One of the things that holds us together as teams in Urban Neighbours of Hope is our shared communion times and Common Devotionals. As we meet on most mornings throughout the week, we find a space together to listen to God’s voice, to dwell in the Biblical texts, to pray and to share communion.
As we explore the Biblical texts together, we do so with lenses coloured by the neighbourhoods we live amongst. Naturally, reading in marginal contexts often causes people to ask questions that they might not otherwise ask. What hope might the Bible have for a family who have lived for generations in a south-east Asian slum? What is good news for asylum seekers in an Australian detention centre? In wrestling with Bible stories in these and other contexts, fresh and dynamic ways of hearing God’s voice can emerge, and new and renewed challenges arise.
It is our hope that others can join us on this journey. By following through these Common Devotionals, we pray that your faith and hope may be deepened with ours, and that you may be encouraged and challenged anew.
Over the coming months in Common Devotionals, we’ll be walking together through the book of John.
A brief introduction to John’s Gospel
As with all the gospels, John’s Gospel is to be read not as a history book on the life of Jesus, which is our modern tendency, but as a narrative with a profound theological agenda. This agenda is stated quite clearly towards the end of the book: “that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31).
John’s Gospel is written from the perspective of “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” This phrase is mentioned 5 times from chapter 13 onwards. From this phrase we can see clearly that the story is not told from the cold, objective standpoint of an historian (which is a modern concept anyway) but rather from an intimate experience of Jesus, and from a contemplative, reflective life lived in relationship with Him: as enigmatic teacher, crucified Messiah and Resurrected One. Love is indeed the over-arching theme of this entire Gospel. In referring to himself as “the beloved disciple”, John speaks of himself only in relationship to Jesus, “as if his real value and identity flow from this relationship.”
The onus is on us, then, as the readers of this Gospel, to respond to John’s invitation, which is ultimately Jesus’ invitation. Will we truly believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God? Are we willing to discover our true identity in relationship with Jesus? Are we willing to step in to the love shared between Father and Son, into which Jesus invites us at every step along the journey in John’s Gospel? As we travel through this mysteriously wonderful Gospel, I pray that we can respond afresh to the call of the crucified and resurrected Messiah on our lives.
 Jean Vanier, “Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John,” Mulgrave: John Garratt Publishing, 2004, p.11.