Posts Tagged ‘1 John’

I wonder as I read the closing of the Epistle of 1 John if the disciple John knew the change that was to come by the time he wrote Epistle of 2 John. That is, did this ancient elder know that what had been built as community around the Love Commandment, would be changing through structures of Christendom. What was he thinking? He still wrote to draw people back to the original. Some would say that when it comes to communities changing, it needs to be managed. It needs to be strategized, the acceptable loss, the acceptable net gain. What money would go down, what money will go up is the 21st Century motif. Will this change upset what people gather for? Whom will be lost? Are the big donors still happy with us?

Everyone who believes that¬†Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and¬†everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.2¬†By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.¬†3¬†For¬†this is the love of God, that we¬†keep his commandments. And¬†his commandments are not burdensome.¬†4¬†For¬†everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world‚ÄĒour faith.¬†5¬†Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes¬†that Jesus is the Son of God?

-Epistle of 1 John 5:1-5 (English Standard Version)

Faith. It is a key word. For faith, is a journey. A journey where the journey itself can come to mean more in our personal and communal development than the destination itself. Also, lends itself to the understanding that the journey is renewal, as experience brings new understandings.

John, knew his community would go on a new journey as the Christianities became Christendom. He wrote for those who would enter not a change to manage, but a grief journey. Somethings were going to be lost. Somethings may remain. But a new birth for the communities of the Cosmic Christ awaited and had started. It was a grief journey, which is why he was bringing the community back to core values of understanding of who they were.

¬†This is he who came¬†by water and blood‚ÄĒJesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And¬†the Spirit is the one who testifies, because¬†the Spirit is the truth.¬†7¬†For there are three that testify:8¬†the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.¬†9¬†If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God¬†that he has borne concerning his Son.¬†10¬†Whoever believes in the Son of God¬†has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God¬†has made him a liar,¬†because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.¬†11¬†And this is the testimony, that God gave us¬†eternal life, and¬†this life is in his Son.12¬†Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

-Epistle of 1 John 5:6-12 (English Standard Version)

As 1 John aligns almost as a commentary to the Gospel of John, written to the Johannine Community I ponder this passage of remembrance. Bringing the hearer and reader of this epistle to the story of Nicodemus, we know in the Gospel of John 3 . Is it a reminder to fall in line with others who hold the same beliefs? Probably. But, what if it is also a reminder to community members that sometimes one must come in the cloak of night to uncover the truth. That is, even though an institution tells, espouses and enforces one belief structure does not mean it may be true. That one is commissioned to seek truth, true self and holy community, as Nicodemus did.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

16¬†If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and¬†God[a]¬†will give him life‚ÄĒto those who commit sins that do not lead to death.¬†There is sin that leads to death;¬†I do not say that one should pray for that.¬†17¬†All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

-Epistle of 1 John 5:13-21 (English Standard Version)

What is sin? If we remember the teachings the disciple John brought forth in his community and writings it was centered on the Love Commandment. The sacrament of service at the Last Supper (foot washing). The fact, that each of us experiences the life and teachings of Brother Jesus as the Beloved Disciple, the one so loved Jesus’ mother was entrusted to us to care for. It is that esteem, that inherent worth. The true self.

A familiar refrain on this site. Yet it is an important one. Sin is when we let our own shadows, gremlins, saboteurs or egos to take hold of us and lead us into our own destruction. If we are serving, we serve out of that darkness, not the light given to us. It is succumbing to loves beside our divine being in oneness with the Holy Mystery and neighbour. It is succumbing to the love of self (pride), money, power, to name but a few. It is the succumbing to control of others, not love of others. Even if the destination appears holy, the journey is one of destruction.

These are the idols John is warning his community about. Ensure they stay true to who they are. Do not surrender to a path that was contrary to who they are.

This is the grief journey. For the outcome is about whether or not what is birthed as new is not just sustainable, but livable.

John knows the journey ahead, and is letting his community know what it means to be who they are meant to be.


Historically we know that Jesus was not born at Christmas time. It is symbolic, but what a powerful symbol. Overlaying the ancient Winter Solstice celebration, it becomes a breathing allegory of the Gospel of John 1…the light in the darkness. This is what the Johannine Community resonated with. Mysticism. Living rituals to understand faith in action. John wrote beautifully of this in the fourth chapter. A great reflection for the liturgical season of Advent. Advent is waiting, and preparing. It is a journey into the darkest day, when light is born, and the days keep getting brighter from there.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

-Epistle of 1 John 4:1-6 (English Standard Version)

Holy visions since the early Church have taken the form of Mary of Nazareth, Jesus’ mother. This is because she can easily bring the story of Love and Hope without the baggage the institution has laid on her son. It is the resonating message of the gospel, in a different form. Sadly, yes the anti-christs have co-opted the spiritual life and teachers for many forms of evil.. terrorism, pedophilia, rape, fraud, money laundering, wealth building, oppression, and political power. This is why sometimes the messenger has to be different than the way that the Holy Mystery came in Brother Jesus. Yet there are many paths for the love light to shine in our world.

At this time of year the greatest reminder is the jolly elf himself, as my son terms him in his spastic verbalness, “ho ho ho”. That’s right: Santa Claus. The spirit of joy and giving this season.

