John the Evangelist and Divine Wholeness
The Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Word was with God in the beginning…
From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.
Of the Gospels included in the Christian Bible, John is the last written and added to the library. While it contains some of the same (or similar) material found in the more closely aligned Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, one hardly needs an advanced degree to recognize how remarkably unlike them it is. Mark, Matthew, and Luke are collectively called the “Synoptic Gospels” because their main point is providing a synopsis of Jesus’s life and ministry. In other words, their driving question is: Where did this Christian movement come from?
Not John. The writer of this Gospel, known as “John the Evangelist,” asks: Where did Jesus come from? And John’s conclusion is a real mind-bender. Jesus doesn’t come from anywhere, because Jesus always was. While the others point to a distinct moment when the divinity of Jesus is revealed—at baptism in Mark, via angelic visit in Matthew and Luke—John tells us the Word was with God and was God before the start.
Inasmuch as John’s Gospel is biography, it’s not really the story of Jesus of Nazareth. It’s an account of the ever-living Word… the eternal Logos by whom God’s wholeness is witnessed… the Christ, or anointed messenger who brings Good News and becomes Good News… the epitome of God’s Child who transcends the parental metaphor to be one with God.
These big ideas become the raw material of John’s Gospel and their prominence sets it apart as the Christian faith’s oldest, greatest mystical text. It’s a stunning attempt to open our understanding of who God is and all God is. And rather than cramp our brains with a lot of technical language (as many mystical writers are fond of doing), this writer makes it so basic that, ironically, we struggle to comprehend what we’re hearing.
God is everything. Or God is “all in all.” Perhaps the best summation of John’s idea is simply God IS. Wherever we look, wherever life takes us, whatever our minds conceive bring us to “God is.” “From God’s fullness we have received grace upon grace,” John writes. We’ll dig into this “Is-ness” of God—the Wholeness that defines the Divine—as we launch our Lenten Bible study series, “Into the Mystic.”
But for now, as we begin our wilderness adventure, let’s open our prayer and meditation practices to God’s fullness. It can’t be contained. It’s more than we know. It’s bigger than anything we may confront in this season of self-denial. The Jesus of John’s Gospel is our namesake as Christians. Are we living in the fullness of what that means?
Make Bible study part of your Lenten practice as we look at six Christian mystics down through the ages—from St. John the Evangelist in the first-century to the cutting-edge thought of Sister Ilio Delio, a contemporary Franciscan mystic and scientist. We meet each Thursday at 7:30pm CT at Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake Street, Oak Park. Or you can join us online via Facebook Live.
We need your help!
As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!
Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea
As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.