Category: John

John 20:1-18

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on March 27, 2016.

Hermano Leon
Hermano Leon

Gardens are important, crucial even, to the flow of the grand biblical narrative.  The Bible opens in a garden, with God making all things bright and beautiful.  At the end of every day, God delights in the goodness of creation.  Of course, the pinnacle of God’s work are human beings, who bear the very image of God.  God, the chief gardener, invites Adam and Eve to join in as God creates and cares for a diversity of plants and animals, all of which are participating in the gift of life. Of course, it’s also in the Garden of Eden that God’s good creation goes terribly wrong.  What began as intimate web of relationships between humans, God, and all creation, turns to fracture and blame.  Where once there was no shame, now people are covering themselves.  Where once there was mutual relationship, now there is hiding in the bushes and the development of power structures.

The biblical canon closes with a garden as well in Revelation 22.  It seems as though the idyllic Eden will return, with the Gardener as its central focus.  All will be prayer and praise.  Everything will live in shalom.  What’s broken will be mended.  What’s lost will be found.  What’s wrong will be righted.  Paradise will be restored.

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John 12:1-8

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on March 13, 2016.

Martha and Mary - Denis
Martha and Mary – Denis

This week’s lectionary passage continues with the theme of generous hospitality and extravagant love. Last week, a father celebrated the return of his prodigal son (Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32). This passage describes Mary’s generous act of anointing Jesus’ feet with costly perfume. The narrative begins with his return to Bethany. The Passover is now just six days away, an indication to the knowledgeable reader that the time of Jesus’ death is fast approaching. Jesus returns to the home of Lazarus whom he raised from the dead (John 11:1-44). This was a moving encounter in which Jesus grieved with his dear friends, Martha and Mary, and then restored their brother back to life. The experience certainly cemented the sisters’ devotion to Jesus. No doubt the entire family welcomed him back warmly into their home. In fact, they are giving a dinner in his honor. It is not hard to imagine the joyous reunion and precious fellowship shared between hosts and guests. This must have been an encouragement in the midst of a tense time when Jesus’ life is being threatened because of the act of raising Lazarus (John 11:53-57). Jesus’ relationship with the three siblings reminds us of his commitment to friendship, and the calling to love others even when it requires significant personal sacrifice and even risk. This is an important theme in John’s gospel (John 15:1-17).

On this occasion, Martha takes on her customary role of serving the meal, and Mary continues to defy societal expectations (Luke 10:38-42). Mary is pictured as a committed disciple whose focus continues to be on her love for her Lord. The act of anointing Jesus with expensive perfume is remarkable for a few reasons. First, the perfume is ridiculously costly. Nard would have been used to anoint those most worthy of honor. It was imported from India, and the narrative notes that it was pure, not watered down. Any practical soul would find a way to honor Jesus that did not require the use of an item costing approximately a year’s wages for the average day laborer. It would have been common to wash a guest’s feet, but to do so with a liquid that could have been used more sensibly (as Judas notes succinctly) seems highly questionable. The passage does not identify Mary’s motivation for this act. Perhaps she was overcome with gratefulness at the restoration of Lazarus and was simply so devoted to Jesus that she sought to her express her appreciation in the fullest way possible.

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John 2:1-11

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on January 17, 2016.

Schnoor Von Carolsfeld
Schnoor Von Carolsfeld

There was a reoccurring segment on Sesame Street in which the camera would focus on four items.  Three of them would be the same and the fourth, similar in some way, but distinctively different in another.  In this reoccurring segment, a song would always accompany the puzzle with the lyrics, “one of these things is not like the others.”  That is not a bad way to think about John.  John is a gospel and as the other three do, tells the passion of Jesus with an extended introduction.  But John is also distinct.  Let me point out two the obvious ways in which it is a departure.  In the synoptics, Jesus is an advocate of the Kingdom.  In John, Jesus is an advocate of Jesus, who is the full revelation of God’s glory.  In the synoptics, Jesus preforms miracles, the Greek dynamis.  That word means acts of power and it is the word from which we get the word dynamite.  In John, Jesus preforms signs, the Greek semeion.  Miracles point to the features of the kingdom; signs establish Jesus’ credibility.

John is divided into the “book of signs,” chapter 1:19 – chapter 12, and the “book of glory,” chapters 13-20.  The wedding at Cana is the first sign.  I gave that long introduction because it is crucial for understanding this otherwise seemingly odd and uniquely Johannine miracle.  This story is loaded with symbolic imagery, each of them worthy of extended attention.  But what remains most important is that Jesus is establishing credibility and unveiling his nature, which was mapped out for readers in the prologue found in the previous chapter.  Wine is very often associated with joy.  This sign characterizes the nature of Jesus’ reign.  In this regard it is worth noting that the sign is not without eschatological significance.  In the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus begins the party that will reach it’s fulfillment in his Eschaton.

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John 1:(1-9), 10-18

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on January 3, 2016.

John 1 1-18I’m never entirely sure what to do when the lectionary hands me a set of verses, half of which are in parentheses.  Does that mean those verses are a suggestion or does it indicate they are less crucial to the liturgical season on hand? Or does the lectionary committee simply mean to honor my skill as a preacher treating me like a quarterback with an ability to call an audible after a quick look at the congregation.  “This bunch looks engaged, I think I’ll unpack the cryptic prologue,” or “This group looks like they’ve been to a Christmas party thrown by Christians who’ve found their freedom in Christ, I better stick with the basics.”

Then again I find that I’m always asking that sort of question of John, no matter what the season is or what verses I’m assigned.  I have to slow down for John more than any other gospel.  It has been said that the fourth evangelist provides waters in which elephants can swim and children can wade.  John is consistently assigned the eagle when the church is distributing the images of the four creatures found in Ezekiel and Revelation.   Why?  Because with that eagle we share a high-flying omniscient perspective.  That’s helpful because in John we are constantly looking at the layers of meaning.  Take for example Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus in chapter three when Jesus tells him that he will be “lifted up.”  The Greek word is hypso and it can me just that, lifted up, as in Jesus was lifted up off of the ground on a cross or it can mean exalted, as in being an elevated object of worship.  John uses this kind of double entendre often, leaving clever interpretation to his readers.

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