Wednesday, November 26, 2008

great thanksgiving

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Col 3:17

Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow, I want to reflect briefly on the recurring biblical command to be thankful. “Be thankful” (Col 3:15). “Give thanks to the Lord” (1 Ch 16:8). “Give thanks to God” (Rom 14:6). The act of “giving thanks” is good – but what is “thanks?” And how do we give something – “thanks” – to a God who needs nothing?

First, “thanks” is an English translation of the Greek word eucharisteo. Liturgical Christians will no doubt recognize the origin of the Eucharist (also known as “the Great Thanksgiving”). Thanksgiving - or Eucharistic living – begins with the awareness that all that we have, and all that we are, is sheer grace. We didn’t earn it. It’s not owed to us. We don’t deserve it. We didn’t even ask for it. But it’s been given to us. And whatever “it” is, it’s good. Because God is good. And everything that comes from God is good. Good trees must bear good fruit.

In other words, living a Eucharistic life is about gratitude. We should be grateful for family, friends, and food. We should be grateful for our country, our home, and our education. Above all else, we should be grateful that God sent Jesus to save us and that God has a good purpose for God’s good world. And although it can’t be forced, we should at least desire to be grateful for the pain we experience, for our mistakes, and for the loss’ that we endure. “All things work for the good of those who love God” (Rom 8:28).

Second, we don’t “give” God thanks because God needs it. Sure, God may be dishonored by our lack of gratitude – but I’m not sure we have the capacity to understand what that even means. And so God doesn’t need us to give thanks. We need to give thanks. Ultimately, “giving thanks” is about aligning ourselves with reality itself. Eucharistic living is about moving deeper and deeper into the reality that God’s Kingdom is already here – in our midst – and that it’s a kingdom of wasteful and extravagant and marvelous grace.

FOR THE WEEKEND: Have a great Thanksgiving (get it?)! And remember, “Giving thanks” is both a spiritual practice and a way of life. It’s about moving deeper and deeper into Reality itself. For the weekend, be intentionally thankful. And do so with the knowledge that you’re the one who stands to gain the most from intentional Eucharistic living. Our God needs nothing, and because of that, He’s given us everything. Be thankful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

writing ourselves in

“One of his disciples – the one whom Jesus loved – was reclining next to him.” – Jn 13:23

This unnamed disciple is associated with John – the author of the Gospel according to John. As a result, John is known as the “beloved disciple” in scholarly circles. I suppose we’re to assume that Jesus tolerated Peter and James but that he loved John. But this is all the info that the fourth evangelist gives us about himself. Who wrote this gospel? The one whom Jesus loved.

One assumes that the author of John’s gospel ** would at least make an appearance in Jesus’ story from time to time. If I were to write a Gospel, I’d at least mention one instance when I – John Newton – was really obedient to Jesus (of course as a model for the good of the church). In fact, there’s a 50/50 chance I’d work in my little league game-winning homer in the spring of '96. But this John is different. This John doesn’t even give a name (his name is John by tradition). Sure, this John wants to be remembered, but not for his faithfulness or for any achievements of his own. No - this John wants to be remembered as “the one whom Jesus loved.” That was John’s role in his version of the Jesus story. And make no mistake, he had to be selective (see Jn 21:25). John had to pick and choose. He could have “written himself in” in a more creative way. But for his part in the story, John didn’t even give his name. Who was John in Jesus’ story? He was “the one whom Jesus loved.”

The Bible compels each of us to take our own place in the Jesus-story. Christians aren’t detached observers. We’re not voyeurs. We’re actors and participants in the final scene of God’s salvation play. Like John, we too must enter Jesus’ story. We must “write ourselves in.” The only question is - what part are we going to play?

John gives us a roadmap. We are to “lose our lives” in Jesus’ story. Our name, like John’s name, isn’t significant. Only Jesus’ is. Jesus’ name is above every name and that includes our own (Phil 2:9). Our achievements aren’t central to the Jesus-narrative. Jesus must increase. We must decrease (Jn 3:30). And what does this mean practically? It means that our identity is shaped above all else by Jesus’ love for us. Who are we in Jesus’ story? We are the “one whom Jesus loves.”

