John Day 16: Who's Your Daddy?

Pharisees by James Tissot

Gospel of John Reading Plan
Day 16 Reading:
John 8:31-59

Bringing the Word to Life
Look at some family pictures. Who do you resemble? How do you resemble your Heavenly Father?

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. – John 8:42 (NRSV)

Observation
Every good quality runs into a defect; economy borders on avarice, the generous are not far from the prodigal, the brave man is close to the bully; he who is very pious is slightly sanctimonious. – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Jesus is talking to Jewish leaders who have not believed him. Jesus uses images and language they would recognize to make a distinction between three types of people and how each would respond to him:

  • Child of God– those who believe him
  • Child of Abraham– those who claim a connection to God because of they are descendants of Abraham, not through belief in Jesus. This is faith borrowed or rented from others. This becomes problematic when the person thinks they do not need to seek and claim faith for themselves. I heard a pastor once who said, “God makes spiritual children through conversion not conception.”
  • Child of the Devil– those who do not believe Jesus and are actively trying to kill him

Side note: This conversation was confusing to me when I read it, so I took the time to read it again in another translation. Then I found it online and pasted it into a word document. From there I could color code it in order to finally follow it and understand it: yellow for child of Abraham, green for child of God, and blue for child of the devil. My favorite site for online Bible translations is http://www.biblestudytools.com/

Application
Jesus reminds us that the words and actions of children often reflect their parents’ position. In this case he is using this tendency as a metaphor for the state of a person’s faith. Words and actions reveal a person’s spiritual parent.

  • Child of Abraham – Do I have an inflexible faith in which salvation is based on cultural tradition, heritage and habit? Have I made faith my own?
  • Child of the Devil– Am I a victim of lies? Am I working against the purposes of God?
  • Child of God– Do my words and actions reflect a faith alive and well in Christ?

Prayer
Author of Life, as our Heavenly Father, fill us with truth and protect us from lies. As our Heavenly Mother, keep us grounded in things that last, yet flexible to new birth and growth. Thank you for making us your children through Jesus Christ. May our words and actions reflect our deep love and trust of you, now and always. Amen.

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Reader’s Theater: Man Born Blind

Healing of the Blind Man by Brian Jekel

Those of us who preach often forget how powerful God’s Word is on its own. Far too often we torture a text: poking and prodding and dissecting and elaborating and expounding… when all is needed is to read it out loud and offer space for reflection.

Rereading the story of the man born blind this week became a perfect example of this truth. (John 9:1-41) It is both compelling and theologically significant, a treasure to be heard and savored. The experience inspired me to create a simple reader’s theater version of the story adapted from the New Living Translation.

Included in the script are optional selections from the hymn Amazing Grace (United Methodist Hymnal #378) whose lyrics are of course inspired by this text. The hymn may be sung by a soloist, a choir, the congregation or a combination thereof. It could also be used as an instrumental background, providing emphasis to the various moods of the text.

However you decide to encounter this text, I pray your experience is as life changing as the blind man’s encounter with Jesus. – Lisa <><

For a pdf of the script plus musical cues, click here
Man Born Blind Script, with music

For a pdf of the script only, click here
Man Born Blind Script

Hebrews 4:12
Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

John Day 15: Or or And

Today’s Reading
John 8:1-30

Bringing the Word to Life
Light a candle in a darkened room.
Reflect on Jesus, the Light of the World.

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me.” – John 8:27-28 (NRSV)

Extended quote by Richard Rohr from Subverting the Honor/Shame System
When Jesus was confronted with the dilemma of the woman caught in adultery, he masterfully leveled the playing field of the “honored” and the “shamed.” To the men accusing her, he said, “Let the one among you who is guiltless be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7), and to her he said, “I do not condemn you; go now, and do not make this same mistake again” (8:11). What a marvelous consolation for people in all of history who have felt shamed or put down or defeated by others! Yet Jesus holds us to personal responsibility for our actions, too. This should please every fair-minded person.

At the same time, it was an opportunity for the self-righteous accusers to face their own darkness, their own denied and disguised faults. Hopefully they would learn from their ego humiliations. Truly holy people are able to embrace their failings and have no illusions about being better than other people.

Observation
Over and over and over again Jesus is tested, questioned and challenged by the Jewish leaders. This time they bring him a woman caught in adultery to see how he will respond. Jesus responds with grace, mercy, truth, and a call for new life (redemptive change). He does not condemn (grace and mercy) and instead instructs her to go and leave her life of sin (truth and redemption). He offers the Jewish leaders the same opportunity, but they still do not understand. Jesus recognizes his message and identity will be easier to understand after his death and resurrection.

