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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday November 29, John 21.20-25

John 21.20-25

20Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” 22Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” 23So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” 24This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. 25But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. The End

Thoughts:  For some reason these final verses of John's gospel seem unfulfilling.  Obviously there was some rumor about the death of the beloved disciple that this Gospel wanted to address; but it seems to interfere with what has been said thus far.  The final line is an important reminder, not everything that Jesus has said or done has been written down.   There is much more that we don't know about Jesus than we do know.  But John ends his Gospel confident that we have enough to enact the purpose of his bring us to faith.   I hope you've enjoyed the discipline of reading in John's Gospel and that you like Nicodemus find yourself on a journey toward the light.  Alleluia, Amen!
Questions:  What is the one thing you wish John had written about in regards to Jesus life?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday November 28, John 21.15-19

John 21.15-19

15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Thoughts:  Here it comes....Jesus is about to drop the hammer on Simon Peter for denying him 3 times!  That most have been how Simon felt, but I think there is more grace here than guilt.  Jesus seems to be offering Peter a chance to confess his love, one for each time he denied it.   But something else is peculiar about this text, love for Jesus is meet with a command to take care of others.  Here John's Gospel, like the parable of the Sheep and Goats in Matthew, makes the undeniable connection between love of Christ and love for those who belong to Christ.  Still we resist this message.  We like to think that our relationship with Christ is solely for personal salvation.  What could be further from the truth!  Our relationship with Christ is to empower us to be in relationship with the world he so loves!
Questions:  Why do you think we miss this connection between love of Jesus and love of neighbor? 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday November 27, John 21.1-14

John 21.1-14

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.”He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea.But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread.Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord.Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Thoughts:  I always joked with my various youth groups that if I were to start a Christian Punk band we would be called:  Go Fish Naked!  Because that is what we find here.  Peter, seemingly not knowing what to do with this resurrected Lord, goes back to the one thing he does know--fishing.  I think we have a lot in common with Peter.  Sometimes I think we struggle trying to know exactly what we are supposed to do with this resurrected Jesus.  Peter falls back on what he knows; but this will not be adequate.  Jesus has called him to something bigger.   We'll hear the rest of the story tomorrow, but nevertheless Jesus has come to Peter today and there will be no escaping the life giving words of this resurrected Christ!

Questions: Have you ever found yourself wanting to do one thing; but realizing your faith calls you to something different?  How did you resolve the conflict?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday November 26, John 20.19-31

John 20.19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Thoughts:  I love that Thomas simply wants to experience what everyone else got to see.  What I also marvel out is that in a weeks time, no one who was there and saw Jesus was able to convince Thomas that is was true.  Maybe there is something wonderful hidden in this text; maybe we need not worry about whether we can prove this or that to be true; maybe the truth is in the practice of our faith and the Holy Spirit will work faith where and when Jesus wills.  Thomas does indeed come to faith and Jesus honors his doubts with and invitation to 'come and see the marks and the wounds so that he (Thomas) may not forget.

Question:  The last lines above say that many other things about Jesus are not written in these books about Jesus.   What question about the life of Jesus would you ask if you could?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday November 25, John 20.11-18

John 20.11-18

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb;and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet.They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Thoughts: Mary's grief is shown in that even two angels can't bring her back to earth.  She is overcome with the thought that someone has done something to the body.  Then she here's her name.  "Mary... ."   Isn't that the promise which is set place before us all as well...we too are called by name.   Mary becomes the first witness of the resurrection and she then goes back to the disciples to verify that indeed Christ is risen!

Questions:  It is often said that the tomb is open to let us in; not to let Christ out.  Have you ever heard the Lord call you by name?   How?  When?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thursday November 24, John 20.1-10

John 20.1-10

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb.The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there,and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.Then the disciples returned to their homes.

Thoughts:  Did you notice that it is Mary Magdalene who comes alone and she is not coming to prepare the body with spices as that has already been done by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.   No Mary is coming to the tomb for the same reason we all go to tombs--to grieve, to remember, to go through a whole lists of could haves, should haves, would haves.  Her grief is interrupted by the fact that the body is not there and the tomb has been opened.    She runs to get Peter and the the other disciple.  As of yet, Easter morning is more confusing than anything.  I'm not sure what the other disciple believed, but certainly Mary is left in her grief.

