This year we will be using Jesus "I Am" statements from the Gospel of John. Worship services will follow a 5:00 simple supper. We will be using material prepared by a Luther Seminary preaching professor, Dr. Caroline Lewis. Note the summary below:
Working Preacher’s Lenten Series this year focuses on the “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John for the sake of intentional reflection on and proclamation of God becoming flesh.
Let me say that again -- God becoming flesh. The cross is many things; but first, it is the death of God. Let that sink in.
The “I AM” statements are more than just a novelty of the Fourth Gospel -- they reveal, in all fullness (John 1:16), the identity of Jesus. “Obviously,” you might be thinking.
But Lent is the season to remember one very important thing about what it means to be a Christian: that when Jesus goes to the cross, there goes God.
Jesus as this one-and-only God, this unique God (John 1:18) is the distinctive claim of Christianity. Yet in today’s world what’s said and believed about Jesus has the tendency to divide Jesus’ humanity from Jesus’ divinity. Our Christologies seem comfortable with choosing one or the other, depending on whom we need Jesus to be in a certain time or place -- or, for a certain purpose.
The Gospel of John reminds us -- which, during Lent, is an especially important thing to remember -- that to believe in Jesus is to hold the fullness of Jesus’ humanity and Jesus’ divinity together.
“What difference does this make?” you might be asking. Well, when we collapse Jesus’ humanity into Jesus’ divinity, it gets harder to imagine the purpose and pathos of the cross. After all, if that was God nailed to a tree, to what extent was that true suffering? And when we minimize Jesus’ divinity, it becomes easy to reduce Jesus to an above-average teacher, miracle worker, and advocate for the poor.
The challenge of Lent is to negotiate these simultaneous truths -- and how to admit our own truth regarding which Jesus we prefer. Otherwise, all too often, Jesus ends up being trotted out and used to justify moral claims as if God were not a part of the picture.
A word about grammar may be useful here. The “I AM” statements in John are of two varieties: the absolute “I AM” statements in which there is no qualifier, and the “I AM” statements with a predicate nominative. And yet the point of both is to hold both together. Each time Jesus says, “I AM,” the entirety of the “I AM” statements stands behind this revelation. And every time Jesus says, “I AM the bread of life, I AM the light of the world,” the fullness of the absolute “I AM” statements stands behind this claim. When we keep this in mind, we begin to see that if we try to separate God and the Word made flesh, we have likely missed the point of Christianity altogether.
Consider the following quotation, circulating on Pinterest boards and throughout social media:
“I AM. Two of the most powerful words; for what you put after them shapes your reality.”
This Lenten series helps us imagine that what Jesus puts after “I AM” in the Gospel of John shapes our reality.
Grace and peace,