Application
I appreciate the fullness and balance of Jesus’ response. The situation needs both grace/mercy and truth/redemption. It is so easy to only give half a response when both are needed for wholeness and healing.

Prayer
Jesus, your wisdom and ways bring the light of new life. You teach us the need for and instead of or– grace and truth, mercy and the call for change. Both are needed for wholeness and healing. Our first instinct is to cling to the dark corners of situations, responding with one extreme or the other, grace or truth, mercy or the call for change. If we only speak grace, we enable and deny your gift of transformation. If we only speak truth, it can become a weapon or a prison. We lable and condemn and lose sight of your mission to redeem. Shine your strength and courage into our lives that we may come out of the darkness of our ways and into the light of your ways. Make us more and more like you: so our every choice reflects the light of your love, so many are drawn to faith in you, so lives are changed (including our own), so you are lifted high in honor and glory, now and always, amen.

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Stand By Me

Calming of the Storm by Darel Sparling

My friend and co-worker Nicole Sallee surprised me today with a new canticle she compiled for the close of this Sunday’s traditional worship service. It combines portions of her favorite Psalm, Psalm 139, and the gospel hymn Stand by Me (United Methodist Hymnal #512, verses 1-3). I appreciate how well these two works complement each other. I was thrilled when she gave me permission to post it and look forward to posting more of her work in the future. – Lisa <><

Canticle: Stand by Me
ONE SPEAKING: Psalm 139:7-10
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

ALL SINGING
When the storms of life are raging, stand by me
When the storms of life are raging, stand by me
When the world is tossing me
Like a ship upon the sea
Thou who rulest wind and water stand by me

ONE SPEAKING: Psalm 139:11-12
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

ALL SINGING
In the midst of tribulation, stand by me
In the midst of tribulation, stand by me
When the host of hell assail
And my strength begins to fail
Thou who never lost a battle, stand by me

ONE SPEAKING: Psalm 139:13-14
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

ALL SINGING
In the midst of faults and failures, stand by me
In the midst of faults and failures, stand by me
When I’ve done the best I can
And my friends misunderstand
Thou who knowest all about me, stand by me

ALL SPEAKING: Psalm 139:23-24
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen.

Compilation © 2011 Nicole Sallee
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Nicole for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

John Day 14: Living Water

Living water man

Living Water by graphic artist Mark Taylor

Gospel of John Reading Plan

Day 14 Reading: John 7:32-52

Bringing the Word to Life
Exercise or work outside. When you are finished, drink some cold water. Pause to thank the Spirit for being a stream of living water flowing within you.

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.” – John 7:37 (NRSV)

Another morning and I wake with thirst for the goodness I do not have. I walk out to the pond and all the way God has given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord, I was never a quick scholar but sulked and hunched over my books past the hour and the bell; grant me, in your mercy, a little more time. Love for the earth and love for you are having such a long conversation in my heart. Who knows what will finally happen or where I will be sent, yet already I have given a great many things away, expecting to be told to pack nothing, except the prayers which, with this thirst, I am slowly learning. -Mary Oliver

Be thirsty for the ultimate water,
and then be ready for what will
come pouring from the spring.
-Rumi, The Essential Rumi

Observation
Because of what he says at the festival, some choose to believe Jesus is the Messiah. Many Jewish leaders do not believe because they think he was born in Galilee. The Pharisees send temple guards to arrest Jesus, but they do not.

Extended reflection by Rev. Dr. Rini Hernandez: Rivers of the Spirit promised
These words are proclaimed “on the last day” of a 7-day very important festivity for God’s people: “sukkot“, or the Feast of the Tabernacles. It was one of the three main Jewish festivities that would mandate a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.

The “sukkot” was intended as a reminiscence of the type of fragile dwellings in which the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of travel in the desert. Throughout the holiday, meals are eaten inside the sukkah and some people sleep there as well. On each day of the holiday, members of the household would bring offerings to the Temple, and on the 7th day, they would bring water from the pool of Siloam. Then the High Priest would fill up a golden jar with that water, take it to the Temple and amidst the shouts for joy of the people celebrating and the sound of shofars, He would pour out the water into the altar of sacrifices.

The purpose of this ceremony was to remind the Israelites of the many blessings God gave them during those 40 years in the desert (particularly the water from the rock), but also served as a reminder of the abundance of God’s presence during the messianic era. It is in this context that Jesus says: “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me!”. In my view, what Jesus is saying here is: “Don’t you get it? That water being poured out at the altar represents ME. And these celebrations are just pointing to the time when, after having lived in a spiritual desert and in fragile tents, now God is building His Eternal Kingdom and pouring out the abundance of His presence through my coming to you!”

