The Last Days of the Good Book Club John 15:18 — John 21:25


The following reflection from the Good Book Club:

This week, we concluded our readings with Jesus’ last words: “It is finished.” Imagine if this was the end of the story. I know of a church that used to lock the doors on Good Friday and change its voicemail message to say: “Jesus is dead. There is no church.” What a shock for people who called! But the congregation was driving home a critical point of our faith. Without these final chapters, we would not have the Church as we know it. But thank God, this is a life and death and LIFE story.
The community is preparing for the sabbath, and they do not want the men dying slowly on the cross. So the soldiers are ordered to break the legs of the men, which presumably would hasten their death. But when they come to Jesus, they see that he is already dead, so they do not break his legs. Several times in the last few weeks, we have read of an event happening to fulfill the promise of scripture, and this is the case again here. This is an echo of both Exodus 12, which forbids the breaking of bones of the Passover lamb, as well as the verse from Psalm 34: “He keeps all their bones; not one of them will be broken.”
Then we have a surprising turn: While Jesus’ disciples have fled, a religious leader named Joseph (of Arimathea) steps up to take care of the body and even offers his own tomb. Joseph, a rich man and believed to be a member of the religious council, has been a secret disciple of Jesus, but no more. He is joined by Nicodemus, another religious leader, in wrapping the body with spices and in linen. It is important to remember that these men had no idea that Jesus would be resurrected—they stepped forward at great risk to themselves to offer a loving, respectful farewell to their teacher.
Early on the morning after the sabbath, Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb and sees that the large stone has been rolled away. Surely she is panicked: Has someone desecrated the body of her beloved friend? Stolen it even? She runs to Simon Peter and another disciple, and they race to the tomb, only to find it empty, save for the linens rolled up in a place. While they return home, Mary Magdalene remains at the tomb, weeping. Two angels appear and speak to her, and when she turns around, she sees a man and mistakes him for a gardener. But it only takes a single word, the sound of her name, for Mary Magdalene to recognize the man as “Rabbouni,” teacher.
Take a moment to step back and consider this remarkable scene. In a day when women were considered property, Jesus makes his first appearance after the resurrection to a woman. It is yet another sign of the upside-down ways of Jesus, of compassion and love transcending cultural practices and mores. Mary Magdalene goes and proclaims to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”
Naturally, this amazingly Good News encounters a few bumps along the way. First, the disciples are sequestered in fear that they might be next for crucifixion. When Jesus appears to them, he brings them peace—and shows them his wounds. But Thomas isn’t there, and he, like many of us, announces that he must see it to believe it. Jesus knows our human foibles and complies but with a gentle rebuke: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
In the final chapter, Jesus appears for the third time to the disciples and serves them a tasty breakfast of grilled fish and bread. He talks with Simon Peter and repeats three times (note: three is an important biblical number) to take care of his sheep, that is, to feed and tend to the flock of the world.
At the end of the previous chapter, John closes with a confounding statement: Jesus did many other signs but they are not written in this book. Why, John, why? Given Jesus’ astonishing signs already, I so wish we could have heard even more. It’s fun to imagine what they might have been. But here, in the last verses of the Gospel of John, the author answers the question: “But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”
Questions for reflection:
1.    Throughout John, we read of an event or action fulfilling the scripture. Why do you think this information is included in the text? How does it impact your understanding of the grand biblical narrative to see events foretold in Exodus or other Old Testament books come to fruition?
2.    Joseph of Arimathea is venerated as a saint in many traditions (including in the Episcopal Church, which commemorates him on August 1). Spend some time with his story. What resonates with you?
3.    The first person that the resurrected Jesus appears to is a woman. What does that mean to you today? What do you think it meant to the early Christians? How does Mary Magdalene’s story inspire you to be an evangelist?
4.    Thomas wanted proof. When are you like Thomas in your life of faith? What steps can you take to follow Jesus’ desire that we come to believe without seeing?
5.    Spend a few minutes dreaming about the signs that Jesus performed but that are not recounted in the Gospel of John. What does it mean to you to hear the words that if all the things Jesus did were written down, “the world itself could not contain the books that would be written?”

