January 31, 2005

Sabbath Healing / Crystal

This time I'm first :-).

The first line that struck me was ...
When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be well?"
... this might seem like a strange question for Jesus to ask but I think I understand it. Sometimes change, even for the better, is scary and it can be easier to have things remain the same, even when they are bad ... the badness you know may be preferable to the goodness you don't.

Next ...
Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, "Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you."
... ok, this creeps me out a little. Is Jesus saying that the guy was crippled because he had sinned, that if one sins, bad things will happen to them? I thought God caused the sun to rise on both good and bad alike, so to speak.

And ...
Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath.
... Jesus here seems to be saying (through actions) that the Sabbath was made for men, not the other way around ... the spirit of the law trumps the letter.

January 30, 2005

Sabbath Healing (John 5:1-18)

After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids-- blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.

When 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?"

The 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."

Jesus said to him, "Stand up, take your mat and walk."

At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, "It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat."

But he answered them, "The man who made me well said to me, 'Take up your mat and walk.'"

They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Take it up and walk'?"

Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, "See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you."

The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath.

But Jesus answered them, "My Father is still working, and I also am working."

For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.

David's Read on Healing of an Official's Son

I note this is a man of wealth and privilege. And it is a healing at a distance. So it parallels the healing of the centurion's servant.

The healing is at Jesus' word and not dependent upon the official's faith. We hear the official left believing Jesus and in obedience to Jesus but we are told the healing took place in the hour Jesus had spoken and not when the official believed.

I think this important. A lot of spirituality depends upon our mindset and not God's timetable. If I feel distant from God I interpret this as God's absence and not my tiredness, distraction, worldliness, or other. And this plays out over and over in popular religiosity.

When I was -- maybe fourteen -- our family on a long trip stopt by a shopping mall one summer. When I got tired and could find no bench I returned to the car and sat on the bumper to relive my feet that were aching. A woman saw me there and noting my disability came and offered to pray for me.

I consented -- though at the time I was in my teenage way -- seeing myself as an agnostic and shading towards atheist. She prayed for at least two minutes. And my parents came cross the parking lot and I started to squirm in embarrassment.

"Oh,well," she said. "You don't have enough faith to be healed." And she went on her way.

I wish this story were unique but there are few disabled people who do not have similar horrors to recount and I know of at least one other person who has sworn never to enter a church on account of such a story.

God's time not ours. God's work. Not ours.

Healing An Official's Son -- Marjorie

The faith of the official always humbles me with its simple purity. He wants Jesus to come to his son, but Jesus tells him to go, that his son is healed. He obeys Jesus. Does he believe that his son is healed? It seems so, because he does not ask again. Do I have such a simple faith? Would I believe? He says his son is healed -- if he believes that Jesus can heal, he should believe whatever Jesus says, and he does.

Upon hearing the report of his son's recovery, he asks when it began. From this answer, he knows it was when Jesus said those words to him. This is sort of heartening to me, he does seek confirmation that this was Jesus's act by asking when the healing took place. Once hearing this, he believes. I hope my faith is like that -- I may need a bit of reassurance, but once given, I hope that I don't continue to question or look for other reasons.

January 28, 2005

Healing of an Official's Son / Crystal

The part that stood out for me - Jesus says "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe." as if he's miffed, yet still he does as asked.

I know now that many (most?) people don't take the miracles of Jesus literally, but that's what I've been doing, and until I began this study group, I hadn't realized how unusual that is. The hard part for me was believing in God at all - a supernatural being - the leap to believing in miracles seemed no big stretch after that. Part of the miracles thing, to me, is the question of whether God intervenes in the natural world. I'd like to thiink so ... that he answers prayers just as Jesus in this passage answered the request of the Official to heal his son.

The Second Miracle

David has already pointed out to us the signs (or miracles in the KJV). Here is the list of 7 (a magic number of course; look up 'seven signs' in google; you will be amazed. Then look up "seven signs john"):

The concept of signs loomed very big in John. Commentators have selected 7 incidents where Jesus performed a "miracle" (so that people might "believe on him" and have "eternal life"):

1. the Wedding at Cana (Chapter Two)
2. healing of the nobleman's son (Four)
3. healing of the lame man (Five)
4. feeding of 5000 (Six)
5. walking on water (Six)
6. healing of the blind man (Nine)
7. raising of Lazarus (Eleven)

John wrote these stories to convince people, so they might 'believe' and have 'eternal life'. Once again: this belief was not to a set of intellectual propositions, but as emphasized in the synoptics, a matter of trust in what Jesus said, in the gospel.

Trusting in the truth of Jesus' words and actions, we commit ourselves to the Way (14:6).

Healing of an Official's Son (John 4:46-54)

Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.

Then Jesus said to him, "Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe."

The official said to him, "Sir, come down before my little boy dies."

Jesus said to him, "Go; your son will live."

The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, "Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him."

The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live." So he himself believed, along with his whole household. Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.

January 27, 2005

Woman at the Well -- Marjorie

Like Crystal, I learned that the woman specifically went to the well at the hottest time of the day to avoid meeting up with anyone. Was she ashamed? Was she simply trying to avoid others who might treat her unkindly? Did she want to avoid the feeling of being shunned? Her isolation must have been very painful.

I love the redemption implicit in this passage. This woman is living in sin, she has a bad reputation but Jesus offers her salvation. In turn, the sinner goes to bring others to salvation when she witnesses to those in her town. That must have been difficult for her -- she may have been avoiding contact with others and now she returns to tell her townsfolk the good news.

January 26, 2005

Howdy Crystal II

Like David, I'm responding to your post about the woman at the well. Yes, I feel like the woman at the well, too, Crystal, and I also feel like Christ talking to her.

