Saturday, May 24, 2014

Thank God! He Sends Help!

We come from Love
We return to Love
And Love is all around

All of life is a homecoming
Homecoming, homecoming
All of life is a homecoming
A coming home to God

Let’s review what is going on here in John’s all begins in chapter 13 with the foot washing....well really in chapter 1....which says it begins in the beginning.....and infers it begins before the that is we do not know, cannot know, although we may know one day...

I shall know why - when Time is over -
And I have ceased to wonder why -
Christ will explain each separate anguish
In the fair school room of the sky -
  -emily dickenson

And anguish there is. Chapters 13-17 of John make up what is called the Farewell Discourse - and coincidentally is John’s version of the Last Supper. It is a very odd version to be sure. One seminary classmate called it the Fellini Last Supper. And it begins in anguish: The anguish of his immanent departure, the anguish of his impending state sponsored execution, the anguish of Judas’ betrayal. And yet, Jesus responds assuringly that he had come from God and was returning to God so he could prepare a place for us; that he will return to take us back to the dwelling place of God the Father; that he is the way to the Father; and that the way, his way, looks like Love, God, on his hands and knees washing feet; that we will do the things that Love does and greater things than these! All on just one condition: that we Love one another as He loves us - and he Loves us to the end. 

It is the fourth gospel and the epistles of John that state unequivocally that Jesus is God, God is Love, we are in Christ, so we are a community of Love. That is what we are meant to look like to ourselves and to others. We are to look like the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Love. 

Note how when our hearts are troubled, and we are focused on where he is going and how we will follow, Jesus redirects us to look at ourselves, and to know that belief in him is no ordinary belief - why it isn’t really belief at all as he states it. He says that those who believe will “do the things I do, and greater things than these will you do because I go to the Father.”  Long Pause!

Let that sink in.

To ourselves and to the world about us we ought to look like those people who do the things Jesus did, oh yes, and in our spare time we are to do greater things than these! 

This goes beyond the bumper sticker that says, “Jesus is coming - everyone look busy!” And to contemplate what this means really should take more than just one week of our time together in Eucharist, in Thanksgiving. It should feel like a daunting task, a daunting commissioning, to be expected to do greater things than Jesus. 

So fortunately as chapter 14 continues ( v15-21), Jesus promises to send help. Help is on the way! In fact help is here and has always been here! The advocate, the helper, the Holy Spirit is God, just like Jesus, the Word, the Logos, IS God. We tend to forget that when we talk about God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit we are not talking about three separate entities here. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, is God and ever shall be God. So it is with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

So we are not alone. And feeling alone is one of the most universal characteristics of being human. Jesus knows this and takes this human dilemma into account at the Last Supper. Jesus assures us we are not alone - he will be with us eternally in the advocate he sends, the helper, the Holy Spirit - pneuma in the New Testament Greek, ruach appearing 389 time in the Old Testament, in the Hebrew of Genesis which John is obviously calling to mind for us with the words, “In the beginning....” In the beginning God’s ruach,  God’s wind, God’s breath, God’s spirit blew across the face of the waters of chaos and brought life as we know it into being!

So Jesus, after commissioning us to do greater things than he does, reminds us that this spirit, wind, breath of God is with us, has been with us and will always be with us if only we will open ourselves and let it in. To make sure, on the day of Resurrection he breathes on us - just as God’s ruach breathed into a handful of dust and created humankind. That breath, that ruach, is with us and in us from our very beginning!

I remember being on retreat on the shore of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin in a seemingly ancient Victorian mansion. All day long a bishop from Scotland would lead us in prayer invoking the Holy Spirit to come among us. We were on silent retreat. I would go back to my room. It was winter. Waves were freezing on the shoreline. The wind was howling. The double-hung windows, the wooden frames having long ago dried out, were rattling with each fierce bashing of the wind against the building! How funny, I thought! We are on our knees praying for the Holy Spirit all the while it is bashing and rattling these windows trying to get in! I spent much of the rest of the retreat out of doors! The Holy Spirit was there in all its wildest abandon!

Again, I was at a Stewardship conference in Syracuse years ago, leading a workshop. There was a room of about 70 people, including representatives of a deaf congregation right up front where a young man was signing the workshop for them. We paused to sing Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God. The deaf people were signing it. Suddenly it happened. As they were signing the “Alleluias,” everyone in the room began signing the Alleluias along with them . They of course had no idea as they were looking forward and following the young interpreter. He then urged them to turn and see what was happening. The look on their faces when they saw that we had all entered their world  - that was the kingdom come. That was the visible presence of God’s Spirit among us. For a moment in time we all saw the face of God, the face of Love, the Holy Spirit in the faces of our deaf companions. And they were no longer outsiders looking into our world - we had entered their world, if only for a moment it was long enough for us all to look, pause, take it all in and give thanks.

God in Christ asks a lot of us, but he does not leave us on our own - and in fact we have never been alone - the advocate, the helper, the Holy Spirit, YHWH’s all powerful Ruach,  has always been with us, is with us and always will be with us! He loves us, and he loves us to the end! Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God and the door shall be opened to you and you will see the face of God, the face of Love, and live!

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