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.

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Baptism of Christ 13.1.13 Luke 3.15-17, 21-22

6 01 2013

Drama With John

This brief passage is full of energy and surprise.  There is fulfilment but also promise. We might wonder whether John’s words about Jesus are true to the Jesus reveled as Luke’s gospel unfolds. In these brief verses the fire seems to be all with John.  Jesus accepts his baptism, prays and is deeply affirmed.

Luke 3.15-22 [The verses in square brackets are excluded by the lectionary]

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jo...

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. 19But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, 20added to them all by shutting up John in prison.]

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

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. The noun ‘baptism’ and the verb ‘to baptize’ occur a lot here. What does the word mean?
  2. Why might people think John the Messiah?  What sort of Messiah would he have been?
  3. Why have the lectionary editors removed verses 18-20?

‘Heart Questions’

  1. Notice that expectant people ask big questions. Does this ring true to you?
  2. What emotions do you connect with John the Baptist?
  3. How does the word ‘beloved’ touch you?

‘Hand Questions’

  1. Are there questions floating around which only you can stand up and answer?
  2. Are you perhaps called to be a bit more Baptist-like in your life and ministry? When did you last use your winnowing-fork?
  3. The only thing Jesus does here is pray.  Does that affirm or challenge your own priorities and to-do lists?

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.





Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity 16.9.12 Mark 8.27-end

6 09 2012

Identity and Crisis

This is a pivotal gospel passage. A turning pont. It is all about transition and change. It involves honesty and truth, mistake and rebuke, openness and orders.  These few words really live – if we let them.

Mark 8.27-end

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ 28And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ 29He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ 30And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

Reflections and Questions

‘Jesus went on’ v 27

Jesus really is pushing forward now. The disciples are following and sharing in the journey.

Can you imagine discipleship without journey? Why not preach what you feel about that in your bones?

‘Caesarea Philippi’  v27

This passage is obviously about names and naming. The place itself had a name change. Philip named it after himself, usurping the dignity of the ‘great god Pan’ – it used to be called ‘Paneas’.

How much background is enough to help people appreciate the significance of the place of this encounter?

‘Messiah’ v29

‘Anointed One’. ‘Christ’. ‘King’. ‘The One’.

What did Peter mean? How fully did he understand his own words?

‘must’ v31

Not ‘may’, not ‘is likely to’, not ‘will’.  Rather, ‘the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.’ This is the context for the message to would-be disciples: that they must take up their cross. We are all in this together. Suffering is not optional. It is necessary.

This does not mean all suffering is good. How do you distinguish between necessary and unnecessary suffering as you reflect on your own life? what does this teach you about the nature of sacrifice?