Wallflowers! For some strange reason my fate, and perhaps Christian calling has so often been to relate to the one nobody else wants to talk to. In fact at the Church of the Saviour, when I first went there, Old Louise (about my age at present) had started a sharing group for the outsiders; I was one of them. They became a mighty force in that church, but one of the church executives asked me suspiciously why I spent all my time with those on the periphery.

Howdy Crystal

Don't know what happened but the link to the comments page under your posting leads to a deadlink. I think maybe blogger is having a bad day.

I'm intrigued by ... 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor. ... I don't really understand what this means.

My best guess -- which not likely much better than yours -- is that the "others who have laboured" are the prophets from the Hebrew scriptures. The prophets sowed the seeds, tended the fields, and Jesus' disciples reap the harvest.

January 25, 2005

Woman at Well / Crystal

Sorry this is late - having trouble with my browser.

The first thing I noticed in this reading was that I identified with the woman at the well. She came to the well at noon, the hottest time of the day ... I read somewhere once that it would be odd for someone to go to the well at noon unless they wanted to avoid others. Was she avoiding others because she had been so often married and was now living with someone not her husbanf? I know the feeling of not fitting in, of wanting to avoid others.

Jesus asks her for a drink, offers her a drink, which is somewhat odd, given the social taboo of talking to a woman ... At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, "What are you looking for?" or "Why are you talking with her?" ... And she puts him off ... doesn't he know she's not worthy, that it's inappropriate, that it's all too complicated? But he shows her he knows exactly who/what she is, yet still asks, offers. Jesus takes/accepts people as he finds them, snubs no one.

The next thing I noticed was when Jesus tells the woman ... You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. ...This seems to echo what he told Nicodemus earlier ... a new way of being with God is replacing the old way.

I'm intrigued by ... 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor. ... I don't really understand what this means.

The Woman at the Well

As the various posts on this segment demonstrate, we bring various and contrasting interpretations to the scripture. Happy are we if we understand and accept that contrasting interpretations may be equally valid. The Bible has been called the Living Word, which means to me that God speaks variously through the Bible to his various children. The beauty of this kind of blogging is that each of us hopefully have our minds and spirits stretched and broadened through the contributions of each participant.

Two facets of this story strike me as especially significant. A careful student immediately perceives the metaphoric dimension of water-- this being the third appearance in John. Later we will read of Jesus quoting Isaiah 58:11 as "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." John goes on pointing out that Jesus was speaking of the spirit. (I love that pungent phrase, "out of his belly"; only in the King Jim.)

The other facet that most impresses me, as I've already pointed out in previous comments, is the clue that Jesus speaks to us all, not just the Jews, and includes us in his family. For me that means that he speaks to the Moslems (they in fact recognize him and may give him more credit than most Christians do), the Buddhists and all the others. We will read in 10:16 "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." Praise the Lord.

(John 4:43-45) David's Comments

An oddly prosaic passage nestled in amongst the signs and wonders. John here sites a Jesus saying also found in the Synoptics:
And he said, "Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown.

--Luke 4:24 (NRSV)

Yet John's sense is different from Luke's. Luke uses it to show the saying to be true -- the folks at Capernaum rejected him. John seems to present this as a fear of Jesus' - a fear not realized -- at least on this occasion.

The rural folks welcome Jesus for they had gone to festival and seen him clear the temple. And they applauded him for the act. The same clearing of the temple is seen as cause for Jesus arrest and execution in the other gospels.

I suspect John gets it right. The city folks are appalled at Jesus making a scene and interupting their commerce and daring to challenge The Way It Has Always Been. The fishermen and farmers -- the poor of the hedgerows and countryside see him as one of their own giving the power-elites the finger in a public display.

When I am honest with myself -- which is not often enough -- I wonder how I would respond to Jesus if he were to escape the relative safety of an Ancient Near Eastern Text? Am I too sophisticated to follow my God?

Return to Galillee (John 4:43-45)

When the two days were over, he went from that place to Galilee for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in the prophet's own country). When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the festival; for they too had gone to the festival.

January 24, 2005

Living Water and Spritual Harvest

John 4:1-42 Reflected upon by Meredith

“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “…Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Living water is such a beautiful metaphor for what humans spiritually thirst for. When this is introduced, the Samaritan woman was surprised that Jesus would speak to her and responded with a debate about the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans, but Jesus ignored this. The woman then thought Jesus was literally talking about water from the well, and wondered how he would draw water from this deep well. She also was confused about his phrase “never thirsting” assuming this meant that she would not have to return to the well each day. In these exchanges the metaphorical nature of Jesus’ language becomes very clear. In 4:33 Jesus tells his disciples “I have food to eat of which you do not know,” and they wonder aloud if anyone had brought Jesus food. Again people are fooled by being too literal. In 4:16, Jesus sends the woman away and instructs her to come back later. Going away and returning, we often are able to see things in a new and fresh light, and extract deeper meaning from the poetic language and spiritual experience.

John 4:21-24: “God is spirit and his worshipers must worship in sprit and in truth.” I love this simple, pure, and fundamental truth. Spirit is present everywhere and at all times – not limited to the mountain top or Jerusalem. Location of worship is not important, but the spirit and honesty of worship is important.

In John 4:34-35, in further metaphorical language, Jesus states, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me…” “I tell you, open you eyes and look at the fields? They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life…” Food in this sense is spiritual nourishment, which is accomplished both by giving (sowing) and receiving (reaping). This is available to the Samaritan woman just as it for all people – no matter your history or status in culture.

David's Read on the Woman at the Well

The story thus far:

We opened with a hymn to the pre-existent and eternal Light that shines in the darkness and who then became grounded in our reality. We hear witness to John the Baptist who in turn witnesses to Christ. We get discourses by Jesus speaking of the messiah in the third person.

