Preaching Peace Lectionary

Lent 2, Year A

Gospel Anthropological Reading

Desire will be redeemed. Even mimesis will be redeemed. Even Satan will be redeemed (shades of Origen or Irenaus?).

Kosmos is a term the FG uses to connote the reality structured by the violent Logos. And it is said that God loves all of the kosmos, that of which we are and have become. We are loved in spite of our broken perceptions. It is in and through this brokenness that God reveals God’s self, on a Roman cross outside the holy city of Jerusalem. We humans create the Monster, the mechanism of violence and God redefines the meaning of the center, the victim, the scapegoat. Lies are revealed and the truth is known. This love, the agape of the Abba knows no limits or boundaries, it encompasses all and everything. This God loves her creation more than herself. This God demonstrates the extent of that love in giving up his only child to us humans.

If we are to see the reign of God, we most be born again (or from above, whichever way you choose to translate anothen ). If we are to enter into the reign of God, we will enter in both as flesh and spirit.

In John’s Gospel, we see the Word become flesh in order to save flesh. Yes, John is very clear that “it is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is useless,” (6:63) because the flesh, intractably bent by mimesis cannot lead itself out of the cycle of violence and death, but that does not mean that the reign of God is a “spiritual” reality that excludes the flesh. This kind of dualism, the rejection of “flesh” for the “spirit,” so typical of the gnosticism against which John wrote, is also at the heart of the scapegoating process, the substitution of the victim for the mimetic double.

The dividing of the world into light and dark is the result of the projection of our own darkness (we all have both) onto the other. And this division of the world into one where we must chose either light or dark, flesh or spirit, places us inevitably, intractably, in the dark. Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night because he is in that darkness, because he hears Jesus speak of the birth from above that re-unites spirit and flesh. But Nicodemus, hears Jesus speak of a birth that replaces one life with another, in other words, a substitution of one life for another.

By the time that this piece goes up on Preaching Peace, we will all have seen the Superbowl and the ubiquitous “John 3:16” sign that will probably pop up. Unfortunately the person holding that sign will probably be unable to quote John 3:17, where we learn that God’s purpose is to save the world, the entire “kosmos,” not only those who believe, to the exclusion of all others. God’s rejection of.. no… God’s redemption of our murderous way of preventing the war of all against all, the “scapegoat” (God enters into our scapegoating process as scapegoat to undo it!) is what we are to believe in. Not the resurrection, but the “lifting up” of Jesus (3:15). Jesus links this “saving” (the movement from dark into light) to the image of the crucifixion alone.

This is why we can have no enemies, even, or most especially those bound by the scapegoating process, by Satan. Every exercise of the scapegoating process is a part of the process God chose to use for our salvation. We will not be delivered fully from the cycle until the entire kosmos is redeemed, but in the mean time, we allow our evil to be brought into the light, we don’t insist that darkness and light be forever separate, that flesh and spirit remain forever at war in us. Perhaps, as we cease to do violence to ourselves, we will also find it less satisfying to do violence to others.

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Gospel Historical/Cultural Questions

Note the sheer number of Johannine ‘double-words’ in this brief discourse.

Nuktos (night)

Semeia (signs)

Anothen (again/above)

Pneuma (spirit/wind/breath)

Hupsao (exalt/lift up)

The hermeneutic of the Johannine ‘double-words’ is meant to help us read the text on two levels. The distinction between these levels has been drawn in largely temporal sequence, there was the world of Jesus and then there was the world of the Johannine community. J.L. Martyn’s great thesis suggests this, and rightly so. But we must not lose sight of the fact that for the Johannine community, these double words are indicators of a greater dialectic, the kosmos structured a la the violent Logos of a Heraclitus, and the revelation of God within that kosmos with a Logos of his own. Where scholars find dualism in the Johannine literature we find the dialectic of the redemption of all things (panta 1.3).

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Gospel So What?

What will you preach this weekend? Will you preach that your hearers are saved by their beliefs? Or that we have to chose light, and not darkness?

Or will you preach the Gospel? That the kosmos, in all of its light and darkness, its flesh and spirit, are precious to God? As God redeemed the Cross by being “lifted up” God also redeemed our flesh by becoming flesh, redeemed our evil purposes by bringing them into the light, not by destroying them.

It could be tempting here to go some Eastern/New Age route, Yin and Yang as necessary parts of a whole. Not a road we’d suggest. What Jesus promises here is not that we need evil and good to make up a whole world, or that evil is not evil but just some part of reality that we “don’t understand.” No. God intends to redeem the flesh, redeem our evil.

The good news is that our broken flesh will be made whole. Our twisted desire, which leads us frustration and violence, will be set right, set on its proper object. We will not have our mimetic desire taken away from us (our flesh) but we will imitate another desire, the desire that Jesus had for the Father.

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Epistle Anthropological Reading

This section of this particular page is not yet completed, but will be done a few weeks before the Sunday in question. It will be the heart of the discussion, offering an anthropological (“Girardian”) reflection on the lectionary texts. It will be complemmented by the other sections, but this will be the primary material.Back to top


Epistle Historical/Cultural Questions

This section of this particular page is not yet complete. In it, there will be materials pertinent to the historical/cultural setting of the texts under consideration, to the extent that they contribute to a non-violent understanding of the text. (We won’t re-hash historical/cultural materials that are well known and add nothing to the “peace” discussion.)Back to top


Epistle So What?

The “so what” section for each week will go here. Less scholarly, more reflective. In this section, we’ll try to give our answer to the questions, “Okay, that anthropological stuff is nice, but “so what?” How do I use this in a sermon? How do I relate this to my congregation’s world?”Back to top