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13¬†By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.¬†14¬†And¬†we have seen and testify that¬†the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of¬†the world.¬†15¬†Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.¬†16¬†So¬†we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.¬†God is love, and¬†whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.17¬†By this¬†is love perfected with us, so that¬†we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because¬†as he is so also are we in this world.18¬†There is no fear in love, but¬†perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not¬†been perfected in love.19¬†We love because he first loved us.¬†20¬†If anyone says, ‚ÄúI love God,‚ÄĚ and¬†hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot[a]¬†love God¬†whom he has not seen.¬†21¬†And¬†this commandment we have from him:¬†whoever loves God must also love his brother.

-Epistle of 1 John 4:7-21 (English Standard Version)

Some like to default to the rampant consumerism. But miss the point, there are always those that will look for the darkness in the light. Not the fact that it brings together community, it is a time to celebrate. It is also a time of year in which the story of the creche (as Francis of Assisi was the first to bring to life) is about a family in which the world had no room for them. Sadly, the fastest growing demographic of homelessness in Calgary is like the Holy Family of the Nativity. 30 years ago the Government of Canada pledged to eradicate child poverty in Canada, and now we accept homeless shelters for families.

Our society will be judged on how we love the least of these. That is our elders, our differently abled brothers and sisters, our children. Do we want to be known as the generation that normalized institutional hopelessness? Or do we want to be known as the generation that transfigured a city, province and country and truly made love of neighbour happen and complete a 30 year promise?

Suggested reflection listening: Toby Keith’s (1995)¬†Santa I’m Right Here

Values. It is a scary word. It speaks to what we, well value. What is important to us, as individuals, a community. They can be used to divide if the value is about control, power, etc. Or they can be life giving. John is writing to a community in a constant flux of change. They are in the mystery of the journey of life. Having re-discovered the Love Commandment, and figuring out what it means to live that way. What needs to go away? What needs to stay? What needs to be brought in?

It is a change process.

See¬†what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called¬†children of God; and so we are. The reason why¬†the world does not know us is that¬†it did not know him.¬†2¬†Beloved, we are¬†God’s children¬†now, and what we will be¬†has not yet appeared; but we know that¬†when he appears[a]¬†we shall be like him, because¬†we shall see him as he is.3¬†And everyone who¬†thus hopes in him¬†purifies himself as he is pure.

4¬†Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness;¬†sin is lawlessness.¬†5¬†You know that¬†he appeared in order to¬†take away sins, and¬†in him there is no sin.¬†6¬†No one who abides in him keeps on sinning;¬†no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.¬†7¬†Little children,¬†let no one deceive you.¬†Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.¬†8¬†Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was¬†to destroy the works of the devil.¬†9¬†No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s[b]¬†seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.¬†10¬†By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God,¬†nor is the one who¬†does not love his brother.

-Epistle of 1 John 3:1-10 (English Standard Version)

As we know, change is about loss. Even positive change of better employment, goal achievement, birth of a child, discovery of true self, sobriety, graduation, the list can go on. There is grief, for what happens with the change is what was known is gone. Let that sit for a while as we reflect on this part of sin and deceit from these first ten verses. It is about clinging to what was, knowing it is over, but not being able to grow upon the foundation. It is also about one’s personal and communal values. Has the change created something you can still be apart of? Has the change, literally or figuratively changed the vocation you are called to? Values are icky. They are hard mushy conversations many want to avoid. Much like understanding that change is a grief journey. May be short, may be long. But it is about honouring and letting go of the old, being present in the now, and living into the new birth.

¬†For¬†this is the message that you have heard from the beginning,¬†that we should love one another.¬†12¬†We should not be like¬†Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him?¬†Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.¬†13¬†Do not be surprised, brothers,[c]¬†that the world hates you.¬†14¬†We know that¬†we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.¬†15¬†Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that¬†no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

16¬†By this we know love, that¬†he laid down his life for us, and¬†we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.¬†17¬†But¬†if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet¬†closes his heart against him,¬†how does God’s love abide in him?¬†18¬†Little children, let us not¬†love in word or talk but in deed and¬†in truth.

19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God,[d]and God[e] in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

-Epistle of 1 John 3:11-24 (English Standard Version)

What is newly birthed? Is it a new birth completely or a rebirth of the old with impediments, sludge burnt away? Are you comfortable after the change? Does it still resonate with who you truly know yourself to be? This is the metaphor used with the story of Cain. A move from sibling rivalry. That is yearning for what your neighbour has, living in discontent, making everything a monetary value. Or bringing people down to a number, in churches and non-profits it can be seen as simply a donor line item of their value based on what they gave. For populist movements politically it is about taxpayers, those that pay taxes are the only needs that matter in society- not children, seniors, those with disabilities… 2000 years on from Jesus of Nazareth’s wanderings, teachings and living out the Love Commandment, and worlds built supposedly on these pillars. We are still having adventures in missing the point.

Change is scary. It is scary due to the fact it is grieving. You feel. You have to acknowledge feelings. Acknowledge values. Gut check. Sometimes it is stepping out into a new reality even if you have no clue how it will work. But the path has been illuminated before you.

Do you follow the light? or rest in the darkness?

Do you manage the change and maintain…

Or jouney through grief to a rebirth?