So that they may be One, as we are One
As we noted on Thursday evening, the Sunday Lectionary assumes most people miss the Feast of the Ascension, so “Voila!” We get Luke’s version in the book of The Acts of the Apostles chapter 1. Though we miss the intro: In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the Apostles whom he had chosen.”
And it turns out that Theophilus translates roughly, “God Lover,” or “God’s Beloved.” You are God’s Beloved. We live in God and God lives in us. But I get ahead of myself.
As they watch Jesus return to Love from whence he came, two men in white robes ask the pivotal question: Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven. Jesus is leaving and he is coming. Which means that although they saw him leave, he is still here. Life with Jesus is often a paradox.
Enter the so-called High Priestly Prayer in the seventeenth chapter of John – arguably the most mystical of all the gospels. Jesus is praying. Approximately 1200 years later, Eckhart von Hochheim, known as Meister, or Master, Eckhart wrote about prayer: If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. Jesus is thanking God for giving us to him. “They used to be yours, and you gave them to me.”
Jesus also says it is time for him to be “glorified.” Glorification in this case refers to the revelation of God’s Love in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. By glorifying God, Jesus makes visible the presence of God through, as the two men in white (who are they?) “all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven.”
What the two men in white seem to be saying, as cool as it is to see him ascend to the God of Love, it’s time to get to work on all that he taught you- feed the hungry, heal the sick, visit the prisoners, welcome the strangers, clothe the naked – meet the needs of the world’s most vulnerable people – and all creature, and all creation.
And the bonus is that those God has given him have been given eternal life, which it turns out is not a future in heaven or immortality, but rather a life shaped in the image of God as revealed in Jesus – here and now. As Meister Eckhart also said, “The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake.” Quit standing around looking up into the heavens and get to work!
Despite all the rhetoric about Pentecost being the birthday of the Church, I have always thought that distinction belongs to the Ascension. He has to leave so that we can get to work doing all he did and taught, “and greater things than these you will do.”
And he prays for our protection as we are that manifestation of Jesus that continues on in the world. The world does not always welcome the Jesus in us, but that only brings us closer to Jesus who is the life and light of the world. Another paradox. As Meister Eckhart reminds us, “Truly, it is in darkness that one finds the light, so when we are in sorrow, then this light is nearest of all to us.”
The Light is so near to us, he prays that we may be One as he and the Father are One. This recalls the beginning of the fourth gospel that tells us that Jesus, the Word, the logos, was with God in the beginning, and is God, and that all that was created came through Jesus, the Word. I suspect Eckhart was deeply immersed in the Gospel of John for he also says, “Every creature is a word of God.”
This means us as well as the fish in the sea. Another mystic who lived a half century before Eckhart was another German, Mechtild of Magdeburg. She writes:
A fish cannot drown in water,
A bird does not fall in air.
In the fire of its making,
Gold doesn’t vanish:
The fire brightens.
Each creature God made
Must live in its own true nature;
How could I resist my nature,
That lives for oneness with God?
That is, life is not about beliefs or doctrines or creeds or liturgies. It is not a discipline or a practice. It is the most intimate experience of being alive, like breathing itself. Breath, the difference between life and death. At age twelve Mechtild had a spiritual experience in which she saw “all things in God, and God in all things.”
The importance of the Christian mystical tradition is its insistence that we must treat one another, every creature, every thing the way God is in Jesus and Jesus is in God. He prays, “so that they may be one, as we are one.”
He who is coming is always here. As the most recent Nobel Laureate of Literature writes:
Many try to stop me, shake me up in my mind
Say, “Prove to me that He is Lord, show me a sign”
What kind of sign they need when it all come from within
When what’s lost has been found, what’s to come has already been?
-Bob Dylan, Pressing On
He ascends, yet all the while he is here. It all comes from within. And it is all around all the time in all things. He prays that we might be one as he and the Father are one. What’s lost has been found, what’s to come has already been. This is eternal life: knowing God and knowing Jesus, who are one and that same. We are one and the same. Eternal life is here and now.
“The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me,” writes Eckhart.
All because we see the Son rising, and listen to the men in white, and come to know God as God knows us. It’s time to stop standing around and tell others the good news, for later he prays for on behalf of those who come to believe because of our word. He is the word, and through his word we come to know that we too are the word. We live in God and God lives in us. We are one, as God and Jesus are one. Do we get that? Thank you!