Preached on May 24, 2020, for St. John’s United, Marathon’s livestream service. Based on John 17:1-11 for Easter 7, Year A.
When we think of the trinity knot, we think of the traditional formula of Father, Son, and Spirit.
But John wants us to conceive of a different community.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks about a community of three, but it is a community of Father, Son, and Believer.
Jesus comes into the world with a mind to creating a relationship, a connection between those he meets in his daily life and the Source of All Being.
But why does that matter?
I kept asking myself that question this week. Why does that matter?
For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believed in him would not perish but have eternal life.
That’s the verse I memorized as a child. And, honestly I never much liked it.
I didn’t like the idea that God killed, or sacrificed, his child so that I could live eternally.
That just sounded gross to me. I wouldn’t feel loved by a parent who did that. I didn’t want to believe in a God that would do that.
But how I’ve read that verse has changed. And, it’s specifically the word “gave” that has changed for me.
In my own words, this is what that verse says:
God loved creation so much that God gave what was most precious of herself to it. God gave creation Jesus, God-here-on-earth, so that we could believe in who he was, what he said, what he did, and have abundant life.
God loved the world so much, that God “became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood”.[i]
That image makes me think about caregivers. Family members who give up a good job, move to a different city, into the guest bedroom, so that they can take care of a sick relative.
God loved the world so much, and saw so much going wrong, saw the slow deterioration of God’s beloved, that she had to move in and nurse the world back to health.
That’s not to say that God has always been some distant deity that tinkers indirectly with the world, letting it march-on after winding-it-up like some retro tin toy. No.
But we all know that moving in with someone is a drastic measure for an urgent situation.
So, God arrives in the body of a rural tradesman – someone you’d likely run into at the lumber desk at Home Hardware.
Jesus arrives and begins to work, sort of like a couple’s counsellor working with two spouses living in the same house but one is barely aware of the other’s existence.
It begins slowly:
Reintroducing one to the other.
Starting with simple exercises, like intentionally saying “hello” and “goodbye”.
And now, Jesus has the two sides seated on the couch, and is saying the prayer of a therapist who knows he has them for this last session:
Take care of one another.
Take care of your relationship.
Make time to be together.
Know that you belong one to the other.
You are one community.
For those who feel dejected, unwanted…
For those who felt alone in a crowd before COVID-19 and social isolation, and now have all too much time to themselves…
For those who have been, quite literally, rejected by those who should have loved them unconditionally…
…the Good News – what matters here – is this….
You are so deeply, profoundly, unquestionably loved, so very loved that God felt drawn to take on atoms and molecules, and the irritation of sand between her toes and a sunburned neck, to take on the stinging slip of a hammer against thumb, life under an occupying force, life at the hands of an unjust system, and death at its hands too…
God was more than willing to risk all the various discomforts of mortality, to move into our cluttered, cramped and dirty house, to be near to her beloved. To offer truth and light and hope.
God was willing to endure all of that, when she could have stayed distant, unmoved and holy, because she loved you.
So she sweeps in, like grandma’s grand arrival – she’s rearranging the kitchen, she’s sent us to our beds, she’s scrubbing the walls and the windows, and put something good smelling in the oven, and when we finally feel well enough to venture back downstairs she’s going to put us to work too. No one in this family gets away without chores to do.
So she hands out rags and buckets like a sergeant general to all our siblings, declaring, with mock sternness, that we’re gunna get this house in order.
This matters, this relationship matters because it is love and community and relationship that bring meaning into our lives, it is what helps us mark the passing of one day to the next.
In Jesus’ prayer he is passing the mantle to his followers. Where he once sat between us on the couch, as mediator he now places our hands in one another’s, looking between us and God, and saying:
She loved you, so very much, that she brought me here to you. She brought me so that I might be the path by which you’d find your way back to her.
And here we are, altogether. Thanks be to God.
Now, here’s where we move past that fact that it “matters” that God desires relationship with us, and get on with the business of being in relationship with God.
This is not the time where I prescribe something to you. Collectively, all y’all have way more wisdom to offer me in answer to this question.
How do you take care of your relationship with God? What do you do to take care of your relationship with God?
I want you to start sharing with one another in the comments….but for those who really struggle with this question, who get a sinking feeling in their stomach because they aren’t sure they even have a relationship with God, let’s change the question a little.
Where do you find peace? Where do you find wonder? And, can you do more of that?
Where do you see justice at work? And, can you draw nearer to it?
There are books, and songs, and writers, and speakers out there who might have convinced you that having a relationship with God is some hard-to-achieve state of righteousness we all need to ascend to.
I’m calling bull.
No parent loves her children that much and then makes it hard for her children to reach her. Keep questioning, keeping trying new things, she is there – right outside your peripheral.
[i] John, The Message