Tag Archive: John

What would it look like to love God with one of the most precious gifts God has given – our body.   Is this one way to embody Jesus’ command to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind?  A few days ago we said something about our eyes; then our ears, then our hands and feet, now our mouths…

Taste and see that the Lord is good

In one of his most important works, the 20th century German theologian Karl Barth wrote of the “strange new world within the bible.”  He suggested that we should not read the bible like we read the daily newspapers or the New York Times bestsellers.  Yes, the bible is only a book, but yet it so much more.  The bible contains the words of God, words that tell of God’s love.  The bible reveals God’s heart, a heart that is most visible in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

When we read scripture we often think, “How pleasant.  How lovely.  How uplifting.” And the Bible certainly is!  Jesus speaks of rest, redemption, forgiveness – the very things we need so desperately in our world.  But then we read further and think, “How demanding!  Is Jesus serious?”  Jesus says wonderfully comforting things like, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk. 12:32).  And then he immediately adds in the next sentence, “Sell all your possessions, and give to the needy” (Lk. 12:33).  Jesus comforts the tired and weary, and then demands cross-bearing of all disciples.  Jesus offers rest and then calls us to action.  The words of Jesus are so sweet, and yet after further digestion they seem bitter, daunting, and challenging.

A view of Patmos from the cave where tradition says John wrote Revelation

John, writing the book of Revelation from the island of Patmos has a similar response to the words offered to him by an angel.  He writes, “So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’  I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour” (Rev. 10:9-10).

Why might the words of scripture, even the words we cling to in tough moments, seem unsettling over time?  Perhaps the change comes when we realize that the bible doesn’t simply say back to us the things we think we know.  So often, we fashion its words in ways that are pleasing and acceptable to us – sweet to us, we might say.  But then we realize that the strange world of the bible doesn’t simply echo back to us our own prejudices, biases, and presuppositions.  The bible provides us new words, new meanings, and a new way of speaking and living.

Like John, we take in the words of scripture, chewing on them, digesting them, allowing them to transform our lives.  And then, as Barth wrote, “The spirit of God will and must break forth from quiet hearts into the world outside, that it may be manifest, visible, and comprehensible…The Holy Spirit makes a new heaven and new earth and, therefore, new [wo]men, new families, new relationships, new politics.”

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”  – Psalm 34:8


Yesterday, we asked…What would it look like to love God with one of the most precious gifts God has given – our body.   Is this one way to embody Jesus’ command to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind?  Yesterday we said something about our eyes; today we turn to our ears…

Those who have ear let them hear

In the book of Revelation John provides an interesting image of God’s voice.  For John, God’s voice is something to be heard and seen.  John hears God’s voice “like a trumpet,” but then he turns to also “see” God’s voice speaking to him.  What must it have been like to hear the voice of God?  To see God’s voice?

If we’re honest with ourselves, we are often skeptical of God’s voice.  How and why would God speak to us?  We’ve never heard, much less seen, God’s voice.  At the very least, we relegate God’s voice to ages past.  God speaking was something that happened long ago.  God spoke to Abraham and Moses, Isaiah and Jeremiah.  God called out to Mary and Paul.  But God’s voice – whether seen or heard – was for some other people in some other place at some other time.

But has God really stopped speaking?  Has the voice of God gone silent?  Has God’s voice, both it’s sound and it’s beauty, really been lost for our day?  Surely not.  Perhaps it’s not God’s voice that has grown quiet.  Maybe it’s our ears that have failed.  Could it be that our ears are directed elsewhere?  Are our ears too full of the noise that surrounds us?  Are our ears too busy?

If you’re like me, everywhere you go noise is being pumped into your ears.  The radio in the car blasts music and ranting talk show hosts.  The television in the living room drones with noise.  The cell phone (or bluetooth headset) is held tightly to our ears and mouth.  The iPod earbud wires dangle from our ears.  We are “plugged in” people.  We are people with busy ears.

Could it be, we are so “in touch” (with one another) that we are not “in touch” (with God).  We are so plugged in to our social and professional networks that we are not plugged and tuned in to God.

God wishes to speak to us.  God calls us, sometimes loudly, sometimes softly.  At times God’s voice comes as a loud trumpet, echoing in our ears and springing us into action.  Other times God’s call is subtler, gentler.  It is as that favorite hymn proclaims, “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me.”  God desires to reach us; to let us know God is thinking of us; to let us know God loves us.  God is our calling shepherd, and we are God’s listening flock.

Those who have ears let them hear.

Translation & Tradition

In chapter five Arias begins to answer the question he has struggled with since chapter 1:  What has happened to “the gospel of the kingdom” throughout the history of the church?  The gospels clearly witness to Jesus’ proclamation of the present, imminent, and in-breaking kingdom of God.  Yet, the proclamation of the kingdom and the use of kingdom terminology have been on the decline for centuries.  Arias’s conclusion: there has been an “eclipse of the reign of God from the apostolic age to the present” (55).  For Arias, the eclipse of the kingdom occurs when we move from the synoptic gospels, and “the incandescent daylight of Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom appears ‘somewhat dusky’” (55).

