The beloved disciple does not start out being gripped by the truth of love conquering death. John, like the rest of us, starts out as a new convert. As a novice disciple, he wants to know that he is doing things the right way, that he is in the inner circle, that there’s a clear demarcation between those who are with Jesus and those who are not.
I’ve been there. Maybe you have too. It’s a condition known well by those in the first steps of spiritual formation. This tendency has its usefulness: I know who I am by thinking and acting in this way. Most of us know what this feels like. We prefer simple, clear rules.
Then comes a moment when those simple, black-and-white categories fall by the wayside. For John, it comes when Jesus says, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”
What? Doesn’t Jesus mean “Whoever is not for us is against us?” That’s what we thought was true.
The good news is that those tired polarities no longer work. They did not work for Jesus, nor do they now. Jesus calls us to move beyond simplistic ways of seeing. He asks us to behold the world with his eyes and to discover the truth behind “Whoever is not against us is for us.” He is not speaking geopolitically. He speaks from the divine heart, urging John the beloved to wake up and recognize that divine love encompasses everyone and everything.
The good news is that Christ and our Christian communities guide us into deeper, more complex ways of seeing the world. Choosing to be on God’s side rarely means excluding those who do not think or act like us.
Beloved Christ, I offer my mind, my heart, my body, my soul, that they may be renewed by your love and life. Amen.
The Jewish people have faced possible destruction numerous times. The story begins not with the Holocaust in Europe but far back in history during the time of Esther. The wicked Haman plots to wipe out God’s people, but God saves the people through Esther’s courage. The psalmist praises God for this kind of salvation from seemingly impossible circumstances. Although we may not face genocide, we have our own struggles. James encourages us to pray with faith, believing that God can and will answer. Our prayers are powerful, James assures us. Jesus teaches us the importance of letting nothing stand between God and us. Using vivid hyperbole, he admonishes us to put the pursuit of God above everything else and to support others in that same pursuit.
• Read Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22. What traditions extend your memory?
• Read Psalm 124. God created heaven and earth. How do you choose to be on God’s side, the side of creation?
• Read James 5:13-20. When has God’s abiding presence allowed you to experience some sense of cheer despite your suffering?
• Read Mark 9:38-50. Whoever is not against you is for you. How can you share God’s love with those outside your inner circle?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.