Welcome to the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

Meditations

Week 6 Day 6: Proclaiming Our Hope

“Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony…”
John 4:39

Proclaiming Our Hope
I think one of the things we can do is Christians is to ‘testify’ to God’s love for us. We can do that with our words, but we can also do that with our actions. How will the people at work know that God loves you?

-Br. James Koester



Transcript:

This week, we’re thinking about what it means to give testimony or testify to God’s love, in a sense to be God’s heart, God’s hands, God’s voice in the world.  And I’m looking specifically at the story of the Samaritan woman in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John. I love this story because it’s both deeply encouraging to me and also a little terrifying. You’ll know the story. Jesus encounters the woman of Samaria at the well. He asks for some water, and they enter into this conversation. At one point, Jesus says, “Go and tell your husband,” and she says, “I have no husband,” and Jesus says, “You’re right you have no husband, you’ve had seven husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.” A few moments later in the story, the woman goes into the city, and this is the part I find encouraging and terrifying. She says, “This man has told me everything I’ve ever done.”

Just imagine for a moment having somebody know everything you’ve ever done. That can be both encouraging and terrifying, but I find it mostly encouraging, because I think the point of this story is how much Jesus loved the woman. He loved her not in spite of everything she’d ever done, but I think because of everything she’d ever done. The woman went into the city and told everybody about Jesus. She testified to Jesus through her words, but she was really testifying to God’s love for her. “This man told me everything I’ve ever done, and he wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed, or rejected me.”

I think one of the things we can do is Christians is to ‘testify’ to God’s love for us. We can do that with our words, but we can also do that with our actions. So, this week, you might want to think of, “How can I testify to God? How can I proclaim God’s love for me, both in word but also in action?” How will the people at work know that God loves you? You might simply want to be kind to somebody who’s having a rough day. You might simply want to offer somebody a cup of coffee or a cup of tea or an ear. Simply being available to God, simply letting them know, in a sense, that you love them is one of the ways in which we can testify to God’s love for us.

We invite you to share your answer in the comments below or using #MeetingJesus

Week 6 Day 5: Declaring What We Have Seen and Heard

“We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the world of life – this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us…”
I John 1:1,2

Declaring What We Have Seen and Heard
I remember leading a retreat once for students, and one of them saying to me, “Tell me what you know.” There was a real hunger, not just for theories, or doctrines, or explanations, but for a real experience of God. And that’s what the world is hungering for.

-Br. David Vryhof



Transcript:

I’ve always been impressed by the very tangible and concrete language that the author of the First Letter of John uses to describe the experience of the Christian community and their relationship with Jesus. He says, “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life. This life was revealed, and we have seen it and testified to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father, and was revealed to us.”

Now, recall that this letter is written in the early part of the second century, some 80 years after the death of Jesus, so the author, and the people of whom he’s writing, could not have been physically present when Jesus was on the earth. They could not have seen him and touched him with their hands, literally, but they used this very tangible and concrete language because their experience of him is still so real and so authentic that this language seems to fit their experience.

We say in the Creed that the Church is “holy, catholic, and apostolic.” And in the Catechism, in the Book of Common Prayer, the question is asked, “Why is the Church described as apostolic?” And we say the church is ‘apostolic’ because it continues in the teaching and fellowship of the apostles, and is sent to carry Christ’s mission to all people.

So there’s a sense in which our witness is a passing on of a tradition that we’ve received from others, that goes back all the way to the time of the apostles, and we receive this tradition and pass it on to the next generation. That’s part of our charge, and part of what we need to protect and to nurture.

But the faith also has to be rooted in our own experience. Our witness cannot be simply to a tradition that we’ve received, to teaching that we’ve received, but it has to be something authentic and real, that’s based and rooted in our lives. We would never call a witness to the stand who hadn’t been actually present during the situation, who came onto the stand and said, “Well, I wasn’t there, but I heard that this is what happened.” That’s not an authentic witness. We want someone who has actually seen something, who knows something, who’s heard something, who was there, for whom the experience was real and tangible.

