Tag Archives: john

Out there.

Jesus teaches that it is better that he leaves the disciples, enabling the Holy Spirit to come (John 16: 4 – 15). He proclaims a time when worship will be true because it is in spirit and truth not in Jerusalem (John 4).

And this freedom came 50 days after Jesus’ death. His followers received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Jesus’ resurrection (John 20:19 – 23). Jesus had prepared them for the coming of the Holy Spirit in his teaching and, after a time of revelation and healing, on the day of his ascension, he spoke to his friends, ordering them to wait for an immersion and washing in the Holy Spirit they had received (Acts 1). I believe, just as the baptism of John prepared the disciples for the ministry of Jesus, his ministry had been preparing them for this outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The waiting ended on the morning of Pentecost.

Pentecost (Shavuot) is part of the Jewish Feast of Weeks (Deuteronomy 16:10). They count up to it from Passover and eagerly anticipate the day, staying up all night to pray and study the scripture on its eve. Shavuot is the day Jews celebrate becoming a nation, a nation revealed to Abraham that would bless the nations, All night the friends of Jesus would have been studying the Law, but on the day, as the ritual waiting ended, the morning was lifted to a new level of fulfilment and the Holy Spirit came in power (Acts 2).  The significance and true meaning of Shavuot was revealed on that morning.

Is the message too simple? Christ is very near because of this momentous gift; God is present in each believer, no longer in one place at one time but wherever those who love and obey him are. Every person may die to self and rise in him, proclaiming the good news: in Christ we are saved, made right with God and are freed to become what he made each of us to be (John 1:9). By being together, Jesus is present and because of him we are enabled to live lives of virtue, drawing more people into this freedom.

The everflowing truth is that God is not over there, up above or down below, but so near, heaven touches the everyday of our lives; our hearts, lips and minds. In Christ, by the Holy Spirit, Heaven touches Earth through ordinary lives.

Together, we can move on, not locating God in movements, men and places but we may grasp the reality that through immersion in the Holy Spirit, God is as near to us as our breath and pours out of us like a gushing stream or a quietly bubbling spring, fresh and lively. This water, restores, revives and refreshes all who drink it and it never disappoints or ends.

God is near to us, not out there on a stage, an event, directed by the words of men and expectations of the crowd; not out there in the lives and successes of others but in our own brokenness and healing; our own stories of death to sin with him, rising again to new life and fulfilling the promise of lives made whole, which proclaim this good news.

The crowd at Pentecost received the same good news. The blessing came as each heard the news in their own languages. People then gathered frequently to hear the teaching of the apostles and shared their homes and their means to further the cause of their message.

From an abiding flow the growth comes in those who listen and obey, as promised by Jesus. From an outpouring of living water the thirst for good is quenched and each is nourished for the troubles of the day.

Don’t settle for Christ out there.Don’t shrink the Church to a weekly event. Don’t judge the Church by its events, buildings and institutions. Christ is amongst us as we gather in his name as twos or threes and Jesus is revealed by the love between us.

Grafted

When a branch is to be grafted in to the stump of a vine, the vine is cut back to a stump and left to bleed. After a number of days an incision is made into the stump and a fresh branch grafted in and bound. The graft takes its life from then on from the stump and in time the graft becomes part of the vine.
This is the illustration from nature that Jesus took to inform our imaginations of what being in him means. Being in Christ is a Christian’s idenity and through Jesus’ death and resurection we are in spirit and truth joined to the people of God. Being grafted in we draw our life from Christ and inherit his everflowing nature; one with the Son yet fully us. The promised flowing of life is God the Spirit.
There is an even deeper truth. It is God, the Father who is the gardener. It is the Father who cuts back the vine to a stump and it is his hand that makes the incision and graft. It is him also who tends the vine. He cuts back the branches so that they may fruit.
Fruit grows on new growth. This is a labour of love and it takes some years before a branch is allowed to fruit as the buds on the new graft are chosen to grow. From then on the pinching out of buds and the cutting back of the branch become part of the life of the branch. This is the picture Jesus chooses to show us what being alive in him is and how we relate to the Father and the Spirit.
As we feel ourselves pinched, cut back and we observe fruit, Jesus gives us the confidence and reassurance that we are grafted into the vine. His loving words reassure us because, if a branch is removed, it dies, it is not tended; a cut off branch is burned. It is the gardener who does this. If we have any sense of our need we know the Spirit’s life is in us and the Father will tend us to bring new life, growth and fruitfulness. If we were discarded we would not long for this as we would be dead. Being cut out is not a threat; Jesus tells us this so that we might be full of his joy and this joy might be active.
The promise is that as we draw life from Jesus and make our home in him, he makes his home in us. Because of the flow of life from the stump, we can ask for what we wish, and it will be done for us.
A fruitful vine brings glory to the vine dresser. If we draw life from Jesus’ words we will know our need and we will ask. In asking we abide; we draw life from the Son. So the heart’s longing is the sign of life and we can trust the good work of the gardener, our Father in Heaven, to make us fruitful and give us what we need.

John 15:1-11