Week 3 John 5:1 — 6:71

Add a comment on anything that touched you from this week’s readings (John 5:1—6:71).  Or answer one of the questions (from the Good Book Club emails) below:
1. “Do you want to be made well?” Why do you think Jesus asks this question? Why might we need to ask it today, of ourselves and of others?
2. Are there times in which you struggle with the letter of the law versus the spirit of it? In secular situations? In religious ones?
3. When did you first learn about the Feeding of the 5,000? What was your understanding of the story then? How has that changed over the course of your life?
4. When you hear Jesus say, “I am the bread of life,” what does that mean to you?5000

Week 2 John 2:13—4:54

Add a comment on anything that touched you from this week’s readings (John 2:13—4:54).  Or answer one of the questions (from the Good Book Club emails) below:

well outside house

1. How does John’s placement of the scene at the temple at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry shape your understanding of that story? What does it tell you about Jesus? How does this story reflect both the human and divine aspects of Jesus?

2. What’s the difference between a miracle and a sign? Are they synonymous? What is John’s Gospel trying to tell us by emphasizing the “signs” of Jesus?
3. What signs have you experienced in your life? How did you know they were of God?
4. Of all the conversations in the Bible, the one with the woman at the well is the longest. What does this tell you about the importance of the content? Is it significant to you that the conversation was with a woman?
5. What steps can you take to invite others to come and see? When have you experienced that invitation from someone else?

Week 1 John 1 through John 2:12

young game match kids

Add a comment on anything that touched you from this week’s readings (John 1 through John 2:12).  Or answer one of the questions (from the Good Book Club emails) below:

  • Reread the first verse of John. What does it mean to you that the “Word was with God, and the Word was God”?
  • Why do you think this gospel skips the birth narrative and Jesus and instead starts with his public ministry? What is helpful about this presentation? What do you miss?
  • Twice in this passage, we hear the invitation: “Come and see.” What do these words mean to you? How do they shape your own calling and the ministry of your community?


Epiphany 2020 at Olivet

Starting January 6, we’re joining other Episcopalians in reading the Gospel of John during Epiphany. (It’s the Good Book Club! of the Episcopal Church!) We will use this space to post our thoughts and questions about the readings.

The schedule of daily readings is
Monday, January 6 John 1:1-5
Tuesday, January 7 John 1:6-18
Wednesday, January 8 John 1:19-28
Thursday, January 9 John 1:29-34
Friday, January 10 John 1:35-51
Saturday, January 11 John 2:1-12
Sunday, January 12 John 2:13-25
Monday, January 13 John 3:1-10
Tuesday, January 14 John 3:11-21
Wednesday, January 15 John 3:22-36
Thursday, January 16 John 4:1-30
Friday, January 17 John 4:31-42
Saturday, January 18 John 4:43-54
Sunday, January 19 John 5:1-18
Monday, January 20 John 5:19-29
Tuesday, January 21 John 5:30-47
Wednesday, January 22 John 6:1-21
Thursday, January 23 John 6:22-34
Friday, January 24 John 6:35-59
Saturday, January 25 John 6:60-71
Sunday, January 26 John 7:1-24
Monday, January 27 John 7:25-36
Tuesday, January 28 John 7:37-52
Wednesday, January 29 John 7:53—8:11
Thursday, January 30 John 8:12-38
Friday, January 31 John 8:39-59
Saturday, February 1 John 9:1-34
Sunday, February 2 John 9:35-41
Monday, February 3 John 10:1-21
Tuesday, February 4 John 10:22-42
Wednesday, February 5 John 11:1-16
Thursday, February 6 John 11:17-44
Friday, February 7 John 11:45-57
Saturday, February 8 John 12:1-11
Sunday, February 9 John 12:12-43
Monday, February 10 John 12:44-50
Tuesday, February 11 John 13:1-20
Wednesday, February 12 John 13:21-38
Thursday, February 13 John 14:1-14
Friday, February 14 John 14:15-31
Saturday, February 15 John 15:1-17
Sunday, February 16 John 15:18-27
Monday, February 17 John 16:1-15
Tuesday, February 18 John 16:16-33
Wednesday, February 19 John 17:1-26
Thursday, February 20 John 18:1-14
Friday, February 21 John 18:15-40
Saturday, February 22 John 19:1-30
Sunday, February 23 John 19:31-42
Monday, February 24 John 20:1-31
Tuesday, February 25 John 21:1-25