So our witness also has to have that first-hand quality. I remember leading a retreat once for Harvard University students at the monastery, and one of the students saying to me, “Tell me what you know.” There was a real hunger, not just for theories, or doctrines, or explanations, but for a real experience of God. And that’s what the world is hungering for from us, “Tell us, not only the tradition you’ve received, but tell us how relating to Jesus, living with Jesus, has made a tangible difference in your own life.”

And so, I invite you today to consider that. What is your witness? What is your testimony? What is your first-hand experience? How has being in relationship with Jesus changed your life, and what do you have to declare to others?

We invite you to share your answer in the comments below or using #MeetingJesus

Week 6 Day 4: The Witness of the Evangelist

“This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.”
John 21:24

The Witness of the Evangelist
The reason we know about God’s love revealed in Jesus is because people we knew have witnessed to him on his behalf.

-Br. Mark Brown



Transcript:

Today, our theme is the witness of the evangelist … that is, St. John, the beloved disciple, the one who reclined close to Jesus at the Last Supper. And this is the verse from scripture:

“This is the disciple who is testifying to these things, and has written them. And we know that his testimony is true.” And I can’t resist reading one more verse, because it’s the very last verse of the Gospel of John. “But there are also many other things that Jesus did. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that could be written.”

But the point here is the evangelist, St. John, the beloved disciple, was an eyewitness.  And we read elsewhere, in the First Letter of John, that (John) heard (Jesus’) voice. He saw him with his eyes. He touched him with his hands, and he was there. And this experience of being in the very presence of Christ changed him, and the experience has compelled him to tell others about him.

And that is the nature of Christian testimony that’s rooted and grounded in personal experience, (the) experience of the first disciples, the apostles, the evangelists. And this testimony passes from person to person, from generation to generation. And the Holy Spirit moves in and through our own testimony or other people’s testimony to their own experience.

But we give testimony not only in our words, but in our actions as well. And the reason we know about God’s love revealed in Jesus is because people we knew have witnessed to him on his behalf. And those people who knew him in the first century witnessed on his behalf and witnessed to the change that was wrought within them through their contact with Jesus Christ.

So our prayer might take a couple of different directions. We might reflect on those individuals in our lives who have been witnesses to the love of God in Christ and give thanks for those particular individuals, like parents or grandparents or friends or teachers, whoever. Or we might reflect on how we ourselves are being a witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ in our lives and through our words and in our actions, as well.

We invite you to share your answer in the comments below or using #MeetingJesus

Week 6 Day 3: Laying Down Our Lives

“We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another."
I John 3:16

Laying Down Our Lives
We're made strong by the model of self-spending love – that ‘let-it-all-go’ kind of love of Jesus – so that we can go out into the world and practice the same kind of love.

-Br. Keith Nelson



Transcript:

From the First Letter of John: "We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another." So love lays down life. This is the love that we see in the Cross. This is a love that is so deep, it's really beyond words – this love that Jesus had for us, enough to lay down his life for us, and an invitation to do the same for one another.  So what does this mean for us? I think that it means that in communities of love to whom we've made faithful commitments, I think that that means practicing vulnerability with each other.

There's a brilliant researcher and author, Brené Brown, who defines vulnerability as "risk, uncertainty, and emotional exposure". We lay down our life when we practice those things in relationship with one another. We lay down our life when we apologize to someone when we know that we're wrong, even if we don't want to apologize. We lay down our life by volunteering to do something that we know needs doing; even if we think we might be bad at it, we risk. We lean into the uncertainty in love in communities to whom we've made those faithful commitments as a way of practicing, so that when we go out into the world, when we testify to the love of God in word and action, we've had a kind of dress rehearsal for that within the Christian community, within your marriage or partnership, within your family, within your spiritual friendships. We're made strong in that love by the model of that self-spending love – that ‘let-it-all-go’ kind of love of Jesus – so that we can go out into the world and practice the same kind of love.