Questions:  Have you ever gone to the graveside of someone and had a conversation?  What things do you think Mary Magdalene would have said at the tomb of Jesus?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wednesday November 23, John 19.38-42

John 19.38-42

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Thoughts:  It was Nicodemus who first came to Jesus by night; but now it appears that the night is giving way to a new dawn, as Nicodemus is able to show himself as a disciple of Jesus.  This will be a dangerous time to be the church; but those who dwelt in deep darkness, on them light has shined.   What I love about the story of Nicodemus is that he is not an instant convert, one of the heart and subjective emotionalism; no he is a convert of the mind that has come to see this Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah of God.  For both Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, fear is over come which leads to demonstrative faith.

Questions:  Have you ever kept your Christian faith in the shadows or hidden from others?  If so why?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday November 22, John 19.31-37

John 19.31-37

31Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. 35(He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) 36These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” 37And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”

Thoughts:  As the early Christians reflected on the crucifixtion of Jesus they went back to the scriptures to find places where such things had been foretold.  Especially in the suffering servant songs of Isaiah they found scripture that seemed to point toward what happened with Jesus.  This was important for two reasons:  one it showed that this was God's fulfillment of what went back to Abraham, that through him (Abraham) the world would be blessed; second it gave a new way to interpret what the Messiah was to be about, one based not on military conquest but faithful restoration of God's desires.   For many the account of blood and water coming from the spear inflicted wound is a reminder of the sacraments: Holy Communion (blood/wine) and Holy Baptism (water).

Questions:  How important is it that the Old Testament may have spoken prophetically about Jesus?  Is it a deal breaker if it hadn't?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday November 21, John 19.28-30

John 19.28-30

28After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Thoughts:  It is finished.  Three words that sum up what Jesus has done--death is finished, sin is finished, evil is finished. 
Questions:  Have you ever experienced the passing of someone from life to death?   How does it make you feel to know that because of Jesus none of us will every pass through that threshold of life to death being alone?

Reading for Sunday November 20, John 19.23-27

John 19.23-27

23When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” 25And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Thoughts:  John's gospel is unique in that one of the disciples is actually at the foot of the cross--John the beloved.   The other gospels tell us that none of the disciples where there.  Does it matter?  Sometimes I wonder if John in his telling of the story couldn't bear the truth that he also wasn't there, and so he 'remembered' the day as it should have been, a faithful beloved disciple there with his Lord.  Of course I have room for the fact that he WAS there and the other Gospel writers simply didn't have that straight, but it is curious nonetheless.  Some have said that perhaps John the beloved represents the church at this moment, and so Jesus is giving over to the church his mother to care for; but likewise his mother can see the church as a part of that which she has 'given birth.' 

Questions:   What do you think about the soldiers who gambled for his clothes?  Can we ever become so accustomed to cruelty and violence that it no longer causes us pain in our hearts?

Reading for Saturday November 19, John 19.17-22

John 19.17-22

17and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. 18There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.

19Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. 21Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

Thoughts:  It is very important for John that Jesus carried his cross himself.  There is no helper in John's gospel, no innocent bystander called upon to help.  No, in John's gospel it is Jesus alone who must carry this burden.  His help has already abandoned him as symbolized by Peter and now he is left to carry this burden alone.   The sign that Pilate wrote is the basis for the inscription you often see on a cross:  INRI   (Iesu Nazarene Rex Iudeam).

Questions:  Do you remember the first time you saw the Crucifixion depicted on the screen (either TV or Cinema) what was your reaction?  What about now?

Readings for Friday November 18, John 19.1-16

Ecce Homo, detail face of Christ, Renaissance Italy
John 19.1-16

19Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. 3They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. 4Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” 5So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” 6When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” 7The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.” 8Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. 9He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” 11Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” 12From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.” 13When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. 14Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” 15They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.”

16Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus;

Thoughts:  Behold the man.  Ecce Homo.  These are famous words in the church that show the Christ brought before Pilate as one who has been beaten and scourged in the name of justice.  It is an image that is better left to artists and poets than narrative, albeit one that demands are deepest thoughts and reflection.  What is crime?  Ultimately here in John's gospel the crime in insurrection.  Strange how this reading has fallen on the weekend that we celebrate "Christ the King."  Here is the king.
Questions:  Here is a tension between powers.  Do they always stand opposed?  Can earthly power ever faithfully stand with Christ?

Readings for Thursday November 17, John 18.28-40

John 18.28-40

28Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. 29So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” 31Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” 32(This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.) 33Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” 38Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. 39But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 40They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.

