Slow reading: Our first task

This is the first in a four week series inviting you to dwell in the Word, ponder what it is to be the church, and discern if the spirit is calling us to anything new. Reflect alone, with your household, or with a friend. Send any insights to Alison, or bring them to the congregational conversation on 28 February (details here). 

In this first reading, Jesus is preparing his disciples for his death. As they share a meal, he shows them how to love one another and gives them a new commandment. This commandment becomes their first task and primary witness in the world: and it is just as relevant to disciples today. As you listen to the story and dwell in the Word, imagine Jesus is on his knees washing your feet. Without judgement, notice any resistance you have to this action; notice any emotions which arise.

1. PREPARE: Make yourself comfortable. Uncross your legs; relax your body; uncomplicate your heart. Ask God to help you surrender to whatever it is that God wants to do in you or say to or through you. Breathe slowly and deeply in, then out.

2. READ: Read the following passage aloud at least three times through, slowly. Listen carefully. Notice anything which captures your attention.

  • During supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ … After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you … I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ (John 13:2c-7, 12-1, 34-35, NRSV).

3. REFLECT: Allow the passage, a phrase or a single word or image speak to you. What catches your attention? What emotions do you feel? What questions are bubbling up? Reflect in silence.

4. RELATE: Now wonder: When have you experienced love like this in a church/faith community? When have you yourself knelt down and served? How can we love one another in a COVID-19 world? What might God be calling us to now? If you can, have a conversation about this with others.

5. RESPOND: Arising out of your reflection and any discussion, pray. Tell God about anything which has emerged. If you feel called to action, ask God to show you/us the next step. Send any insights to Alison, or bring them to our church conversation on 28 February.

6. REST: Rest now in the Word, who loves you. As you leave this time of prayer, if any word, phrase or image persists, carry it with you and let it guide you. Or, if nothing in particular arises, remember this:

  • Do as I have done to you.

A little later in the same discourse, Jesus says to his disciples, “I am the vine; you are the branches … If you dwell in me and my words dwell in you, ask for whatever you wish and it shall be done for you. This is my Father’s wish, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:5a, 7-8)

I pray that this time of dwelling in the word has been a blessing to you, and will prove fruitful both in your life as an individual and in our life together. And remember, you can use the pattern above to dwell in the word anywhere, at any time, with any passage.


Emailed to Sanctuary 3 February 2021 © Sanctuary, 2021.

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