Follow by Email (Make sure you check your email and accept!)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday September 30th, John 6.22-29

John 6.22-29

22The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone.23Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.24So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.25When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”26Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”
28Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Thoughts:  Here we have the beginning of a very sad section of John's Gospel.  The people are looking for Jesus because he feed their physical hunger--not because of who he is.   Jesus challenges us to hunger for him just as powerfully and naturally as we hunger for bread.   There is more at stake in life than just having our fill.  There is a deeper spiritual hunger that most also be addressed.  For those of us who follow Jesus--he is that bread.   That is, the very thing that gives us life.

Questions:  If someone miraculously provided for your needs one evening, would you chase them down the next day and try to get more?   Do you think the peoples question is sincere---'what must we do to perform the works of God?' Or do you think they wanted to know what they needed to do to get more free bread and fish?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday September 29, John 6.16-21

Boat on the Sea of Galilee, AKA the Sea of Tiberias,
AKA  The sea of Geneserate

John 6.16-21

16When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea,17got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.18The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.19When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified.20But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”21Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

Thoughts: Some Biblical scholars feel as if this story of Jesus coming to the disciples is actually a post resurrection story.   Regardless it is full of mystery and wonder.  And yet it is a story that brings comfort to many of us.  Here the disciples are--all alone--facing a storm, struggling at the oars and who shows up---Jesus!  He calls out for us to not be afraid and when we reach to bring him into the boat, alas our ordeal is over and we've reached the shore.   Not only is Jesus here the master of wind and wave, he is the bringer of peace in the midst of the storm.   That image alone could be the meditation of a lifetime.

Questions:   I often say that fear is the opposite of faith.  Do you agree?  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesday September 28, John 6.1-15

Tabgha as it is known.  One of the earliest Christian mosaic
known to exist, from near the site of the fishes and loaves.

John 6.1-15

6After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.2A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.3Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.4Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.7Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him,9“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”10Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.11Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.12When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.”13So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
15When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Thoughts:  Are people a problem or an opportunity?   Is there not enough, or more than we can imagine?  This story of the miraculous feeding of the 5000 occurs in all the Gospels and is a long time favorite of the Church.  What I think is so interesting is that everyone had as much as they wanted (vs 11).   This is God's economy where there is a superabundance for all.   I think this miracle reminds us that my brothers and sisters are not my competition; but fellow travelers, fellow guests at the divine table.  And that unlike what the world would have me believe, there is enough for all of us.  Enough food--yes; but also love, mercy and room at the feet of Jesus.

Questions:  What do you make of Jesus command to gather up the left overs (fragments) so that nothing might be lost?  Is he still talking about bread?  Why do you think is the motivation for the people wanting to make him King? 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tuesday September 27, John 5.31-47

John 5.31-47

31“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true.32There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true.33You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth.34Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved.35He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.36But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.37And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form,38and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.39“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.40Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.41I do not accept glory from human beings.42But I know that you do not have the love of God in you.43I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him.44How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God?45Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope.46If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.47But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”

Thoughts:  There is a tiny little verse tucked within this reading that I think holds a lot for us to think about.  In verse 39 Jesus says: "You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf."  Theologically speaking it is Jesus who is the Word of God.   Holy Scripture is not technically the Word of God but it points us to the Word or reveals the Word--who is Jesus.   This may seem like a simply word trick; but it is very important.  We do not worship scripture, we worship the one to whom scripture points.   The power of scripture--the Gospel--is that as Jesus says it reveals himself (Jesus) to us.  It is only Jesus who saves.   That is why Lutherans have always said that while we find both Law and Gospel in the pages of scripture; and while both are important, it is only the Gospel, that is Jesus, that saves.   I think here Jesus was saying you pour over the scriptures as if these words on a page were the source of eternal life, they are not.  They point to the one who is!  Many Christians today get caught up in trying to solve mysteries of prophetic words found in the Bible, they get caught up on obscure verses and Jesus would say they swallow camels but strain out the gnats!   We do best when we keep our eyes on Jesus.

Questions:  What is your relationship with scripture?  Is it a long love affair?  A love/hate relationship?  A distant romance?  A flirtatious exchange?  A life long commitment?

