Parting Gifts

huddle
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lululemonathletica/3907605783/">Lululemon Athletica</a>

John 17:6-19

“I’ve introduced you to the earthlings you entrusted to me. They belonged to you. You entrusted them to me. They’ve been true to your calling, and now they know that what’s mine is yours. What you told me, I’ve told them. They’ve taken it to heart, and they know that I derive from you, that you sent me.

“I’m asking for their sake. Not the world’s sake, but for those who belong to you, who you’ve entrusted to me. They’re mine and yours, yours and mine. They’ve done me proud. Now that I’m no longer able to stay on earth, but since I’m coming to you and they must stay behind, I’m asking that you protect them. Make them as much a part of each other as I am a part of you.

“While I was with them, I protected them on your behalf. I guarded them so nobody was lost – except one, and he was a hopeless case – and in doing so I fulfilled the prophesy.

“But now, I’m coming to you, and I say these things before I go so they may rejoice in each other. I gave them your instruction, and the world hates them. They’re outcasts, just like me. I’m not asking you to exempt them from trouble, but to protect them from evil. They’re outcasts, just like me. Rededicate them to the truth. Tell them the truth. Just as you sent me to the world, I send them to the world. For their sake, I rededicate myself now, so they may also be rededicated to the truth.”

This is Jesus’ last will and testament.

But instead of dividing his earthly belongings among his followers, Jesus gives them each other. And he gives them his blessing: “You’ve done me proud, now the world’s a tough place, so stick together.”

It’s all he has to give. And it’s all that really matters. In John’s understanding of Jesus, the divine word of God made flesh, the only way to see God is in the commitment to be true to the person enfleshed with you in community. The only way to experience the joy of the divine is by rejoicing in one another. The only way to get to the truth is to find it in one’s neighbor. Even one’s own health and safety depends on the well-being of the other who stands in your presence.

As Jesus and God are connected, so is all of life. It’s the Om of Jesus.

The Love Paradox

face in square reflections
Image credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/thescw/5964542728/">Sweet Cheeks Willie</a>

John 15:9-17

I loved you just like God loved me. Stay in my love.

This is how you stay in my love: do what I say. I do what God says. That’s how I stay in God’s love.

(I’ve told you all this so my happiness can be your happiness. Be completely happy.)

And this is what I’m telling you to do: Love each other, the way I’ve loved you. The ultimate love is to give your life for your friends. If you do this, you’re my friends. Not just my employees with no vested interest in what the employer is doing, but friends with a personal stake in, and a first hand knowledge of, the business.

You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you. Now go and do what’s worthwhile, something enduring. On my account, God will give you what you need to make it happen. Do it for the love of one another.

It’s been said, “Love is a verb.”

In this passage, it is both a noun and a verb. It’s received and stayed in (perhaps even basked in) as a noun, and it is given as a verb. It is something both felt and done.

On either end of the love transaction, though, in this passage, what is paramount is that love is something that, both in the giving and the receiving, requires a personal stake.

You can be good to your employees. You can be a good employee. But you can only love a friend.

You can be in a business for the money, or to make a living. But you can only be in love when you’re committed to a project or a person with your life.

Noun or verb, Jesus says love as a personal stake means two things:

First, you can only really be happy – completely happy – when you’re in love. Which is to say, you can only really find that which truly fulfills you when you’re willing to risk giving yourself away.

Second, the project or person worthy of that kind of personal devotion isn’t something that you decide upon. There is no “going away to find yourself.” Rather, it’s something (or someone) that chooses you. It is not finding, but allowing yourself to be found that matters.

The Real Network

sphere of lights
Image credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/3143417443/">Kevin Dooley</a>

John 15:1-8

I’m the real network, and my creator is the network administrator. Wherever there is a dead node in the network, she disconnects it. She tunes the nodes that are useful, to make them even more powerful. What I’ve told you has already made you good conductors. Just remain a part of me, as I’m a part of you. A node on its own is just a wire, unless it’s part of a network. By yourself, without me, you won’t get very far. I’m the network. You’re the nodes. Those who remain in the network can accomplish anything, but outside the network, you can’t do anything. Outside of me, you’re just so much scrap wire off to the trash heap, gathered up and sent to the smelter to be recycled. If you stay with me, and hang onto my words, whatever you wish for will be possible for you. My creator is proven right when you accomplish great things by really following me.

In Jesus’ original agrarian setting, a vine was a tangled mess of stuff that only grew and thrived when it stayed connected. There was no sense in pulling the vine apart to try to make it more orderly, or to understand exactly how it worked. It just “all hangs together.”

In our world, we love to talk about networks. We gather for “networking” sessions. We are wired together through tangles of communication lines we can’t make heads or tails of. But it works. It works because in some way larger than we can understand or keep track of, it “all hangs together.”

In the 4th gospel, Jesus claims to be that real network that connects us with the resources we need to accomplish anything. If the idea of a single person being an entire network seems strange, it is no less strange to us than it was to those who first heard the concept. How can one person be going in so many incomprehensible directions at once?

But, in the theological understanding of this gospel, Jesus the person is always the incarnate logic of the Universe. If you understand and take part in what Jesus the person is about, you are part of that universal logic. You can move with it, or you can get swept into the recycle bin of history by it. Your choice.

Powerful? You bet.

If they were keeping you in a box…

glowing sky
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicholas_t/3400702016/">Nicholas T.</a>

John 20:1-2

Before dawn on Sunday, Mary Magdalene went to the grave and saw that the stone had been removed from the grave. So she ran and told Peter and the other student (the one Jesus loved), “They’ve taken Jesus from the grave, and we don’t know where they’ve taken him.”

Why is it that whenever Jesus isn’t where we expect him, we immediately conclude that someone – but who? – has stolen Jesus from us?

Someone has stolen Jesus from the church. The church has stolen Jesus for it’s own institutional justification. The right/left wing has hijacked Jesus for their own purposes. Someone has made off with our precious Jesus.

If Jesus is alive, then it seems that we ought to let Jesus be Jesus. A living person goes places. A living person makes unexpected choices. Sometimes even choices we disagree with. A living person does things for that person’s own reasons.

So it is with Jesus.

Next time Jesus isn’t where you expect him to be, instead of assuming someone has kidnapped him, consider that he may have just decided to step out of the box we like to keep him in to get some fresh air.