For centuries the period between Easter and Pentecost was a time for instruction of the newly baptized (baptized at the Easter Vigil) in the deeper matters of faith. The texts used for these teachings are the Seven Great “I Am” statements of Jesus in John’s Gospel. When Jesus says, “I am,” he is using the Name of God spoken from within the burning bush to Moses in the Book of Exodus.
There are many more “I Am” statements in John’s Gospel than the seven that were the focus of the early Church’s teaching, meditation and prayer. We are in a place now, at this moment of the world’s spiritual journey to apprehend some of these other “I Am” sayings anew.
Four out of the many “I Am” sayings may now come forward to be our spiritual aids today. First, there is the declaration about — not by — Jesus in the great, mysterious prologue to the Gospel of John: I Am from the beginning. We have been learning, over the last century more and more about the beginning of our universe. The instantaneous inception of all that is, often now called the Great Flaring Forth, is our first step in walking the Cosmic Path of Jesus.
Like the Cosmic Walk that recapitulates the 14.5 billion year history of the universe by walking from the center of a spiral outward, imagine that, as you read the Prologue of John you are standing at the center of a vast, cosmic spiral. “I Am from the beginning,” Christ says at the center of time and space.
The other three “new” “I Am” statements shine forth in our consciousness today because of the important work of Matthew Fox and others who have helped Christianity reaffirm the goodness of all creation, including our own bodies and everyday human lives. Three times in the Gospel of John Jesus says, “I Am he, Jesus of Nazareth.” He is making in these statements a much more astounding claim than is made in the Seven “I Am” statements codified by the early Church; Jesus is saying, “Look, this person, I, is the same as God.”
The Seven “I Am” statements of Church history are metaphors: I Am the True Vine, for instance. Such metaphoric statements were easier for people living in the centuries before us to accept, as the body and the created world had come, over time, to be seen as tainted, the source of all our troubles. We may, with the ever-present God’s grace, find our deepest meaning in the travails and joys of our embodied lives, a truth it has taken over a millennium and a half to relearn.
So, when you walk outward along the spiral path of the Cosmic Path of Jesus in John, stand still when you come to these blazing statements of God’s blessing of you, as a human being, and ask what you have learned along the way, from the other, metaphoric “I Am” statements. These three embodied “I Am” statements are
- Jesus with the woman at the well, “I Am he, the one speaking with you.”
- Jesus, in the gloom of night, walking on the water, “I Am he, do not be afraid.”
- Jesus and his disciples, again in the deepest shadow of night, meeting Judas and a crowd of temple police and Roman soldiers, “I Am he, Jesus of Nazareth.”
Below is a suggested schedule for walking this Cosmic Path in John’s Gospel this Lent 2013.
Great Flaring Forth, John 1 — 02.13.13
I Am he, the one speaking with you, John 4 — 02.16.13
I Am he, do not be afraid, John 6 — 02.19.13
I Am the Bread of Life John 6 — 02.22.13
I Am the Light of the World John 8 — 02.25.13
Before Abraham was, I Am John 8 — 02.28.13
I Am the Gate John 10 — 03.03.13
I Am the Good Shepherd John 10 — 03.06.13
I Am the Resurrection and the Life John 11 — 03.09.13
I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life John 14 — 03.12.13
I Am the True Vine John 15 — 03.15.13
I Am he, Jesus of Nazareth John 18 — 03.18.13
I Am the Alpha and the Omega Revelation 22 — 03.22.13
May this be a blessed Lent, walking with our brother Jesus, the man of Nazareth who is also the Cosmic Christ.
+MHAPhoto credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team