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'I am': Jesus revealed in the Gospel of John

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Seven times in the Gospel of John, Jesus described himself with “I am” statements. I am the Light of the World. I am the Bread of Life. I am the Good Shepherd. And others. In the Rev. Matt Rawle's new book, “Jesus Revealed,” we discover how the “I am” statements depict a beautiful mosaic that help us discover the person of Jesus and God’s narrative for our own lives. In addition to being a best-selling author and international speaker, Rawle is lead pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church in Bossier City, La.

Matt Rawle

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This episode posted on September 2, 2022.

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Prologue

Crystal Caviness, host: Seven times in the Gospel of John, Jesus described himself with “I am” statements. I am the Light of the World. I am the Bread of Life. I am the Good Shepherd. And others. Today, we talk with the Rev. Matt Rawle about his new book, “Jesus Revealed,” and how the “I am” statements depict a beautiful mosaic that help us discover the person of Jesus and God’s narrative for our own lives.

Crystal: Matt, welcome back to "Get Your Spirit in Shape."

Matt: Thank you, Crystal, it’s good to be here.

Crystal:    Well, this is your third time as a guest with us which makes you like a triple crown winner or something.

Matt:   Does that come with like a jacket or a coffee mug?

Crystal: I think, all the things. Yes, we can get all the swag, because we realized you're our first triple crown guest, So of course we can have all the things….

Matt:   It’s good to be here. Thanks, Crystal.

Crystal: We’re going to talk about your new book. It feels like we were just here talking about your new book. You’ve been prolific, Matt.

Matt:   Well, it’s…. You know, as a dad of 4 and a pastor in a local parish, I’m thankful I have this distraction, to be able to write. It has been such a blessing, such a fun experience. I pinch myself every morning just…. You know, there are books out there and people are reading them, and the messages are fantastic, but yeah, it’s been…certainly been fun. I always think I’ve written my last one, right? Every time a book comes out, like, well, that was a good run. That was a good run. You know, and dang it, they keep asking me back. So I’m thrilled. I’m absolutely thrilled.

Crystal:  Well, this book…the title is "Jesus Revealed: The I Am Statements in the Gospel of John." At first glance, it feels like a little bit of a change of direction from your most recent titles where you wrote about "Les Miserables," you wrote about the story of the Grinch, you wrote about these well-loved pieces of literature, you know, from our culture where you draw parallels from that storyline and the bible and faith-based themes. But, in fact, it’s not that much of a change of direction. You know, it’s still storytelling and drawing those parallels. But I do want to find out why the ‘I am’ statements from John? What about that drew you in?

Matt:   Yeah. That’s fantastic question, Crystal. And it is. It’s on one hand a bit of a departure, right? I jokingly call it…you know, it’s my first big boy book. Right? This one’s on Jesus, right? This is so  fantastic. It’s not Jesus through the lens of the Grinch. It’s on Jesus. This is great. But I am statements are a really good bridge between kind of this previous experience of writing in terms of pop culture and imagery, right? Because the ‘I am’ statements are full of imagery. They almost defy words. You know. So, this project…it’s actually started…it’s probably the project I’ve worked on the longest, interestingly enough. It started about 10 years ago, actually longer than that. The nugget of this book actually was my ordination Bible study, my mandatory Bible study that I had to write in order to become ordained. I wrote a 4-week Bible study on the ‘I am’ statements. You know, so everyone’s who’s listening, don’t throw it away. Don’t throw these things away. They might be able to come back and be fruitful. No good idea ever dies, right? So, it was actually my ordination bible study, but taking that I started to turn it into a worship series. And I’m partner with a friend of mine named Sarah Duet who…we were having coffee. And one day…. She’s a local artist in Shreveport. And I asked her one day, like, what does ‘I am light’ look like to you? And she went and she got her video camera and played with different light filters. And it was just really, really super interesting. And she turned a green light and I go what does ‘I am light’ look like to you? And then I asked her, what would this ‘I am light’ So und like to you? So she went to her studio and came up with this really cool, like, instrumental electric, ethereal kind of song. And we put them together. Now, all of a sudden we have an original video and original music to this ‘I am’ statements in the Gospel of John. It was fantastic. So we just kept the train going with at least 4 of the ‘I am’ statements. And then a little bit later I did the series with 6 ‘I am’ statements and then incorporated  some more video and more music from Sarah Duet. And finally, eventually we came to where we are today with this book. And I’m especially proud of Sarah’s contribution. Just in her own artistry she created a physical piece of art work for each chapter in the book. You’ll see that on the title pages of each chapter. Also on the amplified media video you actually see Sarah creating these pieces of artwork. It’s a time lapse video with her music in the background playing. It’s just fantastic. And that’s what I really think sets this study apart from… I mean, I’m well aware that it is not the only ‘I am’ book on the market. Right? I’m well aware of that. But what sets this apart is in large part Sarah’s contribution to this. And her artistry…there’s an original piece of artwork for each chapter. There’s also original music and original video for each chapter. It’s just really fantastic. It's, I think, the video (in particular with this study) the video really, really enhances the experience of the video.

