Sunday, May 14, 2017

May All Be One

The Apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their garments when they heard this and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, "Men, why are you doing this? We are of the same nature as you, human beings. We proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them. Acts 14:14-15

"Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him." John 14:21

“I pray not only for them but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.” (John 17:20-26)

If the Gospel has seemed somewhat repetitious Friday, Saturday, Sunday, today (and tomorrow), maybe that is because it has been. We have been focused on John 14 – the beginning of the Last Supper (or Farewell) Discourse. Although we are in the Easter/Resurrection season, the First Glorious mystery helps us to understand what Jesus was talking about over bread and wine on the Passover feast.

In the commentary and prayers delivered to eleven of his disciples immediately after the conclusion of the Last Supper in Jerusalem (the night before his execution-crucifixion), Jesus wishes peace on the disciples even though he knows peace will be the last thing they will get. He also instructs them to love one another – not just the Jews but Gentiles and Greeks as well.  Jesus starts off trying to comfort them in advance of what is about to unfold: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1A). 
If one theme unifies all these chapters it is unity -- May All Be One. Jesus connects himself to the Father. Then, he connects himself to us like a vine and branches. Finally, he asks us to connect to each other through copying his example of putting sacrificial love into action.

Despite three chapters of comments, the disciples still run and hide back in the comfort zone of a fishing boat. People need convincing both before and after Easter. In Acts, Paul and Barnabas are working to convert the Gentiles when after a miraculous healing, the pair of disciples are mistaken for pagan gods. Again, understanding is in short supply. In real-time, people did not have commentary on CNN or NPR to help unpack what just happened.

In an effort to convince his hearers that the divine power works through his word, Paul cures a person who is crippled. However, the pagan tradition of the occasional appearance of gods among human beings leads the people astray in interpreting the miracle. The incident reveals the cultural difficulties with which the church had to cope. 

Maybe they had a problem taking direction from a guy in sandals who has been wandering around the desert for three years saying he knows the “Way.”

With the hindsight of history and two thousand years of theological commentary, we understand what Jesus was telling us better than those with whom he lived. However, understanding does not always make way to action. Maybe we don’t take direction from a guy in sandals who has been wandering around the desert for two thousand years any better. Maybe the cultural contradictions of Christianity are no less today.

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