Seventh Sunday of Easter Year B, Mother’s Day Sunday after the Ascension May 13, 2018
The Rev. Dennis Taylor, Deacon, R.N.
We started this journey many weeks ago on Maundy Thursday and have been hearing it primarily from John’s author’s voice. It begins the early evening before Jesus’ execution. We have been reading a fair amount of the Gospel of John “He say I know you, you know me. One thing I can tell you is you got to be free Come together right now over me.” Beatles, Come Together There is a lot of abiding between Jesus and God and the disciples and some times it gets a little hard to follow. This time in the story Jesus has been on the run and lying low as the political-religious authorities are conspiring to kill him and the disciples are aware that they are also imperiled. Thomas is quoted as saying “Let us also go that we may die with him.”
On this night they come together for one last time and there Jesus greets his disciples and washes their feet setting an example for those who will follow him to live into, whether they have been taught directly by him or to hear the good news from those who come after him. This is how you are to treat each other. He declares, not for the first nor last time, his devotion to his friends. “I have loved you” (13:34, 15:9, 15:21)
Following the foot washing Jesus becomes troubled in spirit as he is preparing himself and his friends and disciples that he has to leave them and that all will happen in “a little while.” He warns them of hard times to come and “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God.” (John 16:2).
This verse may have been part of the memory of the people or it may be John’s way of connecting his community, some 70 years later, to that original time of loss and gain. Reminding of the warnings and promises that were made at that time.
All though the discourse of this afternoon and night it is a time of deep intimacy, teaching and grieving as Jesus prepares himself and those who are with him of what is to come. The King James Version tells us twice that the disciple whom Jesus loved was laying next to him with his head on Jesus’ chest and Peter was reclining next to him. Judas, the only one Jesus is destined to lose according to scripture, has just departed and John cryptically writes “So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.” (13:30) Jesus has washed their feet, pointed out the example he has set before them and us by doing this. He has foretold his betrayer and betrayal. Laid out a new commandment, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (13:34-35) expressed that “Where I am going, you cannot come.” Which Peter, Thomas and Phillip question and asking for proof, just to be satisfied. By the end of this chapter Jesus foretells of Peter’s denial. The end of Mark foretells that all will desert him and even the women in the end are silent. It is truly a dark time.
The night progresses and after the speaking of leaving and not able to follow and loss of the companionship and breaking of the fellowship Jesus begins to reassure and emphasize why these things must happen. “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” (14:12)
He also promises to ask God to send or give another Advocate or Paraclete: “the one who appears on another’s behalf, according to Bauer’s Greek lexicon. ‘to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth, and give them the strength needed to undergo the trials and persecutions on behalf of the kingdom and remind them of Jesus’s presence. They will not be left alone as Jesus has not nor will be left alone but the presence of God will be within him as he is in the presence of God and the same goes for those who accept his presence. Each abides in the other and therefore in each other, as Jesus abides in God and God in Jesus and Jesus abides in us. If we accept this we will do what is commanded of us by the covenant Jesus brought with the Kingdom of God. ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.“ (John 14:18-20). These are great promises and if you do not believe because of what Jesus has told you then believe, trust, in the deeds themselves.
Jesus lays out a rugged path for those who are to follow him and keep his commandments and proclaim the good news. There will be suffering. There will also be joy and love. He talks of persecutions and hate. How parts of the world have not listened and will cause great distress as they try to inflict their agenda. “but it will be like a woman in labor, she has pain because her time has come. But when her child is born she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world.”
Jesus has lived his life for their and our sakes and now he sees a future without, without his beloved resting on his chest, without the companionship without communion with them. He is overwhelmed with affection, he can’t stop loving his friends. Can you imagine what is happening within his own spirit as he contemplates his severance from them, “you in me and I in you” the anguish
must have been palpable. Julian of Norwich, a 14th-century theologian and anchorite writes that Jesus yearns, Christ’s longing fuels redemption he thirsts for reunion with his friend “Therefore it seems to me that this is his thirst; a love-longing to have us all together, wholly in himself for his delight, for we are not now as wholly in him as we shall be then.”
Today we read part of Jesus final prayer for and with all his followers praying that he has finished his work and that he is returning to God’s care those that he has been given to care for “They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me” (17:6-8) Jesus asks God to set them apart because they are not not part of the world but because the have heard and believed the word God should “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth” (17:17-19) setting them and those that come after for God’s service in the world.
In the next verses (John 17:20-21) of the prayer which we do not hear today John’s author states 20”I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that 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” (17:20-21) That is us that Jesus is talking about. We are the ones who believe because of the disciples words which we are meant to struggle over and live out.
This is the deacon’s part of this as we are invited to take these word into the world and return to the church with expression of the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world.” It is the charge to love and discern where communities passions meet the world needs. It is the Church that is called to bring the light back into the night of Judas and his manipulators.