- Acts 1:6-14
- John 17:1-11
7 Easter, Year A
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A very wise professor of mine once said, (or something like this) “You know how, when we get a bunch of church people together who haven’t been together before, we spend a lot of time at the beginning “building community?”
“Well, that’s a totally wrong-headed notion. We don’t build community. We can’t build community. God creates community. God created us in community, in communion with one another. We have only to recognize that communion, that community.”
This is what comes to mind when I hear Jesus ask, “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”
Just prior to that, Jesus has said that eternal life is knowing God, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom the Father sent.
Oneness, eternal life, all these are not produced by, but are the same as knowledge of Jesus’ “Holy Father.” Eternal life isn’t a reward for knowing the Father, it is knowing the Father. Oneness isn’t a result of knowing the Father and the Son, and their oneness, it is the knowing.
That is to say, knowing the true God, the Father of Jesus, the non-retaliatory, non-punitive Father whom Jesus glorified in his life and in his death on the cross, knowing this God is the end of human life, it’s teleological purpose. One who knows this Father “never dies” (Jn 11:26) and so is free to lay down her life rather than try to “save it.” One who knows the Father and the Son sees no division, knows the oneness of those whom the Father has given the Son, and does not need to build fences between people as though these perceived divisions had some ontological reality.
Christianity is presently in the midst of a great period of fence building. Persons on both sides of the idiopathic divide have drawn up boundaries and started heaving verbal grenades toward the other side. One side says, “You have gone too far! If you do not come back, you are no longer in communion with us!” The other says, “You have stayed too long in the same place. If you do not move forward with us, we will walk alone. You are no longer in communion with us!”
There is no knowledge of the Father in these statements, only a falling back into the familiar, comfortable “world” of the scapegoat. Only the Holy Spirit, whose coming we celebrate in another week, is capable of prying these scales from our eyes, enabling us to see the unity we have, but to which our behavior gives the lie. Jesus prayer rings loud in our ears, “Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
There are no pressing issues this week.
The great temptation, here, of course, is to say, “All those who don’t agree with us, who don’t see the unity that we have in the Father, are not with us!” To be faithful to the Gospel, we seek to avoid that error at any cost.
Rather, we can simply speak of the Goodness of a God who has made all things as parts of One, whose eye sees and loves us all, but as members of one body, not as divided individuals. We speak not of accomplishing re-union, but of seeing past the false divisions to a pre-existent union.
Our arguments will not cease, our differences of heart and mind will not go away all at once, but if we allow ourselves, and lead our congregations to look over the crest of the hill into the promised land, they, and we, will see a land rich with milk and honey, a safe place within which to argue and debate, a place protected by the love of the Father, a love that binds us to one another despite our petty hatreds.
A friend of mine taught me to address these difficulties in a new way. I used to want to say, “But that isn’t Christian.” This just suggests another division. He taught me to say, “But that isn’t Jesus.”