Date: June 1, 2014
Bible Text: John 17:1-11 | Reverend Catherine Knott
“and everything of yours of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them.” John 17:10
Today marks the completion of the season of Eastertide, as it is the seventh Sunday concluding Easter. We began this season with the triumphant sounds of brass and the pungent scent of lilies, a day of Easter jubilance suggesting that death is no more and that Christ is risen.
In this chapel, children met the figure of Mary, en route to the tomb in order to prepare the body of her beloved Jesus with the burial spices afforded the dead: Mary was consumed by sadness, racked by grief, and merely wanted to offer one last possibility of dignity concluding the trauma of the Crucifixion. When Mary walked up the lonely pathway to the entrance of the burial chamber, imagine her surprise at finding a winged figure standing in the doorway in lieu of the body of Jesus. In our chapel interpretation (in addition to the Gospels’ own) this angel was a bit on the smart-alecky and cheeky side.
With no interest in Mary’s grief, the angel asked in a very matter-of-fact tone, “Why are you looking for Jesus here? He said he was going before you!” It was as if the Resurrection of the Dead was only a weather report, or perhaps that Mary was even a bit thick-headed for not noting the clearly obvious.
The angel knew something. This day of Easter was the mark of a new beginning, a celebration of a new order. I realize that this talk of angels and a living dead is highly illogical, so we pose a question with the Gospel writer: what does Easter exactly entail and what did Jesus accomplish on that day?
The context for this morning’s lesson takes us back to the occasion of Holy Week, on that Thursday in the upper chambers of a quiet room, bread and wine laid out on a table very similar to the one we see here in the front of our chancel. Jesus had gathered for a bittersweet meal with both his friends AND his enemies, and was now out in the desolate garden, confronting the terrible accomplishment which awaited him. Rather than offering support in his moment of angst, the friends of Jesus were snoring loudly beside him.
This was a terrible time, but Jesus KNEW that in his deliberate journey to Jerusalem, God would be “glorified” through the Son in the practice(s) of betrayal, crucifixion and death. This was the task at hand, and despite its terror, we hear in the prayers of Jesus God’s sentiment(s) towards all people:
“Protect them in your name, so they may be one as we are one.”
“All mine are yours, and all of yours are mine.”
In these words, we get a bit of a sense of the expression and feeling behind the actions of the Triune God, but even so, what does it mean to be one as the Triune God is one, or to be known as belonging to Jesus of Nazareth and the God of Abraham?
In short, we see that in the event of Easter, we are drawn to be in RELATIONSHIP to God, and the point of this magnificent perfumed season is to point towards the relationality of the whole of humanity and creation to God.
Theologian Karl Barth states that God cannot be defined or described outside of God’s relationship to creation, therefore, there was never a time when God existed independently of creation, quietly playing solitaire with God’s self in a lonely parlor, wondering when company may come along. In essence, God would not be who God is without this connection to humanity and to God’s creation. And so, for all eternity we have been drawn towards God and in the saving acts of Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, the reconciling movement of God is finished and completed. As we are reminded in Paul’s letter to the Romans, nothing will ever separate us from the love of God that we are given in Christ, and if this God is for us, who can be against us?
Did you also catch how John described eternal life in this passage this morning? He doesn’t speak of clouds, lyres, or the acquisition of angel wings concluding our death, but an event in which we get to know God, which carries with it the full notoriety of the Hebrew connotation. To “know” is hardly a casual encounter, but rather an event of “knowing” with profound intimacy.
Eternal life then is the relation to God in a whole, unsparing and deep way.
Theologian Brent Waters remarks that on Easter Sunday, we, God’s creation, saw our destiny unfold: to be drawn closer to the Triune God. That destiny is not something which may be reversed or stopped by human effort, but is a call to a new order, a new way of being. Walter Brueggemann describes the resurrection of Christ as a break in history, a collapse of our preconceived notions of normalcy.
When the Day of Ascension was celebrated this week, we recall, in the words of the Apostle’s Creed, “Jesus ascended into heaven and sitteth on the right hand of the Father.” In this new reign of Jesus, Easter is thus marked not as a fluke, but as an ultimate reality.
With Mary, it was indeed a surprise on that first day to find a droll angel sitting in a tomb, but now, in the present, this eternal life and fellowship with God business is just simply going to be routine. As we live into this new order, we also are given a commission, for we are reminded that we exist, we are LIVING in this world with this new State of Things. A friend of mine refers to it as the “already and not yet” of the Kingdom of God.
So rather than remarking on the singular event of Easter separating this life from the next, we are asked to move now, strengthened by Christ’s prayers and God’s promise(s). We are to walk in faith towards this upside down reality made manifest.
Friends, this is a call to live with abundance, trusting in God’s ability to sustain the entirety of our being- history HAS changed. This morning when we eat of this bread and drink from this cup, we are witness and move towards the God who claims us, remembering who it is we belong to. It is also in these elements that we find our past, our present and our destination. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.