Monday September 26, John 5.17-30

John 5.17-30

17But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” 18For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God. 19Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. 20The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. 21Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. 22The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, 23so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25“Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; 27and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. 30“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Thoughts.  I remember showing the movie The Gospel of John during Lent a few years ago and one of the comments I got was how confrontational Jesus often sounded.  It is true, in John's Gospel Jesus is often in direct confrontation with the authorities.  Part of this is historical.  John's Gospel was written during a time of great tension between the synagogue and the fledgling church.  This historical tension that the author of John's Gospel felt personally gets reflected also in his writing.   John's purpose is to bring us to faith in Jesus.  He's trying to make that folks realize the claims that Christians are making--that Jesus is GOD WITH US!  If this is so, then all other claims become subservient to Jesus--including laws like healing on the Sabbath.
Questions:  It seems that many folks took offense at Jesus?  Do you think modern folks take offense at Jesus?  If so, what is so offensive about him?  Are we followers of Jesus guilty of over looking this reality--or soft selling Jesus' claims?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

September 25, 2011--Story

John 5.1-16

Beth-zatha today

5After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.2Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes.3In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.5One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.6When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”7The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.”8Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.”9At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath.10So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.”11But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’”12They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?”13Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there.14Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.”15The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.16Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath.

Thoughts:  Do you want to be made well?   What a question.  Of course I want to be made well, healed of my infirmities, healed of my prejudices, healed of my hatreds, healed of my rationalizations....hmmm.  Do I want to be healed?   This is such an interesting question that Jesus asks the man at the pool.  In truth, the man never does answer the question before Jesus has ordered him to pick up his mat and walk!   

Questions:  What would be different in your life if Jesus "healed" you right now?   Do you think rules are made to be broken or are you a stickler that things are done RIGHT!   Why do you think Jesus purposely healed on the Sabbath?  Couldn't he had come back the next day?   When have you allowed the "rules" to get in the way.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saturday September 24, John 4.43-54

John 4.43-54

43When the two days were over, he went from that place to Galilee44(for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in the prophet’s own country).45When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the festival; for they too had gone to the festival.46Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum.47When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.48Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”49The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.”50Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way.51As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive.52So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.”53The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he himself believed, along with his whole household.54Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.

Comments:  There is quite a wide range of folks who are coming to Jesus: Nicodemus, religious leader who doesn't quite get it; woman of Samaria to whom is revealed that Jesus is hte Messiah, and now a royal official whose son is ill and who begs Jesus to come down with him to heal the son.  This official however has no time for conversation, his child is dying.   Jesus begins with a bit of a rebuff about folks always wanting signs, but the man is insistant in only one thing, Jesus coming to heal his son.   Instead, Jesus simply says--"Go; your son will live."   And he believes.  And here is the second of Jesus signs.  But I have to wonder, is it the sign of the sick child recovering or is it the sign of faith, when someone can believe in Christs words even with no evidence to substantiate his claim.   Fith, hears and believes.

Thoughts:  Can you take someone at their word or do you need to see everything up front?   What kind of faith did the royal officail have.  What would it take for you to have such faith?  

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday September 23, John 4.1-42

John 4.1-42

Woman at the well by:  He Qi
4Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John”2—although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized—3he left Judea and started back to Galilee.
4But he had to go through Samaria.5So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.7A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”8(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”16Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.”17The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;18for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”19The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet.20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”25The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.”26Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
27Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?”28Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people,29“Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”30They left the city and were on their way to him.31Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.”32But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”33So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?”34Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.35Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.36The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.37For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’38I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”39Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.”40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.41And many more believed because of his word.42They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

Questions:  Have you every had a serious religious conversation with someone?  Are you able to agree to disagree or do you need others to embrace your position.   What started this conversation between Jesus and the woman (look at verse 7).  How might you entertain such lofty conversations?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thursday September 22, John 3.31-36

John 3.31-36

31The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all.32He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony.33Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true.34He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.35The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands.36Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.

Comments:  My first thought this morning is that how quickly the wonderful chapter of John 3.16, turns to the wrath of God!  Remember the context, this is so important.  Jesus is STILL speaking with Nicodemus, one who came in the dark, one whom others trust as a religious leader, and yet Jesus seems to be suggesting all along that even folks like Nicodemus (not by intention) are living in the dark!   This is a serious spiritual problem and it can only be cured by God!   God has now come in Chirst, to show that it is the work and righteousness of GOD that brings salvation, not human work.  Yet this desire to hang on to our own way, our own path, our own deep seated preferences and prejudices will prove difficult for many of us to give away.   Notice, it's not that God wants them to endure God's wrath, but that there is no other possible destination for those who insist on salvation being the result of their own effort.  These who insist on this attempt will find themselves constantly running into the 'wrath,' the law of God that so quickly shows our brokeness.  On the contrary, to lean on Christ is to no longer be bound by the law--nor it's wrath!