Thoughts:  This simply questions by Pilate seems to haunt all of history:  "What is truth?"  I think here in John's Gospel we are meant to ask that very question.  Is Jesus the truth or is he a fraud.  Is there truth in his words or are they the deliberations of a madman?  How will we respond to this Jesus who is equally before Pilate and us?   Pilate wants nothing to do with him, he is obviously more trouble than he's worth and so he will bypass the religious leaders and let the people have their way.  The problem is that like Peter, it seems the whole crowd has now come to deny this one they recently proclaimed as king.  Instead of Jesus, we would rather have Barabbas was a bandit. 
Questions:  What is your take on Pilate?  Do you think he was intrigued by Jesus or was he just not interested in what he saw as a squabble between folks he didn't really like anyways?

Readings for Wednesday November 16, John 18.12-27

Matthias Strom, 1630's
"Christ before Caiaphas"
John 18.12-27

12So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him.

13First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people. 15Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. 17The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself. 19Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. 20Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” 24Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. 25Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

Thoughts: Two people on trial here...both Jesus and Peter.  Jesus is being held on account of what he said and Peter is being tried on account of what he didn't say!  Here is one of the most intense moments in the Gospel of John, it is night and apparently Jesus who is the "light" of the world is shining so dimly that a small charcoal fire dominates.   Eventually even the light from that fire will prove too much for Peter as he is driven into the darkness.   I've always found this a helpful segment of John's Gospel in that there is a hidden promise here, that no matter how dark, Christ is still there.  He is hidden, but there.

Questions:  Have you ever experienced a 'dark night of the soul' when it seemed that even God had abandoned you?  Is it possible to be abandoned by God?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday November 15, John 18.1-11

John 18.1-11

1500's anonymous "The Capture of Christ."
18After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.2Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples.3So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.4Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?”5They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.6When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground.7Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”8Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.”9This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.”10Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus.11Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Thoughts:  After several rather heady readings we come to the Garden and the moment of Jesus' betrayal and arrest.  Several things strike me as interesting in this little passage.  First of all is the fact that the same question Jesus used in the beginning of the Gospel he uses here again, this time for the guards. "Whom are you looking for?"  Everyone is looking for Jesus, some to follow him and some to get rid of him.  What to make of Peter and his sword?  The servants name means "King" and I think that has to be important--somehow.  Here is a servant named King, and Jesus is a King who becomes a servant.  Both will end up being assaulted by violence.   I wish I had some deep thought to explain this connection, none comes to mind.  But it is interesting.  

Questions:  "I am he" and all the guards step back and fall to the ground.  What do you make of that?   Jesus when saying "I am" is in a sense invoking the divine name.   Does John show us this to remind us that while it is about to get ugly, Jesus is still in charge?

Monday November 14, John 17.12-26

John 17.12-26

12While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.13But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.14I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.15I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.16They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.
17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.18As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.19And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.
20”I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,21that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.22The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,23I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
24Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.25“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me.26I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Thoughts:  This is the ending of Jesus' high priestly prayer and I'm always drawn to the statement in verse 15 " 15I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one."  It seems that in Christ both heaven and earth are connected.  We are not called, nor does Jesus wish us to be 'out of the world' but prays for our protection while we are IN the world.  It seems that so many folks try to find holiness, try to find God by escaping the world and I don't see that as the Christina way.  I believe the wonder of Christianity is that we find holiness precisely in the world that often seems so 'unholy.'  That is we aren't called to be anything other than what we are: creatures in the world.  However, there is one difference, we are now creatures who abide in Christ and thereby like the incarnation itself, the mundane becomes filled with sacred possibility!

Questions:  How do you respond to your Christian friends who seem to believe the only role for a Christian is to get out of the world?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday November 13, John 17.1-11

John 17.1-11

17After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

6”I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.

11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

Thougths:  This is known as Jesus' high priestly prayer.  He is praying not only for the disciples present with him, but for all those who will come to know him.  In a sense this is Jesus' prayer for you and me!  Many folks like to think about his prayer for unity that we might be one over against the reality of the Christian church.  I rather think of this unity already having been accomplished.  We are one, because Christ makes us one.  We might sin and get in fights over doctrine and interpretation; but none of these things can deter from what Christ has already done--made us one.   No we are tasked with living into this unity that Christ has already established.  
Questions: Do you think the many different churches and denominations are a gift or a curse? Why?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday November 12, John 16.29-33

John 16.29-33    29His disciples said, “Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! 30Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.” 31Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

Thoughts:  It always seems like I must have missed part of this conversation!  "Yes, now you are speaking plainly..."  For what ever reason the disciples seem to think that they have come to a new level of cognitive understanding, what is ironic is that they new level of understanding is still going to be fraught with trouble.  They will still be scattered and ultimately abandon Jesus.  Funny how cognitive understanding sometimes is not enough.   But again Jesus doesn't chastise them in advance but more so he is giving them absolution!  Nevertheless, take courage; I have conquered the world!   What do you think that means?  Has Jesus run the perfect race, defeated temptation, remained righteous....hmmm.  Or is it that we see that the power, rulers and principalities of this world have no real power--as their greatest weapon death has been made null and void?   There is a great promise here.  Usually conquerors take over, they subject folks.  Jesus is a new kind of conqueror, he subjects himself as a servant.   Makes you go hmmmmm?
Questions: Is there a darkness that you need Christ to conquer for you?  Lift it up in prayer right now!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday November 11, John 16.23-28

John 16.23-28

23On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. 25“I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. 26On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.

