for Easter C7
The Gospel this week comes from John 17
"Jesus prayed for his disciples, and then he said. "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
"Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them." John 17: 20-26
WOW.. here is a text that really sends the mind in a swirling tizzy, doesn't it? I couldn't think of any image better to raise up from the Christian Traditions than the celtic triquetra to open up the discussion on this scripture text. The Triquetra represents the trinity in what is also referred to as the Perichoretic dance. There is neither an end or beginning to the great entwining symbol.
Can you follow the rhythm and feel the motion? Do you hear that the prayer speaks of a present and a future life for the ones which Jesus is praying for? The first sentence marked with two purple clauses not only (these), but also (those who will believe in me through their word). Can you dare to accept that this prayer has laid the foundation for you and I to be connecting at this very moment so that you, if you never have before believed, will come to believe in Jesus? Startling and exciting! That's what I think every time I hear this passage.
We use a phrase, "before the foundations of the earth were laid" to describe the existence of the Creative Divine Spirit at work in the universe. There are so many different ways to refer to the Ultimate reality including "Almighty God", "Heavenly Father", and "HOLY ONE" in this day and age. From the Hebrew Scriptures there is El Shaddai, and Adonai, as the most popular names used throughout the Hebrew Bible*. Jesus in his prayers used Abba, which in the Aramaic language meant something much more intimate, like daddy. It really recast the communal understanding of God as a caring benevolent creating and governing force. In my own personal practice I often opt out of the use of Father in public prayer because I understand that a significant number of people have been denied the experience of a wholesome loving relationship with an earthly father. "Father" creates barriers to intimacy with God for them. While Jesus uses Father in this prayer, nevertheless, what I experience in reading it is quite ethereal. I find that this passage suggests something utterly transcendent, wholly different from the sense of organic human relationships. It's charged with electricity! In fact, in all the motion of the text the relationship Jesus describes sounds more like molecular physics. I completely failed chemistry and never moved forward into Physics while I was in high school, although now I have a grudging appreciation for. Atomic diagrams with the elements; protons, neutrons and electrons all steadily bound and swirling together dancing might be the best way to imagine the simultaneity of the Trinity. The triquenta captures God's unity perfectly for me.
Are you with me so far? Does the beauty and meaning of the prayer Jesus has spoken begin to take root in your unfilled "God Spot"? I do hope so. I hope that you will receive the gift of realizing yourself as being anticipated and loved from the very beginning of time. You are a fruit, substance and being, a part of God's wonderful continuing creative energy at work in the universe.
Of course we still have to grapple with the whole idea of continuously spreading forward through time. Finding an image for that is both easier and harder to grasp. I've heard others use the idea of ripples spreading out from a pebble or stone cast into the waters. That seems a bit problematic simply because bodies of water have edges which block the ever expanding forward spiral.
The Nesting Dolls is a classic image to more aptly capture the telling of generations progressing through the ages. Considering that every being starts with sperm and egg to become an embryo which contains within it everything that will become life in the future I begin to grasp that the seed of the Holy Spirit is just as much potentially present within each and every one of us in this age, and resides dormant for the future generations within our being. Okay, I know, the Genome Project doesn't actually include any mapping of our metaphysical/ spiritual nature. That doesn't mean it isn't a possibility. Wrestling more with this idea even leads us into the deep ethical waters around the question of "When does life begin?".
During my years in the United Methodist Church I discovered and received with great joy a new hymn, called the "Hymn of Promise"^^.
In the bulb there is a flower;
in the seed, an apple tree;
in cocoons a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free.
In the cold and snow of winter, there's a spring waits to be,
unrevealed until it's season, something God alone can see. (Verse 1)
This song speaks to me of the beautiful unfolding of all creation. Its theme is labeled Death and Eternal Life, but is clearly also speaks of hope, of connection and creation calling forth out of creation. It kindles awareness of God's hand at work in and through all things. God, which Paul reminds us is our embryonic fluid, "the one in whom we live and move and have our being" desires only good, and unity for all creation. May it be so.
But the harsh reality is we are still moving and living in an imperfect state of being.
Even within the church universal, we are not all of one mind. We war and fight and jostle for the place of authority. We fail to see the goodness of God dwelling in one another and engage in bickering of both petty and grand scope. That must have been what Jesus anticipated in his prayer that John recounts to us.
Sad but true, we are living between times.
Jesus has long since suffered death, been buried, raise and ascended to heaven. And the Holy Spirit has been poured upon all the first believers as well as countless people and generations since that first Pentecost. We are even living in the hope (no, not fear) of Jesus' coming again, and the time of judgement; the end of the Age.
We are walking day by day approaching the end of our mortal days. For me it is a quiet hope, that holds both excitement and mystery. Excitement in the present age and something completely unimaginable for the future.
That is why this week's collect is especially poignant.. Between the Ascension and the End of the Ages we must live by faith led by the tangible experience of life in Spirit. However you like to refer to third person of the Trinity; Paraclete, Advocate, Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit, Spirit of Truth, Sustainer, whatever that may be that resonates most deeply within you, the Feast of Weeks for which the first disciples waited in Jerusalem to commemorate does truly mark a new way of being in relationship, both with God and Humanity. All creation groans with yearning for the fullness of relationship which can only barely approximate unity in the spirit at the conclusion of our earthly existence.
O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Have a blessed week...
P.S. If you are a woman, interested in meeting together for an interesting look at the Hidden tradition of Friendship of Women in the Scripture, check this out. First meeting May 18, 2013
*Hebrew Bible : Christians hold that the Hebrew Bible is divinely inspired and contains Spiritual Truth.
^^Hymn 707 United Methodist Hymnal, 1989