In our lesson today Jesus was making strong claims about himself, “I am the light of the world.” In Jewish culture that was unacceptable. The law was clear, two witnesses were needed to believe what someone stated. Simple and clear, two witnesses. Therefore, if I don’t see two witnesses, I don’t need to bother examining the statement because the basic requirement has not been met. I have known people, and to be truthful, I myself have taken this stand, if something doesn’t meet the qualifications, I will not consider it. Such requirements are often placed for our own protection, but do we have to stick to absolutes? Do we neverconsider a new idea unless it meets certain prerequisites?
Jesus was challenging the people of his time and he continues to challenge us today. He pointed out to his audience that He and His Father fulfilled the two witnesses required. Those still caught in the practicality of things, asked to see the father. Their eyes and minds were closed. They were not able to see the light of the world before them. How about us? How do we experience Jesus as light of the world? Have we set up our own set of qualifications for us to believe? What requirements do we need to let go off that are keeping us from experiencing the light when we feel surrounded by darkness? I love that in spite of the fact of the unbelief, verse 30 says, “Then many who heard him say these things believed in him.” My friends, let us become people of faith. Let us go out on a limb. Let’s believe Jesus, the light of the world.
When I was very young, my family would go on vacation to visit my aunt and uncle out at the farm. My aunt made homemade bread in a huge brick oven. It smelled so good and the bread was delicious especially coming right out of the oven. But then, I would join my cousins going throughout the small town selling the bread. Of course, most people recognized my cousins, and they knew the bread came from my aunt’s oven, they loved it. Most of the time we got paid in other goods rather than money. Our basket was filled with eggs, milk, rice, beans, or whatever goods were appropriate as payment. This simple life provided for the needs for everyone in town. In today’s scripture the crowds are following Jesus because they wanted to be fed. Possibly, they were hungry, and they had heard how Jesus had fed a multitude of people. Jesus is saddened that they were missing the point. They asked for signs so they could believe, Jesus challenged them by saying… “I am the bread of life.” Sometimes, we might have the answer right in front of us, but we are unable to see it because we are too focused on our immediate need. Jesus can see beyond the surface and see the true spiritual need in our hearts. Today you might have an apparent need, trust God with that need, lay it before him, and go about your day in confidence that the living God remains and abides with you.
Do you remember a favorite teacher? One of my favorite teachers ever was Mr. Irvin. He was my U.S. History teacher as a senior in High School, when I was exchange student living in Michigan. Mr. Irvin opened a whole new world to me that I had missed since I had studied history but not specifically U.S. history. Mr. Irvin made history class fun, adding his own perspective to his lectures. When Mr. Irvin had additional lectures, I was there. I wanted to learn from him. Today we read about this guy, Nicodemus, come and visit Jesus at night. Nicodemus is a pharisee, which means he is a student of the law. I imagine that Nicodemus was puzzled by Jesus. For one, Jesus does not follow the rules, yet people follow Jesus. Kind of like Mr. Irvin, Jesus taught in a way that drew people to him. I imagine that there was something (beyond words) that attracted the people to Jesus. Nicodemus comes in the middle of the night, why? Was he embarrassed? Was he worried that he would be labeled? Find out as you read today’s scripture.
Why does it seem that Nicodemus is speaking in one language and Jesus is speaking in a different language?
John 3:16 is probably the one verse most memorized in our world today, what does that particular verse says to you?
If you had a chance to have a conversation with Jesus, what would you ask?
So What Activity: Today, Monday, reflect on the questions people ask of you. Simple questions or hard questions. Reflect on the people coming to you with those questions and reflect on your responses. May the light of Christ shine through you today.
Do you recall the first wedding you ever attended? I sort of do. I’m sure I attended several as a young child since my parents were the pastors for a local vibrant church. But there is one, that sticks out in my mind. I must have been about 5 or 6 and everything seemed amazingly beautiful. The bride looked gorgeous in her white dress, the church was decorated simply yet gracefully, and the people all seemed to have smiles. What I remember the most is the couple at the altar making commitments to one another, to love and to cherish, in sickness and in health… and for me that was just sooooo romantic. Even though I was just a young girl, I’m sure I was dreaming about the day I would find my one person (I don’t think I ever imagined he would be a tall gringo from Kansas!). .
While I don’t remember what was served, I’m sure the food was abundant. But do I recall what the food or the drink was? No!! Was there enough for everyone? I don’t remember. I’m sure if they had run out of food or drink, I would have remembered that! It was at this simple local wedding that Jesus performed his first miracle, for this couple of nobodies Jesus made sure the wedding wouldn’t be remembered for the wrong reasons.
