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Jesus knew first-hand what he was talking about

December 15, 2022
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Daily Scripture

John 3:11-18

11 I assure you that we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you don’t receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Human One [or Son of Man]. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Human One [or Son of Man] be lifted up 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. 16 God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. 17 God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him isn’t judged; whoever doesn’t believe in him is already judged, because they don’t believe in the name of God’s only Son.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Elf highlighted the sometimes silly, sometimes awful ways we substitute synthetic replicas for what is real. Notice this dialogue: “Gimbel’s Manager: [showing Buddy around the floor] This is the North Pole. Buddy: No it isn’t. Manager: Yes, it is! Buddy: No it’s not. Where’s the snow?” * Buddy had been to the real North Pole; the store manager only offered a fake commercial imitation. When Jesus told Nicodemus how God’s kingdom worked, he spoke from first-hand knowledge—he’d been there.

  • John said Nicodemus, a trained, leading religious “expert,” came to Jesus “by night” (John 3:2). Jesus had challenged the Pharisees’ view of faith—Nicodemus may have needed the darkness to hide his interest in Jesus from other Pharisees. Jesus invited Nicodemus to trust Jesus’ first-hand testimony about God’s realm. John implied that their talk changed Nicodemus (cf. John 7:45-52; John 19:38-42). How has God led you to trust in Jesus’ personal knowledge of God’s kingdom?
  • John 3:16 is the famous verse in this passage, but Jesus did not “drop the mike” after delivering it! He went right on to the following verses. How did verse 17 speak to a Pharisee who likely looked down on and condemned “ordinary” people? How does it reshape your view of how God looks at you? How can verse 18 redefine the sometime frightening pictures of what it takes to be confident in standing before God’s judgment?
Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank you for coming to what Madeleine L’Engle called our “shadowed planet” ** to tell us accurately, from your own knowledge, what God and God’s kingdom are like. Help me to live in the light you brought. Amen.

GPS Insights

 Ginny Howell

Ginny Howell

Ginny Howell serves as the Worship Experience Director for Resurrection, leading the church’s efforts to provide radical hospitality and an excellent worship experience across all of our locations. She’s a mom to three, g-momma to one sweet little boy, and shares much of her time with her closest companion, a rescued Pit Bull named Lola.

About 15 years ago, I was in a meeting at church where a visitor spoke to our team about a newly forming immigrant and refugee advocacy group in our community. They were seeking churches to help provide shelter to these families in transition. At the time, I was running my own business and parenting three busy, young kids–the needs of our immigrant and refugee neighbors were not really on my radar. As I listened to this person passionately trying to help our team understand the goals of this group and invite us to be engaged in their good work, it wasn’t really registering with me as something I had the capacity to get involved with. The church I was in then didn’t really have the physical space or accommodations needed to offer housing or shelter. We discussed with each other that while we wanted to support the refugees and immigrants in our community, there probably wasn’t much we could do to engage in this work.

As any good community organizer would do, after we’d said, “sorry, but no,” he came back with a smaller ask, one that surprisingly catapulted me into getting involved far beyond what I thought my capacity was. He asked if we would consider helping with a donation drive to collect new socks and underwear for children of these families. This struck a chord with me. I wasn’t attuned to all the needs of our immigrant and refugee neighbors, but as a former foster parent I knew well how something as simple as new underwear or socks could mean a lot to families living through devastating life changes, and especially their children. This felt like something I could do. I had experienced children coming to my doorstep with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Others in our group said it probably wasn’t worth doing, but I shared (emphatically) how much it would have meant to my children to just have new, clean underwear of their own when their whole world had changed in the blink of an eye. I remembered the struggle to just meet our children’s physical and emotional needs. I could understand at least a tiny bit of what it was like for these families, and I was motivated to do more.

Fast forward a couple of years–I had gotten engaged in numerous aspects of advocacy for and with immigrants and refugees. I attended conferences and trainings. I took my children to fundraisers and prayer vigils. I sat side-by-side with clergy and religious leaders from many faith backgrounds and listened to the needs in our community and beyond. I cared for people’s children so they could attend “know your rights” trainings. I trained to be an observer in immigration court to help ensure people’s rights were protected. Eventually, I was on the Board of Directors of that grassroots organization and helped write legislation that passed and allowed clergy and faith leaders access to visit immigrants in detention. I worked with the state senator’s office and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to advocate for a young Afghan man who had fled to Malaysia after his father was killed by the Taliban. I gained knowledge and grew in compassion for valued, beloved people in our community that I might not have met if the invitation hadn’t been presented to me in a way I could relate to. Oh, yeah–I also organized donation drives, and bought a lot of new socks and underwear to help make even the simplest things easier for children who didn’t know where they would be sleeping next.

“Speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen” really resonates with me. I look back and recognize the blessing it was for me to understand even the tiniest struggles of displaced families. My testimony ignited new energy for our congregation to become involved in helping others, and that created ripples far beyond what I might ever know. I wonder how many holy invitations we all probably miss because we haven’t seen with our own eyes or lived someone else’s truth as they have? Next time you get to see someone’s passion ignite over something that you might not quite get, I encourage you: listen more and ask questions. Seek out the spaces where you might expand your own capacity. You’ll likely encounter (or be) a little more of Christ in this world.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

* From https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0319343/quotes/qt0443365.

** Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet Book 1). Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), p. 170. Kindle Edition.