Archive for the ‘John’ Category

John 15 and Mission: Preview 1 of my New Book on Missional Hermeneutics

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

During my sabbatical in 2015-2016, I am working on a new book in missional hermeneutics, this time (unlike Becoming the Gospel) focusing on the non-Pauline NT literature. I will be posting occasional excerpts of that work, in draft form, on these pages from time to time. Since I am beginning “in the beginning,” to so speak (that is, with the Gospel of John), the first posts will be about that gospel. Here is something on John 15:

In John 15 we find a creative and significant paradoxical tension within the text between the main verb, “abide” (menein; eleven times), on the one hand, and the verbs “do” (poiein; v. 4) and especially “go” (hypag?te; v. 16), on the other. Semantically, the former has to do with resting, staying put; it connotes, or could connote, spiritual ease or even apathy. The latter, however, has to do with moving, acting. This tension is expressed in, but not fully resolved by, the image of an abiding, fruit-bearing branch, for although healthy vines and branches naturally grow and bear fruit, they do not naturally move from place to place. The disciples, however, have been appointed to go. They constitute, in other words, a mobile vine, a community of centripetally oriented love that shares that love centrifugally as they move out from themselves, all the while abiding in the vine, the very source of their life and love, the source of their power to do.

Here is perhaps the most powerful symbiosis of spirituality and mission in the New Testament. This chapter, rooted in John 13-14 and further developed in John 16-17, is the quintessence of a participatory missiology. But it is even more than that; it expresses a profound theology of missional perichoresis and theosis (mutual indwelling of Christ and the disciples leading to transformation into Christlike Godlikeness). Fruit bearing is participating in the missio Dei embodied in Christ—to bring God’s light, love, and life to the world—and truly is the way we become more fully what we already are: Jesus’ disciples (15:8).

Theses on Reading and Preaching from the Gospel of John

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Following is the outline of my final lecture on the Gospel of John for my seminary course on Johannine Literature:

  • The best way to read and preach John is to enter its narrative, symbolic, and theological world, and to invite your hearers to do the same.
  • The jury is still out, and perhaps always will be out, on certain so-called “introductory issues”—the author(s), the precise historical situation of the community (if there was one), etc. Do not build your preaching and teaching on these matters.
  • There is an increasing scholarly acceptance of the historical basis in the life of Jesus of many of the events and sayings in John. Again, the jury is still out on many issues and details, but there are two mistakes to avoid:
    • Don’t say, “This is a spiritual gospel that is not intended to depict the real, historical Jesus as the Synoptic Gospels do, but only the Christ of faith.”
    • Don’t say, “This is an exact word-for-word account of precisely what Jesus said and did without interpretation.” This claim is not true of any canonical gospel because in antiquity oral transmission lent itself to both faithful transmission and appropriate interpretation.
    • The main purposes of the Gospel of John are christological and soteriological: to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God, Messiah/King of Israel, and Savior of the World who was sent by God the Father to give the world eternal life (life in intimate knowledge of Father, Son, and Paraclete/Spirit) now and forever.
    • This joy-filled and peace-filled life is offered as a gift that must be believed and received; nurtured by word and sacrament; and embodied in such concrete practices as love, unity, forgiveness, evangelization, and pastoral care.
    • The spirituality of John is rich, deep, and multifaceted; it may perhaps be summarized as the mutual indwelling (abiding) of believers and the Triune God that creates a community of disciples, the people of the new covenant, that worships God and participates in the divine mission of bringing abundant life to the world through witness in word and deed to the self-giving love of the crucified and glorified Jesus.
    • The gospel of John is both an invitation to life in the Father/Son/Paraclete and a word of reassurance that, in the physical absence of Jesus, believers can rely on the Paraclete as their teacher, guide, inspiration, and aide, even in times of persecution. It is a gospel for non-believers, but also for new believers, doubting and fence-sitting believers, missional believers, persecuted believers—in other words, a gospel for all people.