And the second thing is the way the ‘I am’ statements are linked together. Right? These ‘I am’ statements don’t happen in a vacuum. Right? I am light, for example, like, I am light I think is one of the…probably the perfect metaphor for who Jesus is. Why do you need any other ‘I am’ statements? I am the light of the world. It is perfect. It’s done. But Jesus continues and says something like ‘I am bread.’ Well, what the heck does that mean? I just heard you say, ‘I am light’ and now you’re saying ‘I am bread.’ Well, it’s because I am light in a way reveals Jesus’ divinity. It’s up there. It’s out there. Light is timeless, you know, this kind of thing. But then ‘I am bread’ is not any of those things. Like, bread doesn’t grow on trees. Bread is a human invention. Like, you have to cultivate bread from the ground up. So when Jesus says, ‘I am bread,’ it really emphasizes Jesus’ humanity. And then these 2 images come together when Jesus says, ‘I am the good shepherd’ because shepherd can refer to God, like the 23rd Psalm—The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. But it also refers to an earthly ruler like King David, right? A shepherd of the people. So very Gospel of John. There’s so much more. There’s a depth, right? You can’t just take the gospel of John on the surface. Yes, I am light stands on its own just fine. Yes, I am the bread of life stands on its own just fine. But when you bring them together you begin to see a deeper picture emerge. Just like with John, chapter 3 and John, chapter 4. (This is fantastic.) So John, chapter 3, Jesus is meeting with Nicodemus. Right? Nic at night, right? So, he meets with a named man of high status in the middle of the night. And Nicodemus actually leaves confused. It’s like, ‘born again?’ My mom is not gonna like that at all. How am I supposed to be born again? And John chapter 3 stands on its own just fine, right? That’s where we get the ‘for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son,’ right? ‘God did not send his son to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved…’ John, chapter 3, stands on its own just fine. But then you realize John, chapter 4, the very next chapter, which also stands on its own just fine. Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Right? I offer you living water. It stands on its own just fine. But when you realize and when you dive into this you realize that John, chapter 3, where Jesus is meeting a named man of high status in the middle of the night and he leaves confused, you can turn the page to John, chapter 4, where he’s meeting with an unnamed woman of low status at high noon at the center of town. And she leaves converting her entire city. She’s the first evangelist in the gospel. Both of those chapters are inverses of each other. So now you begin to realize, oh my gosh, John is doing something really remarkable here. He’s not just giving us these ‘I am’ statements in a vacuum independently of each other, but actually all come together to reveal (that’s where the name of the book…) to reveal…. Jesus has revealed this beautiful mosaic of all of these images. And it all culminates in the resurrection… ‘I am the resurrection’ and ‘I am the life,’ right? That’s what all of these ‘I am’ statements are pointed to. So, on the one hand it is an experience. This study in particular is an experience because of the artwork, because of the music. And of course, it has to be because it’s on the Gospel of John. And on the other hand, it really reveals how John kind of feeds on itself. Right? It relies on itself to continue to build and offer layers of theological thought and drama. Right? John is really best read as a drama. Like, it’s on stage. Right? The artistry of the gospel is just unparalleled. And therefore, the study of the gospel has to follow suit, right? So that’s kind of the history of the study and what really, I think, sets it apart from other ‘I am’ studies that are out there.

