Snow Scrawl

Racing fast
leaving crimson marks
upon white expanse
tracing cursive lines
perfectly written
by the teacher
scribbles becoming legible.

“I’ve got the hang of this”
I tell myself
flowing effortlessly
as I maneuver to and fro
upon a wide tableau
quicker we go
heart and machine
accelerating.

I watch him
make a sweeping arc
poetry in motion
I follow suit
trying to execute
the loop with grace.

But I colored outside the lines
uncertain what happened
illegible marks
tell the tale.

I study the lines
my ego bruised
to a deep crimson
knowing that
I got ahead of myself.

“Mistakes are great teachers”
I say
as I hold my ribs
take a breath
and begin again.

John 15:27

“And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”-John 15:27

Jesus told his disciples that they would bear witness to him, reporting what they had seen and heard. They were given the gift of witnessing his life and ministry, and then of telling the story about who he was and what he came to do. Through the disciples, we are also invited to bear witness to Jesus.

But we need to connect this verse with the surrounding context. In verse 26, Jesus said that the Spirit bears witness about him and pointed us to the dance within Trinity between Father, Son, and Spirit. We are invited into the community of love. God exists in a perfect, loving relationship, and he desires us to join him.

Jesus, you have called your followers to bear witness to you. You have given me the message of life, yet so often I seem to forget the life you have given me. Enliven me again with the message of your grace. Amen.

John 15:26

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.”-John 15:26

What precisely is the role of the Spirit? For one, he is a helper. With the Spirit’s help, we are not left blindly interpreting Scriptures or relying only upon fallible teachers. Under the new covenant, we have a guide who leads us into truth.

Jesus also said that the Spirit bears witness about him. In other words, a second role that the Spirit plays is to bring Jesus to mind, to point us to him. By the Spirit, we do not have to stumble about on our own.

John 15:26 is also a Trinitarian verse. Notice all three members’ presence: Father, Son, and Spirit. Jesus sends the Spirit from the Father, who will in turn tell about him. This is Trinitarian flow. This is perichoresis.

Jesus, thank you for showing me the Trinity and for sending your Spirit to testify about you. Teach me to dance with you in your perichoretic flow. Amen.

John 15:25

“But the word that is written in their law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’”-John 15:25

Jesus’s life fulfilled Old Testament prophecy, which included the hatred he endured. Scripture anticipated that he would be hated, but notice precisely what Jesus said: “The word that is written in their law.” As the second member of the Trinity, he would have written the law, so it was his law too. I think the reason Jesus said “their law” was because he wanted the disciples to see that even the scriptures that the scribes and Pharisees knew so well anticipated them hating him. Jesus was not a maverick thumbing his nose at the Mosaic Law. Rather, he was its fulfilment.

It is good to pay attention to Jesus’s words, but also to pay attention to the law and the prophets. Through his life and teaching, Jesus revealed what kingdom life looks like. We benefit from reading, with humility and curiosity, what the wisdom of the Old Testament saints had to say, filtered through the lens of Jesus.

Jesus, you are the fulfillment of the law. Even the hatred you endured was anticipated. Help me to connect the dots between your holy word, written down so long ago, and life in the present, so that I might know your divine vision for kingdom life. Amen.

John 15:23-24

“Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have hated both me and my Father.”-John 15:23:24

Jesus was helping his disciples to see that the Pharisees, whose hatred for him had reached the boiling point, also hated the Father. They continually challenged Jesus and put him to the test. Because Jesus contradicted their understanding of God, they viewed him as a heretic, blasphemer, and the son of the devil. When Jesus mingled with and even touched those who were “unclean,” they had all the proof they needed. In their eyes, that branded him a belligerent law breaker and they hated him for it. Jesus’s works were one and the same with the Father’s heart, yet many refused to see.

How often do we fail to see the heart of Jesus? How often are our perspectives, choices, or imaginings formed by the world we live in, or by how we think the Father is rather than how he has revealed himself? To know God, we need to know Jesus.

Jesus, I confess that my understanding of you and of the world is colored by my biases and assumptions. Straighten out my twisted thinking and align me again with your Spirit. Amen.