Old Testament texts like Isaiah 12:3 were part of that celebration: “With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation”, or Psalm 46:4: “A river brings joy to the city of our God, the sacred home of the Most High”. Those texts were just an anticipated description of what the living presence of Jesus the Messiah would produce in us: “The rivers of joy”, flowing from our hearts.

The New King James Version’s render of John 7:38 is: “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water”. This is the description of believers in Jesus Christ who would drink from the water that He offers, experiencing the rivers of those waters flowing for others to drink and be blessed through us.

Whoever drinks from Jesus the well, Jesus the fount, Jesus the stream of waters, they would receive GRACE and JOY and NEW LIFE for themselves, but also, they will be able to communicate the same GRACE, JOY and NEW LIFE to others.

Application
Jesus provides a stream of living water for all who are thirsty for righteousness. This came at the price of Jesus being himself poured out on the cross.

For this is Christ’s spiritual thirst, his longing in love, which persists and always will until we see him … Therefore this is his thirst and his longing in love for us, to gather us all here into him, to our endless joy, as I see it. For we are not now so wholly in him as we then shall be. … We are his bliss, we are his reward, we are his honor, we are his crown. … For he still has that same thirst and longing which he had upon the Cross, which desire, longing and thirst, as I see it, were in him from without beginning; and he will have this until the time that the last soul which will be saved has come up into his bliss. … and this is the characteristic of spiritual thirst, which will persist in him so long as we are in need, and will draw us up into his bliss. -Julian of Norwich

My prayer came out as a poem today…

I thirst by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Holy Jesus, our Lord and our God, is thirsty as he hangs on the cross.
Not the everyday dryness that is easily satisfied by turning a faucet,
but the deep, deadly thirst few of us have known.
The burning, raging thirst of exposure and dehydration

By this time in His torture, Jesus’ body is a festival of pain
Cramps sweep through his muscles, knotting them,
and yet he must use them to lift himself to breath
His back, bloody and open down to the bone from the scourging,
scrapes against the craggy tree.
The lacerated veins and crushed tendons of his wrists and ankles
throb with incessant anguish
There’s a deep, crushing pain in the depths of his chest
(it’s his pericardium slowly filling with fluid)
As the heaviness closes in,
his heart struggles to pump what little is left of his thick, sluggish blood
Each variety of misery goes on and on and on
increasing with every moment that passes

How does he choose to describe this?
How does he describe the reality of his passion?
He says– I Thirst

He could have said with the Psalmist
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws
You lay me in the dust of death.

But that is too much
All his swollen tongue can say is… I thirst

Jesus knows the gift of water
The refreshment of being spoken in the beginning
as waters were separated from waters
Of guiding a rutterless ark on the vastness of the ocean
and a rutterless people through two seas and on to freedom
The warm waters of his birth and the obedient waters of his baptism
He knows the feel of spittle on his hands while making mud so a blind man may see
and the feel of spittle on his face from those who mock him

Yet all he can say is… I thirst

Only a short time before, Jesus talks with a man seeking answers in the night
Be born again of water and the Spirit
Only a short time before, Jesus talks with a cast down woman at a public well
Drink the water I give you and never thirst again
Only a short time before, Jesus cries out in the midst of the festival
Let anyone who is thirsty come to me
      Let the one who believes in me drink
Streams of living water will flow from within you

Now he pours himself out for the world… I thirst

I thirst
I thirst for you – because you cannot drink the bitter cup I must drink
I thirst for you – because I desire that none should be lost
I thirst for you – so that you may drink of me, the living water
Drink deeply
I become in you and all who believe a spring of water gushing up to eternal life

Holy Jesus, our Lord and our God, is thirsty as he hangs on the cross.
Not the everyday dryness that is easily satisfied by turning a faucet,
but the deep, vital thirst all of us may now know because of his saving work
The cleansing, satisfying thirst for righteousness

I Thirst © 2001 Lisa Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

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For more information on the Gospel of John Reading Plan, click here

For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

John Day 13: Judgmental

This Post-It Sacred Heart Jesus Christ was done on a wall of the Facultad de Arquitectura y Urbanismo in the Universidad de Chile by the artist Mecanismo. Making an image of Jesus out of post-it notes is a powerful commentary on the idea of judging or labeling Jesus.

