John’s Farewell Discourses 3

2 06 2008

OK I confess …. I lost my notes on John 16 and only just found them last night LOL, which is why i haven’t continued in a while. In any case … here we discuss John 16.

John 15 ended on a gloomy note, and I’m hoping things get a little better.

Jesus tells us that he is telling us all these things so we will not be taken off guard when things get tough and so we would remain steadfast and not lose hope. He even warns us that for our witness, we could be thrown out of the assembly or our community. I imagine this is probably pointing more towards the tensions between the early Christians who worshiped in the temple and synagogues than to anything we might encounter today. However, anytime we speak truth to power or challenge conventional wisdom in the name of the love of God and the Good News of the Gospel, there is bound to be conflict on some level.

Jesus is telling us all of this now because he is going away. He goes on to say that it is actually good for us that he leaves so the Holy Spirit can come and be with us forever. Not only that, the Holy Spirit is not just for us who follow Christ, but for everyone, including those powers-that-be we call “the world.” The Holy Spirit is for the world because it convicts those powers for its selfish ways and that it and its students are subject to God, the ultimate judge.

In the cross and resurrection of Jesus, the powers of this world are condemned and their days are numbered. The Holy Spirit will expose the lies of the world for what they are, lies which serve only to perpetuate a system of greed, consumption, control, and hierarchy to further its own ends at the expense of everything and everyone else.

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John’s Farewell Discourses 2

6 05 2008

“I am the vine and my Father is the vine-grower. I am the vine and you are the branches.” (John 15)

The second and innermost circle of the Farewell Discourses is John 15, where Jesus uses the image of the vine to describe his relationship to the Father and to his disciples, which includes us, for we are to imagine that Jesus is speaking with us as well as to the 11.

Jesus calls himself the vine and the Father is the vine-grower. The Father removes from the vine all the branches that do not bear fruit, and those that do bear fruit are pruned so they may be more abundant. Even now, the pruning has begun with the disciples because one of their own has been lost (Judas) and will not be replaced until much later in the person of Matthias.

We are encouraged to live in and with Christ and remain connected to the vine for just as a branch cannot bear fruit unless it is connected to the vine, we can do nothing apart from Jesus. Without him we will only wither and die just as surely as those who have been removed will die. Indeed, Jesus desires for us to continually remain in him so we may bear fruit.

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Physics and Faith … the “String Theory” of salvation

5 05 2008

Before I move on to John 15, I wanted to pause and summarize briefly what I’m calling the “string theory” of salvation. Much of this is taken from a sermon my rector preached on John 14 a few years ago and my own very limited understanding of physics.

One of the goals of physics is to find a theory that can explains how the universe works. Out of this has come the theory of relativity, which explains how the very big things work … gravity, the speed of light, black holes and so on. Also out of this has come the field of quantum mechanics which speaks to how things work on the subatomic level. They both seem to work well and scientists can make accurate prediction using them. The big problem is that the theories are very inconsistent with each other. It’s like the rules of the universe change when going from the really big to the really small and you cannot make predictions on the subatomic level using mathematical formulas associated with the theory of relativity.

In his sermon, my rector compared it to looking great in a striped shirt and having a fabulous pair of plaid pants, but if you try to wear them together, you wind up looking ridiculous and the outfit just doesn’t work.

In John 14 you have a very inclusive statement followed very soon by a very exclusive one. “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places, and I am going to prepare a place for you” could be called the theological cousin of the Theory of Relativity and “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me” could be the counterpart to Quantum Mechanics. In the universe, two seemingly inconsistent laws live side-by-side and all of creation keeps humming along. In John, the universal and the particular meet in almost the same breath, and Jesus keeps on going as if he has not said anything contradictory. Creation proudly wears its striped shirt and plaid pants and is ready for a night on the town.

Physicists, not content to just live with the fact that the universe should not function according to two inconsistent laws, and there must be some way the whole thing just works. String theory is a recent development that appears to hold much promise into filling in the gaps between the universal and the particular, finding out why Creation appears to act in inconsistent and sometimes contradictory ways.

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John’s Farewell Discourses 1

29 04 2008

My Spiritual Director has suggested that in addition to looking at Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together” I also pick a section of Scripture to do a bit of lectio divina, so in keeping with the Lectionary Cycle for Easter I have chosen the Farewell Discourses from the Gospel of John. When I write lectionary reflections I usually use a few texts from my personal library to help pull some thoughts together. By doing lectio I have basically taken then text from Gospel, read the New Revised Standard Version as well as the Message, and distilled my own thoughts from what spoke out of Scripture. So, in other words, what follows is the Reverend boy … raw. I have read this as if I am the recipient. I have tried to put myself in the place of the disciples who are listening to Jesus’ final speech before his Passion.

NRSV text can be found here. Text from the Message can be found here.

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