December 19, 2020
John 7:40-52 NRSV
Scenic South District
40 When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, “This is really the prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Messiah.”[a] But some asked, “Surely the Messiah[b] does not come from Galilee, does he? 42 Has not the scripture said that the Messiah[c] is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” 43 So there was a division in the crowd because of him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
Division among the People
The Unbelief of Those in Authority45 Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not arrest him?” 46 The police answered, “Never has anyone spoken like this!” 47 Then the Pharisees replied, “Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? 48 Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd, which does not know the law—they are accursed.” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus[d] before, and who was one of them, asked, 51 “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” 52 They replied, “Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.”
DevotionLately, the superintendents have been engaged in a study and discussion about racism led by the Rev. Leah Burns. The intended goal is to begin to envision a way to dismantle racism in Holston Conference. The study and conversation have shed light on a journey both personal, professional and institutional.
As a white male, I acknowledge my lack of understanding of what a person of color goes through in their life journey. As a UMC clergy I have participated in a system that, despite its lofty goals of inclusion, still is racially segregated. The truth of another person’s life, a life that is different from my own, is something about which I need to listen, especially when that truth has involved pain, humiliation, invisibility and disregard.
I want to believe that strides have been made, both culturally and socially. Legislation struck down segregation in education. November of this year marked the sixtieth anniversary of Ruby Bridges walking into a school in New Orleans because of desegregation. A few years ago, the United States elected Barack Obama to two terms as President. Strides have been made, but then new episodes of racism emerge as a reminder that we have a long, long way to go. There are still voices who cry for justice! Even though racism has no doubt parched the throats of those who cry out, the cry is no less valid! Those of us with ears, need to listen and seek to understand.
In John 7, Jesus summons all those who thirst to come to him. This summons comes during a celebration of the autumnal festival of booths or tabernacles commemorating the wilderness days of Israel and how they resided in booths (Leviticus 23). Likewise, it celebrates an aspect of God’s providential care, for when the people were thirsty, water came forth from a rock (Exodus 17). During the week long observance, water is daily brought from the pool of Siloam into the temple to symbolize this aspect of God’s care. Drawing upon that symbolism, Jesus now embodies this new source for quenching thirst. It is to be a sign of hope for the coming messianic age (Isaiah 44).
Advent is a season filled with messages of how God, through the Christ-child, will be working to turn our values upside down and to transform our prejudices that are many times cultivated by the world. We can read it in the Magnificat of Mary or just in the fact that God was manifest in a child. I pray we will be transformed this season, as well, by God’s grace and peace!