Sunday Lenten Conversations: Four
Peterson, Kathleen. Other Sheep, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN
Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Reading: John 10:7-10, The Voice
Jesus: I tell you the truth: I am the gate of the sheep.
All who approached the sheep before Me came as thieves and robbers,
and the sheep did not listen to their voices.
I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be liberated,
will go in and go out, and will find pastures.
The thief approaches with malicious intent, looking to steal, slaughter, and destroy;
I came to give life with joy and abundance.
Excerpts from Life, Unspoken Sermons II, by George MacDonald
(Questions for Conversation added)
Introduction: Respond to this phrase: “Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because he would give the best, and man will not take it.”
Hence the final end of the separation is not individuality; that is but a means to it; the final end is oneness--an impossibility without it. For there can be no unity, no delight of love, no harmony, no good in being, where there is but one. Two at least are needed for oneness; and the greater the number of individuals, the greater, the lovelier, the richer, the diviner is the possible unity.
The being of God is love, therefore creation. I imagine that from all eternity he has been creating. As he saw it was not good for man to be alone, so has he never been alone himself;--from all eternity the Father has had the Son, and then ever-begun existence of that Son I imagine an easy outgoing of the Father's nature; while to make other beings—beings like us, I imagine the labour of a God, an eternal labour.
Questions: Talk about the phrase: “Hence the final end of the separation is not individuality.” What do you think that means in our lives?
The Father has given to the Son to have life in himself; that life is our light. We know life only as light; it is the life in us that makes us see. All the growth of the Christian is the more and more life he is receiving. At first his religion may hardly be distinguishable from the mere prudent desire to save his soul; but at last he loses that very soul in the glory of love, and so saves it; self becomes but the cloud on which the white light of God divides into harmonies unspeakable.
We are vessels of life, not yet full of the wine of life; where the wine does not reach, there the clay cracks, and aches, and is distressed. Who would therefore pour out the wine that is there, instead of filling to the brim with more wine! All the being must partake of essential being; life must be assisted, upheld, comforted, every part, with life. Life is the law, the food, the necessity of life. Life is everything.
Questions: Talk about parts of your life “where the wine does not reach.” What prevents us from our lives being filled to the brim?
It is the life in us that is discontented; we need more of what is discontented, not more of the cause of its discontent. Discontent, I repeat, is the life in us that has not enough of itself, is not enough to itself, so calls for more.
Many can recall some moment in which life seemed richer and fuller than ever before; to some, such moments arrive mostly in dreams: shall soul, awake or asleep, infold a bliss greater than its Life, the living God, can seal, perpetuate, enlarge?
Questions: Recall a moment in when your “life seemed richer and fuller than ever before”; what qualities were present then and how does that memory inform your hope?
For we are made for love, not for self. Our neighbour is our refuge; self is our demon-foe. Every man is the image of God to everyman, and in proportion as we love him, we shall know the sacred fact. The precious thing to human soul is, and one day shall be known to be, every human soul.