Crystal:   I love the artwork, the companion artwork to it. It’s brilliant. And it’s abstract, which really just falls in line with this whole, you know, talking about symbols and symbolic language of the ‘I am’ statements. And you make a point that the symbols that a part of the connections with deeper meaning. How can we make that move to that …. How can we make that connection?

Matt:   Yeah. So first I think…. I think one of the first steps to realize is that, um, kind of everything is a metaphor. The ledge from which I jump at the beginning of this study is to recognize that even the words we read are symbols. I joke with folks, you know, if I say the word ‘duck’ are you going to get under your chair or are you going to give me a piece me a piece of bread because I’m a mallard, right? Even the language we use, the words that we use, all point to…either they have a correlation with something in the real world, or there’s a correlation of something in our mind. Right? Just to say the word ‘red’ automatically you now have pictures in your mind of what that is. Right? If I were to say the word ‘apple,’ are you thinking of a piece of fruit or are you thinking of your phone or your computer. Like, what does apple mean to you? So, when we first recognize that our world is absolutely filled with symbols. And sometimes we take some symbols more literally than others, but it also necessitates that we are always looking for a deeper meaning. So good art is a symbol because symbols always point beyond themselves. So good art always points beyond itself. This is something I learned from Dr. James Howell over at Meyers Park, also another author. He goes, if you have to ask the question what is the point of the Mona Lisa, you’ve missed the point of the Mona Lisa. It’s not supposed to have a point. It just simply is. Right? It exists. Right? Art is not a means to an end. Right? With that said, however, when we talk about theological art in particular it always elicits Some kind of response. A very simple example of that is…I know you might not think that street signs are artistic, but a stop sign is a piece of art. It is an octagon. It is red. It has white symbols. Right? It’s all very…on purpose. It’s supposed to catch your eye. Like, that’s the point of a stop sign. But not only that, it’s not supposed to just catch your eye. It’s actually calling you to stop, right? To have physical, actual response to this artwork. Sometimes we think about art, we’re like, the response is supposed to be like enlightenment or warm fuzzies or sadness, or like kind of emotional response. But in the Gospel of John when Jesus said, ‘I am bread,’ the response Jesus is looking for is for you to then feed people. When Jesus says, ‘I am light,’ it’s not that we sit idly by looking at the world. We are to be a light in the world, right? I am the vine and you are the branches. It’s not just a beautiful picture. It’s not just a beautiful piece of artwork, understanding how profound Jesus is. It’s calling us to be connected with one another.

Crystal:  It’s a call to action.

Matt:   It’s a call to action. All of the ‘I am’ statements really do have a call to action. Like all good art it points beyond itself, and it always elicits some kind of response. Like the stop sign. We see it everyday and fundamentally it calls us to stop. Right? Same thing with like the green light at the intersection. Right? The green light calls us to go. It’s not just to say that it’s artful, but it is. You know. It catches our eye. It’s meant to. All of the ‘I am’ statements, especially theological artwork, like, icons. Right? It’s always calling us into a deeper meaning. And then that deeper meaning calls us into a deeper action in the world. So, yeah. Absolutely. With every ‘I am’ statement there is some kind of activity and call to action that Jesus is eliciting. It is calling us out to perform in the world.

Crystal:   In the ‘I am Light’ section there was one interchange that caught my attention. In that Jesus has just healed a man born blind, but instead of celebrating arguing starts because there is the fact that the healing happened on the Sabbath.

Matt:   Yeah, isn’t that something?

Crystal:  So now the conversation turns into about rules and breaking of rules. And you wrote, ‘They are staring at the light, debating the light itself rather than allowing the light to illuminate everything around them.’ And it just struck me that, aren’t we the same way? We’re healing. This is what we do. We are so busy trying to understand or trying to explain, or trying to make it fit’ that we totally miss it.

