Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Feast of Light


At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.”
            The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.
            He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.
(John 10:22-42 ESV)

The Feast of Dedication was a winter solstice festival commemorating the rededication of the Temple in 165 BC.   This isn’t a specific precursor of our celebration of Christmas.  Winter festivals of light were common in many ancient cultures.  If there is a significance to Jesus being in the Temple for this Feast, it demonstrates that he went to Jerusalem often and, we can associate this feast with John 1:9, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”

John is giving shorthand vignettes from Jesus’ life, not writing a biography.   Everything he put in his gospel is to reinforce the thesis of his little book: “these [things] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.  (John 20:31 ESV)   Jesus’ discussion about sheep in John 10:1-21 probably took place some days or perhaps months before this event.  If you are reading along, don’t assume that Jesus talked about the safety of the sheepfold and him being the door of the sheep and was then immediately confronted by the Pharisees in Solomon’s Colonnade.  John uses the one event to set up the other, that’s all.

In this passage Jesus clearly establishes both assertions.  He is the Christ, and he is the Son of God.  The bunch of self-proclaimed theologians who inhabited the Temple (just like the Frozen Chosen who inhabit many of our church mausoleums today) saw the things that Jesus said and did and wanted to stone him.  That’s what happens when protecting  doctrinal distinctives becomes your main pursuit.  You’re in danger of completely missing the wonder of what Jesus is doing.

Jesus changes lives.  He makes this simple statement that is probably the thing that made these “leaders” more angry than any other because it threatened to erode the size of their clientele.  Today’s blind guides would get angry because they’d claim Jesus was stealing their sheep.  Remember, the minute you think they’re yours, you’re sunk.   

Jesus is the only one who can properly say this.  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.”  It is so simple and so un-theological.  Here is true faith: Hear. Be known by God.  Follow Jesus.  Receive eternal life and safety in him. 

On what we call Palm Sunday, the leaders of the Jews shook their heads and said, “See, this is getting us no where.  The whole world has gone out to him.”  The simple souls who had no position to protect followed Jesus out of the Temple and down to the Jordan River, some 25 miles away.  It was a couple of days’ walk.  I can almost hear the bleating.  “Baa!”    

When they got to the spot where John had been baptizing, way back when it all began, way back when John had said, “See, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  It simply occurred to them that everything John had said about Jesus was true.  And there, down at the river; not in the Temple during a formal Feast of Light; down by the boat landing, they finally received the Light.

Jon


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