Vulnerability is difficult. I know that in my own life. I'm sure that you know that. So we need communities of love to ground us, to practice that, so that we can be prepared to do that in ever widening circles in the world as a testimony to the one who loved us that much. So, a practice of prayer that might go with this: When you find yourself in that place where you feel called to lay down your life in whatever way, large or small, you might think of composing a short prayer, a laying-down-my-life prayer, that maybe you just breathe in and breathe out and say internally, “This is love. This is love laying down its life.” When someone does that for you, when you see love laying down its life for you, have a prayer that allows you to receive that in return, to practice that mutual giving and receiving of love laying down its life.

We invite you to share your answer in the comments below or using #MeetingJesus

Week 6 Day 2: Serving Others in Love

“How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”
I John 3:17,18

Serving Others in Love
When we give witness to the Word, when we testify to our experience of the risen Christ, most often we won't be needing words.

-Br. Nicholas Bartoli



Transcript:

In this, the sixth week of our series, we're going to look at what it means for us to share our testimony, to ‘testify’ to God's Word in the world, through our word and actions. Specifically on this day, we'll be looking at what it means to serve others in love, and we'll be basing our reflection on the First Letter of John, chapter 3, verses 17 and 18, which reads: "How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods, and sees a brother or sister in need, and yet refuses to help? Little children, let us love not in word or speech, but in truth and action."

When I read that scripture, I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes attributed to Saint Francis, which is, "At all times preach the Gospel, and when necessary, use words" – which is Saint Francis' way of saying that when we give witness to the Word, when we testify to our experience of the risen Christ, that most often we won't be needing words, because the most powerful way to testify is through our actions and through our loving presence.

One of the ways that we can learn how to embody this way of being in the world is to continually strive to empty ourselves of everything that gets in the way of union with our beloved God. We'll find that, in our spiritual journey, the more we learn to live in union with God, to get rid of the stuff inside that separates us, we'll learn to rest in God's presence more fully, and from that place it will only seem the most natural thing in the world to serve others in love.

When Jesus walked the earth in his human form, he gave us an example of what this would be like. He fully embodied God's love and light, and the only natural response for him was to serve as much as he could. That was his example, serving others who needed it most, and that's what we're called to do.

So let us pray today, as we continue on our journey along the way of Christ, we may surrender more and more of ourselves to God, learning how to empty ourselves of all that gets in the way of fuller union with God, letting ourselves rest in that presence, that out of that love and light, creating our heart, calls us to respond to the world's needs simply by being humble servants.

 

We invite you to share your answer in the comments below or using #MeetingJesus

Week 6 Day 1: Sent into the World

“As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”
John 17:18

Sent into the World
There are five Gospels: There’s the Gospel according to Mathew, the Gospel according to Mark, the Gospel according to Luke, the Gospel according to John, and the Gospel according to you. What is it that you know in the bottom of your heart of God – of God’s light, and God’s life, and God’s love – that you can give testimony to?

-Br. Curtis Almquist



Transcript:

We’re inspired this week by what we read at the very beginning of the First Letter of John. It’s what we give testimony to based on our own experience of God – what we have seen, and heard, and touched in our own lives which is undeniable, and which may be the most important revelation we’ve had from God, what, at moments when we’re confused and we don’t know what we believe, there’s probably something at the very core of our life which may be what has kept us alive and allowed us to thrive given the revelation that God had brought to us.

There are five Gospels. There’s the Gospel according to Mathew, the Gospel according to Mark, the Gospel according to Luke, the Gospel according to John, and the Gospel according to you. What is it that you know in the bottom of your heart of God, of God’s light and God’s life, and God’s love that you can give testimony to? We’ll focus on that this week.

We hear Jesus say in John chapter 17, “As you have sent me, (you, the Father have sent me) so I have sent them,” and we are ‘them.’ How is Jesus sent into this world?  Jesus had a family of origin. I think it’s safe to say that Jesus’ family of origin had as much blessing, and probably as much baggage, as your own family of origin.