Questions:  Have you heard the word: Universalist?  A universalist is someone who believes that ultimately all people will be saved by God through Christ. How would a universalist look at todays reading?  Does wrath equate with damnation?   Did you notice the language being used, did it sound like a personal conversation (between Jesus and Nicodemus) or more like a court room?  What is the testimony do you think that has been offered?  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesday September 21, John 3.22-30

John 3.22-30

22After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he spent some time there with them and baptized. 23John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim because water was abundant there; and people kept coming and were being baptized 24—John, of course, had not yet been thrown into prison. 25Now a discussion about purification arose between John’s disciples and a Jew. 26They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27John answered, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. 28You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ 29He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. 30He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Thoughts:  The baptism that John the baptizer and Jesus offered were not Christian baptism.  Instead it was a form of an entrance ceremony that communicated a new start, a literal turning of oneself around so that one might reorient oneself to a life that is turned toward God.   In some ways we are talking about conversion.   Latter, Jesus is going to connect Christian baptism to his life, death and resurrection.   Christian baptism is not based in the the repentance of sin or the turning of oneself around; but in the joining with Christ and being connected with him to the promises of salvation.   Jesus honors John by not only being baptized by him in the Jordan, but also by likewise sharing in his mission to call folks to repentance.  But as John himself said, this will decrease as the good news of God in Christ must take prominence.
Questions:  Do you think it's OK for Christians to be rebaptized?  Is baptism about you or about God?  Is it still important to have a time of repentance and renewal?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday September 20, John 3.16-21

Remember him?
John 3.16-21  16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

Thoughts:  Verse 17 calls on us to see that the Son has been sent not to condemn the world but to save it.  Thus as the serpent was raised in the desert by Moses, so Jesus becomes the means by which we are saved.  But this salvation also has a secondary impact in that it exposes the darkness.   Remember Nicodemus came to Jesus at night and here Jesus is reflecting on the fact that his (Jesus) presence is going to shine light into the darkness, and that while many will come to him, others will prefer to stay in the dark.   For me this is an invitation for confession.  To name the darkness in which I find myself  entangled and then from the midst of that place to look to the cross of Christ for strength and forgiveness.

Questions:  For God so loved the world.... This has been called the Gospel in a nutshell (John 3.16).   Do you think it expresses fully the good news we have in Christ?   What darkness in your life do you think needs to be exposed by the light of Christ?  Would you be willing to pray for Jesus to expose that darkness right now?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday September 19, John 3.7-15

John 3.7-157Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Thoughts:  Martin Luther reminds us that the Holy Spirit blows when and where it wills, that is we cannot control the activity and presence of the Spirit.  I think Jesus is using this analogy over against the set and rather precise ways of the Pharisees.  It wasn't that the Pharisees were bad people--they weren't; but they were folks who had a pretty firm understanding of what God wanted and what God didn't, that is they were rather rigid.   God is always surprising God's people and whenever we think we have a handle on God---that is when we have probably lost our way.   But there is good news.  Just as Moses fashioned a bronze serpent in the wilderness as a kind of magical totem to heal the people of Israel who had been bitten by the snakes, so Jesus will be lifted up and serve as the means of salvation. 
Questions:  What do you think "Son of Man" means?  Do you think Nicodemus was getting frustrated at Jesus?  What part of following Jesus do you find most confusing?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday September 18. John 3.1-7

John La Farge, 1880  Smithsonian
Jesus and Nicodemus
 John 3.1-7

3Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’

Thoughts: Nicodemus comes at night.  He is a Pharisee and a member of the high council--an important man, but also one who is very careful with whom he is seen.  In John's Gospel night is much more than just reference to the sun, it is an indication of disbelieve, lack of faith and spiritual darkness.   Nicodemus comes at night and thus Jesus tells him that he is going to have to be born from above!  Or as our Evangelical friends like to say--born again.   This however does not mean some kind of subjective personal experience as many in America like to think; but a total new way of looking at the world.  What Nicodemus needs is a new start, from scratch, an openness to that which God is doing through Jesus.   What about us?  Have we gotten ourselves into a kind of spiritual rut whereby we too need to be reborn?

