It took a year to read the Bible, then almost 9 months to read the Apocrypha. Now, I'm going to try to offer reflections on the Narrative Lectionary. But, I won't be posting daily--at least, for a while.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Comes the Harvest, a Reflection on John 4:27-38

Even if those WWJD bracelets had been popular at the time, his disciples would not have supposed that talking to a woman would be the answer to that question. John's gospel tells us that they were astonished that he was speaking with a woman. I'm pausing here to wonder whose association with Jesus would be astonishing to us modern-day disciples. Who do we think Jesus would be likely to hang out with? Who not? Why not?

Back to the passage--She preached, but with some uncertainty. Yet, the people who heard her wanted to know more. They left what they were doing to make their way to the one she thought might be the Messiah but wasn't sure.

Meanwhile, the disciples, the ones closest to him, wanted him to eat something. Just as he used the word "water" to mean water and more than water, he uses the word "food": "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work."

Another metaphor--harvest. "Look around, the fields are ripe for harvesting." At the conclusion of our worship service at St. Luke's several years ago, we went outside to the steps to receive the benediction. As we few stood there, we could see many cars going by on the street, a couple of cyclers riding by, and even some pedestrians. I wondered what they were thinking as they saw us there, and if they would want to come inside some time--and how we might figure out how to invite them to.

And whatever we do or whenever we do it, someone has already done the preparatory work.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Hour is Coming, a Reflection on John 4:16-26

"Where is the right place to worship?" 

For the Samaritan woman, the answer had been the mountain that had been the worship site for her people through history. She had understood Jesus to claim that Jerusalem was the appropriate place. 

Jesus said to her that neither of the above was the place (although he did assert that salvation is from the Jews). [Remember that at the time of their discussion, the Samaritan temple would have been long gone, and by the time John's Gospel was written, the temple in Jerusalem would have been destroyed.]

The place is not the determinant. God comes looking for true worshipers. 

But the time is important. "The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Gather in spirit and truth." 

The Messiah has come, is come, will come. 

He then told the woman, "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." She responded, "I know that Messiah is coming. when he comes, he will proclaim all things to us." Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you."

Monday, January 29, 2018

Living Water, Reflection on John 4:5-15

The antipathy between Jews and Samaritans extended back centuries in time. They were still distrustful of each other because of something that had happened, something that someone had done years and years ago. Yes, we can think of many modern day examples.

Jesus, a Jew, is traveling through Samaria. John reminds us that at one time Samaria was the home of Jesus' ancestors, a place near a plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.

When a Samaritan woman approaches the well where he is sitting, Jesus asks her for a drink. She responds by commenting on how strange such a request is. Jesus answers her, "If you knew who was asking for this water, you would have been the one doing the asking, and you would have been asking for living water. And he would have given it to you."

She points out some apparent discrepancies in his assertion. "You don't have a bucket, and this well is deep. How are you going to get this living water?"

He cuts through her objections. "Everybody who drinks water from this well is going to get thirsty again. I'm talking about a different kind of water. Water that lasts. Spring water, gushing up to eternal life."

She wants this water.

Note from Allen & Williamson's Preaching the Gospels: The phrase "living water" is used to speak of God in Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13; salvation in Ezekiel 47:9 and Zechariah 14:8, and wisdom in Proverbs 13:14 and 18:4.

Boring and Craddock in The People's New Testament Commentary, also point out the use of this phrase in Scriptures to refer to God and the salvation God gives. They point out whereas in John, the living water is Jesus himself, mediated by the Spirit (7:37-39).

Friday, January 26, 2018

Eternal Life, a reflection on John 3:16-17

Surely, all football fans have seen that sign in the stands saying John 3:16. Please don't stop with that verse. God's intention is that this eternal life is for us all.

Jesus said that those who believe in him may have eternal life; also see, John 3:36; 4:14; 5:24; 6:27: and 17:14 (with thanks to The New Interpreter's Study Bible).

What is being promised? Not just heaven later after we're dead. The word we translate as eternal carries the meaning of a different quality of life, a new life free of the worldly, temporal concerns of the old life.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Still True, a Reflection on John 3:10-15

Jesus has been talking to Nicodemus, but now is speaking to a plural you.

Jesus says to his hearers, "The Son of Man must be lifted up so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life."

We take "lifted up" to mean the crucifixion or the resurrection or the ascension, or all of these. He is in Jerusalem at the beginning of his ministry yet his words will be understandable after his death, resurrection, and ascension.

Or, will they be? Nicodemus had seen signs as had the other Pharisees but he was unwilling to come publicly to Jesus. The audience for John's Gospel had seen even more signs; were they able to believe?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Who is Everyone? a reflection on John 3:3-9

After being asked about how anybody can have a second birth, Jesus answers him by asserting the necessity of the Spirit.

"What is born of the Spirit is spirit....The wind blows where it chooses..." Remember that the Greek word translated as wind also means breath or spirit. God breathes on us; a force moves us like the wind moves us and that force is as invisible as the wind as it is as potent as the wind.

"So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." Who is this "everyone"? Who has been born of the Spirit? Am I reassured? insulted? puzzled? grateful?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Risk v. Safety, a Reflection on John 3:1-2

Jesus has been upsetting the insiders. One of them, Nicodemus, comes by night. I am told by Bible commentators that "night" implies more "not understanding" than a time. I had always taken "night" as literal and read that Nicodemus was hoping not to be seen by anyone important when he approached this trouble maker. After thinking about it for a moment, I've decided to keep both meanings.

