by Ellen Sims
John 12:20-38

On third Sundays we offer a contemplative service. We pray through songs, silence, and scripture. Instead of a sermon this week, I provided a brief reflection on the Gospel text. The congregation then visited one or more prayer stations that connected to the Gospel reading.

REFLECTION ON THE GOSPEL READING
The book of John is, of all the Gospels, the most grandiose, and it depicts Jesus in the most glorious terms. John, therefore, can seem remote to us and our experiences. But there are different ways to read scripture. As students of the Bible, we often read to understand what the original writers were trying to say in their context to people long ago. And as citizens of the 21st Century, we read wondering how ancient words still speak to us. On most Sundays I try to preach sermons that are attentive both to the words’ original intentions, as best we can determine, and to the needs in our lives today.

At other times, however, we read the Bible devotionally, allowing the words, for a few moments, to be released from what the words meant then or how the words might connect now with a current issue in our culture. Instead, the words sound more like music or poetry–with images that aren’t so much instructing us as they are stirring something within us, with an openness to what the Spirit is saying to us as individuals.

I’m going to read again the last two verses of our Gospel text several times. I invite to hear them not with the ears of a theologian or Biblical scholar. Those are excellent approaches to understand what biblical writers meant then and how we might apply them to our lives.

But for now, listen as if these words are music. Let the Gospel words stimulate your imagination, your moral imagination, your spiritual imagination. Breathe slowly, deeply, but naturally. You don’t need to strain for a series of coherent thoughts in response to what I’ll read to you. Just listen. Maybe see pictures in your mind’s eye. Or hear music in your heart’s ear. Don’t force any thoughts. Feel the voice of Jesus from John 12: 36-37.

Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”

If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going.
If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going.
If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going.

While you have the light, believe in the light.
While you have the light, believe in the light. Believe in the light.

While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become children of light.
While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become children of light.

Believe in the light.

Believe in the light so that you may become children of light.

Believe in the light.

So that you may become children of light.

Become children of Light
Become children of Light,

Become light.

PRAYER STATIONS
1. Planting your prayers. Jesus said that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus alluded to his literal death in trust that life would grow from it. But we can also think of ways that we can choose to die to parts of self as we pray to bury harmful habits and attitude so that we may grow healthier lives. As you silently acknowledge sin in your life, bury a flower seed into the soil in the clay pot. Pray in the hope of growing in your life something that is beautiful and useful and good.

2. Painting your prayers. Jesus was a source of light that illuminated the path to God. In John 12 he invites us to be “children of light.” In Matthew 5:15 he tells his disciples that they are to be the “light of the world.” Create on the flipchart a collage of light—with painted images or words—as you pray through your art that you may shine more brightly with the Light of Christ.

3. Praying at the Lord’s Table. Jesus covenanted with his disciples that whenever they broke bread and shared wine, he would be with them. And they must have pledged to keep seeking him there, even after his crucifixion when all seemed lost–else we would not continue this ancient sacrament today. When you take the bread, dip it into the cup, and receive into your body the Body and Blood of Christ, you continue this covenant between Jesus and his followers. Give thanks for the life of Jesus. Renew your commitment to the Body of Christ.

4. Praying through your gifts. Our community of faith continues through explicit and implicit covenants we make with one another. Some of us have made written pledges to give specific amounts of money, time, and talent to support the ministry of this church. Others have made serious if not explicit commitments. Know that your commitment is necessary and appreciated. Pray as you give for the ministry of Open Table and for those we hope to serve and love.

Category Contemplation, Lent
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