Today, our services at St. John's went off the well-worn path of the Christmas lectionary to celebrate our namesake saint, the evangelist and loved disciple John.
The Gospel According to John is much different than the other three synoptic gospels. In fact, in my study of John from EfM, we can see the entire layout of the gospel as being like an opera with the beginning sounding like an overture echoing the first creation story of Genesis ("In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.") There is the announcement from John the Baptist to make straight the way of the Lord as the opening aria of the opera, and then Jesus, the man (not the baby) is on the scene. This Jesus is philosophical and engages in complex discussions with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman at the well. He reveals to his listeners some of the keys to his identity by using the "I am" language ("I am the bread of life" "I am the true vine" "I am the light, the life, the truth"). And, as with the synoptic gospels, there are many who do not believe and the unbelief will eventually be the undoing of Jesus as a human, and will lead to the crucifixion. And, what might be seen as a tragic opera, does not end that way because Jesus is resurrected and returns to his disciple called Simon Peter and reverses the poor man's transgression by asking him three times, "Do you love me?" (Remember, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times at the time of his trial).
The sad part of John's gospel is that because of his references to "the Jews", this book has often been misquoted and misused to demonize the Jewish people and has led to persecution of Jews at the hands of Christians. As with all Scripture, those with evil intent will use the Bible as a bomb, not a book. When reading John, one has to understand that he was writing at a time when there was increasing tensions in the Temples as the olden day Jews for Jesus were showing up, and the Jews who did not recognize Jesus as Messiah were not interested in having Jesus held up to them all the time. In this way, John is the evangelist who might well be seen as the one who brought us closer to having a Christian identity. And that's OK, but shouldn't be seen as giving us license to crack on those who don't think and believe as we do. As I've said often here, God is a whole lot smarter than we are, and we have no idea how God is working to get the light to pierce through the darkness. Our mission is to look for it, and move along that lighted path.
Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light; that we, being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John, may so walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
--The Collect for St. John