FOR TODAY: An ethics professor of mine writes, “the question of identity is the question of difference.” For today, consider what informs your identity. In other words, who do you know yourself to be? This is an important question because our world is becoming increasingly achievement-oriented. We’re only about as good as our last accomplishment, our last assignment, our last business deal, our last sermon. But as Jesus’ disciples, we cannot accept the world’s terms. Regardless of what we do or don’t do, we are children of God and we are born of God (Jn 1:12-13). Above all else, this is who we are in Jesus’ story. For today, be changed by this wonderful truth.

** Authorship of JG is hard to attribute to one person. Most scholars contend that the final work was the product of John’s community and that John’s disciples finished what John himself had begun before his death in the latter part of the first century.

Monday, November 24, 2008

knowing and showing

"Sir, we wish to see Jesus." – Jn 12:21

I’ve always been fond of these words. In the context of John’s Gospel (JG), Jesus has entered Jerusalem for the final time. His crucifixion is less than a week away. And a group of Greeks – a codeword for Gentile, outsider, and pagan – come to Phillip with a request. “We wish to see Jesus.” We want Jesus. Bring us to him. Show us Jesus.

I don’t want to overlook the context of these words. In the context of JG, they’re the fulfillment of v. 19 – “the whole world has gone after him.” But what interests me more about these words – “we wish to see Jesus” – is their application. In my opinion, this request is still the world’s challenge to our church. The unbelievers of our world still make this same petition to those of us who believe. “We want Jesus. Bring us to him. Show us Jesus.”

Historically speaking, the Greeks – being Gentiles – didn’t worship the God of Israel. For all I know, they worshipped a wooden boot. But in an odd way, so does our world (and so do we). Our world worships money, success, prestige, reputation, power, science, sex, and a million other “wooden boots” that we rely on to find meaning. And yet, none of these things bring lasting peace or security. None of them quench our thirst. And deep down, our world wants the Real Deal. We want the Real Deal. We wish, above all else, to see Jesus.

And that’s what the church is all about – knowing the Real Deal, and showing the Real Deal. The world wants to see Jesus. They don’t want to see a tract. They don’t want three easy steps to salvation. They don’t want to be bullied or judged. No. They want to see Jesus. They want to see the love and the holiness and the compassion and the truth and the commitment and the gentleness and the selflessness of Jesus lived and preached. And the world wants the church – those who believe – to show them these things. The world wants the church to show them Jesus.

FOR TODAY: I believe it was Anonymous who said, “Purity of heart is to will one thing” (actually it was Kierkegaard). For Christians, that one thing is Jesus. To the extent that we know Jesus – which is not the same as knowing about Jesus or the bible – we’ll show Jesus to the world. That’s why Paul said that the will of God boils down to “our sanctification” (1 Thess 4:3). Because to the extent that Jesus’ love, holiness, compassion, truth, commitment, gentleness, and selflessness dwell in us, we show the world Jesus. Like Jesus said, “a city built on a hill cannot be hid” (Matt 5:14). Our world wishes to see Jesus. For today, do something to grant our world’s request.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

why jesus cries

“Jesus wept.” – Jn 11:35

Here we have the shortest verse in the entire bible, not to mention the most misunderstood. In the context of John’s Gospel, Lazarus’ heart has stopped beating. Jesus’ amigo is dead. Lazarus’ sisters are weeping. Lazarus’ friends are weeping. After all, when someone dies, people are crushed. And Jesus is too – right? Jesus weeps because he lost his friend, because in his full humanity Jesus shrinks at the sight of death? That’s what most preachers have told me. And all of them are wrong.

Now, of course, Jesus had emotions. Jesus was human. But remember – we can’t take our limited understanding of “humanity” and then project it onto Jesus (see being human: like father, like son). That’s one of the reasons most preachers misunderstand Jesus’ tears. Of course, the other reason is because most preachers forget to do their homework.

You see, twice John tells us that Jesus was “greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved” (Jn 11:33, 38). The two Greek words John uses (embrimaomai, tarasso) suggest that Jesus’ tears are ones of admonition and agitation. In other words, they’re not tears of grief. Jesus weeps because he sees that, even in his presence, the people to whom he is sent still have no hope. Jesus weeps because his people are hopeless.

We all know what happens next. Jesus calls Lazarus out of the grave – not because Jesus thinks that death is the end, but “for the sake of the crowd standing [there], so that they may believe that [God sent Jesus]” (Jn 11:42). The truth is, the crowds don’t believe. And because they don’t believe, they have no hope. And because they have no hope, Jesus gets agitated. And his agitation is so great that “Jesus wept.” It’s kind of ironic. The crowds weep because Lazarus is dead. Jesus weeps because the crowds’ hope is dead. And so Jesus brings both Lazarus and the peoples’ hope back to life.