Arias believes the “setting sun” on the proclamation of the kingdom due to the biblical interpreters’ changing of the kingdom message.  Albert Schweitzer captures the ‘twilight’ in which we now live.  Schweitzer suggests that Jesus proclaimed the kingdom, and the church proclaims him.  Rudolf Bultmann further articulates the situation, “The Proclaimer became the Proclaimed”  (56).  Together, they believe the church has changed the message – the focus – of the kingdom.  No longer is the kingdom about love, mercy, forgiveness, grace, and justice, the kingdom concerns primarily salvation and faith in Christ.

Still, here we might wonder if proclaiming Christ is proclaiming the kingdom.  Is living as a witness of Jesus also a witness to the kingdom?  Paul’s words at the end of Acts seem to link the proclamations together: “From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus” (Acts 28.23).

Arias locates another major move in kingdom language in Paul. Paul translates “kingdom of God” in terms of an all-encompassing concept of salvation.  Arias suggests that Paul avoided the kingdom terminology for “tactical” reasons.  Perhaps the Greeks’ lack of familiarity with the OT hope for the kingdom caused Paul to re-interpret the kingdom.  Also, Paul may have altered the language for fear of being misinterpreted among the Romans.  Either way, Arias highlights Paul’s writings as a significant shift in kingdom terminology.

Arias also highlights the Johannine texts as ones that transformed the kingdom language.  John frequently expresses the kingdom in terms of ‘life” and “life eternal.”  Arias argues that this shift better communicated Jesus’ message to the Gnostic-influenced (Hellenistic or Jewish) audience (64).

In all, Arias posits that the eclipse of the kingdom in contemporary discourse stems from a changing of the Jesus’ kingdom message and language.  While some may hold that such a change is necessary due to different contexts, Arias warns of the risks of contextualizaton.  He writes, “The question is not one of language and thought-forms, but of faithfulness to the original message and to the totality of its meaning” (64).

Arias presents a compelling story of “the eclipse of the kingdom of God.”  Without pointing fingers at Paul, John, or the Church Fathers, he highlights the major moves in kingdom terminology.  He also explains the significance of such moves for today’s churches.  By focusing on Paul’s “salvation-kingdom” rhetoric or John’s “life eternal” have we personalized the kingdom?  Are we guilty of proclaiming a kingdom that can be earned or entered into by our own personal commitment?

Arias’ “eclipse” challenges anyone who cares about evangelism today.  What is our context for announcing the kingdom?  Are we faithful to the message as we invite others to participate?  How have we translated the proclamation of the reign of God for the 21st century?  How can we translate the message while at the same time honor the tradition?

This is the fifth review in a nine-part series looking at Mortimer Arias’s Announcing the Reign of God.

Lectionary, July 26

The Revised Common Lectionary texts for use in the United Methodist Church (UMC) this week:

2 Samuel 11:1-15

Psalm 14

Ephesians 3:14-21

John 6:1-21

Mark 6:14-29 — The Beheading of John the Baptist

Many of us look upon this text with shock, maybe even fear.  We might best describe it as a “text of terror.”  Today, moments of terror, or fear, still break in to our lives.  There’s the terror of broken homes and fractured families.  We trembled when the doctor pronounces the diagnosis.  We fear the loss of loved ones.  Jobs, finances, uncertainty, and fear of failure are all terrifying propositions.  In those moments, our own “text of terror” plays itself out in our daily lives.  Yet, there is hope.  In the end, the disciples come to gather, hold, and bury John’s body.  God, not Herod, has the final say.  Today’s disciples, the Church, remains at the ready, waiting to hold those who hurt, grieve, and experience loss.  In the toughest of times, when it seems as if the terror is too much, call upon the Church.  Call upon God, who through the Christ’s body (the Church), promises to hold, to nurture, and to love those who call upon His name.

Lectionary, May 10

The Revised Common Lectionary texts for use in the United Methodist Church (UMC) this week:

Acts 8:26-40

Psalm 22:25-31

1 John 4:7-21

John 15:1-8

Lectionary, April 19

The Revised Common Lectionary texts for use in the United Methodist Church (UMC) this week:

Acts 4:32-35

Psalm 133

1 John 1:1-2:2

John 20:19-31

Lectionary, March 22

The Revised Common Lectionary texts for use in the United Methodist Church (UMC) this week:

Numbers 21:4-9

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

Ephesians 2:1-10

John 3:14-21

Lectionary, March 15

The Revised Common Lectionary texts for use in the United Methodist Church (UMC) this week:

Exodus 20:1-17

Psalm 19

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

John 2:13-22

Lectionary, January 18

The Revised Common Lectionary texts for this week:

1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20)

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

John 1:43-51

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