Saturday, May 13, 2017

stirring it up

1 Jesus said, let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.

Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? 10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. 12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. (John 14:1-14, KJV)

Above is our gospel for tomorrow, the Fifth Sunday of Easter in Lectionary Year A. At least a couple things trouble me about it. Realizing that the evangelist who wrote this (we do not know that his name was John) held the highest christology of the four gospel writers, I am ok with that. And if this gospel was put together about 90 to 120 AD as at least a few scholars have supposed, I can visualize this evangelist being faced with a situation of turmoil, conflict within the Christian movement, between gentiles who had come from pagan backgrounds and were coming to monopolize the conversation and leadership, and the original monotheistic Jewish Christians for whom the church was taking astonishing, even blasphemous, directions as well as orthodox Jews who were bitterly antagonistic toward the Christian movement. Maybe that was the case, I think it may have been, I think it more likely than that this evangelist was speaking against any widespread Roman persecution at the time, I think so, but I don’t know. In fact, when I stop and think about it I’m ongoingly astonished at how little I actually do know.

But it bothers me, dismays me, the catastrophic directions that some Christians, Christian churches and Christian bodies have taken with the phrase “no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (14:6b above). Let the reader understand, as I’m not bothering to go there this morning.

Another bit that bothers me is the promise the evangelist has Jesus making here, “13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” It comes across as unconditional, which if so makes it historically, experientially, demonstrably false in human life. The two verse promise can be, and has been, and in every generation is rationalized away such that my inclination (which I will not act on as I read it aloud liturgically tomorrow) is to stop with the period/full stop after verse 12 and say “The Gospel of the Lord.” I also have the inclination (again, which I shall not act out tomorrow although I have done so in the burial liturgy at some funerals that I’ve officiated and preached including my mother’s funeral) to omit verse 6b because I think that was the evangelist’s red line in the sand, not the Saviour’s view.

So anyway, what I do like about the gospel lesson is the assurance of John 14:1-6a. And I like spotting, in the English translations of 14:3, 14:6 and 14:10 and 14:11, the I AM that is a boldly pointed characteristic of this evangelist’s words for Jesus. Granted that In his NT Greek the ἐγὼ εἰμὶ may only be for certain at verse 6, but at least for Sunday School discussion it’s there four times.

I also like Jan Richardson’s art for the gospel readings, especially this week’s

in which one might observe that not all the rooms open into the others. In fact, there seem to be two main sections of interconnected rooms, perhaps Eastern Church and Western Church, Orthodox and Catholic; and an independent third room, who?

DThos+ himself

art: "Many Rooms" by Jan Richardson, pinched without permission but with apologies and I'll remove it if asked - - -

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