Now -- and for the first time Jesus owns the title of messiah. He does so not to his intimate circle of chosen disciples, nor even in Israel. But to a woman and a Samaritan who has had several husbands and is now living with a man she is not married to. It is through her witness that others see/hear the Light. We get shades of Mark here when the disciples arrive, and become confused at Jesus' actions -- clearly those who should most be in the know are out of the loop.

Seems to me John is telling us the Jesus Movement has outgrown its Jewish roots and is finding a home amongst those estranged from mainstream Judaism. Here is a faith that insiders cannot understand and those pushed to the margins by the insiders feel empowered by.

What does that say about a Quaker Meeting where the same half dozen or so "weighty Friends" attend the meeting for worship for business and sit on all the committees? And I do not imagine Quakers to be unique in this regard. Methodists, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Catholics, I'm sure have their parallels.

January 23, 2005

Woman at the Well in Samaria

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, "Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John" -- although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized-- he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water."

The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?"

Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life."

The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water."

Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back."

The woman answered him, "I have no husband."

Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!"

The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem."

Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."

The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us."

Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you."

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, "What do you want?" or, "Why are you speaking with her?" Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, "Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?"

They left the city and were on their way to him. Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, "Rabbi, eat something."

But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about."

So the disciples said to one another, "Surely no one has brought him something to eat?"

Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, 'Four months more, then comes the harvest'? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I have ever done." So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word.

They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world."

John 4:1-42 (NRSV)

sorry I've been MIA

Partly due top being out of town last weekend, partly due to work schedule and partly due to my ISP having some serious server down issues over the last week.

In regards to the The one who comes from above passage:

As I mentioned before -- real sheep and goats stuff. I prefer both/and to either/or and so the make-a-choice-or-you'll-be-sorry school of spirituality tends to stick in my craw bit -- same trouble with Kierkegaard.

This passage appears to be strong Trinitarian strong Incarnation stuff. Which would tend towards traditional orthodoxy. Larry has expressed reservations about such before - usually by stating the standard historical-critical claims that the synoptic Jesus is closer in time and therefore closer in truth to the real Jesus.

I tend to read literarily. I also don't allow that out. If John is a faithful witness to the Christ-light shining then whether he wrote in Jesus' day or wrote in 1964 is frankly irrelevant. Does his witness find accord in me? Does the the same Christ-light in me speak the same truth? If it speaks it in a differing tongue -- how may I translate it?

So John places this witness on Jesus' lips -- which must mean John counts it as significant. Yet it is in third person. Either John does not want Jesus to be the one referred to here or he does not want Jesus in a position of testifying to himself.

My thought, unformed -- maybe wrong -- maybe missing something -- is that John is writing in hopes that what he writes will help us to hear the light / Spirit / that-of-God speak in us in confirmation.

So the critical question remains: what does it mean to accept the testimony of the one who comes from above?

John 3:31-36 ...Meredith

John 3:31-36

"He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony."

Jesus’ testimony was trustworthy in that he was speaking from experience (Quakers love this!). Jesus speaks as one who has felt and known communion with God, as one who has experienced God within his very self. It is difficult to comprehend this if you have not yourself tasted this. If you have an inkling of awareness of this truth, then what Jesus proclaims rings very true. When you feel this Light within you, there is no limit to the potential grace unfolding.

"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."

About Eternal Life – I have recently come upon a new understanding of this phrase. Thich Nhat Hahn helped me to understand this when he wrote about the historical and the ultimate dimensions. Historical dimension is about history, birth, death, things happening… but the Ultimate dimension is so much more – beyond time, beyond birth and death, a level of being that is of an ultimate realm. TNH explains this notion by describing water and waves. Waves go up and down, are big and small, begin and end. But this description cannot be applied to water, which the wave is. The wave must look deeply into her self in order to realize that she is, at the same time, water.

”Perfection is for the wave to exist in both realms simultaneously. When you touch deeply the historical dimension, you touch the ultimate dimension, and when you have touched the ultimate dimension, you have not left the historical dimension.”

I believe this gives us a clue about what eternal life is. Whoever comprehends and experiences the concept of God in human, of Spirit without limit, touches this ultimate dimension of living, in the historical realm as well. If we do not grasp this, we will continue to live only in the historical dimension, where suffering is a part of life.

January 21, 2005

The One Who Comes from Above

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God's wrath.

-- John 3:31-36 (NRSV)

January 19, 2005

Jesus and JBap -- Marjorie

"He must increase, but I must decrease." In Bible study, I was taught that this is how a believer should behave -- with the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit that comes with the acceptance of Christ, the believer should shake off his own egotism and desires and embrace the way of Christ. To me, this speaks of the truth, how many other religions and belief systems deal with the issue of coming out of ownself, or leaving one's selfish desires behind so that one might become more holy or enlightened or more aligned with God? It seems to me it runs through many belief systems.

I like John's response here -- it seems as if he is approached and asked, basically, 'doesn't this bother you?' People are not listening to him as much but following this interloper, some new guy. John reminds them that this new guy is the Messiah, for whom John has been waiting and for whom he has prepared the way. He has accomplished his mission, he has succeeded. "For this reason my joy has been fulfilled."

I wonder if John realized that decreasing would mean losing his head.

Ketchup Post (without pickles)


John takes great care to present poor Nicodemus as a bit thick. Learned for sure. But trapped by his letter-of-the-law literalism and unable to recognize a good metaphor if he tripped over one in a well-lit room. I feel sorry for the poor guy.

The name just oozes wisdom and learning. Perhaps I'm being unduly influenced by the classic Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and the animated film based upon it The Secret of NIMH. Yet still. Learning usually opens the imagination to a certain extent. Or at least makes one aware of it.