So what is the point of this episode in Jesus’ life? Why did John feel it was important to share this particular miracle? Jesus already had followers, but maybe they were not sure why they were following this rabbi. John 2:11 states, “And his disciples believed in him.” John simply wanted us to know when he began to get a glimpse that this rabbi was different, this rabbi was the real thing!! “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” (John 1:5)
Have you had an encounter recently that has revealed to you that God is indeed with you?
Have you shared with someone else about that encounter?
So What Activity: Find a couple that is about to get married (child, niece or nephew, friend, neighbor’s child, etc.) Send them a card with $20 or whatever you are able and write: “In case you run out of wine…. John 2:1-12.”
Do you remember a time when you had a deep sense of awe? I remember our daughter’s birth and that deep sense of awe that enveloped me. The great miracle of new life. 10 fingers, 10 toes and lots of staring and wonder at that wonderful event. The same happened when our youngest son was born.
2020 has been a difficult year, not just for us in our own circumstances, but around the world. We have spent most of this year being somewhat reclusive, protecting ourselves and others around us, wearing masks, and keeping safe, which we needed to do. As I read today’s scripture, I can’t help but miss the sense of awe that comes over me whenever the body of Christ gathers in unity and love. I like to hug people, I like to shake hands, and I like to see people’s faces––I miss that. I have missed seeing many of you and I miss meeting newcomers and making them feel welcome to our congregation.
This year has made me realize that for most of my life I have taken for granted the ability to be physically part of the body of Christ, celebrating and worshipping together. What a crucial and vital aspect of my life has been the opportunities to join together with brothers and sisters in Christ. As I lament this difficult year, though, I am reminded of a book I read a couple of years ago, “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. This book challenged me to everyday discover that sense of awe in whatever the day brings to me. I just have to open my eyes and look at the way God is working around me.
In the last few weeks I have heard of people sending cards to others, we have collected food for those in need, we sent an ERT team to help those affected by the hurricanes, we have shared prayers requests, we blessed the animals, and countless other ways that we have continued to be the body. So, today, I am thankful for each of you. I am thankful for those who I have not seen for a long time, but I know you are out there. I am thankful that going through this difficult time will help me appreciate being part of the body of Christ even more.
What do you lament more about going through this pandemic?
Is there something that you can be thankful for today?
Find a way to send a blessing to someone that would cheer them up.
Prayer: Lord God, allow that sense of awe to come over us as we cherish the gift of being part of the body of Christ. Thank you that you are with us today. Help us to be a blessing to those around us. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!
Today Jim and I took our Fall decorations out… halfheartedly!
This year has been a difficult one, more for Jim than for me. Jim loves to entertain and have friends over and because of COVID we have refrained from doing so. However, we decided to put just a few things here and there. I found my spirits lifted as I pulled out a few pumpkins and candles with fall colors (even though it does not feel like fall) and placed them around the house.
The gospel of Luke gives us more details about the Last Supper. We even learn the names of the two disciples tasked with preparing for Passover. I can only imagine Peter and John either excited about being tasked with this job or wondering if they were going to miss out on some great event while they went to do such a menial task as preparing a meal. I wonder if they bothered with any table decorations (ha, ha)! I’m sure someone had to add some candles to enliven the table. And then they sat and enjoyed a meal together. The disciples had no idea that this Passover was going to change lives for centuries to come. A simple piece of bread and a cup of wine to remind us (every time we partake) of the gift of grace given to all. Jesus saying YES to the call to serve. In fact, in this narrative, the disciples after the meal are debating who among them is the greatest. Jesus responds to them by saying, “Hey, look at what I am doing… I am serving you, so you should serve others.” Today, the call is the same. If we call ourselves disciples of Jesus, we must be willing to serve. Where can you be of service today?
What does sharing communion every week means to you?
Have you set out any fall decorations? Pull out one or two and as you set them around the house, give thanks for the gift of God in your life.
Prayer: Lord God, we thank you for the different accounts of the Last Supper. For the sacrament given to us to practice often, so we might not forget your gift of love. We pray for those who for one reason or another are not able to partake of communion. Bless them and reassure them of your unconditional love for them. Amen!
