Tag Archives: John 1

March 22, 2015 (Year B Lent 5) Celtic Meditation

John 12:20-33

On his way to Jerusalem for what will be his last Passover, Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead; has been anointed by Lazarus’ sister, Mary, in what Jesus accepts as a pre-burial anointing; and has triumphantly arrived in Jerusalem. As the Passover approaches, Greeks, non-Jewish people, who were attracted to the God worshiped by the Jews, desire to see Jesus.[1] Jesus accepts this recognition from non-Jews as a sign that the hour for his glorification has come. Greek philosophy prized the good life and these Greeks must have heard something about Jesus that indicated that the good life was in him. But this good life is not what the ruler of the world offered then and continues to offer. The ruler of this world offers money, power, prestige, food and things as life, but this is not life that really satisfies. Jesus explains the paradoxical way of true life, eternal life, from an agricultural example.[2] Individual seeds die in order to produce fruit. Jesus was called to really die so that all might really live. Those who follow Jesus are called to die to the life the ruler of the world offers in order to really live. In what ways do we continue to seek after the things offered by the world rather than doing the hard work of following Jesus by living into our baptismal vows of turning from the ways that do not give life?

The work of dying for the sake of the world is not something that Jesus has looked forward to. Yet, the audible answer to his prayer is not for his comfort.[3] For the sake of the Greeks who represent the non-Jewish people of the world as well as Jesus’ disciples, God the Father audibly responds to Jesus’ prayer that the name of God be glorified. When have we, as church, heard the voice of God not for our sake, but for the sake of others?

When Jesus is lifted up, he draws all people to himself. God’s name is glorified at the crucifixion. With the scent of the anointing for his death probably still lingering about him, Jesus knew that he first had to suffer pain before he could enter into joy and his glorification.[4] Yet, in these Greeks who came to see him, Jesus saw the beginnings of the fruit of his death.[5] As followers of Jesus, what are we doing as a church community that demonstrates to us and to those around us that we are living fruit produced by Jesus’ death?

© 2015 Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, All Rights Reserved

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[1] For a detailed discussion of why the Greeks were not expected to respond and how the coming of the Greeks affected Jesus, see John A. Davis, “The Desire of the Nations—John 12:20-22,” The Reformed Theological Review, 69 no 3 (2010): 151-163.

[2] Last week, we heard the explanation of Jesus’ death on the cross from a Jewish perspective, using the history of the Jewish people to explain that when Jesus is lifted up from the earth on the cross, those who know they are dying from sin and trust God for healing through Jesus’ death, will be made alive.

[3] This is the second time in two chapters that Jesus explains that the purpose of a supernatural event was for the sake of those around him so that they could believe and make sense of what is to come. For the sake of Jesus’ disciples, Lazarus was raised from the dead (John 11:15-44) so that they would know that Jesus is the life-giver (John1:1-4, John 11:25-26), the one through whom the glory of God is revealed (John 11:40).

[4] Book of Common Prayer, Morning Prayer, collect for Friday.

[5] Richard L. Jeske, “John 12:20-36,” Interpretation 43 no 3 (1989): 292-295.

February 22, 2015 (Year B Lent 1) Celtic Meditation

Mark 1:9-15

In this season of Lent, we have the opportunity to consider how our identity as church is formed and confirmed in order to serve out of that identity. Before Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness, he was given a clear description of his identity through his baptism. How, for us as church, does baptism supply our identity so that we can stand firm against temptation?

Even though Jesus was away from human company during his temptation, he neither chose this isolation nor was he completely separated from God’s care. God’s holy angels waited on him and cared for him. Even in the wilderness, the desolate forsaken place, Jesus was in community with others who recognized his identity and came to support him in his time of temptation. In our evening prayers, we have the option to pray for God’s holy angels to lead us in paths of peace and goodwill [1] and for angels to be given charge over those who sleep.[2] Angels watching over and caring for God’s people is part of the biblical worldview that we tend to ignore in our day. How, as church, have we experienced God’s gracious care for us in unexpected, maybe even what some might call “supernatural,” ways?

