Second Sunday of Christmas 5.1.14 John 1. 1-18

31 12 2013

Grace and Truth

John folds as much theology as possible into the opening verses of his gospel.  Each and every sentence could launch a thousand reflections, sermons, meditations, prayers and questions.

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. What is your favourite alternative to ‘word’ as a translation of ‘logos’?
  2. If you had to prioritize ‘grace’ and ‘truth’, which order would you put them in?
  3. How significant is the contrast with Moses in verse 17?  (Does it continue into verse 18?)

Heart Questions

  1. Which verse, or phrase, from this whole passage, resonates most powerfully with you?
  2. Do you feel that the writing here is philosophical or poetic?  Is it head stuff or heart stuff?
  3. How do you feel about the John the Baptist sections here?  Do they fit and help the whole, or are they interruptions?

Hand Questions

  1.  Are there any imperatives here?  Do you detect a “call to action”?
  2.  What does grace require of you?
  3.  What does truth demand of you?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.

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Trinity Sunday 26.5.13 John 16. 12-15

19 05 2013

All Truth

This is a very short gospel reading. Its very brevity makes you wonder how many words it takes to tell the truth.

John 16. 12-15

Jesus said, ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.’

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. Why can the disciples not bear the ‘many things’ yet to be said to them?
  2. Can you begin to imagine what ‘all the truth’ might be like?
  3. What does Jesus mean by saying that the father will ’take what is mine’?

Heart Questions

  1. How are the disciples feeling at this stage in Jesus’ discourse?
  2. Do you believe that the doctrine of the Trinity is something your heart can connect with?
  3. How do you feel about the idea that the three persons of the Trinity have the same heart?

Hand Questions

  1. What one action of yours could speak volumes of truth?
  2. What are the ethical implications of believing in the Trinity?
  3. What does the Spirit of truth require of you at this stage in your life journey?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you.  That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands.  Take your time.





Pentecost 19.5.13 John 14.8-17 [25-57]

1 05 2013

The Holy Spirit

Jesus is asked a question – but as usual the question is not good enough to get a direct answer. But fear not, the spirit of truth is coming.

John 14.8-17 [25-57]

Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ 9Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

15 ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you …

25 ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. Why do you think Philip asked that question (v8)?
  2. ‘Another Advocate’: what is your sense of the meaning of ‘paraclete’?
  3. What might it mean to do ‘greater works than these’ (v12)?

Heart Questions

  1. Do you find the prospect of the ‘Spirit of truth’ comforting – or is there a bit of threat in there for you?
  2. What do you feel about Father and the Son coming to make their home in you? Are you that hospitable?

Hand Questions

  1. Do you have a ‘Philip question’ in you that you need to ask someone?
  2. Can you identify the works that you do?
  3. Can you find one practical way to obey the commandment to love your real-life neighbour?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you.  That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands.  Take your time.





Seventh Sunday of Easter 12.5.13 John 17.20-end

1 05 2013

Sharing Unity

The words of Jesus invite us to explore the depths of unity and to become reconciling people.

John 17.20-end

Jesus said,  ‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

25 ‘Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. Who are ‘these’ in verse 1?
  2. How do you explain the idea of ‘unity’ expressed here in plain English?
  3. To what extent does the word ‘unity’ do justice to the mutual indwelling described here?

Heart Questions

  1. Do you find the idea of unity liberating or constricting?
  2. In verse 24 Jesus expresses his desire in prayer. Do you?
  3. What does it feel like to be at one with others?

Hand Questions

  1. To whom can you take the word of the Gospel?
  2. What practical action of yours might facilitate Christian unity?
  3. What are the qualities of a reconciling person?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you.  That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands.  Take your time.





Sixth Sunday of Easter 5.5.13 John 5.1-9

27 04 2013

I Have No One

Here we  see compassion triumph over law and healing as a stepping stone to trouble. In these ways this passage is typical of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

John 5.1-9

After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralysed. 5One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ 7The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.’ 8Jesus said to him, ‘Stand up, take your mat and walk.’ 9At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.

Now that day was a sabbath.

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. Jesus is off to Jerusalem again. How many times is that so far in this gospel?
  2. Why did Jesus ask the man that question in verse 6?

Heart Questions

  1. What would it be like to be ill for 38 years?
  2. How does it feel to ‘have no one’?

Hand Questions

  1. Jesus noticed those who needed to be healed. Who do you need to notice?
  2. Who is waiting for you to take them to a place of healing?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you.  That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands.  Take your time.





Fifth Sunday of Easter 28.4.13 John 13.31-15

22 04 2013

Glory and Love

In this passage Jesus emphasises two realities that lie at the core of Christian living, spirituality and ethics: glory and love. And so while very short, it is also very rich.

John 13.31-35

When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. How can you explain the word ‘glorified’ in plain English?
  2. Why does Jesus need to tell the little children that they cannot go without him?
  3. Love is a very complex and muddled word in English. What is its core meaning here?

Heart Questions

  1. What is the emotional tone of the word ‘glory’?
  2. How do the disciples feel about not being able to go with Jesus?
  3. What’s it like to be told that you should love someone?

Hand Questions

  1. What action or effort of yours might glorify God?
  2. What does the commandment to love suggest to you as a priority action today?
  3. What might make the love within your fellowship a clearer witness to the world?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you.  That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands.  Take your time.





Fourth Sunday of Easter 21.4.13 John 10: 22-30

16 04 2013

A Request for Straight Talking

Jesus frustrates the Jews’ desire for plain speaking, and instead starts to speak about sheep and spirituality.  

John 10: 22-30

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ 25Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30The Father and I are one.’

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. Why does location matter here?
  2. Does time matter too?
  3. Why does Jesus not answer directly?

Heart Questions

  1. How do you think the Jews feel about Jesus’ answer?
  2. How do sheep feel about being sheep?
  3. How do you feel about the unity of the Father and  Jesus (included or excluded)?

Hand Questions

  1. Is it more important to know who Jesus is, or to hear his voice?
  2. What ethical obligations come with the gift of eternal life?
  3. What is the greatest gift you have ever given?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you.  That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands.  Take your time.