Monday, January 13, 2014

God With Us

Lectionary, Year A, Epiphany week 2



Although John’s gospel account does not include the infancy narratives that provide accounts of how God came to dwell with humankind, the first chapter uses metaphors and allusions to provide readers with the Christology of the Incarnation.

The first part of John 1 portrays Jesus as the Eternal Word that “camps” [skenoo] with humankind. In the latter half of the first chapter, through the narrative rhetoric of John the Baptist and the first disciples, the text shows the incarnation of divinity among the daily lives of his creation.

What I see is a pair of chiastic structures where the outer envelopes and the centers highlight the identity of Jesus. In the outer envelopes Jesus is the “Lamb of God,” the “Son of God,” and the “Messiah.” In the center portions is described how first, John the Baptist recognizes the divinity of Jesus, and then how Jesus reveals himself to his first disciples. The word meno translated as remain and stay tie these two parts together. This also looks forward to John 15 and the same word used there, frequently translated as abide.

What I take from this is that God isn’t going anywhere. He dwelt physically among humankind in the person of Jesus, but his Spirit remains with us today.

When we see the world around us we often ask the same question of God, “Where are you [staying]?” His response is the same today as it was then, “Come and you will see.” Where does he take the questioners today? I believe it is to his people among whom the Spirit continues to abide.

I first thought verse 42 seemed almost like an afterthought, but upon reflection it seems key to bringing together this pericope. Maybe Peter was asking a similar question. The gospel writer is perhaps telling us that his question was heard [Simon] and as a result Jesus became the source of stable identity for him [Cephas – “rock”]. Sure, Peter’s thoughts and actions would waver and stumble through his life journey, but his trust in Jesus would remain true to the end.

How do you read this passage? What speaks to you?

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Grace and Truth is God’s Totality

Lectionary Christmas 2A


Pictured above is the last few verses of this week’s Lectionary Gospel reading.

The climax appears to be found at verse 17. The author is likely alluding to Moses’ experience on Sinai as described in Exodus 34. He contrasts the giving of the law with the coming of Jesus Christ. The law “given through Moses” implies a source, but the author chooses to omit it, giving this text a far more negative portrayal of the law than even Paul(!). Not only does law not bring salvation, it cannot even give a revelation of God. (This text could even be read that the law as given was ultimately Moses’ interpretation of God.) The way law and Jesus Christ are contrasted, the author seems to be communicating that the law, in fact, paints a picture of God that is utterly wrong.

What the author wants his readers to understand is that the only way to “see” God is through Jesus Christ. Jesus was and is with the Father – with the Father’s heart, even. This being, who is intimately familiar with the heart of the Father came to live with us.

What did the people who walked with Jesus discover? That the Father and Son share the same glory: “grace and truth.” That “grace and truth” is the “fullness,” or the totality, of who and what God is.

(The parenthetical statement from John the Baptist was likely added to argue against his followers and to counter Jewish traditions of authority figures.)

How might we apply this passage today? What strikes you as important? How do you see God?