That being said, Jesus does not raise Lazarus from the dead. This may seem tangential – but it’s important. Once again, Lazarus is not raised from the dead. He’s resuscitated. And there’s a big difference. Resurrection is about new life, about a new body, about heaven and earth joining together and about God’s kingdom being all in all. The only person that’s ever been raised to new life is Jesus. You see, Jesus didn’t raise Lazarus to new life. He resuscitated him to an old one – Jesus gave Lazarus back his old body that aches and gets sick and that eventually died again. And so remember – our Christian faith is about resurrection. Take these words to heart. I’d hate for Jesus to get agitated and begin to weep again because we don’t understand.

SPECIAL NOTE: Usually I’m okay when people misunderstand what I write, teach, or preach. It just comes with the gig. But today I feel compelled to clear up two possible misunderstandings of today’s blog entry. First, crying and weeping over the loss of someone that we love is not wrong or sinful. If you’re not deeply cut to the heart when you lose someone that you love, you’re probably in denial. And hyper-confident religiosity is denial’s favorite mask. Second, you should never be agitated or admonish others when they cry over a loved one’s death because you think they lack faith. Whatever Jesus’ “agitation” is – I promise you – it’s not the same as ours.

FOR THE WEEKEND: Read John 11: 17-44. Pay attention to verses 25, 26, 33, 40-42. Also mediate on Lk 22: 39-46. And wrestle with the question, “did Jesus ever experience hopelessness?”

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

putting down our stones

“The law of Moses commanded us to stone such women. What do you say?” – Jn 8:5

The scribes and the Pharisees bring an adulterous woman to Jesus. And since they are trying to entrap Jesus, I assume they were voyeuristically creeping outside of her home. They were waiting to catch her in the act. And when they do, the religious leaders drag the poor woman to Jesus. She’s just a pawn in their game to take Jesus down. “The Law says to stone her,” they say. “What do you teach?”

Now, there’s no doubt that the woman did something wrong. Jesus knows that. But Jesus looks around at a group of men – each one with a few stones in hand – and each one is ready to throw. The woman is fearfully shaking in the middle. All around her, people are gathering stones. And unless a miracle happens, she’ll die for her sins. Because all around her people are gathering stones. They’re waiting for Jesus to say, “I agree with Moses. Do what you have to do.”

Our world teaches us to gather stones. And we’re waiting for any excuse to throw them. Every time we gossip, we throw a stone. Every time we silently withdraw from someone we love, we throw a stone. Every time we shake our head in disgust at another person’s behavior, we throw a stone. We see the speck in the eye of every face we see – except for the one in the mirror. All the while, a giant redwood is lodged in our own eye. And because of that, our vision is blurred.
Of course, Jesus knows this. And so he gives them permission to stone this woman on one condition – they have to be without sin (Jn 8:7). The person without the redwood in their eye can go ahead and stone her. Of course, they all walk away. The Spirit convicts each of them. They all put down their stones.

Being a follower of Jesus is about putting down our stones. That doesn’t mean we walk around saying “all is fine, there’s no such thing as right or wrong, if it feels good then more power to you.” No. What the woman did was wrong. The man she cheated with was wrong. And every person who dragged her to Jesus was wrong. Part of loving a person is “speaking the truth in love” (Eph 4:15). And it’s impossible to love someone if we don’t tell them the truth when they hurt themselves or when they fall into a pattern of hurting other people. And if we keep reading the story, Jesus lovingly confronts the woman. But he’s not holding a stone when he does. In other words, there’s a difference between condemning and loving; between judging and discerning. And the test is this: do we have a stone in our hand? And if so, do we want to throw it?

FOR TODAY: Have the courage to acknowledge the many ways that you gather stones. In other words, how do you hurt people? Who do you want to see get hurt? If you answer these questions – “I don’t. No one.” – then I’m afraid you’re in denial over the Redwood still lodged in your eye. You see, a miracle has happened. Not everyone has to die for their sins. And even if they did, we wouldn’t be the executioner. And so start chipping away at that Redwood. And put down your stones.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