Matt:   So, light fundamentally is passive because light it’s supposed to illuminate everything but itself. I think ‘I am light’ is the perfect metaphor. Jesus points to God. Right? As I mentioned to a friend, the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. And also to love your neighbor as yourself. There are 2 of them. There aren’t 3. Right? It’s not love God with all your heart, mind soul and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself and then love me as Jesus. Interestingly enough. Because Jesus is always pointing us to God. Just like light. It’s illuminating God. And sometimes we make the mistake of staring right at Jesus with blinders on. And when you stare directly at light you become temporarily blinded because that’s not the role of light. The role of a flashlight is not to stare in your face. The point of a flashlight is to stare at where you need to go. Right? Jesus is pointing us to where we need to go, especially with rule. Rules have a role, right? Rules keep the marketplace fair. They help us understand where my liberty ends, and your liberty begins. And all of these things. And it helps us cut down on how to make decisions about everything. Right? Having rules are like the boundary lines. But rules are just that. Right. So, for example one of the metaphors he uses…. And this is just because, like, we’re at the very end of summer and my kids love going to the pool. Is it okay for you to run on the side of the pool? Right? Well, I mean, yeah, I guess. But you might slip and fall and hurt yourself, hurt someone else. A lot of pools, most pools, I hope all have this rule. Like, use your walking feet. That’s what we call it in my household. Use your walking feet around the pool. But here’s the thing. If someone is in danger or someone needs assistance, you better risk running on the edge of the pool to get to them. Right? What a travesty it would be if someone was drowning and you said, “Sorry. I have to walk because that’s the rule.” And that, Crystal, is why the parable of the Good Samaritan exists. Right? They were walking on the other side of the road because that’s the rule. Like, let’s not be unclean. Then the Samaritan (which it doesn’t say ‘good’ anywhere in there), but the Samaritan is the one who risked breaking those rules. Right? And I’ve always said that, you know, the United Methodist Church will catch fire again when our Book of Discipline gets a lot shorter because when we love God and love our neighbor, can we just hang onto those two things, as Jesus said “all of the prophets and the Law rests on these two.” Right? If we can nail down these two, we will be in a good place. So, yes, we can. We can absolutely be blinded by our own religiosity. We can make an idol out of our doctrine, for sure. We can make an idol out of even the religious things that are around us. Fundamentally it is all about our relationship with Jesus. And that relationship then connects us with God and neighbor. Right? That’s why Jesus is. Jesus is the bridge between God and humanity. At the beginning of 2nd Timothy, Timothy’s grandmother and mother are commended for their faith. Grandmama Lois and mother Eunice. Right. I call it grandmama Lois. I love that. Her name’s Lois. There’s a Lois in the bible. And the really fascinating thing is that she’s commended for her faith. And grandmama Lois never had a copy of 2nd Timothy.  I love that. Her faith in Christ even superseded what eventually became the canon of the New Testament. Right? That is where we need to hang our hat in terms of our connection. So, yes. Allow the light to reveal where you need to go. But if you point that light directly in your face you are actually blind to what the light is trying to show you. And it’s a warning call. This is when I put on what I call my prophet pants. When I put my prophet pants on…my prophetic pants on, it’s be careful not to be blinded by your own religiosity because then you’ll find yourself like the Levite and the priest, walking on the other side of the road instead of doing the work of Jesus.

Crystal:    You talked about this just a little bit earlier, but there’s this running thought. Even though you’re drilling down on these 6 ‘I am’ statements, you’re drilling in. you’re really looking at them, but there’s this running thought around this big picture, that it’s really… when we’re talking about Jesus it’s looking at this whole and not just picking out bits and pieces of that. Tell me, what did that approach offer the reader or the person studying?