Nicodemus asserts that the miracles they have seen Jesus perform have been persuasive. Yet apparently not completely so. It's night after all.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Remembering and Believing, Reflection on John 2:17-22

When they saw him driving out the money changers and heard him castigating them, the disciples remembered the line from the Psalms, "Zeal for your house will consume me." Jesus was willing to challenge those who were using for their own benefit what was to be a place to worship.

Jesus said, "If you destroy this temple, in three days I will raise it up."

By the time that John's gospel was written, this temple had been destroyed by the Romans in retribution for a Jewish insurrection.

Christians began to understand Jesus' words as telling them that he, his living presence, would be the temple for them.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Remembering and Believing, Reflection on John 2:17-22

When they saw him driving out the money changers and heard him castigating them, the disciples remembered the line from the Psalms, "Zeal for your house will consume me." Jesus was willing to challenge those who were using for their own benefit for what was to be a place to worship.

Jesus said, "If you destroy this temple, in three days I will raise it up."

By the time that John's gospel was written, this temple had been destroyed by the Romans in retribution for a Jewish insurrection.

Christians began to understand Jesus' words as telling them that he, his living presence, would be the temple for them.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Cleansing the Temple, Reflection on John 2:13-16

"The Passover of the Jews was near," John tells us, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem." The first passover was celebrated when they were still in Egypt, as they gave thanks for the sparing of their own first sons and for the opportunity finally to escape slavery to the powerful Egypt (Exodus 12"1-20). They were instructed to continue to keep passover as a festival, holy convocation, a time of making offerings to the Lord (Numbers 28:16-25).

In Jesus' time, the Passover offerings were brought to the temple in Jerusalem. How jarring it must have been to have a holy day set aside to be grateful for liberation and to come to an occupied city to express their gratitude. Allen & Williamson, in their Preaching the Gospels without Blaming the Jews, write:
Anyone walking to Jerusalem from Bethany or Bethphage, crossing the Mount of Olives and looking at the temple from across the Kidron valley, would have seen the Fortress Antonia, home to the Roman Tenth Legion, standing next to the temple and Roman soldiers posted on the parapets of the fort and on top of the wall surrounding the temple complex. ...The people were in exile in the land of promise.

We still wrestle, or maybe we don't, with the need to recognize our gratitude to God and to give allegiance to the nation that governs our lives.

In the synoptic gospels, Jesus accuses the sellers of turning the house of prayer into a den on robbers, combining references from Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. In John's gospel, Jesus tells the ones selling the doves to stop making his Father's house a marketplace. This may be an allusion to Zachariah's prophecy of the final victory, a time when "there shall no longer be traders in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day" (Zechariah 14:1-21).

We may be more comfortable with the ban on robbers than the ban on marketplace. Churches need to collect money for Sunday School material, youth trips, and meals. Some congregations interpret this rule that all commercial transactions must be kept out of the sanctuary but are allowed in hallways and vestibules.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Reaction to or even recognition of a miracle, a Reflection on John 2:6-11

"Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him."

Points to consider:

John calls this miracle a sign. The sign, according to John, revealed his glory. According to O'Day and Hylen, the term glory is an Old Testament term for the manifestation of God's presence and power (e.g., Exodus 24:15-18; 34:29-35; 40:34-38).

The stewards knew there was some very good wine but they didn't know that it was there because of a miracle. The bridegroom knew less. Yet, the disciples knew that a miracle had occurred. And because of the miracle, they believed. Or, was it because they believed, that they recognized that the miracle had happened?

What about the stewards, the bridegroom, the guests? Were they ever able to see God's presence and power in their lives? How about me? How often do I recognize God's presence and power in my life?

Other signs in John include 2:12; 2:1; 6:26; 10:20.

Monday, January 8, 2018

The first miracle, a Reflection on John 2:1-5

A need exists.

His mother thinks that he can take care of the problem.
Although he tells her that it isn't his hour, she assumes that he is going to take charge.

Some commentators think that his initial response to her by addressing her as "woman" is negative; others assert that this address is not rude but more like saying "ma'am" or "madam."

In either case, Mary, the one who has known him all his life, just assumes that he is not only able to solve a problem but is going to.

Sideline: note the event is on the third day, an important day in the Bible.

Another sideline: significance of term "hour": In their commentary on John, Gail R. O'Day and Susan E. Hylen discuss the importance of the term "hour" in this gospel. Although sometimes it does mean hour, that is, what time it is, the noun, hour, is also used as a theological term to denote the eschatological time--last times.

He may have demurred initially, but with this first miracle, his hour has begun

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Telling, a reflection on John 1:40-42

John the Baptist saw for himself but didn't keep it to himself. When he saw Jesus the next day, he told two of his followers who were with him. Jesus spoke to them directly inviting them to come. They did.

One of them, Andrew, then sought out his brother Simon Peter and told them they had found the Messiah.

The pattern of discipleship continues through the Gospel of John as each new disciple will go and finds someone else (I've been reading O'Day and Hylen's commentary on John.)

Excursus: Jesus is given several titles in this section, John 1:29-42--John calls him "the Lamb of God" in verse 29 and 36 and "Son of God" in verse 34; John's disciples call him "Rabbi" in verse 38; Andrew, "Messiah" in verse 41.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Getting New Disciples, a Reflection on John 1:35-39

John again recognizes and announces his recognition that Jesus is the Lamb of God.

Excursus: The Lamb of God is a term used in Revelation 17:14 describing the post-biblical apocalypse. Scriptural references include the servant songs like Isaiah 53:6-7 with vicarious suffering; Passover lamb, Exodus 12-13, not as a sacrifice for sin but reinterpreted in light of the eucharist (see 1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

John's disciples respond to his announcement by following Jesus. John knew who Jesus was because he had been told directly--and had bothered to listen (1:29-33). John does not keep this information to himself (34-36). His words and example are convincing to others (37).