being human: like father, like son

“Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.” – Jn 5:19

This is what Jesus tells his disciples right after healing a cripple on the Sabbath. “I can only do what I know. And all I know is what the Father does.” More often than not, whenever we think of Jesus’ miracles we think of Jesus’ divinity. “He’s God. Of course he can raise the dead.” Or so goes our line of thinking. Now, there is a kernel of truth to our statement. But for the most part, thinking of Jesus the “healer” as Jesus the “divine” is wrong. And the reason we’re wrong is because we are assuming that there is a split between Jesus’ humanity and Jesus’ divinity. And our assumption is wrong. Because Jesus is fully human and fully divine. Not 50/50. Not schizophrenic, as if Jesus was divine half of the time (when he heals cripples) and human the other half of the time (when he yells at the Pharisees). No. Jesus is fully both. And so whenever Jesus heals a cripple on the Sabbath, which is the context of this verse, Jesus is revealing to us what it means to be fully human. He’s not being Jekyll and holding back his inner-Hyde. He’s being Jesus – the God-man – fully human, and fully divine.

You see, we often try and understand Jesus’ full humanity by looking at ourselves and then projecting our humanity onto Jesus. In other words, we assume that we are fully human and then we use our experience to understand Jesus. But this is crazy. Jesus understands us fully. But sadly, it doesn’t work the other way around.

You see, using our supposed “full humanity” to understand Jesus is like drinking a cup of polluted sewer water to understand how wonderful purified Dasani tastes. Of course, it’s hard to blame us for our error. The polluted sewer water is all that we know. But to drink our sewer water and say, “ahh, that’s the good stuff” is to make a huge mistake. But that’s exactly what we do. We take our experience and say, “ahh, that’s what it means to be fully human.” And in doing so, we make a huge mistake.

This may sound odd, but we’re not fully human. Again: we are not fully human. And the miracle of the incarnation isn’t just that Jesus is fully divine, but that Jesus is fully human as well. And so if we want to know what it means to be fully human, we can’t look at ourselves. We have to look at Jesus. And I think this bible verse gives us a huge clue as to what full humanity looks like.

Full humanity is living a life of total and complete dependence on our Father in heaven. Full humanity is seeing what the Father does and then doing the same. Fully humanity is being the perfect image of God. “Whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.”

UNTIL THURSDAY: Come to terms with the fact that we are not fully human. We’re not purified Dasani. And because of that, we do not understand what it means for Jesus to be fully human. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Jesus’ act of healing that cripple was the most human thing he could have done. It wasn’t a “supernatural act.” It was a natural fully human act. And that’s why we can’t understand it. Each of us must come to terms with the fact that we are not fully human. Only Jesus is. Once we acknowledge our diminished humanity, we can begin to joyfully anticipate – and even live into – the full humanity Jesus promises will one day be given to us in the resurrection of the dead.

Monday, November 10, 2008

on needing glasses

“Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born from above.” – Jn 3:3

Jesus speaks these words to Nicodemus – a Pharisee, a teacher of the law, and an “elder” of the Jewish religious establishment. In the “ways of religion,” Nicodemus is intelligent. He “knows” all the right religious rules. Nicodemus is “well-versed” in Torah. And yet, Nicodemus begins to sense something new in Jesus. He doesn’t yet see it. But Nicodemus definitely senses something. But unwilling to put his religious reputation on the line, Nicodemus goes “to Jesus by night” (Jn 3:2). Nicodemus has seen the signs and so he decides to investigate Jesus’ legitimacy as a religious teacher.

Now, I imagine that Nicodemus approaches Jesus pretty confident and self-assured. Nicodemus is used to people asking him questions. After all, he’s got a Ph.D. in Pentateuch from Gamaliel U. He knows the Mosaic Law down to the letter. And so Nicodemus approaches Jesus, I imagine, not to learn from him but to evaluate him. Nicodemus wants to know. Is Jesus the “real deal” or not?

And yet, before Nicodemus even poses his first investigatory question, Jesus gives Nicodemus the answer: “no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born from above.” Other common translations of the Greek (anothen) include “born again” and “born anew.” But in either case, Jesus is referring to a new spiritual birth from God – a new life (zoe) that existed in Jesus from the beginning (Jn 1:4). “You need new life,” Jesus says, “if you want to see the Kingdom of God.” Nicodemus is thrown for a loop. “How can these things be?” Nicodemus asks (Jn 3:9). Eventually Nicodemus walks away. His world is turned upside down. Only moments earlier, Nicodemus came to Jesus with confidence, thinking he had solved the jigsaw. But now Jesus tells Nicodemus that he’s been working with the wrong pieces.

Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, in my opinion, are the foundation of all authentic discipleship – and the foundation of all true wisdom for that matter. In a mystical way, our life with God is a gift – zoe is something that we receive. No opens their own eyes. Only God gives sight to the blind.

You see, Nicodemus is quite intelligent. His I.Q. is off the charts. But what Jesus tells him is that seeing God’s Kingdom isn’t a matter of having a high I.Q. Rather, seeing the Kingdom comes as a gift – when Jesus turns our world upside down, when experience the grace of being thrown for a loop. In other words, we need eyes for the Kingdom. And only one Optometrist has the right Rx.

FOR TODAY: Sadly, there are people in our world that may never see God’s Kingdom in our midst. But for most Jesus-followers, 20/20 Kingdom-vision is an incremental process. God’s life (zoe) is an incremental process. In other words, the zoe of Jesus inside of us definitely has a beginning – and debates over the moment God’s new life in us actually begins (whether it be the foundation of the world, the sacrament of baptism, the moment we believe, etc.) is responsible for a few different denominations. And of course there is a definite end to our process of rebirth. In other words, a time is coming when we will no longer need to be “born again” – when we will be “fully new” so to speak. Like John says, “When Jesus is revealed, then we will be like him” (1 Jn 3:2). But God’s church now lives in the middle. New life has begun in us, and yet we are not yet “totally new.” Rather, we’re in the process of being made new. And so for today, acknowledge your place in the transition. Ask God for eyes to see the Kingdom in those places of your life where, for whatever reason, you’re currently blind. In other words, rejoice that you’re “born again.” And then be open to a life-long process of being “born again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and …”

Thursday, November 6, 2008

pinot anyone?

“The steward tasted the water that had become wine.” – Jn 2:9
“Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory.” – Jn 2:11

Jesus is at a wedding – a wedding that he was invited to. Perhaps one of his Nazareth neighborhood chums (Biff?) is finally tying the knot. Jesus’ mother is present. His disciples are present. But there’s drama – a horribly embarrassing social taboo takes place. The hosts of the party run out of wine.

But then a miracle happens. Jesus turns 180 gallons of water into wine. I actually did the math. This is more than 900 bottles of wine. And what’s amazing is that the guests at the wedding have already been drinking. And not only that, but Jesus makes the “good stuff.” “You have kept the good wine until now” (Jn 2:10). Jesus doesn’t turn the water into boxed Franzia. No, Jesus takes the water – something ordinary and common – and he turns it into more than 900 bottles of Dom Perignon. Jesus’ act is extravagant. It’s wastefully graceful. It’s scandalously abundant and gloriously rich. And according to John, this was the first of Jesus’ “signs.”

It’s interesting, but John never uses the word we translate miracle (dunamis). Instead, he calls Jesus’ mighty deeds signs (semeion). And although both words describe the same reality, the difference in emphasis is worth noting. Because signs, by definition, point to something. And for John, Jesus’ signs point to the kingdom of God.

And so if you want to know what God’s kingdom is like, just look at the signs. See what they point to. And what you’ll find is that God’s kingdom is like a marriage feast where the celebration never ends, where the wine never goes bad, and where all that is ordinary and common (me and you) is gloriously transformed into something extravagant and abundantly rich (adoption, co-heirs with Christ, crown of glory that never fades).

FOR THE WEEKEND: Jesus’ first sign takes place at a wedding because Jesus’ first sign points to a wedding. In fact, all of human history is gravitating towards this one marriage celebration. Jesus is the bridegroom. His church is the bride. And only the best wine will be served (Mk 14:25). “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev 19:9). For the weekend, consider the blessing of receiving the invitation. (And don’t forget to RSVP.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

election day

Election Day. Almost two years of campaigning, and the time has finally arrived. A new president will be elected this evening. American policy – and world policy for that matter – will begin to shift. With a new administration comes new direction. And for many people, a whole lot seems to be at stake. And people feel like a lot’s at stake because they care. They care deeply about “the issues” – the war, the economy, the environment, healthcare, poverty, the elderly, abortion, capital punishment, government spending, and foreign policy – to just scratch the surface.

Elections remind us how broken we are. There wouldn’t be “issues” to deal with if we weren’t broken creatures in desperate need for God’s redemption. Scripture wouldn’t point to a “time of universal restoration” if things on earth hadn’t fallen apart (Acts 3:21). And regardless of whether or not we think God has a solution, we’re all aware of the problem. We want things to be fixed. We want things to be put right. And this is precisely why we feel that so much is at stake in our elections – because politicians promise a solution. Politicians promise that their plan is the key.