In this gospel account, Jesus does not choose to go into 40 days of temptation. His 40 days are necessary in order for him to enter into solidarity with his people, past, present, and future. To understand how Jesus’ 40 days is entering into the larger story of redemption, we need to re-wind the story nearly 2000 years to the Exodus. God delivered the Israelites from slavery, which included taking them through the Red Sea which is a baptism into a new life of freedom to serve God. But after this mighty deliverance, they refused to trust God completely regarding entering into the land of Canaan. They did not live into this new identity given to them when they crossed the Red Sea. As penance, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Jesus symbolically enters into this penance even though he was not guilty of lack of trust, to demonstrate his solidarity with his people.[3] This action by Jesus signifies how he understands his identity in community. For some Christians, the practice of Lent includes imitating Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness in order to live into solidarity with Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for the sake of the world. This tradition is one way of practicing repentance, of turning away from what does not support our life as those baptized into Christ and to turn to a fuller expression of the baptismal life of trusting God’s declaration that through baptism we are God’s children (John 1:12). After his time in the wilderness of wrestling against temptation, Jesus returns to city life to proclaim that the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is near. The people of Israel had waited 40 years to enter into the land of Canaan. The people of God had waited for close to 2000 years between the giving of the Law through Moses to experience the grace that is given through Jesus (John 1:17). Jesus calls the people to repent and believe the good news that the kingdom of God is near. From what, as church, do we need to repent and what do we need to believe in order to live more fully into our baptismal identity?

© 2015 Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, All Rights Reserved

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[1] Suffrages B in Evening Prayer, Book of Common Prayer, 122

[2] Prayer for Mission, Book of Common Prayer, 124

[3] See Numbers 13; 32:11-12 and Joshua 5:6 then Hebrews 2:17-18

January 18, 2014 (Year B Epiphany 2) Celtic Meditation

John 1:43-51

John tells us at the end of this gospel that the purpose of his writing is so that we who have not seen Jesus face to face will know who he is (John 20:31, see also 1 John 5:13). John began this gospel with a poetic statement of who Jesus is (John 1:1-18).  In this passage we get a glimpse into how two of Jesus’ disciples came to know who Jesus is and how they began to live into the reality of God the Son entering into human history in order to reunite heaven and earth.

As devout Jews, Philip and Nathaniel were looking for the Messiah. They knew what they were looking for because God had told his people what to watch for. They studied the Law and the Prophets in order to be ready for the day when the Messiah would come and invite them to participate in this new phase of God’s plan of redemption. As Church, how do we prepare in order to recognize our invitation into God’s work of redemption?

Even though Nathaniel sounds skeptical,[1] he trusts his friend’s recognition of Jesus as worth investigation. By trusting Philip, Nathaniel goes to Jesus. The man that Nathaniel meets exceeds his expectations. Philip had invited Nathaniel to come and see by giving a partial description of Jesus: a man with a hometown and a family. Nathaniel’s discovery is that Jesus is much more: Rabbi, Son of God,[2] King of Israel! Nathaniel’s discovery comes from his study but the key to unlocking this understanding is Jesus revealing that he knows Nathaniel’s heart as well as his mind. How, as Church, have we experienced being known by God so that we can know and trust God?

Jesus names Nathaniel as a true Israelite,[3] one in whom there is no deceit. Nathaniel’s pure heart is able to see God incarnate (Matthew 5:8). Jacob, the first Israelite, one who practiced deception, saw in part, in a dream, what Nathaniel, one who is pure in heart, will see with his physical eyes: God’s redeeming work of uniting heaven and earth. Jesus is revealed to be the gate to heaven, which is also the house of God, that Jacob saw (see Genesis 28:10-17). How, as church, can we more fully live into knowing that Jesus is uniting our realm, earth, with God’s dwelling place, heaven?

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[1] My husband, Doug, notes that Nathaniel’s and Thomas’s good confessions serve as bookends to John’s Gospel.