John uses Nicodemus the same way as Mark uses the disciples, not as well-rounded characters in a realistic drama (realism in literature doesn't come round for another 1800 years or so) but as cannon fodder (canon fodder?) in a battle of rhetoric. The point being similar to Hamlet's, there are more things in heaven and on earth than can be dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.

In the spiritual life, logic, reason, and science can take us only so far. When reason is being reasonable it sees it and doing so leaves us, like Vergil, in the loving care of Beatrice, herald of divine grace.

The Baptist

Like Nicodemus there is something sad about this. The work of the Baptist was to prepare the way for another. A successful prophet works himself out of a job.

Reminds me of Jonah who preached against Nineveh so well that Nineveh repented and the hand of judgment passed over the people. I wonder if the Baptist felt a similar resentment and regret to that which Jonah felt.

January 18, 2005

John 3:22 ... / Crystal

The part that sttod out for me was when John the B says ...

The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete.

Lots of wedding banquet/bridegroom references in the new testament - I like the relational quality of that - our being with Jesus/God as a kind of marraige.

Jesus and John the Baptist

I'm back but sleep deprived and have miles to go before I sleep. I'll check in later and try to catch up.

22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he spent some time there with them and baptized.

23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim because water was abundant there; and people kept coming and were being baptized

24 -- John, of course, had not yet been thrown into prison.

25 Now a discussion about purification arose between John's disciples and a Jew.

26 They came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him."

27 John answered, "No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.

28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, 'I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.'

29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled.

30 He must increase, but I must decrease."

January 16, 2005

Marjorie on Nicodemus

As an initial matter, I just want to say that I love Nicodemus. I completely relate to his constantly asking 'how can this be?', his being grounded and trapped in the literal and completely misunderstanding the metaphorical. He strikes me as earnest and confused. Perhaps he also appeals to me because he does not leave the comfortable position of a Pharisee to become a disciple. Is he a coward? Perhaps. Is he simply uncertain of who Jesus is and what Nicodemus's path is to be? Nicodemus is very real to me.

The serpent testimony is very interesting (3:14). I tend to blow by it, remembering the passage in Numbers 21:9 but not thinking more of it -- snakes killing Israelites, God tells Moses to make a bronze serpent that will heal those who have been bitten so that they do not die. Easy, right -- believe in the power of the serpent and be saved, believe in Jesus and be saved. Now I see deeper links. Nicodemus seems to be wondering why he is supposed to believe in Jesus, why does God complicate matters? Jesus points out that God did not simply take away the snakes of Numbers, but He did give Moses directions on how the people could save themselves. The Numbers passage is very interesting because it seems to implicate God in promoting idolatry. Very much like believing in Jesus.

Lets go a bit further back in the Numbers account. The Israelites were complaining as they wandered in the desert. They had recently learned that the older generation would not be going into Canaan because of their lack of faith that they would be able to oust the current occupants. These people had seen amazing works by God and Moses as empowered by God and yet they still feared. Their punishment was that they would not get to the Promised Land. God would continue to provide their basic needs, but they would not gain entrance to Canaan. It was reading the Pentatuch (the five books of Moses from Exodus through Deuteronomy) that I realized how amazing the Bible is. Not only did I read of the impatience of the Israelites, I felt it -- gee, God, why don't you just get these people what you promised them now? On the other side, I grew tired of the Israelites' grumblings and could understand God's outrage and sorrow. How tiresome it all is. How is this different from our lives? The trust and belief, the insecurity and fear, the punishment (which simply might be the effects we see in our lives because of our actions or inactions based on fear and insecurity), the offer of redemption, the acceptance of redemption, the continuation of this cycle.

Anyway, in Numbers, the Israelites again complain of their lot in life and complain about God and Moses -- why have you done this to us, they ask. The Lord then sent fiery serpents among the people who bit them and many died. The Israelites realize their sin, ask Moses to intercede, which he does, and thus the direction that Moses make the bronze serpent. "[I]f a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live." There is no requirement that the people believe in the serpent, merely that they obey the Lord's command of what to do in certain circumstances.

Finally, this passage ends with a discourse on light and darkness -- this was especially meaningful to me when I took the study. At the time, we were facing issues in my extended family regarding an estranged member. There was a lot of confusion and incomplete information and a lot of allusion but no real facts. This passage spoke to me because I knew there were lies because nothing was clear -- this person was hiding out in the darkness. It inspired me to communicate with the other members of my family just to get out into the open that this confusion existed and that it was on purpose and to unify the family -- not against the estranged member, but in understanding of what was going on. It did result in a unification and a refusal to be drawn into a drama that wasn't entirely real.

I love the idea that in the light, there is nothing to fear. Jesus is that light and we are part of it when we choose to be. Isn't it wonderful to have that choice?

January 15, 2005

Meredith: Nicodemus

Nicodemus was searching, and believed Jesus had answers. In this respect, Nicodemus was ‘in the dark’ so to speak, even though he was himself educated (“You are Israel’s teacher”). Nicodemus comes personally with an open mind and heart.

When Jesus speaks of being born again, this was a concept Nicodemus didn’t understand. Jesus tells him that the kingdom is personal, not national or ethnic, and to enter requires spiritual rebirth.

When Jesus mentions water and spirit, this seems to refer to the contrast between physical birth and spiritual birth. Water also represents cleansing, though Jesus is clear that people do not enter the kingdom by living a better life, but by being spiritually reborn.

