Monday, May 09, 2016

Easter 7C; John 17:20-26

Last week we heard from the beginning of the Farewell Discourse and I said the reason we got that particular passage was because we were being prepared for Jesus' ascension and departure.  That event took place this past Thursday, forty days after the Resurrection, and we are now, officially, on our own.  And this week we hear again from the Farewell Discourse; but this week we hear from the end of that monologue instead of the beginning.

That's because, unlike last week when we were being prepared for that departure, and where Jesus reminded us to be not afraid because he would send the Holy Spirit to be with us, the focus this week is a bit different.  The focus this week is not separation but unification.  Jesus is coming to the close of his speech and he wants to remind the apostles to maintain their unity.  We can probably come up with several reasons for that, but let me give you two.

First, the apostles were about to face some serious difficulties.  Jesus would be arrested, tried, crucified, and buried.  There was the very real possibility that they would scatter and Christ’s mission would be over before it even began.  And we see some of that when we read that it was pretty much the women who stayed with Jesus through the Passion, while the men seem to have disappeared.  It would only be in their unity that they would succeed.  Roughly 1700 years later, Benjamin Franklin would mimic Jesus' concern when he said, “Gentlemen, we must hang together, or most assuredly we will hang separately.”

Second, we need to be unified in the message of Christ.  One part of that message is that Jesus is God.  He is in the Father and the Father is in him.  We are getting a bit of John's high christology here, placing Jesus and the Father on equal footing.  As the apostles are sent into the world, it's important for them to proclaim as part of their message that Jesus is God incarnate.  Not that he's a really good guy.  Not that he is the spiritual image of God.  But that he is God incarnate, and that he and the Father are one.

Part 2B of that message is that it is all based in love.  God the Father loves God the Son.  God the Son loves God the Father.  That love binds them together in unity.  Jesus wants this binding love to be given to the apostles so that they may be made completely one, unified with the Father and the Son.

As we move forward from Easter to Pentecost, these are things we would do well to explore.  Are we unified in Christ’s mission to the world?  Are we unified in the mission of the church?  Do we know what that mission is?

As we move forward from Easter to Pentecost, are we moving forward bound together and unified in love?

But we need to be a little careful here.  When I talk about being bound together in love, that doesn't mean or imply a happily-ever after pollyannaish pipe dream.  Even in love there are doubts and arguments and difficult times that go along with times of certainty, agreement, and joy.

For those of us in relationships – family, romantic, platonic, or otherwise – we know this.  Sometimes we fight.  Sometimes we argue.  Sometimes we doubt.  Sometimes it's all good.  Through it all, I hope that we feel bound to the other person so completely that we become one.

Jesus certainly experienced all of this with his disciples.  He was probably frustrated and exasperated at times.  He argued with them at times.  And he also experienced this with God the Father: “Take this cup from me,” and, “Why have you forsaken me,” being the big two.  But in the end, he and the Father are one, bound by their love.  He and the disciples are also one, bound by their love and common mission.  We are bound to each other in the same way.

We may have struggles, doubts, and arguments, but we also have times of deep joy, certainty, and compassion.  And the more we bear with one another through these things, the more we bind ourselves to one another.  And the more we are able to bind ourselves to one another, the more we reflect the unified bond of the Father and of the Son; and the more we live into that bond, the more that bond lives in us.

Our challenge is twofold.  The first is in giving up ourselves unconditionally, binding ourselves completely to the will of God so that we may live in him and he in us.  The second is in opening up ourselves unconditionally to the presence of others, welcoming them in love, so that we and they may become one.

That's quite a challenge, and one that I will admit to not living into as I should.  Where do we even begin to live into unity with God and our neighbor?  May I suggest that we begin where Jesus begins in our gospel passage for today – Jesus prayed.

Are we praying to be completely filled by God?
Are we praying to have the courage to welcome others unconditionally in love?

If not, that might be a good place to begin.



spookyrach | 4:31 PM, May 09, 2016  

That idea of being one is kinda scary. I might have to *gasp* change something about myself. Heh.

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