[2] Even here, in this part of the first chapter of John’s gospel, we see that John is developing a thick description of who Jesus is. While John places the declaration of Jesus as Son of God on Nathaniel’s lips, we hear Jesus referring to himself as the Son of Man in the conversation. The sequence of revelation of who Jesus is in John 1:35-51 is Lamb of God, Rabbi, Messiah, the one of whom Moses … and the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth the son of Joseph, Son of God, King of Israel, Son of Man.

[3] This true Israelite recognizes his King.

December 28, 2014 (Year B Christmas 1) Celtic Meditation

John 1:1-18

“And the Word became flesh and … made his dwelling among us.” This is the Christmas miracle – that the Unique Son of God, who had been with God the Father forever without beginning, became what we are, a fragile human person. The Life of the World, the Life that is the Light of the World, came into our dark world of sorrow and frustration, to live among us as one of us. What does this Christmas miracle tell us about who God is and what it means to be human?

The Christmas miracle has a purpose. This purpose is so important that John the baptizer was sent to bear witness to the coming of the Light, Jesus, into the world. Moses had come to bring the Law which reveals some of the heart of God. The Son of God, Jesus, reveals even more: grace and truth. How, as Church, do we demonstrate that we know Jesus as the one who fully reveals the grace and truth of God?

Jesus came so that he might make His Father known to us. He alone of all human persons is of the same nature as the Father. Adopted children do not share the same DNA as their adopted parents, but they are loved by their adopted parents and they learn to trust their new parents. Trust is foundational to healthy relationships. We can be connected by DNA, but if we don’t believe, if we don’t know, love, and trust those with whom we share that DNA, we are not really family. Even children born by natural descent are not always true children. Knowledge and love must be mutual; it is not enough for the parent to love and know the child, but the child needs to know their parents and love them in order to be family. All people are known and loved by God, but not all people know, love, and trust God. The Unique Son of God became what we are, fully human, in order to show us his Father and show us how to love and trust the Father so that we can be what Jesus is, a child of God’s.[1] What, as Church, are we doing to help those who do not know God to see that God is trustworthy?

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[1] When the Greek church fathers use the phrase “He became what we are that we might become what he is,” the concept in view is theosis. This term is a way of describing sharing in the divine life, being caught up in the love shared between the persons of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and thus sharing in eternal life (see Hebrews 2:14 and 3:14). One way of describing this sharing in the divine life is being adopted by God as God’s children.

December 14, 2014 (Year B Advent 3) Celtic Meditation

John 1:6-8, 19-28

In this passage we see the last prophet of Israel clearly describe his specific calling within the larger mission of the people of God.   Last week, we saw how John the baptizer, working from the long tradition of the prophets, was calling the people of Israel to turn away from the ways of the world in order to prepare for the coming King.  This is an insider conversation:  a prophet’s calling is to serve the people of God.  The purpose of the prophet’s message is to call the people of God to live out their role in God’s mission to the world.

This week, some of the leaders of Israel come to John to ask for clarification on who John is and why he is doing what he is doing.  Their first question to John is “Who are you?”  John’s response is in the context of the expectations of the people of Israel.  There has been a long silence between the last prophet and John.  They have been waiting for a word from God.  They have been waiting for God’s anointed deliverer, the Messiah, to rescue them from Roman occupation. John knows that he is not the Messiah but one who points to the Messiah.  In what ways do we, as Church, focus on ourselves, thinking that we are Messiahs, rather than simply those who humbly point to Jesus?

John the baptizer knew the urgency of his mission – the Messiah was already among the people, but unrecognized.  The kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Out of this urgency, John served his calling.  He acted, dressed, and spoke according to the traditions of the people of Israel so that they could understand his message.  How, as Church, can we work within the traditions of the Church that we know so that those who are Christians can turn from the ways of the world and return to God’s way of being God’s people?

John the baptizer knew his calling and mission.  He was to be a voice in the wilderness, calling for the people of Israel to prepare for the Messiah who is also the Prophet and King.   John will baptize those who already know themselves to be God’s people with water in preparation for the One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.  This is so that the people of God can fulfill their calling to share the Light, Jesus, with the nations.  In what ways are we, as Church, helping each other live more fully into our baptismal vows so that we can participate in God’s mission to the world?