Thursday, April 30, 2009

Giving Life to the World

What follows are some of my thoughts for the Contemplative Service this Sunday. Hopefully the act of typing them out will help clarify them for me :)

For the past few days I've been reflecting on a short passage from John 6 'It is my father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.' Specifically focusing on the the words 'Give life to the world.'

When I reflect back on my past, I don't think I've done a very good job of 'giving life'. In my late teens and early twenties I was far more concerned with proving that I was right and you were wrong. My words and my witness left you in little doubt about where I thought you stood with Almighty God - my words were not giving life to the world, I gave condemnation and guilt. No bread, just burdens.

To be fair, that's how I was with myself too. I was convinced that Guilt was the fuel that powered Change in my life. If I could just make myself and others feel guilty enough then that would lead to spiritual growth.

I read Jesus' words in John 6 and I connect them to his encounter with the Samaritan woman a few chapters earlier.
  • Jesus was where he shouldn't be. A 'truly spiritual' person would not be seen in Samaria because they didn't mix with Samaritans.
  • Jesus was talking with a woman. A 'truly spiritual' person would not associate with women for fear that they might become ceremonially unclean.
  • Jesus was talking with a sinner. This woman had a past. She had gone through six husbands, and she was currently cohabiting with a seventh. A 'truly spiritual' person would not be seen with such a flagrant sinner. Doesn't Jesus know that you can judge a person by the company he keeps?

I have an icon of this scene that I have been praying with recently. To one side of Jesus are the twelve disciples. They are looking on astonished that Jesus would talk with this woman. On the other side are the towns people - including a large number of men who no doubt this woman has been intimate with. They are looking on astonished that this woman would talk with Jesus. I can imagine both sides commenting on the scene.

Who is she that she should meet with him? Spirituality isn't for the likes of her. Why is Jesus talking with an outsider like her? Our faith isn't for her sort of people.

Where other people would offer burdens because of this woman's gender, race and lifestyle Jesus offers the bread of life. Instead of guilt, he offers hope.

What do I offer to people whose lives are not like mine? Whose backgrounds, viewpoints and lifestyle choices are different?

Do I offer a burden or do I offer life to the world?

Do you?

'As I have loved you so you must love one another' - John 13:34

Think through the people you come into contact with on a weekly basis. Who are you most likely to offer words of burden too? How can you offer the bread of life to them instead?

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