Friday after Epiphany


Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and blood.
The spirit is the one who testifies,
and the spirit is truth.
So there are three who testify,
the spirit, the water, and the blood,
and the three are of one accord.


The passage is cryptic; it invites our contemplation. Unlike modern conceptions of Jesus Christ and the Church, the Christians who wrote, pondered and preserved the New Testament could not imagine Jesus without his church. There is no husband without a wife; there is no head without a body. There is no Christ without his church. This is the liturgical doctrine that explains spirit, water and blood 

Water and blood indicate the two most important sacraments of our church, Baptism and Eucharist; but, again, the early church had not defined sacraments apart from the living, breathing Church. Nor was there a building they called church. The church was the congregation which gathered to worship with their bishop, which broke bread every Sunday and baptized new members as they entered. The Spirit of God – characterized by courage, enthusiasm, generosity and joy – brought them together.

We might also recognize the Spirit as the breath of the community. There is no prayer without the body; it arises from several places in the body. The chest provides a powerful gust of air; the mind offers words and intonation; the larynx, tongue and mouth mix and shape the sounds that everyone hears as Glory. Just as stained glass windows convert sunlight into gospel, so the voice converts breath into prayer.

In the context of church or congregation, the breath is the singing prayer that sounds throughout the building, as ordained leaders and baptized faithful praise God. No one breathes alone; no one praises God alone. All they need is a few musical instruments to add even more depth, color and excitement to the moment.

When I think of those ancient congregations gathered by the sound of a man’s voice, I suppose they must have stood awfully close together. There were no amplifiers to blast the ears; no woofers and tweeters to thump their chests and shred their eardrums. They could not sit three to a pew in a half-empty church. They must have stood shoulder to shoulder and back to chest like commuters in a crowded subway. They laughed, sang, moved and breathed as one body. The spirit, the water and the blood mingled and flowed in that living body -- with Christ as its head.
So there are three who testify,
the spirit, the water, and the blood,
and the three are of one accord.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.