spiral in outer space

iCLT News: The Still Point of the Churning World

February 20, 2024
by Duane Beck
Consultant to Pastors on Leadership and Local Ministry
spiral in outer space

The Still Point of the Churning World

What is the reason your church exists? What is the surrounding neighborhood or community like? Who are the people who live and work around you? What do they fear and long for? The seven weeks from Easter to Pentecost is an opportune time to sharpen mission awareness and develop a passion for your community. John’s gospel is an excellent springboard..

The standard fare for preaching is the Revised Common and the Narrative Lectionaries. Others preach and meditate through an entire book of the Bible: Lectio Continua. But I say, “Ditch these practices for this Easter season.” Aghaaassst! Really? Sometimes, an out-of-the-box approach to preaching and meditating tweaks our curiosity and allows us to hear these disciple-forming, ministry-creating words of Jesus in a new way.

“Lectio Circula” is my out-of-the-box coinage for a different approach. Did I get a drum roll or an eye roll? “Lectio Circula” begins at the pivotal point. The Resurrection of Jesus is that still point of the world. Life radiates from the Risen Jesus with a centrifugal force offering healing and hope to a yearning, turning, and churning world. There is a gravitational pull back toward our risen Lord Jesus Christ, who reconciles all things into a new creation. It is a circular motion, spiraling out from and back toward Jesus: Lectio Circula.

A church’s Vision and Mission are energized when we, people of the resurrection, openly ask, “Jesus, if you were us, how would you live in our community? What would your ministry look like in our community? What would your eyes, ears, and heart notice if you were us? Where would you hang out? Who would you go to? What would you do if you were us? The Holy Spirit begins to stretch our imagination. “And God, who by the power at work among us will do more than we can ask or imagine.”

During the Easter Season between Easter and Pentecost, John 13-21 is a stunning path to meander in “Lectio Circula” fashion. What will spark an inner longing? John 20, the resurrection story, is the still point into which Jesus invites his disciples. Jesus launches their mission from this point, saying, “As the Father sent me, so I send you. He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit: the centrifugal force catapulted the mission of Jesus into their world.

Twenty-five percent, yes, that’s 25%; five chapters of John’s Gospel are table conversation at the Last Supper. John wanted his church to hear from Jesus how to live as citizens in this new creation when the old creation was alive and well. The Roman Empire was hair-trigger ready to pounce if the government and the economy were threatened in any way. The army had obliterated the Temple to stop Jewish terrorists. But, John’s people had pledged allegiance to a different Lord. Persecution was a looming possibility. We, too, live in a world Empire. We pledge allegiance to a different kind of leader and live by the rule of the Kingdom of God. We would do well to absorb these words of Jesus and observe his actions.

The Last Supper begins with Jesus washing dirty feet (13). It ends with Jesus praying to his Father and interceding on our behalf (17). Serving one another and praying together hold the body of Christ. Prayer and love, in the example of Jesus, are the foundation of our mission. Jesus meanders on a circular path (14-16), repeating the same basic message with slightly different emphases, “I am leaving, but you will not be alone. I am sending an advocate to be with you, the Holy Spirit, to do what I was doing with you. Love me and keep my commandments, particularly, love one another as I have loved you.” That’s the light we enter.

The invitation to transformation is lodged in the center (15) of Jesus’ circular meandering. It’s about pruning and producing fruit. “Abide in me as I abide in you. If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask…. Abide in my love. Keep my commandments.”

After Jesus sent his disciples and empowered them with the Holy Spirit, they were clueless about how to hold onto the Spirit. They didn’t know where to go or to whom they should go. So, they returned to the work they were doing before Jesus first called them: fishing. However, everything changed when Jesus asked them, “Do you love me?” The mission of Jesus Christ was launched into the world.

“You are the light of the world.”

Last year we held two events, February and October, for youth leaders and sponsors connecting and equipping one another. Another gathering for youth leaders is coming up on March 2, 10am-noon at Immanuel Mennonite Church. Since our October 2023 meeting Lori Friesen established a Facebook group, “Virginia Mennonite Youth Leaders” to ask questions and help us connect. The most recent question posted was about rituals for faith/life milestones.

Our hope is that as pilgrims on the journey of faith we all are being transformed in Christ as we gather in worship and bring our gifts to Jesus, equipping one another and our youth.

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