Just a reflection here – bear with me and my tangents…(smile). Enlightenment is a metaphor about a mystical way of being religious. Outside the Jewish and Christian traditions, the best known enlightenment experience is described by the Buddha. Enlightenment leads one to see everything differently. It is not an intellectual experience of ‘seeing’. It is a spiritual experience involving communion or union with what is, an immediate knowing of the sacred that transforms one’s way of seeing.

In Nicodemus, illumination (like enlightenment) is a central metaphor for salvation. To have one’s eyes opened, to be enlightened, is to move from the darkness to light, from death to life, from falsehood to truth, from life in the flesh to life in the Spirit. It is to be born from above or from the Spirit.

This language of enlightenment is an emphasis on knowing God. This knowing is the meaning of “eternal life” – which is not a future state beyond death but an experience in the present. “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God.” For John, enlightenment experience is knowing God in Jesus. This knowing is beyond sickness, enemy, evil, sin or death.

John 3:16… This verse focuses on God’s love, which is not static or self centered; it reaches out and draws others in. This is the pattern of true love, the basis of all love relationships. When you love someone dearly, you are willing to sacrifice, give self-sacrifice.

John 3:19… Living in the Light is having one’s dark exposed – a frightening thought to some. With honesty, with naked truth, and exposure of one’s true self, an enlightened person lives by the truth which reveals yet more light. In this light, we see “plainly…”.

John 1:35-51 examined by Meredith

The part of this text that certainly picks up my attention is the question and answer, “What do you want?” The disciples respond by asking, “Where are you staying?” to which Jesus replies, “Come and you will see.” To me this suggests that in following Jesus, we will see exactly where he dwells. This same invitation could be offered to anyone seeking on the path. For example, Philip extends this same invitation to Nathanael. “Come and see.”

I love that when Jesus sees Nathanael, and knows him, Nathaneal was curious about how that could be true. Jesus recognized in Nathaneal his true self, “in whom there is nothing false.” It is our true selves that are most visible to God, even though we may try to hide behind a façade.

Last, 1:51 references Jacob’s dream in Genesis. Jesus, (metaphorically) is a ladder between heaven and earth. Jesus is not saying that this would be a physical experience – that anyone could see the ladder – but that they would have spiritual insight into Jesus’ true nature and purpose. I love that he says “you shall see heaven open, and angels of God ascending and descending” which to me means that heaven and earth are united.

January 14, 2005


I won't be logging in here again probably until Tuesday. It will be interesting how folks responding to Nicodemus when I get back.


1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God."

3 Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above."

4 Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?"

5 Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.' 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

9 Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?"

10 Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11 "Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God."

--John 3:1-21 (NRSV)

January 13, 2005

Marjorie on Calling the Disciples

John 1:35-51.

This passage doesn't really speak to me. Its noticeable that a couple of John the Baptist's disciples left him for Jesus, perhaps this was at his encouragement. I love Nathanael's reaction because it seems to me he's being a bit caustic asking if anything good ever came out of Nazareth. I could see making a similar comment, trying to be funny -- talk about foot in mouth, a little geographic snobbiness and it turns out that God chose that location for his incarnation. I should stop trying to be funny.

I learned through Bible study that the significance of the fig tree is that its branches hang long and low and thick and that sitting under a fig tree would completely hide a person. So Jesus seeing Nathanael in such circumstances is really awe-inspiring and thus Nathanael's exclamation "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! The King of Israel!" (1:49)

I'm always amazed at the faith and boldness of these disciples to just go and follow Jesus. I envy the surety of their belief that this is the Messiah. I can't help but feel I'd be watching with skepticism. Am I doing that now?

January 12, 2005

Another Lamb

Of all the lambs found and cited as literary precursors of the "lamb of God", perhaps the most salient is found in Isaiah:

Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

This is part of a Suffering Servant poem (of which there are several in Isaiah). Many interpreters have concluded that Isaiah here foretells the life and career of the Saviour. Another way of looking at it is to consider that Jesus, being thoroughly familiar with Isaiah, took this poem as a pattern for his calling and life.

The whole poem is well worth your time:

52:13 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.
52:14 As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:
52:15 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
53:1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
53:2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
53:3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
53:8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
53:9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
53:11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
53:12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (KJV)

Some people have called Isaiah the 5th gospel.

Divisions Covered Over by John?

John is depicted here as re-affirming the Lamb of God witness and based upon that some of his disciples move on to become some of Jesus' disciples. This is clearly important to the author and so he must believe it is important to the community for which he is writing. I can only assume that this is an answer to some problem he or his community faced -- likely there were a mixture of Jesus folks and Baptists folks in the community and there were disputes as to whose teachings were to be followed.

Another possibility is that these followers of John the Baptist may once have been a member of the community and split apart over issues of "whose prophet was better". Doesn't sound like Quakerism/Christianity to me (tongue planted firmly in his cheek).

This gives me a measure of comfort. There is a good variety of beliefs in the modern church and especially a wide range in the typical Quaker meeting as I have experienced it. It would seem a similar variety thrived in the first Christian churches as well.

I also note that three times the author felt obliged to translate for his readers what specific terms meant (Rabbi=teacher; Messiah=Anointed; Cephas=rock). The people for whom he is writing do not necessarily speak/read Aramaic or Hebrew. Aramaic was the common language of the Jews in and around Jerusalem and Galillee. It is likely the language Jesus taught in. If the membership of this community are Jewish theya re further afield. More comfy with Greek culture. This may be a mission church that John is speaking/writing to.

First Disciples (slightly out of place)

35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher), "where are you staying?" 39 He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed).42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter). 43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth." 46 Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, "Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!" 48 Nathanael asked him, "Where did you get to know me?" Jesus answered, "I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you." 49 Nathanael replied, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" 50 Jesus answered, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these." 51 And he said to him, "Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."

January 11, 2005

Meredith on the Wedding and the Temple

(Just a little behind, here...)

