Last week’s reading of ‘the Peters’ was a challenge for the few who tried, but we’ve still got more than a half dozen talking, and another dozen reading online, and we will persist. The audio version from Hart may help those unfamiliar with the texts to avoid ‘going down the rabbit holes’ of predestination, threats of floor and fire for opponents, and of course, the culture of misogyny and patriarchy.
This week’s reading of ‘the Johns’ offers similar challenges of tuning out the voices of interpreters echoing in your head. John’s gospel is beloved and yet many find the Jesus of the Fourth Gospel pompous, the message anti-Semitic. These letters come from the same tradition or thought-world, if not from the same individual writer, in creative tension with a Gnostic spiritualizing sect.
I crack wise that In our glib liberal subculture, we only repeat 1 John 4:7-11, at weddings, but our vaguely generalized of romantically individualized spin on even that text would have been anathema to the writer and their community. This crowd has to ‘love one another’, since they hate the world, and the world hates them! Perhaps the Hart translation of ‘cosmos’ will help in this audio.
There’s a clear echo of the prologue of the Fourth Gospel as we begin. This is logos theology, and freely using imagery of light and dark. The twist is to acknowledge sin in the first person plural, rather than ‘they’ knowing him not while we get eternal life. What community does not need the reminder?
Tuesday, those familiar with the Anglican communion, used in the UCC from 1930 to 1970’s, will recognize the call to confession of sin. Those familiar with the Fourth Gospel will recognize a reflection on major themes of its piety.
Wednesday is a big gulp of two chapters, but the content is addressing the admissions about sin. Within each of us, and among all our communities, we have choices to make, to inform and express, to reveal and perceive, what is part of this new commandment and community.
Thursday, we’ll wrap up the first letter with a chance to reflect upon some kind of assurance about ‘water, blood, and spirit’. This is a glimpse of early practice and belief, before the sacramental institutions and Trinitarian ideas of later centuries (stay tuned for Lent, ‘Heretics Like Us’, heresies of the first centuries).
Friday, Second John is brief – and what’s the point? You’ll recognize the reference to a feminine personification of a church community as a ‘lady’. The warnings about opponents are a bit vague – what’s the advice?
Saturday, Third John is briefer – but indulges in more ad hominem about a couple of specific leaders. If the advice is to ‘trust this guy, but not that guy’, is it a helpful shorthand, or a pernicious practice?
That’s my 500 word quota for a day – but you can read and repeat more!