Week of Proper 18, Year Two[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 41, 52 (morning) // 44 (evening)
Job 32:1-10, 19—33:1, 19-28
John’s gospel, sublime as it can be, also reflects the divisive attitudes and sectarian mentality of its early readers. Compiled around the turn of the first century, the Johannine Christians whose faith was nurtured by this gospel appear to have been isolated from other communities of worship (both synagogues and Christian assemblies), and to have had hostile relations with those who they began to label “the Jews.” For example, when some people in today’s gospel ask whether Jesus is the Messiah, they are met with a definitive statement from the mouth of Jesus: “you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.”
Might today’s communities of faith develop a different response? In today’s passage, the emphasis is on litmus tests of belief (whether Jesus is “the Messiah” / “the Christ”), and on whether people fit into the Christian community (whether they “belong”). But today’s gospel also includes a beautiful sense of Jesus’s personal connection with others and his protective care. In this gospel, Jesus says that he knows his sheep, that his sheep follow him, and that no one will ever snatch them out of his hand. It would be a shame not to share this good news with others.
This testimony is so much richer than the bare claim that Jesus is the Messiah, or that some belong and others do not. This gospel also makes us aware that a sense of belonging often must precede belief. Jesus says, “you do not believe, because you do not belong.” Indeed: How could people possibly come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed, the new king, if they don’t belong to a community that includes them in their vision of the kingdom? Although Johannine Christians didn’t focus much on welcoming and including others, we can honor their legacy of faith by reflecting their sense of God in Christ as the love that calls us his own, and that never lets us go.
Lora Walsh blogs about the Daily Office readings at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with adult formation and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.