This wedding feast seems to be a richly symbolic narrative. The story of the miracle of turning the water into wine could not happen in our experience. If we focus on this, we miss the richness of the symbolism. As John tells us, rather than ‘just’ a miracle, this is a sign. A sign that points beyond itself. The wedding banquet, which may have lasted a week, was a time of feasting and dancing. In this wedding banquet, a metaphor of our lives, the wine never runs out and the best is saved for last. A wedding, perhaps, symbolizes the intimacy of the divine-human relationship and the marriage between heaven and earth.

In the temple cleansing, there is again much rich metaphor. This parable on temple cleansing brings up issues such as anger, and violent expressions of anger by Jesus – one who we typically consider beyond anger, and certainly beyond violence – because ‘his Father’s house’ had become a marketplace or was being defiled. To remove this corruption by expulsion of sacrificial animals is symbolic perhaps, of the anticipation of the day when the Temple and its sacrifices would be gone and the sacrifice of the Lamb of God could be achieved. When asked for his authority, Jesus gives a sign of his death and resurrection. “If you destroy, I will raise up.” This is only understood much later.

Paschal Lamb

What strikes me is that this is the Passover feast. John seems to want us to make the connection between Jesus and the paschal lamb. Before, he placed this witness on the Baptist's lips: Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

Yet the Passover sacrifice does no such thing. The Passover lamb was slaughtered and the blood marked on the doorframes so the angel of death might pass them over. There is no remission of sins explicit or implicit in the Passover lamb. Other sacrifices take on that role (i.e., scapegoat)

The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a barren region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:22)

How are we to puzzle this out?

What saved the Israelites from death was the act of obedience to God's command through the prophet Moses. This obedience not only saved them from death, but the affliction upon the Egyptian houses led to the Israelites freedom from bondage as well.

John, more than the synoptic, emphasizes Jesus' death as a free act of obedience on the part of Jesus. He depicts Pontius Pilate, as unable to avoid the role given to him by destiny. Much like the pharaoh of Exodus.

Perhaps it is simple obedience to the call of God which saves us from the sin of this world. It causes the angel of death to pass us over and frees us from our bondage to this world's ways.

January 10, 2005

St. John the Evangelist and the Poisoned Cup by Alonso Cano

Crystal on the temple cleansing

The only part of the temple cleansing scene which I don't find disturbing is that Jesus disrupted the animal sacrifices (animal lover, here *g*). It makes me think of the lines ... Matthew 12:7 ... If mercy is superior to the temple sacrifices, how much more to the laws of ritual impurity ... and Jesus saying elsewhere in Matthew "Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice."

One spiritual director told me once that my Jesus was a plastic Jersus, because I wouldn't let him get angry. Obviously I have some issues :-). But, on the whole, I like Jesus being passionately disturbed to the point of doing such a reckless/brave thing, for surely this act put another metaphorical nail in his coffin with the religious leaders.

Then there's the part where Jesus obliquely refers to his death and resurrection ... poor disciples, they never seem to understand. I'm actually grateful to them for being such dense dopes - it means that if they can eventually get it right, there's hope for even me.

Finally, it ends on a kind of sad/foreboding note ... But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well. :-(

Temple Cleansing

In the synoptics this event was recorded near the end of Jesus' days, and led almost immediately to his Passion. It seems that John felt little need for maintaining chronological sequence in his gospel.

Looking at the Bible as a whole it seems clear that what happened here is a continuation or repetition of things that had happened throughout the history of the Hebrew nation. They were constantly slipping back into horrid practices and constantly called to account by the prophets.

What we have is a continuous conflict between prophet and priest. The priest is always allied with the temporal power, and the prophet always attempts to bring the people back to their spiritual calling. As Jesus said, they stoned the prophets and built monuments afterward; the temple of his day was such a monument. Moslems are supposed to honor Jesus as a prophet, which indicates more insight than we customarily show.

We're still doing it of course. We need another prophet to denounce the Church for confirming our warlike stance.

Marjorie on Temple Cleansing

Tired of a greasy, grimy temple? Well, just try our new wipes....
Whoops, slipped into a domestic rapture there.

Things are moving a bit fast, here, Jesus just turned water into wine and now he's cleaning up the temple. From my studies, I've learned the basics that what is going on here is that sacrificial animals are being sold at the temple and the merchants are price gouging. I've been told that there was a lot of corruption in this practice -- pilgrims were often told that the animals they brought from home were defective and therefore below standards for sacrifice but that they could buy these animals for sale. I've also been told that the animals being sold at the temple may have been defective themselves, so the merchants were adding insult to injury. The Old Testament (Leviticus and Deuteronomy, I believe) goes on at length about what animals are to be sacrificed for which sins and all sacrifices are to be without blemish. So offering a defective animal as a sacrifice to God is very bad. All of this, of course, points to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, who is without sin (i.e. defect).

I'm sort of enthralled by Jesus' outrage -- I can relate to his anger and I admire his take-charge attitude. The study I took emphasized the righteousness of Jesus' actions, that even his anger is righteous -- they have to do this, because anger is generally viewed as a sin and Jesus is free from sin. Actually, I wonder to what degree we impute anger to this. Jesus may have been perfectly calm and peaceful as he make a whip of cords and overturned tables. I don't know. Anyone who has a problem with Jesus acting this way probably also has big problems with most of the Old Testament. It doesn't trouble me. In many ways I can relate to Jesus cleansing the temple more than his crucifixion, which seems a bit passive-aggressive to me (we can get into that more when we get to those passages).

The passage continues with Jesus' statement prophesizing his death and resurrection, but of course, no one understands. How frustrating it must have been to be Jesus, at least viewed from his humanity. The statement is made, apparently, as a confirmation for his believers, to be understood at a future time.