Sunday School at Olivet for Fall 2019

We have two time slots for Sunday School this year.  The first, beginning at 9:30 am through 10:20 am, is for children between Kindergarten and 4th Grade.  This class meets in the large classroom on the third floor of the 1957 building.  The second class starts after the 10:30 service ends, so approximately 11:45 and meets until 12:30 pm.  This class is held in the new classroom at the end of the hall on the third floor, near the staircase.

Both classes follow the lectionary readings for that Sunday, so discussion and activities are centered around the Gospel, the Epistle and the Old Testament readings.  In the younger class, we use skits, crafts and games to reinforce the lesson while the older class is primarily a time to discuss the readings and how they can apply to our everyday lives.

Sunday School at Olivet Spring 2019

We invite children and youth to join us for the last few Sunday School classes of our school year for 2019.

Starting in the Fall 2018, we traveled through the land of Narnia with Peter, Susan, Edward and Lucy as they encountered Aslan and the White Witch.  We continued with watching Prince Caspian in the winter, and took a break in the early spring as we explored the season of Lent and Easter.  Now we are finishing up the school year with a look at the early church and Pentecost.  We meet upstairs on the third floor in the main church building in the large classroom at the end of hall, starting at 9:15 am.  Please join us:

Sunday, May  26
Sunday, June  2
Sunday, June 9 — Pentecost Party!

During the summer we will have family Dinner & a Movie nights on:
Wednesday, July 17
Wednesday, August 14
Everyone is invited to bring something to grill.  We’ll have plenty of movie snacks on hand.

Fall 2018 Sunday School at Olivet

Sunday School started September 9, and we invite newcomers to join us at anytime.  We’re taking a trip to Narnia this year, and starting off with C.S. Lewis’ book The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  Lewis, through his wonderful fantasy fiction, has given us a way of learning more about God and his creation.

We’re watching the Disney movie first and building a Narnia-like world in our Sunday School room.  There will be discussions, crafts, and service projects taking place this year.

Please join us on this fun adventure.  Our class welcomes all ages.  For more information, please contact Therese Chaplin at

Sunday School meets in the third floor big classroom of the Main Church building from 9:15 to 10:20 am.

Narnia Poster


Summer 2018: The Adventures of Flat Anna

In the tradition of Flat Jesus & Flat Francis, the Olivet Sunday School is announcing its Summer 2018 photo contest this year with “Flat Anna“!  Anna Alexander was the first African-American Deaconess in the Episcopal Church, and she won the Golden Halo in this year’s Lent Madness tournament.  You can read about her amazing life at

Laminated cutouts of Flat Anna are available in the Simpson Room.  Take one with you, and start photographing Flat Anna on your summer adventures.  Email your pictures to (or text to 703-969-7159).  Great prizes will be awarded in several categories.

Jeff Underwood has been the first to submit a photo of Flat Anna — congratulations Jeff!  The picture below is of Flat Anna in Jeff’s summer garden.

To see more of Flat Anna’s summer adventures, please check out the bulletin board in the stairway of the 1957 building.

For those not familiar with our previous summer challenges, we are basing Flat Anna on Flat Stanley, a children’s book by Jeff Brown: after being flattened by a bulletin board, a young boy named Stanley makes the most of his situation by mailing himself to visit friends.  Elementary school teachers throughout the years have used this children’s book in a fun project, which is to make a Flat Stanley cutout and then mail Stanley to friends and relatives, near and far.  Friends and family will take photos of Flat Stanley around their town and send the pictures back to the student.  The student then compiles the pictures into a book of Flat Stanley adventures.