Here is a warning! Today’s reading is a little long, so I will not say much. Honestly, though, I don’t remember reading about Huldah before. I remember the story of Josiah, the 8-year-old boy who became King and wanted to serve God. However, hidden toward the end of this chapter is a woman: a prophet. When the books of the Torah are found, King Josiah wants someone consulted on how to go about being faithful to God. The temple workers know to consult with Huldah, the prophet. What is unusual is that she gives two answers: one of what will happen if they do not obey God and the other message directed to King Josiah sharing with him what good will come for Israel if they head God’s Word. Not much is heard about Huldah after that. She is not a main character in the story, she is not ever mentioned again, but she shared what God had placed in her heart at the time that was needed. This should encourage all of us that often we do not have major roles to play, but God lead us to share a small word of truth, encouragement, or compassion at the right time and the result can be transformational for someone else. So, friends, go out today and be ready to listen; there might be a Huldah out there speaking words of wisdom that you need to heed. God bless!
Have you given permission to someone in your life to speak truth openly and honestly?
What is something that sticks out to you from today’s reading?
Prayer: Lord, Thank you for the many Huldah’s you have placed in our lives. Some we might not remember, but have spoken to us or led us into truth. Help us today to be good listeners to words of truth and wisdom you might have for us. Amen!
When my son Jonathan was young, he went through a period of time that he asked lots of questions. “Why,” “how,” and “how come” were among his favorite words. Jonathan’s curiosity would get the best of him as we attempted to get to the bottom of whatever subject he was interested in. While Jonathan could sometimes drive us crazy with his questions, we actually praised God for a child who was (and continues to be at 28) so intent on learning new things.
I find Nicodemus’ curiosity refreshing. After the reading below, you can see that Nicodemus, a Pharisee, was knowledgeable in matters of the law and matters of people and culture. Nicodemus identifies himself as an “old man,” yet he is curious enough to risk his reputation and seek a young rabbi at night, to ask his questions. Jesus gently challenges him to open his mind to a new understanding, beyond what Nicodemus has in mind. When Nicodemus continues to ask in disbelief, “how can this be?” Jesus goes on to explain to him how this new life is all possible because of God’s love for us (John 3:16.)
I wonder, what are the faith challenges we are facing today? Are we curious enough to risk asking more questions? Investigate further? Or even risk our reputations to get to the bottom of our questions? Maybe we need to meditate on this passage and think about how we might identify ourselves with Nicodemus. We might consider ourselves too old to give up our old thinking and take on new ideas, but Jesus would challenge us just like he challenged Nicodemus. Continue learning, continue growing, and continue asking questions. In this journey of life we will discover God’s amazing love waiting for us at every corner. Let us never stop being curious about the journey God has for us.
Do you recall when someone answered some of the faith questions you have had in your life journey?
Is there something right now that God is challenging you to expand your faith and trust him? What do you need to do to release that something?
Prayer: Lord God I thank you for the challenges we face day-to-day. We thank you for your faithful and constant love and for your willingness to be there for us. Help us to trust you even when faith is a mystery. In Jesus’ name, Amen!
This is one of my favorite passages in scripture and now that I have seen the Sea of Galilee, even more. This is the time that Jesus takes the time to re-direct the disciples, especially Peter, after Jesus’ resurrection. However, our main topic is John, which is interesting, since John’s name is not really mentioned in this scripture. We know that Jesus and Peter have a conversation about John, but John is a background person. I wonder why? Scholars believe that John was a “younger” disciple and Jesus was used to John tagging along whenever he pulled a disciple aside. When Jesus takes the time to have this intimate conversation with Peter, John follows them. I can only imagine that John loved both Jesus and Peter so much, he did not want to miss anything. When Peter turns around, sees John and asks, “what about him?” Jesus answers Peter by basically saying, don’t worry about him. There are many lessons to learn from that, what I want to focus is on John following Jesus. I imagine that John was still in shock of having seen his mater crucified, he ran to the tomb and found it empty, and then he recognizes Jesus walking on water. He loves and admires Jesus. He recognizes there is something about this man. He recognizes God’s pure love pour out to everyone through Jesus and John cannot get enough. Friends, are you following Jesus closely? Or are you just bored with Jesus? Does he have anything exciting to say for you to follow and listen closely? Are you inclined to eavesdrop on Jesus conversation with others? Many questions, which help us reflect whether our heart is still falling in love, and falling in wonder with Jesus, the same one yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
What is interesting to you about this passage? What stands out?
What is it about Jesus that fills your heart with wonder and excitement?
Prayer: Loving God, we thank you for the wonderful stories of your love and restoration toward your disciples. Thank you for John teaching us to always follow you, since you might have something important to say to us any minute. In Jesus’ name, Amen!