Monday, November 24, 2008

Repetition in the Book of John

I have really enjoyed studying the book of John, especially for its literary merit. As an English major, I find John's use of repetition of phrases and symbols especially interesting. I'd like to show, in outline form, some of the connections that I've made:
John 1:37-38–Jesus tells Andrew and John to "come and see" where He dwells, after He asks them the question, "What seek ye?"
John 11:34–Here, the disciples repeat the phrase, "Come and see," to Jesus when He asks where they have laid Lazarus. I wonder if this is almost mocking in tone; they might be insinuating, "Lazarus now dwells in the tomb because you were not here to save him." This could explain why Jesus weeps in the next verse: he is weeping because his followers do not yet understand his power, that he brings life and hope, and not death and despair.
John 20:15–Here is an implicit repetition of dwelling in the tomb. Jesus comes to Mary and asks, "Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?" Mary, like the disciples in John 1, is seeking for the dwelling place of the Savior, which just three days ago was the tomb. But, He is not there.
John 11:44–When Lazarus comes forth, he is "bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin." Jesus tells the people to "loose him, and let him go." Lazarus's returning from the dead was not truly resurrection because he was still mortal–like the clothes binding his body, he was still bound by mortality.
John 20:5 & 7–But, when Jesus resurrects himself, He is resurrected as an immortal being, no more to die. The linen cothes are lying, "and the napkin, that was about his head, [is] not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself."
Christ broke the bands of mortality, shook off the figurative gravclothes that bind us all. Where is man's dwelling place? Not in the tomb! Where lies victory? Not in the grave! Christ's call to all of us is to "come and see" his love and power, to seek him who will give us everlasting life. Our dwelling place, if we seek it, will be with Him and with Father, with our families forever. How grateful I am for this marvelous blessing.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Watchful unto Prayer

I've been thinking more about symoblism and in conjunction with it, the power of prayer. What is it about my words and my thoughts that conveys strength to myself and others? Words themselves symbolize the greater realities of thought and actions. What we say is a reflection of what we have been thinking or will think or what we have done or will do. And, according to the scriptures, our thoughts, words, and actions are all vital parts of who we are and so must be monitored. Mosiah 4: 30 tells us, "if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds . . . even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish." Pretty strong words, and a lot for us imperfect humans to keep track of! Our thoughts, words, and deeds?
I started to wonder how I could better police myself. Through some cross-referencing, I came upon a scripture in Moroni 6:4, where those newly numbered among the church have "their names taken . . . to keep them continually watchful unto prayer." This phrase caught my eye- prayer is a tool for being watchful, a way to "watch myself." How so? Prayer is powerful because it can set the pattern for our thoughts and actions. In our prayers, we can pray for what we want to be thinking about, and pray for what we want to be doing. Prayer gives us a chance to look at who we are, decide with the Lord how we are going to purify ourselves, and then pray that new person into being: "I did this, I thought this, I said this . . . but tomorrow, I'm going to do this, think this, and say this," and by saying those things in our prayers, we are laying the foundation for creating the new us. It is only through the power of the Spirit that we can then take our projections and turn them into realities.
So what does prayer symbolize, at least on one level? Prayer symbolizes the eventual reality of who we will become if we let the words of our prayers be enacted in our lives. I think I might try this: if there is an attribute I want to try to develop, I will ask God to not only bless me with it but for him to send me opportunities to develop it. Hmm . . . that could feel a little risky, especially if I wanted to develop something like patience! But I think it might be worth it. What do you all think? How can our prayers help turn us into the people that we want to be?