Jesus had to grow up.  By the time he begins his public ministry, he’s 30 years old, which in first century Palestine could make him a relatively old man. It took him a long time to grow up. We know even when Jesus is on the cross, that Jesus flickers at one moment and is crying out to God whom Jesus calls Father, “Why have you forsaken me?” – this moment of feeling abandoned.

Then Jesus comes into a clearing where he’s able to say to God, the Father, “Into your hands, I commend my spirit.” So for you, what is it that has given your life a shape and distinction? There is no one else like you in this world and there never has been and never will be another you. There’s something to which you can give very particular testimony of who God is and what God does, based on your own life.

So the invitation is to draw on the uniqueness of your person – how you were formed, perhaps de-formed, as you were growing up, what the gifts are that you manifest in your life, and what is your brokenness which continues to draw you to your knees.

If you find yourself as you’re looking to what your life is to be about – how is it that you manifest God’s light and God’s life and God’s love as only you can? – you may get in touch with something which is really significant, something about which Jesus speaks a great deal, and that is fear. You may get in touch with the fear of “How can I do this? How can I face this?”

I would say that that is something that you can give to God.  Fear, your fear, is something that God does not have. Give God your fear, which will make space for God to fill you with God’s power and God’s provision. It will fill in. It will fill in the space that fear has otherwise taken.

What is your life to be about? A question for you to reflect on is, given how your life has been shaped and probably mis-shaped, how it has been spent in the best of ways and in the worst of ways, how you have been formed in your life to bring you into this point in your life. What is your life to be about? How can you bear witness to God’s light, and God’s life, and God’s love?

You’re not going to be savior of the world.  We have one Savior, Jesus.  But your life is to be about something, manifesting Jesus’ saving help and healing and hope. You can’t do everything, but you can do something. What is your life to be about?

We invite you to share your answer in the comments below or using #MeetingJesus

Week 5 Day 6: Abiding in Love

“Abide in me as I abide in you.”
John 15:4

Abiding in Love
So there’s a little paradox here: On the one hand, we can’t be separated from the love of God in Christ, but on the other hand we can be more intentional about abiding in this love as a conscious choice.

-Br. Mark Brown



Transcript:

Our theme for today is “abiding in love.” From the Gospel of John: “Abide in me as I in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” That word ‘abide,’ it could also be ‘remain.’ Remain in me – and there’s something about that word, remaining, that suggests something intentional, something even persistent. Yes, we are in Christ and Christ is in us regardless, but by telling us to ‘abide’ or to ‘remain,’ Christ invites us to embrace that in a more intentional way as a voluntary choice. So there’s a little paradox here. On the one hand, we can’t be separated from the love of God and Christ, as Paul put it in the letter to the Romans, but we can be more intentional about dwelling, remaining, persisting in this love as a conscious choice, abiding in this love, remaining in this love. So if I were praying with this, I might reflect on making the decision in a conscious, deliberate, intentional way to abide in Christ and in God’s love, as Christ and God’s love abide in me, of my own free will. Perhaps the Spirit is inviting you to make that decision here and now.

We invite you to share your answer in the comments below or using #MeetingJesus

Week 5 Day 5: Accompanied by the Spirit

“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”
John 14:15-17

Accompanied by the Spirit
If I’m honest, it’s a real challenge to abide in Christ for the long haul.

-Br. Geoffrey Tristram



Transcript:

If I’m honest, it’s a real challenge to abide in Christ for the long haul. There are powerful forces, which may draw me away from Christ, take me along paths that don’t lead to life.  But we’re not on our own, for God has sent us the Holy Spirit, this extraordinary gift.  And these words from John’s gospel: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments and I will ask the Father and he will give you another advocate to be with you forever. This is the spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you and will be in you.”

The gift of the ‘advocate’, in Greek the word is parakletos, which can also be translated as the “comforter.”  And many people like that, the sound of a ‘comforter,’ but I’ve almost invariably found the work of the Holy Spirit not at all comfortable, but actually very challenging to me in my life. There’s a great image in the Bayeux tapestry, that great tapestry of the Norman conquest of England by William the Conqueror, and there’s one panel which features Bishop Odo, William’s brother, and there’s an image of him with what looks like a great spear in his hand and he’s prodding the man in front of him with the spear. And underneath it, it says, “Bishop Odo comforts his men.”