Matt:   Yeah, so for example. I teach Disciple Bible Study almost every year. And I love it. And the reason I love it is because I love seeing the light bulb go off when people actually begin to read. One of my phrases that I use often is ‘keep reading.’ Right? Especially when you get to a difficult text, keep reading. Right? So for example, and this may be anachronistic. This is one of those things that I would get an A in homiletics. I’d get an A in preaching, but probably a D in critical Old Testament criticism. So for example, we have this really difficult text in the Old Testament where, so  Moses comes down the mountain and Aaron…there’s this golden calf when he gets to the bottom of the mountain. And Moses…. I love it. It’s hilarious actually ‘cause Moses is like, Aaron, what the heck, man? And Aaron’s like, I don’t know. I don’t know, bro. Like, I just put some gold in some fire and all of a sudden, like, this golden calf came out, right? And then Moses, like, grinds up the golden calf into a powder and puts it into water and makes the people drink it. Right? Moses is having a bad day. He’s upset. But here’s the thing. Like, Moses says, Who’s with me? You stand over here. Who’s not with me, you stand over here. And he gives all the people are with him swords. He says, Take ‘em out. And it says 3 thousand people died that day. Keep reading. Keep reading, right, ‘cause when we get to the day of Pentecost…the Day of Pentecost they were all in one place ‘cause the Day of Pentecost commemorates the day that Moses gave the Law. That was that day. He came down the mountain with the Law, this kind of thing. And the Holy Spirit was offered to the church. And interestingly at the end of that chapter, detailing the Day of Pentecost, it said that 3 thousand people joined the movement that day. There’s this beautiful recapitulation of that story, if we are to keep reading. It’s so important to recognize that the bible is a library. It’s not one narrative written by one person sitting in a room, right? It is a library of thought of our relationship with God, inspired by the Holy Spirit. And it’s important to dive into all of it. Right? ‘Cause even the Gospels take different approaches of different things. And it’s not necessarily…it’s not wrong to take a single verse out of a place, but the problem is it’s incomplete. Right? It’s like thinking you know everything you need to know about Star Wars by only watching ‘The Phantom Menace.’ Right? That’s unfortunate. Is it wrong to watch ‘The Phantom Menace?’ No, it’s not wrong. But if you think that’s the culmination of the Star Wars saga, then you're living a sad life.

Crystal:   Keep watching.

Matt:   Keep watching, right? Keep watching. Keep reading. Right? That’s the thing. With the ‘I am’ statements it’s fine, again, to take one of these things and really hang on to it. Like, I am the light of the world. Oh my gosh, how beautiful is that? But keep reading because all of them come together to reveal this beautiful mosaic of the incarnation which is…we will never exhaust the depth of what God has done in the person of Jesus. So, keep reading. Keep watching, Keep singing. Like, keep doing all these things because it’s important to see the big picture. Right? And I think that, you know, the Gospel of John almost forces us to do that because even in the end of the Gospel, like, Mary came to the tomb, and it was still dark. And she saw that the stone was rolled away. When Mary comes to the tomb early before the sun had risen, now all of a sudden, the prologue of John makes sense. “In him was life and the life was light, and light shined in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Right? It’s a foreshadowing of the resurrection and you just don’t get there unless you keep reading and get all the way there. Right? So, yes, that’s the importance of…. It’s not necessarily wrong…. Like, for example, we have a thing we do at Asbury, my church, right now it’s called ‘the games we play.’ And we have these really cool game cards that we made. They have the logo of the church and on the back it has the key verse of the entire series. And the series is on game theory and how we work together as people, and how Jesus is an absolute master of strategy. And the verse is…it’s Colossians, chapter 3, verses 14 & 15. “Above all…” Above all, right? I looked up all in the Greek and all means all. “Above all, clothe yourselves with love which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts to which indeed you were called into one body and be thankful.” That’s a good verse. That’s a good verse. That’s tattoo worthy, Crystal. That’s a good verse, man, to put on your bathroom mirror or like on your forearm. It’s a really good verse. So there’s nothing wrong with taking a verse and hanging onto it because it really…it communicates how you understand faith. But don’t let that supersede seeing the big picture of how it all works together because you could also take some things out of context. Like, for example. Elisha summoning a she bear out of the woods to maul 20 children to death. Like, that’s a hard story. In fact, the rabbis had a phrase for it. They called it neither bears nor forest because even the rabbis knew that this probably didn’t happen, but it’s in there. We have to deal with it. I love it. There’s a phrase called ‘neither bears nor forest,’ which is just a beautiful way of saying, like, yeah, if we take this story out, if we completely rip it out of its context, it really offers us a terrible picture of God’s prophet. Right? Yeah, of course, there are verses to hang onto singularly. Like, John, chapter 3:16 & 17. Right? But the ‘I am’ statements, and in particular the Gospel of John, force us to look at the bigger picture, to look at God’s grand narrative—not just the scene, not just the act in which the scene finds itself, but the play. Like the whole play from curtain up to curtain down. What does it all mean?

Crystal:  So, as you were researching for the book of the 6 ‘I am’ statements, was there one that was most perplexing or most mysterious?

