The Rev. Mary Elizabeth Pratt-Horsley
"That we may be one" - John 17:1-11
In today’s Gospel Jesus prays for his followers and for us…“Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. "
What does it look like when we at St. Ben’s are “one” – as Jesus and God the Creator are one?
It looks like this: the parish community welcomes with acceptance and hospitality--- and not just tolerance --- a wide diversity of people – of different economic and political backgrounds, to be sure … but also the individual who is physically or mentally challenged … the individual who marches to a different drummer … the elderly and frail … and the young and boisterous… those who might have questions and doubts…
And it looks like this… beyond these doors… through our actions… the hungry are fed… the homeless are affirmed and supported … through our voices – injustices in our communities and in our world are named and denounced…
How do these actions and attitudes lead to oneness among us in our community and as we interact with the world around us?
To understand that, we need to look at how Jesus and God the Creator/Father are one…
They are one in substance : We say it on most Sundays in the creed : Jesus is co-eternal and “of one Being with the Father”. Although not of one being in exactly the same way as God and Jesus are… we are of one human substance with our sisters and brothers in this community and around the world… To be one …means to recognize this connection and to practice solidarity.
Jesus and the Father are one in their love towards all creation : For us to truly be one… we must try to love creation as they do: When faced with a choice that will affect or have consequences for our brothers and sisters in this community or beyond these doors … When faced with a choice that will affect our environment and the non-human creatures given into our care… we are called to think carefully, and to decide, to the best of our ability, on the most life-giving choice. Look at page 6 of your bulletin today… just above the Holy, holy, holy… It says that with the angels, we give glory to God … “giving voice to every creature under heaven…” We are to be those who offer our voices for those who have no voice … those who have been silenced … we are to speak up for creation whose voice cannot be heard…
The decisions we make in the polling booth … the decisions we make as we open our checkbooks … the decisions we make as we schedule our daily activities …can all show the love for creation that is characteristic of the oneness of God.
Jesus and God the Creator are one in values and priorities… this means justice for the oppressed and abused, comfort for those suffering and in pain, transformation of difficult and deadly circumstances. God is constantly at work to bring wholeness… and healing… wherever they are needed in the created world.
Many of us read and discussed the book Three Cups of Tea recently. It tells the amazing story of how Greg Mortensen, an experienced mountain climber – saw a need and opportunity as he was recovering from a climbing accident in a small Pakistani village. He didn’t set out to “do good” for others … But within the circumstances of the village – he recognized that need and opportunity … and he worked tirelessly, and amidst the threat of great personal danger – to bring schools to the impoverished villages in the mountainous regions of Northern Pakistan. He might not say he was doing it for spiritual reasons, but clearly, he modeled oneness with others across cultural boundaries, love for creation, and an effort to bring transformative wholeness – all aspects of God’s love and purpose for humankind and the for created world.
This past Thursday, the church around the world celebrated the Feast of the Ascension… when the Risen Christ returned to God the Father, following his post-Easter time with his followers. It is described in our first lesson this morning.
While the followers are saddened – clearly it was necessary for Christ to go back to God the Creator. Because Jesus had experienced the fullness of human life – including joy, love, sorrow and suffering – when he returned to eternity - he was able to expand God the Creator’s understanding of what it meant to be human – of what love and wholeness in human life could be.
And at his Ascension, the Risen Christ promises to send the Holy Spirit to them…and to us…to guide…to strengthen… to energize… enabling us to be his witnesses in Los Osos …America… and “to the ends of the earth”. It is our love… and our being in solidarity with others… that will enable us to fully live in to that charge… And it is God, who will take our individual strengths, and even our weaknesses … and use them in grace filled ways to transform the world.
God and Jesus “being one” meant that they understood their relationship and love for one another to mean that the experience of one affects the other – changes and transforms the other.
If I am one with you, I am concerned about your well-being – I freely affirm your gifts and good qualities… and give you my support when you are going through difficult times…
When I think about this, two recent movies come to mind :
In the movie Waitress, Jenna is a waitress in a small diner in the South. Her great joy is making unbelievably creative and delicious pies… which reflect her emotional state of mind… such as her “kick in the pants pie”, made with cinnamon and custard.. She hopes one of her pie creations will win the $25,000 prize at a local fair, so she can finally leave Earl, her husband. He is possessive, controlling, self-centered, jealous, and emotionally stunted. When she becomes pregnant, Earl is obsessed with the idea that she is going to love the baby more than she loves him. As the pregnancy goes on, Jenna creates a “Pregnant, Miserable, Self-Pitying Loser Pie consisting of lumpy oatmeal with fruitcake mashed in. Flambé of course...” But her special pie is the strawberry chocolate oasis…
Andy Griffith plays Joe, the crochety owner of the diner. When Jenna says her strawberry chocolate pie is “just a pie” , Joe exclaims:
Just a pie! It's downright expert. A thing of beauty... how each flavor opens itself, one by one, like a chapter in a book. First, the flavor of an exotic spice hits you... Just a hint of it... and then you getflooded with chocolate, dark and bittersweet like an old love affair…
Despite his crabbiness, Joe affirms Jena, stands by her in a multitude of ways … and convinces her to believe in herself… and despite setbacks… to go for her dream… He recognizes her gifts and potential… His oneness with her … in the most difficult of times … enables her to keep hope … and carry on…moving towards wholeness.
The second movie, Lions for Lambs, was not a particularly good movie… but the character played by Robert Redford demonstrates a kind of oneness and solidarity that gives us food for thought. His character has been a college Political Science professor for 30 years… In several scenes we find him spending a lot of time in his office, trying to convince one student to rise to his potential and apply himself. The obviously intelligent student had been eager at the beginning of the semester, but then became disillusioned by the hypocrisy of the political process.
He asks the professor: “Why are you still teaching after all these years…? You know they say that those who can, do … and those who can’t…teach”. The professor answers him: “I teach for selfish reasons.. I seem to have had a gift for recognizing talent and potential in certain students through the years… Using that gift and convincing them of their potential … has made everything else worth it”.
We can be one … in love and relationship … in understanding and support … one as Christ and God the Father are one… here in our local surroundings or on the other side of the world.
We can love and support our brother or sister who is going through difficult times … by prayer… by action … by our presence … We can recognize and affirm the gifts and talents that others possess, giving them hope…
And beyond our local communities, we , like Greg Mortensen of Three Cups of Tea, can be open to perceive the need of others in difficult circumstances … and we can muster our energy and resources to work for wholeness and the transformation of their circumstances.
In the book “All Desires Known” the collect for this Sunday, the Sunday after the Ascension says: “You withdraw from our sight… that you may be known by our love.”
In the absence of Jesus’ physical body… we are to make him known. Others will come to know how they are loved by God…through us.
Labels: Sermon The 7th Sunday after Easter