4 Books: 4 Questions ~ The Gospel of John, Mystics, Mystery, and Connections

mystic-water-1410939On Sunday we opened up the beautiful poetic, mystical, and masterful book of John. John is a beautiful book about deeply connecting and communing with Jesus. John is about fully becoming one with Jesus experiencing his joy and his connection. And John uses all of these metaphors to speak of it: being born again (John 3), having springs of living water (John 4), partaking the bread of life (John 6), connecting to the vine (John 15), being one with the divine life (John 17), and breathing the breathe of the divine (John 20).

John wants to push us past our normal expectations and to remind us that we can fully connect with Jesus.

And one of the phrases John uses is “eternal life”.

When we hear this verse we most often think of the future. We think of something that happens after death. We think of something that will happen out there, not right here and right now.

But in reality that’s not what the word means. Eternal life surely does mean life after death, but it also means life right here right now. Its about expierenicng life that lasts into the future but start right here in the present. And John wants us to accept Jesus so we can experience this life now, that lasts and lingers into the future. John is all about us fully experiencing life abundant right here right now. In fact, Jesus says that in John 10:10.

But because we think eternal life is about the future we miss what we can have in the present. A real life deep and boundary breaking experience with the risen Christ.

Eugene Peterson gets at this point well when he translates John 3:16 as, “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life” Anyone can have a whole and lasting life, now that leads to lasting life in the future but it starts today.

So what was the main point? Well its was simple – you can experience Jesus fully if you submit to him. That was it. Pure and simple. You can connect with Jesus. You can be changed by Jesus. You can have and experience that goes beyond what you think. You can be filled with living water, the bread of life, connected to the vine, breathing the breath of the Spirit. This is a possibility for all of us who want to follow and submit to Jesus.

So we ended not with more theology, because at a point all words break down. And we ended with practice. We ended with a traditional Christian practice for fully experiencing Jesus. We ended with communion, inviting all who want to experience Jesus to come forward. To have the bread of heaven, and the cup of salvation. To experience God in their present that lasts into the future. Because that’s’ what John is about. And may you experience Jesus in your life now, experiencing the life that is whole and lasts into the future. May you know the Spirit within you, and encounter the risen Christ in such a way that you are left changed.

 

 

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: You can experience Jesus fully, if you submit to him. 

Teaching Points:

  • John’s about connecting and communing with Jesus
  • Eternal life is popularly understood about the future
  • This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. John 3:16
  • “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God”. St. Irenaeus
  • We cannot shrink the gospel to what we are comfortable with
  • But he himself that justifies also deifies, for by justifying he makes sons of God. ‘For he has given them power to become the sons of God’ If then we have been made sons of god, we have also been made gods. St. Augustine
  • You can experience Jesus fully, if you submit to him.
  • if you submit to Jesus, if you accept him, you can experience him.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Had you ever thought about the gospels being different before? Are you comfortable with mystical experiences? Why do you think John believes they are so important? How have you connected and experienced Jesus in the past? How might you continue to experience him in the future and stay connected to him?

Challenge for the Week: Experience and connect with Jesus.

3 (Marks): Connecting Daily with Jesus: The Secret and Connecting with Christ

cross-1195511On Sunday we looked at a secret Paul shares. And honestly the best secrets we do want to share. We say “want to know the secret too….baking a cake, losing weight, or any other number of things. Well Paul wants to share the secret to the Christian life – to finding life.

We began with a quote by Metropolitan Anthoy Bloom. He writes this:

You will find stability at the moment when you discover that God is everywhere, that you do not need to seek God elsewhere, that God is here, and if you don’t find God here it is useless to go and search elsewhere because it is not God that is absent from us, it is we who are absent from God…This is important because it is only at the moment you recognize this that you can truly find the fullness of the Kingdom of God in all its richness within you.

The beauty is that you can connect with Jesus right here, as you are. You don’t have to become someone else, or go somewhere else to connect with Jesus.

Paul says “For this is the secret, Christ lives in you”

We are connected to Jesus, we are connected to Christ, Christ lives in you and me. This is absolutely world changing because we are connected and sustained by Christ. This means that no matter where we are at, we can connect with Christ because he lives in us. Christ is not distant, Christ is within.

This led us to the main point for Sunday: Christ lives in you, and you can connect with him. The Christian life revolves around Christ. The Christian life is centred and propelled by Jesus Christ. And you can connect to this Christ because he lives in you.

The question then is are we connecting with Christ? If Christ is connected to us, are we consciously connecting with him? And how this happens will be different for everyone, the point is that it happens.

So we gave the challenge to daily connect with God. Because the secret is that Christ lives in us.

“God does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.” Brother Lawrence

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Christ lives in you, and you can connect with him.