Matt:   That’s a great question. With the 7 ‘I am’ statements, because there’s one that I don’t…. In terms of my least favorite ‘I am’ statement, if you can have them and rank them, is ‘I am the gate.’ So there are 7 ‘I am’ statements. I kind of sneak ‘I am the gate’ into ‘I am the shepherd.’ And I’ll just say it out loud to everybody’s who’s listening. I didn’t quite know what to do with that one. So, it’s tucked away into ‘I am the good shepherd.’ And it is, in the Gospel of John. It’s tucked away in the same chapter. Jesus says, ‘I am the gate of the sheepfold, and then kind of immediately goes into ‘I am the good shepherd.’ Right? I did…. Confession time. And confession should start with the pastor. I took one of the ‘I am’ statements and just kinda shoehorned it, tucked it in there. So mea culpa. You know. I guess my favorite…I guess ‘I am the way.’ ???? Justin Coleman and Brian Sigmon. I called both of those guys ‘cause it hit me like dead in the face. I was really wrestling with this because we are really comfortable recognizing that all of these ‘I am’ statements are metaphors. I am the light of the world. We know that Jesus isn’t physically glowing. He’s not a night light. He’s not a bonfire. I am the bread of life. We know that Jesus isn’t pumpernickel or rye. Like, we were totally fine with seeing all of these as metaphors until we get to ‘I am the way.’ We tend to hold onto ‘I am the way’ with this ironclad literalism. And I really wrestle with this. What am I supposed to say? Until I realize when I let go and I allowed it to be an artful metaphor just like all of the other ‘I am’ statements, it finally made much more sense to me. When Jesus says, I am the way, in the context of John chapter 14…because he’s going to the cross. And that chapter begins with ‘do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me,’ he’s not offering them platitudes. He’s not dying and then trying to console the disciples. Like, I know you’re gonna be really sad. That’s not what’s happening there. When Jesus says, ‘do not let your hearts be troubled’ what he’s…. ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’ Because he’s going to Jerusalem and he’s going to the cross. The way is a roadway and all roads at the time of Jesus led to Rome. And all of those roads are littered with people on crosses. So when Jesus says ‘I am the way’ what he’s pointing to is the way to God is through suffering. It’s through self-denial. Right? It’s through dying to self. Do not let your hearts be troubled because you, too, will suffer for my sake and for the sake of this movement. So do not be troubled by it. Believe in God. Believe also in me. I am preparing a place for you. In other words what he’s saying is your suffering will not be in vain. That’s what that’s about. It’s not offering platitudes of like, I know guys, you’re gonna be really sad when we say goodbye in a couple of weeks or next week, whenever. It is trust that your self-denial, that the way that you are going will not be in vain. So  finally when I let go of this idea that was fully ingrained in my Christian education that I am the way was a doctrinal statement, and when I let go of it having to be a doctrinal statement and I adopted it just like all of the other six ‘I am’ statements, when I picked that up as metaphor, finally, like, oh my gosh, that makes So  much more sense of what I am the way means. I am the way to God…I am the way to the Father and that way to the Father is self-denial. Okay, now…now this makes so much more sense. And ??? called Justin Coleman, I’m like, oh my gosh, listen to what I just discovered. Listen to what the Holy Spirit just smacked me between the eyeballs with. Of course, I called Brian Sigman who…. My chapter 5 of the book was late. So Brian Sigman, who’s my editor is like, can you give me chapter 5, please. ???? we’re waiting for this chapter 5. I said, I know you’re waiting. It’s not in vain because look at what I just discovered through the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s what ‘I am the way,’ at least to me right now…it might mean something different to me tomorrow. …at the reprinting of Jesus Revealed, but for me it was just this kind of this aha moment, like, oh my gosh, this makes…it’s so much more beautiful and so much more poignant as opposed to Jesus is the way to God and that’s a doctrinal statement. And I’m not saying that that’s not true. I’m not saying that…but it’s not nearly as exclusive, I think, as we are led to believe because with that particular ‘I am’ statement we really hold onto it as a literal doctrinal statement. And Jesus is so not doctrinal in his teachings. He says, “A man had 2 sons,” “a man fell among robbers on the way to Jericho,” “a sower went to sow some seeds.” These are not doctrinal statements necessarily. I don’t know why we hang onto this one as one. But once I was able to let go and let it be artful and let it be profound, then all of a sudden it made a lot more sense and was much more fulfilling. And I think on the whole that stands true for the way that we read scripture generally. When we allow it to do what it does instead of forcing it to be what we want it to be, then scripture is unlocked per se. Right? The power of the Holy Spirit becomes unhindered. It is enlightening with reckless abandon. When we let go and allow scripture to do what it is inspired to do. Again, that’s why I love teaching. It’s why I do what I do, Crystal. Because it just…it’s an inexhaustible engine, scripture is, inspired by the Holy Spirit of this depth and profundity of what God has done in God’s story. How God through grace has incorporated us into that story, vine and branches. There’s chapter 4 for you. Vine and branches. The absolute miracle of God incorporating us into that story. It’s just fantastic.