Gospel of John Reading Plan
Day 13 Reading:
John 7:1-31

Bringing the Word to Life
Do some people watching. Look at every person as someone loved by God, as someone Jesus died for. Confess when you have judged someone by their appearance and vow to stop.

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him. – John 7:18 (NRSV)

Observation
The controversy over Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath continues. Jesus defends his actions to a gossiping crowd gathered at the Jewish Festival of Booths. He also points out the inconsistencies and hypocrisy of their judgment of him and other faithful leaders who have come before him.

Application
A Christian is a “little Christ,” one who re-presents Christ to others. If we speak and act from our own agenda and strength our primary motivation is to honor ourselves, not God. What is the motivation/source of my words and actions? Who am I serving? Who am I re-presenting?

The tale of Jonah is not about what happened when a particular prophet was swallowed by a whale; it is about what happens to any man or woman who is swallowed by narrow nationalistic, ethnic, religious or racial pride. It is a story about jingoism–an unhealthy love of nation or race that turns in on itself and become sick and destructive…in stark contrast to the universal, inclusive love of God.
– Jim Harnish, God Isn’t Finished With Us Yet

If you judge people you have no time to love them. – Mother Teresa

I’m at the point in my life where I don’t want to be a part of fundamentalism of the left or the right, mostly because it lacks two things that I can’t do without in my life anymore — which is joy and humility.- Nadia Bolz-Weber

Prayer
Jesus, search me and know me as you did the crowd that day. Forgive me for the times my words or actions have brought you dishonor or given people a false impression of you. Continue to counsel me, reveal the truth to me, and change me until nothing false is found. Help me to be whole; to have a consistent agenda and motivation; to be the same person no matter who I am speaking with and no matter what the circumstance. I want my life to bring you honor and to be child of your truth forever. Thank you for your forgiveness and the renewal of a right spirit within me. Bring this same change and blessing to all who claim your name. In your glorious name and for your name’s sake I pray. Amen.

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Click here for a powerful article by Rachel Held Evans entitled Everyone’s a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring Up Gluttony. In it she makes several strong points on the pitfalls of labeling sin/sinners, especially in light of our own prejudices and perspectives.

For more information on the Gospel of John Reading Plan, click here

For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

John Day 12: Turning Back

The Sorrowful Christ, a statue at the Our Lady of Fatima Shrine, Lewiston, NY

Gospel of John Reading Plan
Day 12 Reading:
John 6:60-71

Bringing the Word to Life
Pray for persons who have walked away from faith in Jesus Christ.

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?”- John 6:67 (NRSV)

The word emotion comes from the Latin “emovere”, meaning to “move through or out.” So in its original form, there isn’t any trace of clinging to, or rejecting, these movements. But instead of allowing emotions to move through and out of us, we often feed them with negative thoughts and end up giving them long-term residence. In short order, the guests take over the house, leaving us reeling and unable to truly be in control. – Viral Mehta

Observation
Jesus has just explained that he is the Messiah and will offer his body for the salvation of the world. He uses a metaphor to explain belief, that he is the “bread that came down from heaven” and that those who believe will be one with him by “eating his flesh” and “drinking his blood.” Many take what he is saying literally. It is hard enough to believe God’s Great Messiah will die and even more so that he must be eaten.

Application
When words of sacrifice are spoken, many want no part of it. They walk away from following Jesus. What a heartbreaking day. You can hear the pain in Jesus’ voice, “Do you also wish to go away?” The wound grows even deeper as Jesus states that someone who has stayed will eventually betray him.

We come to the Bible as consumers, rummaging through texts to find something at a bargain. We come to worship as gourmets of the emotional, thinking that the numinous might provide a nice supplement to sunsets and symphonies. We read “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” and our hearts flutter. We read “You shall not fear the terror of the night,” and we are tranquilized. We read “He does not deal with us according to our sins” and we decide we have probably been too hard on ourselves. But when we read “The Lord says…The Lord has sworn,” our interest flags and we reach for the newspaper to find out how the stock market is doing.
Eugene Peterson, Earth and Altar

My prayer came out as a poem today…

Turn and Return by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Who shall separate us from the love of God?

We    Fall away
Slip away
Turn away
Hide away
Run away
Push away
Go our way
Lose our way

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your Presence?
You     Pursue

Woman sweeping
Spirit drawing
Hound dog tracking
Lover calling
Brood Hen gathering
Shepherd searching
Racer enduring
Father waiting… praying… hoping… looking… running… embracing
Our turning and returning

Lord, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.

poem © 2011 Lisa Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

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For more information on the Gospel of John Reading Plan, click here

For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.