Teaching Points:

  • A self-focused life always leads to a lackluster life.
  • Christ is not distant, Christ is within.
  • Christ lives in you, and you can connect with him.
  • If it is true that Christ lives in us then we should focus on connecting with the Christ within
  • With a little intention everything you do can be brought into the presence of God
  • One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think. Brother Lawrence
  • The secret to the Christian life is to connect with this Christ within

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What is your first impression of “the secret” that Christ lives in you? How often would you say you are aware of Christ living in you? What are the ways that you best connect with Christ? Do you have any daily rhythms of connecting with Christ? What daily rhythms could you maybe start?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Today try to start some new rhythms to connecting with Christ – maybe reading the Bible together, praying together, creating art together. Create rhythms to connect with the Christ within.

Challenge for the Week: Daily connect with Christ.

3 (Marks): Connecting Daily with Jesus: Refrigerator Hums, and the Christ of the Cosmos

gods-wrath-1235882On Sunday we looked at one of my favourite passages, Colossians 1:15-21. But before we read the passage we talked a lot about “hums”.

Have you ever noticed how – you don’t actually notice hum’s that are constantly happening around you? In your home you probably never notice your fridge humming away. In your home you might never hear your water softener, or the train outside. The only time you probably notice these sounds are when someone else points it out. That often happens to me, people notice the train that goes by every night. But I will go months without noticing it.

And here is why: because things that happen consistently we become accustomed to and acclimatized to. We don’t even notice them anymore.

And the same things happen, not with just the things around us but, also within us.

Paul shares this beautiful hymn in Colossians 1 and it says that every single thing is connected in Christ. That all of creation is not only made in and through Christ, but is being currently sustained and held together through Christ. We are all connected right now because of the sustaining power of Jesus Christ. Christ is holding the world together, sustaining it, and connecting us all through the power of his Spirit.

The point is that right now as you are, you are connected and being sustained by Jesus Christ. The problem is that we never notice it because it is always happening. There is never not a moment when you are not being sustained by God. There is never not a moment where Christ is not holding all of creation together. It’s so ubiquitous to us that we don’t notice it like the train that goes by every night.

So my whole goal on Sunday, and even in this short post, is to wake us up to something. The fact that we are connected to Christ, and sustained by Christ. Christ is all around you, and part of you. And we love to separate the areas where God moves (our spiritual life) and the places that are normal and not spiritual (regular life). But this is not the Bible, Christ is a part of all of life. Mondays matter just as much as Sundays. Our prayer life matters just as much as our work life to him because he is part of it all.

Christ is part of it all, that’s the main point.

So my challenge was really simple, but hard. My challenge was to pay attention, to wake up, and to watch for Jesus. If Jesus sustains everything and a part of everything, watch for him. Wake up to him. Just like the train can go by without us noticing, pay attention and find him because Christ is all around you, within you, and sustaining you. So why not wake up a bit, pay attention, and find him today.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Christ is part of it all.

Teaching Points:

  • “I could feel reverence humming in me” – Jane Fonda
  • “The whole earthy is full of his glory, but we do not perceive it; it is within our reach but beyond our grasp.” Abraham Joshua Heschel
  • The entire cosmos is in a relationship to one another through Christ
  • Christ in everything, part of everything, and holding everything together
  • “Classical Hebrew has no word for spirituality” because it all spiritual. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner
  • Why didn’t Jesus use thirty years of his life to do spiritual things? He did. These were spiritual things. Sleeping, eating, working, talking, washing. It is we who have shrunk the sacred. It is we who have segregated life. Samir Selmanovic
  • All of creation is a deeply personal cosmos, all cohering and interconnected in Jesus. Brian Walsh, Sylvia Keesmaat

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Was this a new passage for you to think through? What “hums” do you not notice in your own home and life? What did you think of the way Jane Fonda expressed her reason for coming to Jesus? Have you ever seen your life as “spiritual” and “non-spiritual”? How can you “pay attention” for Jesus this week?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Ask your kids two questions this week. Ask them to look for Jesus at the beginning of the day, and ask them where they saw him at the end. Develop a rhythm of paying attention.

Challenge for the Week: Pay attention for Christ this week.

Path’s that Lead to God: Listening

Take a moment and think about your relationship with God. How often is there silence in your conversation? How often are you bringing things to him? Does God though have space to speak?

As a youth pastor I once had a youth come to me and say that God isn’t speaking to them. That they want to hear God’s voice. I said, “Often it’s not that God isn’t speaking, but that we aren’t listening.” So after discussing we realized that in their life they woke up listening to music, listened to an iPod on the bus, sat in school texting, played on their phone on the way home, watched TV, and went to bed. The point is their life was so full there was no space to listen.

So for me a path that leads to God is creating spaces to listen for God. A Hebrew sage Solomon ibn Gabirol wrote,

“The beginning of wisdom is silence. The second stage is listening.”

So for me I realized that rarely do I not have music, sound, or noise on. In the car I listen to podcasts, at my office I listen to music, at home the Olympics are currently always on. So I started to create times to listen. Car rides just with me and God. Lunches outside with the breeze. Moments of silence in my life where I simply wait and listen.

And I think you can do the same. We need to be like Samuel where he says, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:10). So what can you do to listen? What creates noise in your life that you can turn down? Because I do believe God is listening and we will hear it if we start to listen…