Simon and Jude Apostles 28.10.12 John 15 17-end

20 10 2012

Instructions for Living

To help us commemorate two of Jesus’ friends and apostles, Simon and Jude, we have gone to John’s gospel. The preacher’s challenge is to connect what Jesus said to them – according to John – with what God might be saying to us today.

John 15.17-end

Jesus said to his disciples, I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

18 ‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. 19If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. 20Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants are not greater than their master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25It was to fulfil the word that is written in their law, “They hated me without a cause.”

26 ‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection I am going to suggest 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. You might prefer to stay in one area. But beware of staying in your comfort zone. That’s rarely where profound preaching comes from.

Head Questions

Notice how often the word ‘if’ is repeated in this passage.
Do you think it is really a matter of if’ or ‘when’ with all these things?
What does Jesus mean when he uses the word ‘advocate’? (You may prefer to think of the ‘comforter’.  That works as long as you think of it in the literal sense of ‘the one who strengthens and supports’ rather than the softer sense of ‘the one who calms and placates’.)
What does the word ‘sin’ mean here?

Heart Questions

What is it like to be on the receiving end of hatred?
How do you typically react?
Can you say anything about being on the giving end of hatred?
Have you ever despised the followers of Jesus?

Hand Questions

The practical outcome of this seems to be a requirement to testify. Well here is your opportunity:
What do you have to say about Jesus?
Where do you say it?
Where are you going to say it?
How will you be an advocate for the advocate?

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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Fourth Sunday of Easter 29.4.12 John 10.11-18

17 04 2012

True Care

This short passage from John’s gospel follows on from another one (copied below) which introduces the theme, John 10.1-10. Those verses are, perhaps, an easier quarry for the preacher as the contrast is between Jesus and robbers. Note that the word ‘robber’ is the same as is used later in John’s gospel to describe Barabbas – the people’s choice (John 18.40). In the later verses (John 10.11-18) the contrast is between Jesus and hired hands. Unfortunately, the preacher might just be a hired hand.

John 10.11-18

Jesus said ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And

Good Shepherd from Corinth

Good Shepherd from Corinth (Photo credit: diffendale)

I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’

Reflections and Questions

‘the hired-hand… leaves the sheep and runs away’ v 12 This is weak, cowardly behaviour. It is self-interested and self-protective and therefore fickle and unreliable.

What might make you run away? What is your wolf?

‘the hired hand does not care for the sheep.’ v 13. This is a painful description. Care is a virtue which can’t be feigned. Sooner or later the non-caring carer will be revealed as a fraud.

How do we know if our own care is genuine?

‘I know my own and my own know me’ v14  You can’t get away from intimacy and mutuality in this passage. We are talking about depth of relationship here.

Try changing the word ‘know’ to ‘love’ and see how that informs the way you hear these rich words. What other transpositons might open up the passage for you?

‘they will listen to my voice.’ v16  The word ‘voice’ matters for John. It conveys something of depth. It is far more than ‘words’. 

What does ‘voice’ mean to you? Do you have the voice of a good shepherd, one which will mean something to ‘other sheep’?

The previous verses:

John 10.1-10

Jesus said, ‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7 So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.