Lenten Devotional for February 18th

LESSON

Each of the four gospels that tells about Jesus’ life and ministry was written within a community. That may sound a little strange because we know the gospel writers by their first names: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. What might not be as obvious to us is that the author of each gospel was (a) years removed from the actual events they narrated and (b) was shaped by a community of faith for whom they wrote their gospel account.

As we journey through this season of Lent by walking with the Jesus we meet in John’s gospel, it is important to note what was happening in the community for whom John wrote.

Most scholars date John’s gospel to about 90 CE (about 55-60 years after Jesus’s death and resurrection). This makes John the “newest” of the four gospels. One thing distinguishing John’s community of faith from the others (Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which were written 20-30 years before John) is that, by 90 CE, there began to be a difference between Christians and Jews. Early on, of course, all those who followed Jesus as disciples were Jewish (Jesus himself was Jewish). Eventually, however, the difference in belief and practice between those who followed Jesus as Lord and those who were grounded in the Jewish faith and tradition began to diverge.

Many scholars believe that John wrote for followers of Jesus who had been “kicked out of the synagogue” and who had to start their own community of faith “down the street.” Whether they were kicked out or chose to leave is a matter of debate, but what is important for us to notice is that, for Christians in John’s time, following Jesus took courage because it meant choosing to live in a way that was counter-cultural. Christians in John’s time were on the margins of society; practicing faith took work.

We’re a long, long way from 90 CE. Yet, it strikes me that – in our context, all these years later – being a follower of Jesus in a world that is less and less Christian also takes work; it also takes courage.

This Lent, I invite us to consider the ways being a disciple of Jesus asks us to live differently than the world around us. I think doing so might lead to growth – for us and our faith.

WRITTEN BY | Rev. Pen Peery

 

ENCOUNTERING JESUS

During Lent, we have the opportunity to live into greater faithfulness and away from the disordered ways we have become accustomed to. Using stories from the Gospel of John, this season’s Sunday sermons will focus on encounters with Jesus that teach what it means to be more authentically human. Themes such as courage, identity, and hope that emerge from these stories will encourage us as we make our way toward the cross.

Use the devotionals as your guide. On Sundays, the pastors will provide written and video mini-lessons on the book of John to support us as we seek meaning from the biblical passages and apply them to our lives. On other days, we can read members’ reflections, spend time with art, be inspired by poetry, and rest in a psalm. We journey through Lent as a community, and together, we will celebrate the resurrection at Easter.

WRITTEN BY | Garrell KeeslerDirector of Adult Formation 

 

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