Questions to ponder:  What do you think Nicodemus risked by going to see Jesus?  What signs do you think Nicodemus is talking about--the clearing of the Temple, the miracle at Cana?  Do you think Nicodemus understood what Jesus was getting at--why or why not?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saturday Sept 17th: John 2.13-25

Benardino Mei: 1655 Cleansing of the Temple 
You can see this
at the J.Paul Getty!
 John 2.13-2513The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

23When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. 24But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.

Thoughts:  Some people don't like this story about Jesus, a snorting, angry Jesus who makes whips and drives people out of the temple.  This probably stems from our own uncomfortableness with anger.  But there is such a thing as righteous anger, and that is exactly what Jesus is displaying.  The Temple was supposed to be a place of prayer and where one finds the presence of God.  Instead, at least on that day according to Jesus, the Temple looked more like a place of crooked commerce and shady deals.   Did you notice that John has this story of the cleansing of the Temple here in the beginning of his Gospel?  The other three Gospel writers have it at the end of their gospels and a leading component of Holy Week--not John.  John has much that contradicts the other three Gospels.  But we must remember that John is not interested in writing a biography of Jesus; but of bringing you to faith.  He freely relocates a story if it suits his agenda of helping to tell the bigger story of who Jesus is.
One final thought.  There is a little verse that I find to be very sobering.  Verse 24 reminds us that Jesus knowing all people would not entrust himself to them.  Wow.  That is really the full force of the law.  We are in need of the Holy Spirit to help us be transformed, otherwise our wills remain in bondage to sin and Jesus knows full well where that will lead--away from the father.
Your thoughts:  What about this passage surprises you?  Since Jesus is without sin what does that say about least some anger?   What do you think Jesus means by connecting his body/himself to the Temple?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Sept. 16: John 2.1-12

Jars like these would have been at Cana
 John 2.1-12

2On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

12After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days.

Thoughts:  This is the first of 7 signs in John's Gospel that point beyond the act itself to something much bigger.  Signs are different from miracles as they act as beacons along the way that help us understand who Jesus is.  So what is the sign of the water turned into wine pointing to or toward?   Some see in the reference to it being the "third day" a clue that we are to understand this event in the context of the resurrection.  After three days, all that we thought we knew about life will be turned upside down!  That is, at the wedding they believed the party was over, the wine had run out...and so it is with all good things, they eventually come to an end.  However, on the third day that we call Easter, God has proclaimed that death no longer has the ability to ruin the party--that their is a new covenant or promise being made where life to come, like the wine that Jesus produced, will be even better than that which we have originally known.
Your thoughts:  Is there something else that they could be pointing to or toward?  What is your take on the exchange between Jesus and his mother Mary?  Does it seem harsh to you?  Of course being a good Jewish boy...he does listen to his mother.  What does that tell you about Jesus? About Mary?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thursday Sept: 15th: John 1.43-51

John 1.43-51

43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Thoughts: I like Nathanael!  He's a pure skeptic, but with an open heart.  Philip had been found by Jesus and invited to "follow me." Now in his excitement Philip goes and finds his friend Nathanael and tells him that they have found the Messiah, a Jesus from Narareth.  Now Nazareth was known as a kind of blue colar place that certainly wouldn't produce anyone or anything of much importance. Nevertheless, Nathaniel goes with Philip and has an encounter with Jesus.  We have to read through the lines, but it appears that Nathanael must have had some kind of personal prayer or spiritual experience underneath a fig tree--one that was very private.  When Jesus proves that he is more than meets the eye, Nathanael is ready to follow.   I think it's natural to be a bit skeptical.  But I learn one important lesson from Nathanael...don't be so skeptical that you miss an opportunity to see Jesus!
Your thoughts:  What is it about the Christian faith that makes you a bit skeptical?  Have you ever had your initial skepticism proven wrong?   Do you have prejudices like Nathanael that might get in the way of your faith?  (nothing good can come out of Nazareth)?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wednesday Sept 14: John 1.35-42

John 1.35-4235The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”

37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When 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?” 39He 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. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42He 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).