John 15:22

“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been found guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.”-John 15:22

All of us have made honest mistakes. We have done things that seemed right at the time, believing we were doing the best we could. Only later, did we learn that what we were doing was actually harmful rather than helpful.

When Jesus came, the Pharisees didn’t know they were off base. They believed they were doing exactly what God had called them to do. They were trying to live righteously and make others do the same in the way they had come to understand the scriptures. Yet Jesus brought the message of true love and true faith, telling them about self-sacrifice, non-judgment, welcome, and acceptance of others. But the Pharisees could not hear him, branding him a blasphemer and heretic. Like the Pharisees, when we choose to live contrary to his message of love, we are guilty of sin. He has called us to a different way of life and asks us to follow him.

Jesus, I have heard your word and seen your example of how to live, yet every day, I fall short of your standard. Forgive me, for I too have no excuse. By your Spirit, help me to live in the way of love every day. Amen.

Start Close In by David Whyte

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way to begin
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
simple.

To hear
another’s voice,
follow
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes an
intimate
private ear
that can
really listen
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

John 15:21

“But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”-John 15:21

Why do people hate Jesus and his followers? Jesus’s message—to love God and love others—in and of itself does not seem particularly countercultural and yet, it often confronts religious and non-religious ideologies alike.

In Jesus’s time, the scribes and Pharisees had definite ideas about the practice of religion. They believed they knew God’s law and kept it better than anyone else. They viewed themselves as the gatekeepers in God’s kingdom—and they allowed very few in. Nowadays, the legalists keep watch at the gate. If we accept their interpretations of the Bible, we may be allowed in, but once we make it through the gate, we find ourselves walking a precariously narrow rope.

On the other hand, non-religious people often live for pleasure and self-satisfaction. When Jesus told his followers that to truly love, they must lay down their lives for others, it ran contrary to hedonism, which is why hatred comes from both sides.

Jesus, the kingdom life is countercultural. Neither legalism nor hedonism represent your plan; rather, you have called me to the Jesus Way. Keep my feet upon the path and when I stray, bring me back again. Amen.

John 15:20

“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” -John 15:20

In The Cost of Discipleship (1937/1995), German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die.” Sometimes, as Western Christians, we imagine following Christ will mean a life full of material blessings like a warm house, hot food, and plenty of amenities. We expect our relationships will be conflict free and always rewarding, but that was never the message of Jesus. Indeed, this is the basic theology of the prosperity gospel.

In John 15:20, Jesus told his disciples that they could expect persecution, essentially saying, “I’ve been persecuted and you will be too. I am entrusting you with the message of life! You are privileged to carry my beautiful message of love, grace, and welcome, and still, people will mock you, persecute you, and maybe even kill you,” and we think, “Great! Sign me up!”

But Jesus also said, “If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” A life sown in the soil of suffering often produces gospel fruit. Where there are thorns, there are often magnificent blooms.

Jesus, I confess that when you say that persecution will come, I feel afraid and resistant, but I place my life in your hand. Use me to proclaim your true gospel, and may I be a conduit of your grace. Amen.

John 15:19

“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world. Therefore, the world hates you.”-John 15:19

Have you ever felt hated for something that you believed or been rejected because you shared one of your viewpoints? Rejection, it seems, is a part of the universal condition after the fall. We hate those who think differently than we do.

What world was Jesus speaking of here? I think it is commonly assumed that Jesus was referring to the self-centered and hedonistic Roman Empire. If we imagine that Jesus was warning the disciples about Rome, our understanding is that he was saying they would be hated for confronting immorality.

Yet the disciples were also a part of the Jewish world, which was strongly influenced by the Pharisees. In truth, the hatred would come not only from the secular culture, but also from their own religious leaders. Indeed, hatred often seems more intense from religious than non-religious people. Christ-followers who tell of the truth about the extravagance of Jesus’s grace may find themselves squarely in the crosshairs of both legalists and hedonists.

Jesus, following you and seeking to live out your message of love is counter-cultural. You have called me to be a rebel, standing against hatred by loving with reckless abandon. Amen.