28I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.”

Thoughts:  Just when you think the Gospel of John has helped clear up the relationship of the Son to the Father you get a passage like this and your head begins to hurt a bit.  At least mine does.  Here Jesus is reminding us of the intimate connection of God the Father and God the Son...and now of those whom are caught up in this love and intimately connected to God as well.   Some say that Christianity at its base is a relationship.  A relationship within the Godhead itself and a relationship between God and us. 
Questions:  I have to laugh when Jesus says that he is about done speaking in figures of speech--Amen!  But it got me thinking, what one clarifying question would I want to ask Jesus?  Why not ask it in prayer?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thursday November 10, John 16.12-22

John 16.12-22     12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

16”A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying to us, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18They said, “What does he mean by this ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’? 20Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. 21When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. 22So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Thoughts:  How do you prepare someone for bad news?  Do you sugar coat it and try to make things seem better than they are?  Do you just give them the truth having it hit like the sting of a band-aid that is ripped off the skin, or do you fall somewhere in between.  I think sometimes we forget what John is giving us in these chapters of his Gospel.  Jesus is about to die.  His relationship with his disciples will never be the same and he has so much he wants to tell them.   So many things, so little time!  Here he tries to make sure that they are prepared for the grief and anguish to come, but also here the promise that 'no one will take your joy from you."   That is an amazing word of Gospel.  NO ONE!  How wonderful is that!  

Questions:  The more I think about this last line, the more I'm pondering having it read at my funeral.  "So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and on one will take your joy from you."   That is just so powerful!  What lesson would you want read at your funeral?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wednesday November 9, John 16.5-11

John 16.5-11
5But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts.

7Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.

Thoughts:  This section of John's Gospel always seems so heady.   There is one thing here though that is easy to understand.  Somehow, the Holy Spirit is going to be reintroduced to the world in a powerful way.  I say reintroduced for certainly the Spirit of God has been around and about before this time.  Even Genesis 1 will talk about the Spirit of God hoovering over the waters, but there is something new about to happen.  Perhaps it is the Spirit infused with the power of the risen Christ, but whatever it might be--it is a gift that comes to keep the message of Jesus and alive and empowered.    Here in our little parish we get a glimpse of who this might work; while we say goodbye to one beloved staff member, we say hello to a new member who we learn to love in a different way.  So, Jesus again reminds the disciples they will not be orphaned, they will not be left alone.

Questions:  Have you every felt abandoned by God?  Do you think God is present even when we can't feel God?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday November 8, John 15.26 - 16.4

John 15.26 - 16.4

26”When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

16”I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. 2They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. 3And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. 4But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.

Thoughts:  As Jesus is preparing to leave this world he shares sobering words with his friends.  The mission of kingdom of God has been one of love; it will be met with hatred and even violence.  We don't like to think about it, or talk about it much in the United States--but still today Christians are being killed for their faith.  In the Sudan, Christians are buried up to their head and then stoned to death.  In Egypt Christians are burned and their homes and churches are set on fire.  Here is the challenge; how do we face such persecution with love?   Herein lies a great trap of evil, if a righteous anger can burn in us to the point of hate in which we become the brutalizers of God's children, then we no longer abide in Christ.  Who would have thought that LOVE would be so ill received?
Questions:  I'm thinking of the old preachers admonition:  If they were arresting people for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday November 7, John 15.18-25

Caravaggio, Crucifixion of Peter
 John 15.18-25

18”If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. 19If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. 20Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25It was to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’

Thoughts: Hate.  Such a strong word.  I don't think any of us want to be hated by the world, hated by anybody.  Yet Jesus here is making a very bold prediction:  His call to love one another and to serve one another will be met with anger and hatred.  It still is.   We watch what we say and to whom we say it because we know that the world is not based on love, but on fear.  Fear is what motivates markets, politics, faith communities and individual action.   So what happens when the God of love abides in us and we in him?  What happens when we begin to bear fruit and fear is replaced with love and peace.   We would like to think that everything falls into place; but the reality is this is a threat to the world.  If we do not fear the markets, fear our neighbor, fear our lose of control--then we become dangerous and it shouldn't surprise us if we are even hated, for the same thing happened to Jesus.
Questions:  Jesus reminds us that "servants are not greater than their master."  What does that mean to you?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday November 6, John 15.12-17