Crystal: Thank you fore getting into that and sharing that, what must have been such a holy moment for you.

Matt:   It was. It really was.

Crystal:     ...to have that realization and understand that that statement is consistent in the way the other statements are presented.

Matt:   Absolutely.

Crystal:   And not just left out to be, you know, the different one. To read it with that same lens. Thank you for sharing that. As we finish up now, is there anything else you wanted to talk about? You mentioned earlier that this is…it’s a book, but it’s also study through Amplify Media. There’s videos. And we will put a link to all of that on the landing page for this episode. But is there anything else you want to share about the book?

Matt:   Yeah. Thank you. Two things. I do really believe that the Amplify Media portion of this really, really enhances the study. And the study is fine on its own obviously. I’m a fan of the book on my own. But the video portion of this really does because it’s an experience. It brings you into an artful experience of the Gospel of John. So I think that’s really super important. And secondly, like, when… ’cause I think this works fantastically as a churchwide study, particularly in 2 times of the year. So we here at Asbury will be beginning this churchwide series, Jesus Revealed, the first Sunday of October which then means when we get to ‘I am the Resurrection’ and ‘I am the life,’ it is now All Saints Sunday where we are recognizing those who have gone before us. So resurrection will be on our tongues already. So it really helps to bring the entire liturgical season together. So that’s really cool. In addition to…just a shout out of what Adam Hamilton is doing in terms of the Church of the Resurrection this Be Kind movement is also  happening at the same time. And we have some small groups doing that as well. The parallels of that are really fantastic. And then, if you don’t want to use it in October, it also works really well as a Lenten study, the six weeks there, the six chapters where ‘I am Resurrection’ then rests with Easter on the other end of it. So part of my calling as a pastor is to make other pastors’ lives easier. So this study really helps fill out your fall if you want it to, and allow it to be. It could also really take Lent into a really beautiful, artful direction. And I am not territorial at all. So pastors will email me like, hey, what are your thoughts on chapter 3 or whatever. Like, I’m preaching chapter 3. And I’ll send them my sermon that I’ll be preaching on chapter 3. I love that kind of collaboration with other pastors. And I do…’cause there are so many things that we as clergy persons have to deal with on the regular, every single day. And if I can make their lives easier by offering a churchwide sermon series, then go for it, man. Like, pick it up. For $16.99 I can cover your entire fall. It’s so great, you know. And the messages and the things on mattrawle.com folks can send me messages there. And I answer every single one. And if I can make your life easier as a clergy person, then let me do that for you. So, those 2 things really is…is how the Amplify Media video really enhances the study; and then secondly, it’s a fantastic churchwide study, especially in the fall—October/November, and then again at Lent. The series could really come in handy for your own congregation.

Crystal:   And for church members who maybe their church isn’t going to do this as a churchwide study, it’s a great…I mean, it’s just a great book to read. You have discussion questions in the back with even a separate study guide. So it really covers a lot of…

Matt:   It covers a lot of bases.

Crystal:   That’s right. Matt, as you know, as we finish up, we ask all of our guests the same question and the question is, how do you keep your spirit in shape?

