Pastoral Considerations for John 6

These are the considerations we tried to hold as we prepared materials for this series. We hope you’ll let us know if there are places we failed to do it, or could have done it better.

  • Antisemitism: There’s a lot of “the Jews don’t get it” in John 6. It’s not because of silliness or stupidity or hatred of Jesus. It’s because the community that wrote the gospel of John was in the midst of major conflict with the Jewish community from which it likely sprang. Now we preach John’s same gospel after two millenia of systemic violence done to Jews in the name of Christ. We did our best to honor this history by avoiding language in our commentaries that “othered” Jews. In our congregational contexts, we have each found ways to address this issue with our people. We might include notes in the bulletin or find moments in our preaching to called out this language and contextualize it. We also ask our communities to see ourselves as the people who don’t “get it” throughout the gospel of John. (Because…truth.)
  • Disordered eating: For reasons of mental or physical health, there are people in your congregation for whom a big feast of bread, a dinner church service, or a hearty Eucharist isn’t a safe space. They may be sensitive to language and liturgical experiences that link eating to encountering Christ, which is particularly challenging for preachers of John 6. While editing this series, we were in conversation with people who have experienced or are experiencing disordered eating, and they indicated that a narrow focus on eating, or eating in the context of worship outside of communion, may be triggering for them. Please assume that such people are in your congregation. If you choose to use our Eating Meditation in a liturgical setting or incorporate corporate eating into your worship, make sure to announce it in advance so that they can choose how best to participate (or refrain from doing so). Hold those who struggle with disordered eating in your mind and in your prayers as you prepare your sermons and worship services. We have done our best to navigate this gracefully, but we know it isn’t perfect. If you’re willing to share your own wisdom around this topic with us, we would be grateful to hear from you. Comment below or send an email to us.
  • Diet culture and fatphobia: This is somewhat related to the above. For some, bread is a “bad” food: instead of being the substance of life, it’s the failure of a diet. In our liturgies and commentaries, we tried to reflect our belief that there are no “good” or “bad” foods, just like there are no perfect or imperfect bodies. However, there are bodies and brains for whom bread is complicated.
  • Allergies and intolerances: Wheat, gluten, honey, and other popular bread ingredients are delicious, but for people with food allergies or intolerances, they can be dangerous. Eggs, dairy, and honey cannot be eaten as part of a vegan diet. Before bringing your favorite loaf of bread to worship, check the ingredients to make sure that everyone in your congregation can share it. 
  • Sexual abuse: As you prepare hymns for the season, please check the composer. David Haas has written a lot of people’s favorite communion music. He is a serial sexual abuser who has used his music to manipulate people. Because of the harm he has done, and especially because of the way in which he’s used his music to do it, we Barn Geese do not use his music in our congregations.

Published by Barn Geese

Honk if you love Jesus.

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