Finally, Jesus knows us, he knows our hearts. He does not trust those who profess to believe in him because he knows our hearts. Why, even one of his most ardent disciples will deny him three times. Can you imagine the kind of love that leads you to sacrifice your very life for those whom you don't trust?

Cleansing of the Temple

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!" His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me."

Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.

--John 2:13-25 (NIV)

January 09, 2005

Marjorie on the Wedding Feast

I cheated this time and read your posts and comments first!

The one thing that really struck me was the statement that he saved the best for last. Not only do I see this as a source of hope that whatever comes 'after' life will be the best, I also find an exhortation to patience in it. Stop, be still, the best is yet to come.

Notations from my previous study of John -- Jesus cares about the mundane details of our lives, like whether there is enough wine at the feast.

The transformation of the water is indicative of the incredible transformation that Jesus can do in our own lives.


I just removed the bible study links form the side bar as they all referred to the letter of James that we aren't reading together anymore. If folks have any on-line resources towards bible study they would like linked to in the links directory feel free to email me and I will post them.

There are also banners below to Amnesty International and to some Quakers stuff like Canadian Friends Service Committee and Canadian Yearly Meeting. If your favorite faith community has a website and a logo or banner type we could link to them as well.

Just let me know.

January 08, 2005

Water into Wine

My experience with this story is memorable as part of my introduction to what is sometimes referred to as estoric reading of the Bible.
I was led into this mode by a very small book by Maurice Nicoll entitled The New Man.

Some words have special metaphoric connotations and are found over and over in the Bible: three such words are stone, water and fire. (In this story wine serves as an alternative term for fire or spirit.)

Look in your concordance for any of these three words. Checking them out will give you pause for wonderment.

Look for example at Elijah's contest with the 400 prophets of Baal. 1st Kings 18:17 ff: to end a terrible drought Elijah confounds the prophets of Baal. In the story you find a stone altar, water (first no water, then floods of water) and fire.)

Transform the fire to wine and the Wedding of Cana proves to be a similar story. We have stone waterpots, water put into them, and turned to wine.

Both stories have a similar (esoteric) meaning:
Stone represents the lowest level of spiritual consciousness,
Water represents an awakening to the Way. (We'll hear more about this miraculous water in John: in chapter Three we'll hear about being born of water, and still later more about life giving water.
Wine points toward the fire that broke out on the Day of Pentecost.

So we have description of three spiritual levels: the stony "unborn", born of water, and born of the Holy Spirit and fire (also called the New Wine). As David said, John referred to this as a sign. To me it seems like a sign of the spiritual movement in God's people about to take place.

An understanding of this kind of symbology did a lot to renew my interest in the Bible and in the life of the spirit.

Crystal - Wedding feast

The first miracle that Jesus does, changing water to wine, seems to show his desire to celebrate life

Anyway, about the wedding feast ... when I read this, it's hard to think of anything but the movie I saw when I first became a christian, the first time I took the online retreat ... guess that was an impressionabel time for me ... I know it's not the scripture itself, just a movie, but here's how I shall always see that wedding feast story of John's ...

In the movie, Jesus and his mom attended the wedding of a relative. He took along his two new disciples as well. John was sold on Jesus, thought he was the messiah, but Andrew wasn't so sure and his misgivings weren't mitigated by the sight of Jesus dancing and generally partying like a normal guy. When Jesus took a break from dancing, he asked his disciples if they were having a good time, why they weren't dancing. Darkly, Andrew said he wouldn't "party" until Isreal was rid of Rome, implying, it seemed, that Jesus as the messiah had better things to do than dance. Perhaps he wasn't the right guy for the job, afterall.

Jesus was crestfallen. His mom, who had heard this exchange, came forward and mentioned to Jesus that there was no wine. He asked, distracted, what concern it was of theirs. She told him that this was the time to show Andrew he hadn't made the wrong choice in bexoming a disciple. Jesus reluctantly agreed, turned the water into wine, and brought some of it to Andrew, saying that the cup for which he had waited had arrived ... Jesus did this ... and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.

I don't know if this senario actually happened or if it was placed there by the writer of John for some purpose (as David said) but it speaks to me about Jesus, his relationship with his mom, his disciples, and his view of life as a wedding feast that should never end.

david's (kwakersaur's) thoughts

For me the key phrase here is this was the first of Jesus' signs: it was at Cana in Galilee. John is telling us how to read this story.

We sometimes get into tussles about historicity. The Jesus Seminar folks tell us this story never happened because we have not supporting documentation. The biblical inerrantists tell us every word of scripture is an historically accurate picture of actual events. But John says this: read this story as a sign. Signs point away from themselves to other things.

I'm reminded of a zen proverb. When the finger points to the moon, only dogs look at the finger.

So what does this pointing-finger story point to?

Three days later. It points to the resurrection. Transformation. A new creation.

Water into Wine. This is water meant for ablutions. Ritual washing of the outside. But this is good wine. Wine that changes us from the inside. Transformation and new creation yet again.

So what do we do with it?

Wedding Feast at Cena

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. And they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the feast had all been used, and the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine.'

Jesus said, 'Woman, what do you want from me? My hour has not come yet.'

His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you.'

There were six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews: each could hold twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, 'Fill the jars with water,' and they filled them to the brim. Then he said to them, 'Draw some out now and take it to the president of the feast.'

They did this; the president tasted the water, and it had turned into wine. Having no idea where it came from -- though the servants who had drawn the water knew -- the president of the feast called the bridegroom and said, 'Everyone serves good wine first and the worse wine when the guests are well wined; but you have kept the best wine till now.'