Matt:   Yeah. So, I’ve recently adopted…I’m now 2 days behind on it. Once school started, because I was having a devotion with my kids in the car as we dropping them off, I thought why  don’t I just Facebook Live this? So I’ve been doing around about 6:45-ish in the morning, I do a Facebook Live devotion with my 2 oldest kids in the car. And it’s just a chance…’cause I was doing it anyway. And I thought, well, this might be interesting. And I call it Carpool Devotions. So check out Facebook around 6:45 in the morning for Carpool Devotions on my Facebook. I’d love to see you there. And that’s really how I keep my spirit in shape because if I have nothing to communicate to my kids, then I haven’t done the soulful work that I need to yet for that day. Right? I don’t want to drop them off at school without giving them some kind of work. And it’s not a rah, rah, kind of….  Sometimes the word is really difficult. Sometimes the word is more mournful. It’s not just like, hey, have a great day, ‘cause sometimes days suck and we have to be prepared for those days, too. But it is a word every day. I don’t want them to go to school without interacting with the Holy Spirit. So, yeah, that’s how, at least lately, I’ve been keeping my soul in shape is holding myself accountable by putting it live for everyone out there to see, is Carpool Devotions around 6:45 in the morning. So it’s been fun. It certainly has been quite the ride with my kids.

Crystal: Is that on the Asbury Facebook page?

Matt:   It’s on my personal Facebook page. Just look up Matt Rawles. Go be my friend. I’d love to have you as a friend. No, it’s not on Asbury. It’s just my personal Facebook page. Everybody can see it. It’s on a global setting. So …. Even if you don’t want to be my friend, that’s fine. You could still see the Carpool Devotion.

Crystal: You can still get the word for the day. Yeah. Well, Matt, thank you. It’s always delightful. What’s next for you?

Matt:   Oh, goodness. Thank you for asking. So this is fun. I have 2 more books coming out in the future. So, the next one is going to be an advent study coming out in 2023. And actually, what we’re taking, in terms of the experiential portion of the Amplify Media portion of this study, we’re bringing that to another level…. ‘Cause I love every time doing a study, trying something out that I’ll then put into practice in the next study. And we’re doing that. So this study was about art and music in this kind of thing. Well, the Advent study that’s coming out is called, “This will be a Sign to You” and it’s about the things that we hear during the Advent season, the things that we smell, the things that we taste. You know, this kind of sensory experience of the Advent and Christmas season, recognizing that the story fundamentally is about God having senses. God now in the person of Jesus has eyes to see suffering and ears to hear lament and hands to hold you humanity. Right? So we’re really going all in terms of a study being a sensory experience. So we’re playing with new technology. What might it look like for this to inhabit a meta space in terms of experience. So, I’m super excited about that. Coming out in 2023 “This will be a Sign to You.” And then an unnamed project in 2024 that I can’t quite talk about just yet. But a couple of new projects under work that we’re certainly excited about. I’m also hosting a series of lectures on the Apostle Paul, the life and work of the Apostle Paul during a Mediterranean cruise. Ten days in the Mediterranean, Mr. Fancy Pants. It’s so funny, ‘cause iO Travel called me and said, Pastor Matt, can you check your calendar to see if you’re free to host a cruise on the life Paul. Like, am I…yeah, let me check my calen… Of course, I’m free. Like, are you kidding me? Yeah, check your calendar. Sure. Of course, I’m free. And that’s gonna be June 30th in 2023. And that’s all over my Facebook page. And you can to iO Travel and type in Matt Rawle, and that’ll get you there. That’ll be tons of fun. If want to join us for that, that’s next summer. And it’s gonna be great. Yeah, and thankfully my calendar was free, you know, to do the 10-day cruise.

Crystal:  This has been really fun. Thank you again for being here. Again, we’ll put all those links on our landing page. And people can contact you and just get ready for your Carpool Devotion time to just, yeah, it’ll be great. All right, well, thanks again.

Epilogue

Crystal: That was Matt Rawle, lead pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church in Bossier City, Louisiana, author and international speaker. To learn more about Matt, his books and ministry, go to UMC.org/podcasts and look for the episode. In addition to the helpful links and a transcript of our conversation you’ll find my email address so you can talk with me about "Get Your Spirit in Shape." Thank you so much for joining us for today’s episode of "Get Your Spirit in Shape." I look forward to the next time that we’re together. I’m Crystal Caviness.