I found that in many ways, the Holy Spirit is so often like that in my life. The spirit prods me into action, prods me when I’m falling asleep and prods me to become more authentic, because this is the ‘Spirit of Truth’ who wants me to live a more truthful and authentic life in Christ.

So maybe you might want to reflect today about your own lives.  Where, perhaps, have you experienced, and maybe today, are experiencing God, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, prodding you into action, challenging you? And secondly, what new truths are you being called to embrace today?

We invite you to share your answer in the comments below or using #MeetingJesus

Week 5 Day 4: Made Fruitful by Love

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5

Made Fruitful by Love
It’s important for us first of all to receive God’s love, before we can give it away. We need to stay connected to that love, in tune with that love, in communion with that love.

-Br. David Vryhof



Transcript:

Throughout this series we’ve noticed the deep connection and intimate union between Jesus and the one that he calls Father. And we have seen that in Jesus’ understanding the fruitfulness of his life and ministry is entirely dependent on maintaining this union and communion with the Father. He says, “I can do nothing on my own.” And he teaches his disciples and us, that our fruitfulness also depends on this living union with the Divine Life. And that to be fruitful, to produce works and character that have lasting influence in the eyes of God, we will need to abide in him as he abides in us.

I remember when I was in college, I worked with children who had special needs. And I remember one evening being at supper and watching a young boy who was struggling to cut a piece of meat, but his hands lacked the strength and coordination to be successful in the task. And finally he looked up and asked for help. And one of the staff members came around behind him, wrapped her arms around his, put her hands over his, and helped him cut the meat. And I thought that was an apt image for our relationship with God. When we realize that we can do nothing on our own, that we are dependent on God’s life and strength within us, then we yield ourselves to that strength, and God’s strength becomes one with our strength, so that we can’t tell where our strength leaves off and where God’s strength begins. It all becomes one.

John says, “We love because he first loved us,” so it’s important for us first of all to receive that love, before we can give it away. We need to stay connected to that love, in tune with that love, in communion with that love. So today, we invite you to take into your prayer this image of the vine and the branches. And consider how dependent branches are on the vine for their life and for their fruit. Consider how the vine grower may need to prune the vine to make it more fruitful. Bring this metaphor into your own life and ask yourself, “How do I stay connected to this source of life and light? What interferes with that connection? What stops the flow of that divine energy and how can I remain in intimate union with Jesus?” That connection is the source, the key, the secret, to our fruitfulness.

We invite you to share your answer in the comments below or using #MeetingJesus

Week 5 Day 3: Nurtured and Sustained by Love

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
John 6:51

Nurtured and Sustained by Love
Jesus keeps giving us – like our daily bread – food, nourishment for the soul, which is indeed himself.

-Br. Luke Ditewig



Transcript:

Our theme this week is learning to sustain a relationship of love. To abide in Jesus as he abides in us. And we’re asking, what does it take to sustain an intimate relationship?

(In) today’s verse, Jesus says, “I am the living bread which comes down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. And the bread that I give for the life of the world is my flesh.” To sustain a relationship, Jesus keeps offering us himself, and invites us to feed on his nourishment. Consider eating. It’s something we do every day, it’s something our bodies need over and over again. And Jesus keeps giving us – like our daily bread – food, nourishment for the soul, which is indeed himself. This relates certainly to the Eucharist, where God is present. But it’s also beyond that. God gives us himself, in the silence of our hearts, in companionship with friends, in the richness of scripture.

How is Jesus feeding, nourishing you? And like your eating, it’s something every day. So how are you being nourished each day by Jesus? And not just a “run and go.” But stop to savor the nourishment that is provided. And this is communal. Eat with others. Share food. Enjoy it together. This is a common journey. Daily, savoring with others, Jesus’ offering his own self to you, for nourishment. How will you feed on Jesus today?

We invite you to share your answer in the comments below or using #MeetingJesus