Thoughts:  I was told in seminary to pay particular attention to the first and last words of Jesus in any particular Gospel that you are reading.  Today, we get Jesus' first words: "What are you looking for?"   I think these are words that should still today stop us cold in our tracks.  What am I looking for?    If we dare to answer that questions the results can be quite interesting if not a little disturbing.   Do the things I seek connect to those values of which I confess to be about?   What are you looking for?   Andrew and the others stumble around this question and finally they ask literally, "Where do you abide?"  Or, as it gets translated "Where are you staying."  But the question is deeper than just what address can I find you at.  Where do you abide, in waht are YOU rooted, from whence does your life flow?  Jesus' answer: Come and see!   For the faith is only caught not taught.  It is something that must be experienced and only then can we find out whether or not we too would like to 'abide' in him?

What do you think?  What do you think about the earliest form of finding disciples...word of mouth!  Is it hard for you to share with others about Jesus?  Why?  Who first told you about Jesus?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday September 13: John 1.29-34

JOHN 1.29-34

29The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I 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.’ 34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

Thoughts:  John calls Jesus the Lamb of God.  Agnus Dei in the Latin, Lamb of God has long been one of my favorite images of Christ.  This of course is a reference to both the lamb which was used during Passover--and thus the angel of death passed over the homes of the ancient Israelites.  It also is connected to the daily sin offering of a lamb that was offered in the Temple (Exodus 29).  Here John lets us know that there is no longer the need for any more lambs, no more sacrafices are required.  In Jesus once can behold the Lamb of God, that is the perfect sacrafice, all that is and ever will be needed to but humanity right with God.   Thus John proclaims that this Lamb takes away the sin of the world!   That is an amazing statement...think about it, not just my sin, your sin, sin in the past, sin in the present, but sin of the world.  Remember our last reading about Moses bringing the Law?  Here we can see that John shows Jesus putting an end, or perhaps better understood 'fulfilling' what the law had always tried to do.
Questions:  If Jesus is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, then what is our role in salvation?   Do you think John really means the whole world?  What about folks who haven't confessed their sin or those who don't even know that they've sinned?  Does Jesus take away that sin as well?  

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday September 12, 2011: John 1.19-28

John 1.19-28

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” 21And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said. 24Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” 28This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

Thoughts:  Notice how John's Gospel doesn't have any of the Christmas story but it goes directly from the declaration of the Word made flesh to John the Baptizer (a different John) and the fascination the religious leaders have with him.   Who are you?  It's always an interesting question.  We not only want to know about others, but especially we want to know what they think about themselves.  John seems quite comfortable in his role.   It's as if in the great symphony of salvation John has one line and he's going to perform it well!    I have one little note:  take a look at verse 23:  (23He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said)   I want to suggest that there should be a comma after OUT and not after wilderness.   This would make John's message:  I am the voice of one crying out, in the wilderness make straight the way of the Lord.   In other word....John is coming into the wilderness of our lives and call us to take notice, to get ready for the one who is to come!
Questions:  If someone asked you "Who are you?" how would you answer?  Do you think John had the respect of the authorities or did they dismiss him?   What else do you know about John the baptist?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday September 11, 2011: John 1.1-18

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

15(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

Thoughts:  In the beginning.... I think John wants us to immediately think about the Genesis account of creation.  This is after all how the Bible begins, "In the beginning."  But John has a surprise for us, in the beginning was the "Word" which is God's ability to create and give order to life.  This "Word" was not only with God in the beginning, but now according to John this divine "Word" has come to us in the flesh.  God enfleshed--or as we better know the "Word"--Jesus. 

In a sense John is offering us insight into a new creation that is happening in Jesus Christ.  Indeed we in the church often talk about such things as conversion, basically the recreation of a persons heart, priorities and desires.   In Christ, God is once again exercising the creativity of God to claim and renew the world that God so loves.

Where have you seen the light of Christ shining in the world?   What part of your life could use a bit of 're-creation?'   What is John saying about God in the first few verses?   Can you understand why some folks have trouble understanding Jesus as God?

What do you think about this first reading?   Go ahead and post!  BTW the picture is a fragment of the Gospel of John dating from around 100 AD that was found in Egypt!