|Publication Date: 18 Sep 2014|
|Publisher: SPCK Publishing|
|Page Count: 160|
|Author: James Woodward|
|ISBN-13: 9780281070817, 9780281070824|
Journeying with John
'Journeying with John: Hearing the voice of John's Gospel in Years A, B and C' is not a traditional commentary in that it neither goes through the Gospel, section by section, nor does it go through the passages from the Gospel prescribed in the lectionary in a systematic way. Instead, it focuses on each liturgical season, commenting on the various Johannine passages before focusing more intensely on one or two.
The structure is also unusual, though highly effective. After a long introduction to the Gospel, there are eight chapters: Advent and Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Passion and Holy Week, Easter, The Easter Season, Pentecost, Ordinary Time.
Each chapter is made up of three parts, exploring the text, imagining the text and reflecting on the text.
The first part is by Paula Gooder, who brings the reader into the text through background, context and exegesis.
Mark Pryce 'imagines' the text through poetry and creative writing, offering a different lens through which to examine a familiar scene.
James Woodward then offers some reflections on how this might be applied to our own lives and in contemporary society. This is then followed up with some suggestions for action, conversation, questions and prayer, set in the context of 'marks of mission,' from material generated by the Anglican Communion focusing on the mission of the Church. There is a wealth of material and insight here for individual reading, for study groups and indeed, for homiletic preparation. While many parts could be marked out for consideration, the reflection in Chapter three on our pastoral heart and Chapter four on the passion of Jesus are particularly worth consideration.
Having finished the book, the only fault was that I was left wanting more. I would deeply appreciate a more systematic approach to all of the Johannine narrative in a similar vein.
John’s Gospel has fared less well than the other three in the Revised Common
Lectionary in that, instead of having a year to itself, its message is dispersed in
short spurts over three years. In this attractive book three seasoned scholars, all
actively involved in the Church’s life, seek to remedy this by bringing together
reflections on John as seen through the lens of the Christian liturgical year.
The Preface explains that the book arose from shared study of John in the light
of the Anglican Communion’s five ‘marks of mission’. The Introduction then
explores the Gospel’s background, covering issues such as authorship, structure,
the Johannine ‘community’, date, John’s attitude to ‘the Jews’, its relation to the
Synoptics, and its portraiture of Jesus as both divine and human. This is expertly
written, balanced in its views and taking account of modern scholarship without
being over-heavy. It ends with a poetic paraphrase of John’s Prologue, which adds
new ideas and images (e.g. the Word as a lover and adventurer, an unquenchable
love which flares like a forest fire).
This sets the tone for the eight chapters, which first ‘explore’ the text; then
‘imagine’ it; then ‘reflect’ on it; and finally offer ideas for action, conversation
and prayer, all relevant to the theme of mission. They discuss in turn John’s
incarnational theology (linked to the season of Advent and Christmas);
‘Epiphany’ – the revelation of Jesus’ glory, including his miracles; ‘Lent’, focusing
on Jesus’ discourses and ‘encounters’; ‘Passion and Holy Week’ considering what
kind of Saviour Jesus is and the role of the Cross; ‘Easter’ on the Resurrection and
its implications; ‘the Easter season’ on knowing, belonging and loving, and the
nature of the Church; ‘Pentecost’ on the Holy Spirit’s role; and ‘Ordinary Time’,
discussing John’s ‘I am’ sayings, focusing especially on John 6 (which occupies five
successive Sundays in Year B). There is no general conclusion, footnotes or
indexes; the book ends with a short note on ‘Further reading and resources’.
To some extent the arrangement of the material is artificial, since some aspects
of John’s relate more easily to the Church’s seasons than others. But on the whole
the attempt is successful (the most awkward area being ‘Ordinary Time’).
Inevitably the authors are selective on what they cover: only three miracles receive
any detailed discussion, and certain problematic aspects are ignored (e.g. the
fact that the lame man does not come to faith in the narrative). Many will find
the more creative sections helpful, even though they go beyond what arises directly
from the text. I warmly commend this short book to those beginning study of John,
and those seeking to relate its message to their personal lives and the modern