John 1:3 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
What makes something alive? Movement? Rivers and wind move but are they alive? The ability to reproduce? Maybe. How did it get to be that way? The common theory is that there was a big bang, sometimes called a singularity, from which everything shot out across the universe. Things cooled (a very relative concept) and stars and planets formed. On this particular planet chemicals continued to bump into each other and, at some point, they did so in a way that what wasn’t alive formed a living cell of some sort. From there things mutated and grew until eventually there was you and me. Of course, this is just the common understanding of the past 100 years or so. People throughout history have used different understandings and modes of expression to talk about how we get to now and you and me. Life is a mystery but we know we are alive and we know we won’t always be so in this world. Is life an incredible cosmic accident or a precious gift? John went with the latter. What are you going with?
John 16:13 He [the Spirit of Truth] won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. The Message Bible
This is what Jesus tells his disciples in the gospel of John on the night before his crucifixion. This is only one of several passages that John relates where the disciples are not given answers but are assured that they will get at least some of them, the ones they really need, later. It has been a full-time job lately to “make sense” out of all that has been happening. I am reminded that this time is so confusing for me because the largest portion of my life has been pretty much smooth sailing; maybe yours too. But there have always been people dealing with illness and hunger and injustice and violence as a regular part of their days. We owe it to them to be open to this Spirit of truth and seek to make God’s sense out of our time. It is up to us to make today’s sense out of “all [Jesus] has said and done.” No small calling. How will you live the divine mystery this week?
John 17:11 Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life that you conferred as a gift through me, so they can be one heart and mind as we are one heart and mind (the Message Bible)
We have been guaranteed, locked-down and social distanced. I get it. It has to be for now, but for too many people this is their emotional reality much of the time. Isolation and loneliness are one of the biggest problems for our culture. Maybe for you. We talk about what Jesus did in terms of forgiving our sin but may forget that sin needed to be forgiven so that we could reconnect with God and each other. In this passage Jesus is praying for his followers, then and now. We were made for intimacy, with God and other people. Being of one heart and mind does not mean we will always agree but it does mean that God’s love can be more important and more cohesive than our disagreements. With whom are you of one mind and heart? Do you desire that with God?
John 20:19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear…
This is Easter evening in John’s gospel and, in a few verses, Jesus will tell the disciples to receive the Holy Spirit which he breathes on them. So, in one sense, we go from Easter to Pentecost in a matter of moments. And it all happens as they “were together with the doors locked for fear.” Fear is a good thing sometimes. Fear, when rightly known, helps protect us. Fear also, like the disciples here, can draw us together. In the passage above they were in fear of the authorities that had put Jesus to death. In these last weeks, we have been kept apart by fear of a tiny organism that we have never seen. Yet we have come together across the state and across the states and even across the oceans in many ways to protect ourselves as a whole and fight this fearful thing. Fear can divide and destroy. Fear, in the hands of God, can draw together. In the fearful we can find faith together. Can that be the work of the Spirit in your life this Pentecost?
John 14: 16, 17 I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.
Earlier in this gospel Jesus tells a Samaritan woman, “a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (4:23). We live in a deceptive world. People sometimes deceive us to get what they want from us. Can you really trust those commercials on TV? And we are certainly capable of deceiving ourselves. How do we know what is true? The Christian claim is that truth came to us in Jesus and comes to us as God touches our hearts and minds personally through this Spirit of truth. What do you think of when you hear the word “truth?” How do you find it?
On Sunday I tried to make a connection between Jesus as the way from John 14:6 (I am the way, the truth and the life) with God’s guidance of his people in the exodus. Earlier in the week a friend sent this piece from a devotional she encountered on Ash Wednesday. May you know God’s guidance in this pandemic wilderness from Jesus as the way.
The Wilderness is the Birthplace of Joy by Sarah Are
I used to know the wilderness only as pain; A land without food, a land without water
But you rained down manna and even water flows in your desert
I used to think the wilderness was total isolation but the Israelites had each other
and you had the stars in the sky
So then I thought the wilderness must be time wasted; Forty years of circles; Forty years of wondering
But then I realized each step is a step and maybe there is growth in that
So then I concluded that the wilderness must be lonely spaces
The woman and her well; The blind man and his gate; Martha and her kitchen; Peter and his fire
But then you showed up in each of those places, to each of those faces
So now I wonder …
what if the wilderness is the birthplace of creation
What if the wilderness is where call begins
What if the wilderness is where joy is birthed
What if between the dirt and the sky and that wide orange horizon
the wilderness is where we find you
John 10:5 They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.” (The Message Bible)
I don’t know much about sheep but our family did have a dog once. I would enjoy getting up early and taking him to the park so I could let him off the leash before others arrived. I could let him roam far and wide but he would come at a dead run when I called. Pets and I guess sheep are not dumb animals. They know the voice of the one who cares for them. When we consistently spend time with God through prayer, scripture, worship, ministry, etc., we learn to distinguish God’s voice in the midst of all the extraneous sounds that fill our lives. Where are you hearing the voice of the shepherd this week?
Luke 24:17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
The “he” here is Jesus and the “them” are two followers of Jesus who were heading to the town of Emmaus on the first Easter. We are told the name of one of “them,” Cleopas, but not his companion. 2,000 years later we know Cleopas’ name but his traveling companion is just another disciple. Cleopas seems to get this recognition because he is the one to respond to Jesus’ question of “what were you talking about?” I find it fascinating that Jesus is asking questions. Why not simply tap them on the shoulder and announce, “hey guys, I know what you are wondering about. Well, here I am!” Some people seem to think God should be more forthright. Why doesn’t God takeover all the telecommunication devices at one time and show himself definitively in an instant? Why all the questions that require discussion and contemplation and faith? Maybe it is because what God truly desires of people is discussion and contemplation and faith- relational qualities. What question is God posing to you? Why is asking you that?
John 20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
We’ve been asked to stay put lately and with good reason. The disciples were staying put, hiding out for fear in a locked room. They had good reasons too. Things had spun out of control, their leader had been publicly executed, and now wild stories had started about him being risen from the dead. It’s enough to make you want to go to bed and pull the covers over your head. But the time will come for them to go out and tell the story. When this Covid-19 situation finally eases will we have a sense of being sent out again to share the little stories of how God sustained us and the big story of how God revives all of life through the resurrection of Jesus. Was it just the first disciples that were sent? How might Jesus be sending you?
John 20:2 So [Mary Magdalene] came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
There is a lot of running going on in John’s account of the first Easter morning. I wish I knew how far the tomb was from where the disciples were staying but I’m afraid that bit of information has been lost with time. Later that day Luke tells us that two of Jesus followers walked to Emmaus when they encountered Jesus and then turned around and went back to Jerusalem that evening. Luke is good enough to let us know that the distance between Jerusalem and Emmaus is about seven miles (Luke 24:13). When is the last time you ran for anything (except perhaps exercise)? John goes on to talk about Peter and the “other disciple” running to the tomb. No Nike’s back then. Was it a sprint or more of a distance run? The point is that they were excited, curious, upset, whatever. Their blood was pumping and their hearts were pounding and their minds were churning. They needed to know what was going on and they needed to know now. Is that how the resurrection makes you feel? If not, why not?