And so whether we “barack” the vote or buy a ticket for “the straight talk express,” there are two errors I want us to avoid at the polls today.

First, don’t think that your faith in Jesus shouldn’t inform how you vote. It should. Everything is spiritual. Our faith should inform everything we do. Every political issue is a spiritual one as well. Because everything is spiritual. God is infinitely more concerned with “the issues” than we are. And because of that, your vote matters. And your vote can’t be divorced from your faith in Jesus’ Lordship.

Second, don’t think that one of the candidates can singlehandedly fix our world and restore our nation. With the presidency comes power – and with power is the potential for good and evil. But biblically speaking, fixing things is the Messiah’s job description. Only the Messiah can adequately “deal with” all the issues. And to think, even subconsciously, that one of our candidates for president is an agent of God sent to reestablish God’s rule on earth is to fire Jesus and to give his job to a broken, human politician. And what’s amazing is that Christians – liberals and conservatives – do this all the time. And the bible calls it idolatry.

That being said, politics is important. And the reason politics is important is because the gospel is a political message. The “kingdom” of God is a political phrase. The gospel, in a nutshell, is that Jesus is Lord – that God is king – and that one day God’s kingdom will be all in all. In other words, the coming of God’s Kingdom is God’s solution. It’s about things being fixed, about things being put right, once and for all. It’s about God’s plan being the key. And on election days, this is a freeing thing to remember. Because regardless of whom we elect, God continues to prepare “the time of universal restoration.” And when God’s day comes, the Unelected Official, God’s Sovereign Messiah, will “judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Micah 4:3). In other words, there won’t be any more “issues” to deal with.

UNTIL THURSDAY: Pray for our nation’s election.

“Almighty God, the Giver of all power and privilege: Guide the people of the United States in the election of a new president; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN” (BCP, 822, changes mine)

Monday, November 3, 2008

where you staying?

“The two disciples said to Jesus, where are you staying? Jesus said to them, Come and see.” – Jn 1:38-39

“Where are you staying?” It’s odd that this is the first question someone asks Jesus in the Gospel of John. The word translated stay, meno, means “to abide.” To be more accurate, meno has to do with a “continual presence” and with “being held up continually.” And so on the surface, these first disciples want to know where Jesus sleeps at night. But in reality, they’re looking for much, much more. They’re asking for much, much more.

Jesus’ response is interesting. “Come and see.” It’s hard to fathom the simplicity and graciousness of Jesus’ invitation – an invitation Jesus wants us to extend to others. For example, Philip tells Nathanael under a fig tree, “come and see” (Jn 1:46). A Samaritan woman tells her friends by a well, “come and see” (Jn 4:29). Before a dramatic healing, Lazarus’ friends tell Jesus, “come and see” (Jn 11:34). “Come and see” – these are simple words of grace. They’re words that precede new faith and new life (in the case of Lazarus). “Come and see.” These are words we must hear. These are words we must speak.

First, we must hear Jesus’ words, “come and see.” And we can’t forget our original question. “Where are you abiding (meno)?” Because Jesus gives a clear answer to our question. “I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide (meno) in his love” (Jn 15:10). Jesus stays with his Father. And Jesus invites us into the Father’s “continual presence.” Jesus wants us to be “held up continually” by the Father – just as he is held up continually by the Father. Ultimately, this is the knowledge Jesus wants us to “come” to, the reality Jesus wants us to “see.” And so Jesus tells us – “abide (meno) in my love” (Jn 15:9). “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit” (Jn 15:5).

Second, we must speak Jesus’ words. Of course, we can’t speak a word we haven’t yet received. We can’t tell people to “come and see” something that we ourselves have no experience of. But these words – “come and see” – are the heart of authentic Christian evangelism. Evangelism begins when we are captured by a new reality, and evangelism happens when we invite others to “come and see” that reality, to be captured by that reality themselves.

FOR TODAY: Focus on part one – hearing Jesus’ words. “Come” to the Father’s presence where Jesus abides. “See” the oneness Jesus has with the Father. And then fathom the simplicity and graciousness of Jesus’ invitation. “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me” (Jn 15:4). Ask Jesus that same question his first disciples asked him, “Where are you staying?” And hear Jesus’ answer like you’ve never heard it before. “With the Father. And with you, if you’ll let me. Now come and see this reality, and stay with me.”