but was still one with God. When someone saw Jesus, they saw the Father. When Jesus spoke, the words were not his own, but of the Father “living in me, who is doing His work.”

Most importantly, when Jesus was persecuted by strangers, by his friends, by us – when he hung on two pieces of wood nailed together and breathed his last breath, a beautiful pathway opened.

Jesus Christ, died on the cross to become the way of salvation for us sinners. He died on the cross so that our sins: lying, stealing, desiring that $500 suit, and hoping something happens so you can win the house from the other couple bidding against you, is forgiven. UNCONDITIONALLY.

Jesus Christ’s Word becomes flesh among us. His Word is truth to us. The truth in Jesus Christ’s death is our salvation, and thus our life. This promise is great news for us sinners. We can now live our life knowing that each mistake we make is forgiven because of Jesus’ death on the cross.

Jesus Christ told his disciples that “no one comes to the Father except through me.” It was through Christ dying on the cross for the forgiveness of all our sins that death does not have the final say over us. We are able to live life knowing that when we die, the tomb is only a layover on our way to heaven, where we will live eternally with our Father, Jesus Christ.

Dear Jesus, thank you for this day and thank you for everything you have blessed us with. Even though it’s hard to say it, thank you for the struggles we go through on a daily basis. Lord, please be with our families and please be with me. Please continue working through me Lord so that I may become a light to other people, the way Jesus was a light for you. I love you Lord so, so much. In your name I pray, Amen.

Ash Wednesday, February 14 – By Hannah Wollenzein

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Week #1: “I AM the Way, Truth and Life” – John 14:6
Question: What does Jesus mean by this “I Am”? Explain the metaphor.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

The phrase “I am” is not new to any of us, I’m sure. We likely say it hundreds of times daily; perhaps so much that it is tempting to get lost in the ordinariness of the phrase. “I am hungry,” “I am excited,” “I am cold.” I am so used to this being a phrase of the ordinary that the significance of Jesus’s seven “I am” phrases in the gospel of John was lost at first glance. Curious about the importance of these words, like the good scientist I am, I decided to examine the use of “I am” in the Bible.

The first significant use of “I am” comes in Exodus. God says to Moses at the burning bush “I am who I am,” which may seem to us as a rather strange phrase. However, to Hebrew speakers, “I am” translates to ehyeh, which biblical scholars believe is the first-person derivation of YHWH, the biblical name of the God of Israel. God saying to Moses “I am who I am” is not some strange “God saying,” it is quite literally God revealing Godself to Moses. Keeping this in mind, Jesus saying “I am” or “ehyeh” is Jesus revealing himself to be God. In biblical times, this would have been a hugely powerful statement, even blasphemous. In fact, in John, a crowd attempts to stone Jesus for using this type of “I am” phrase. Jesus’ “I am” declarations are anything but ordinary. He is revealing himself to be God, the word made flesh. 
Aside from the vast implications of the Hebrew translations of “I am,” I think the English description of God as “I am” is also powerful. God exists in present tense because God transcends time. God is not only the past and a promise for the future, God is always the here, now, and extraordinary God. 

In John 14, Jesus declares to the disciples at the last supper, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The way indicates that knowing Jesus is the path to knowing God. Jesus stating he is one with the truth tells us that he and his teachings are the one true teaching of God. There are no “alternative truths.” It is Jesus alone that is God made flesh. When Jesus says he is the life, he is further solidifying his identity as God in human form, as God is the gift of life for us. Jesus being given to us by God and dying for our sins granted eternal life in God to us. Without the sacrifice of Jesus, we would have no life. 

Dear Lord, thank you for never being ordinary. Help us to see the power in your words and works daily in our lives, as you are with us at all times, not just in our past and future. Let us remember that knowing you is the way and the truth and the life. Amen.