Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Gospel of John ~ A Journey of Discovery

An Introduction ~

John is not my favorite Gospel. In order, I probably favor most to least in this order: Luke, Matthew, Mark and John. Yes, John comes in dead-last. I know, I know...that may seem kind of weird. Some of our very best known, even best-loved, verses and vignettes come from John’s pen—John 3:16, water-to-wine, the encounter with the Samaritan woman, all of the “I am” declarations and so much more. But, I also find in John those very “hard sayings” of Jesus that leave me feeling a bit... ‘meh,’ like the ‘eating his flesh’ stuff (John 6) and the seemingly unending discourses (John 12-17). I don’t know; maybe I’m a sucker for a good narrative, and John simply lacks the more ‘narrative,’ story-telling aspect that Matthew, Mark and Luke are kind enough to follow and use. John doesn’t even have a good birth or baptism story! What??

In any case, I’ll be preaching through the Gospel of John until the Second Sunday of Easter, April 8, 2018. Allow me to mention one of the benefits of a “lectionary” at this point. John is not a Gospel I have often preached or preached from. But, because I follow the Narrative Lectionary (others in my tradition follow the Revised Common Lectionary), I am now confronted with preaching something I am neither excited about preaching nor comfortable preaching. But that is GOOD! I need to be ripped out of my comfort zone; I need to be confronted with the challenge of preaching something that does not come easy for me. A lectionary often forces us preachers to deal with something we would rather postpone or avoid. Because it's the 'Gospel of the year,' I will wrestle with John; I will endeavor to ‘suck the marrow’ out of the bones of this book.

To be honest, there is actually a bit of excitement about preaching this Gospel for me. Recently, I read J. Philip Newell’s Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality (Paulist Press) in which he indicates again and again that John is the Gospel for those of the Celtic (or seeking a Celtic) worldview. Newell argues that John is most in tune with the God who speaks through nature, the God who is for everyone...and I’m excited to see if I can find traces of the ideas he posits. This gives me a bit more interest in my studies and sermon preparation.

However, let me be clear here as to the purpose of these pieces on John: I will not be posting sermons; I want to share what I find, what I discover in my studies...those things that are new or surprising to me. My hope is that what I write here will be of help to others 1) who love the Gospel of John and 2) who want to love the Gospel of John. Alas, I fall into the second of these two groups, yet I truly hope that when April 8 arrives I have a completely new understanding, appreciation and, yes, even love for the Gospel of John.

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