John 15.12-17  12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Thoughts:  John 15.16 is a verse that I give to almost every confirmation class that I've ever had.  It is such a wonderful verse.  First of all the Gospel is proclaimed with such clarity, "You did not choose me but I chose you."   Such a reminder in a culture that makes us want to believe that we make a decision for Jesus and this decision saves us.  No!  Jesus has made a decision for US, and it is his work on our behalf that grants the gift of salvation.  Having been given this gift, we are now appointed to be ambassadors if you will.  Folks who are out in the world bearing fruit!  I think we've heard this before.  But this is the Gospel that we must never get tired of hearing!
Questions:  What do you expect from a friend?  Can you imagine yourself as a friend of God?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Saturday November 5, John 15.9-11

John 15.9-11

9As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

Thoughts:  Joy.  I think this is exactly what we were thinking about in yesterday's reading.  There is joy in this fruit that is being brought forth, real joy.  Joy is an undervalued state of mind.  I often ask folks: "what brings you joy?"  If they have a hard time answering that question it is often times a symptom of a much deeper spiritual issue.  Christians can certainly be realists, but there is a joy that serves as the foundation of our lives that is at once mysterious and resolute. 
Questions:  What brings you joy?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday November 4, John 15.1-8

John 15.1-8

15”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide 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. 5I 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. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

Thoughts:  Again this 'abiding' issue.  Now it is given a new spin as it is compared to grapes growing on the branches that are connected to the vine.   To abide in Christ is to be the branches that bear fruit.  I always find it fun that the image is connected to grapes that would have then been made into wine.  In our culture where we see much destruction due to alcohol abuse we sometimes forget the joyful and celebratory nature of the fruit of the vine!   Thus our call to bear fruit is not a burden, but a celebration in that which we have found in Christ.
Questions:  What are the good fruits that God is expecting of you? 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thursday November 3, John 14.27-31

John 14.27-31  27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

28You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. 30I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.

Thoughts:  Peace, Power, Fear.   All of these words evoke images and emotions.   Jesus promises to leave his peace, peace unlike what the world gives (for peace in this world is often tentative and always seems to be in jeopardy) and so his peace must be permanent and secure.   The peace of Christ that passes all understanding and allows us then to go forward not in FEAR but in love.   If only I could keep my heart from being troubled or from letting fear sneak its way into my life...but here I'm reminded that the peace that comes in Christ is the antidote for such anxiety and fear.    Finally, Jesus reminds his disciples that evil has no power over him, that what is about to happen, happens because it is the will of God and not the assertion of evil on an otherwise glorious plan!

Questions:  Do you sometimes give evil too much credit?  When have you felt the peace of Christ?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wednesday November 2, John 14.23-26

John 14.23-26  23Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

25”I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

Thoughts:  Way back when we began reading John's Gospel, Andrew asked Jesus, "Where are you staying?"  And we talked about the word really is, where are you "abiding."   To what are you connected?  What is your home base so to speak.  When asked this question Jesus said, "Come and see."  Now we have a startling announcement.  Apparently Jesus and the Father are prepared to "abide" in us!  To be truly present in our lives as we move forward in love.  One would be tempted to say then that our very lives take on a sacramental nature, that is, God is truly present in, with and under all that we do, when we move forward in the love of Christ.   This reminds me of what is called "realized eschatology."  That is, the kingdom of God is not something to happen in the by and by; but is happening right now, in human lives that are motivated by love.

Questions: How do you think the Holy Spirit works in your life to REMIND you of these things?  Can you shut out the Holy Spirit or refuse to listen?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tuesday November 1, John 14.21-22

John 14.21-22  21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?”

Thoughts:  Such a little passage for today.  At first read I'm caught a bit off guard as it seems that this might be an "If - Then" kind of statement from Jesus.  IF you keep my commandments, THEN you'll be loved.  But that's not a faithful reading of the text.  It simply says that those who have Jesus' commandments (to love one another, to serve etc...) and keep them are those who love him.  Love is not a feeling, love is a choice.  And this choice of following in love will result in actions of love.  And in this very act of loving, we will begin to see Jesus (reveal myself to them) more clearly.   Love truly is the means by which one begins to see Christ and it is this lack of love for the world that keeps one from seeing Christ.  Very powerful little text.
Questioins:  Can you love someone and still not like them?  What does 'love' mean to you?