This was the first of Jesus' signs: it was at Cana in Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him. After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, but they stayed there only a few days.

--John 2:1-12 (New Jerusalem Bible)

January 06, 2005

Marjorie on John 1:19-34

John the Baptist's witness

I love verse 23 -- the voice crying out in the wilderness... Who has not been this? Can you hear the anguish and loneliness and pain? Can we just shout back "I am here, with you"?

John the Baptist is exhorting them to 'make straight the way of the Lord.' In one discussion, I learned how John was expecting fire and brimstone and judgment from Jesus, he was so surprised by what he got he had to send messengers from prison to inquire whether Jesus was the one to come or whether there would be another (Luke 7:18-20; Matthew 11:2-3). We cry out, we try to prepare ourselves and others but we have no idea what to expect. When we think we know what to expect, we're often wrong. Even those of us sent by God with a specific task (v.33 the one who sent me).

I suppose it makes sense that this passage follows the questions of the Pharisee's as to the identity of John the Baptist. Everyone is looking for God but no one has any idea what he will look like.

I find it interesting that John's clue as to the Messiah will be the one on whom the Spirit descends and remains. What does this mean? We may have moments of feeling the Spirit, but they are fleeting? That certainly resonates with me as I struggle along, trying to hold onto the gift of the Spirit for longer and longer each time and feeling like a failure each time it departs.

Marjorie on the Prologue

Whoops, I'm behind...

I was struck by v. 9 -- Jesus being the true light that enlightens everyone. No requirement of belief for this enlightenment, its there, through Jesus. Now verse 12 gets into belief -- to all who received and believed in his name he gives the power to become children of God. This comes not 'of the will of the flesh or the will of man.' This strikes me as you can't force yourself, or anyone, to believe; belief is not accomplished through the will. Kind of makes the Crusades seem a bit misguided. It cannot be willed and everyone is enlightened.

Why do we haggle over creeds? Weren't they just supposed to jell the belief set of a certain sect? It seems like a useful tool to the extent that it offers a definition for members. But then it would exclude those who don't have the same set of beliefs. But shouldn't those people go searching for a place that has beliefs that align with their own, instead of struggling with misalignment? Shouldn't this be easy? I guess it spins out to tribalism, but whats so wrong with worshipping with your tribe, so long as you accept that its only a construct to help you and not to exclude or judge others?

Why can I not get out of my head the final line from a children's book -- "You are loved, but so are they"?

January 05, 2005

Lamb of God

Reflecting on "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!":

We could begin with some biblical sources:
most obviously Psalms 22 and 23,
more salient:
1. the blood of the lambs on the lintels of the Hebrews doors on the night the firstborn of the Egyptians died.

2. The sacrificial animal slaughtered outside the camp to sacramentally propitiate the sins of the Israelites. Note that the gospel writers were careful to emphasize that Jesus was slaughtered outside Jerusalem.

3. Coming down to the present:
I believe in sin and redemption. The "Lamb of God" in us takes away the sins of our neighbors (wives, friends, enemies) by forgiving them. And works patiently with the hard of heart looking for the redemptive stream in their character.

You've heard (read) this many times before, nevertheless: The Quaker Sacrament

Throughout Eternity I forgive you, you forgive me.
As the dear Redeemer said, This the wine and this the bread.

John 1:19-34

1. MAIN POINT. I think the main point -- as mentioned elsewhere and before -- is John the Baptist is a witness to Christ and acknowledges Christ as one greater than he is. Likely the disciples of John and Jesus commingled and prayed together. Likely Jesus was originally a John follower. Somewhere along the line the question of whose they all were came up and this is a rhetorical move for the Jesus People over an against the John folks.

2. NEW LIGHT. I'm not sure about new light. Passages like this are so familiar its hard to read it again as for the first time. I do know the phrase here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! stands out for me here and I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe there is something here I need to meditate upon.

3. TRUTH. I am comfortable with categories like sin and reconciliation. So this passage is true to my understanding of faith. True to my experience? Hmm. C'est difficile. John points his finger towards Jesus. Jesus reveals God. It seems the path of the prophets is to empty oneself. I can do that -- but my ego keeps clawing it back again.

4. IMPLICATIONS. I think I will carry the notion of the Lamb of God around with me today and see where my meditations take me.

5. PROBLEMS Problems in application not in acceptance. Maybe also problems that this honoured passage from Christian tradition has its roots in a perhaps bitter conflict within a faith community -- and rather than witnessing to the reconciled position, only witnesses to the one side.

January 04, 2005

The Testimony of John the Baptist

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?"
20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, "I am not the Messiah."
21 And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" He answered, "No."
22 Then they said to him, "Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?"
23 He said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,'" as the prophet Isaiah said.
24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.
25 They asked him, "Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?"
26 John answered them, "I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know,
27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal."
28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
30 This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'
31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel."
32 And John testified, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.
33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.'
34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God."

Crystal on the rest of the prologue

John testified to him and cried out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.'"
... more emphasis on John's subordinate place and Jesus' pre-existance.

From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
... to me this says that the news Jesus brings replaces that given by Moses ... grace and truth trump the law - I like that idea. I think this is partly why I tend to discount Old Tesyament info when it's not seconded in the gospels, though that may be my mistake.

No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father's side, has revealed him.
... if you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus :-)

January 02, 2005

The Rest of the Prologue

In keeping with the plan to post larger chunks (pericopes insteadf of paragraphs), here's the rest of the first section -- subtitled by the NRSV as The Word Become Flesh

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'") From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.

--John 1:10-18 (NRSV)

The pericope in its entirety:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2 He was in the beginning with God.

3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being

4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.

8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.

11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.

12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,

13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.

15 (John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'")

16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.