Easter 7 – Given to the World

Title:Easter 7 – Given to the World

 Easter 7 (full size gallery)

A mostly cloudy day that was mild on this Ascension Sunday.

We had 20 plus another group online. We have 3 projects going – supplies for the Detention Center, UTO (started today) and the Jamaica Project. Supplies were filling up for the Center and $1,000 has been raise to date for the Jamaica Project.

The altar featured Cookie’s peonies and mock orange flowers and which complimented each other.

Today was the Sunday after the Ascension and the bulletin had an insert on it plus the sermon focused on it.

From the sermon – “This bridge of love between heaven and earth becomes obvious at the resurrection of Jesus, when God deals death a fatal blow.

“At the Ascension, death is banished forever. Jesus returns to his Father, and the bridge between heaven and earth is complete as Jesus opens the way for us in this life and the next, to live in the fullness of love at the heart of the Trinity. “]]

“Jesus prays that God will continue to set us apart, that God will sanctify us for the work that Jesus has already begun—that we, the disciples, may engage the world with love, as Jesus has taught us to do, and to follow the Way of Love.

“If we follow the Way of Love, we will be able to continue the work of Jesus to bring the kingdom of God into the world.

“Jesus is setting us apart to do his work in the world, to continue to live in the fullness of his love. ”

From the Rev. David Lose
“Just two observations on this complex portion of what we often call “the High Priestly Prayer” when Jesus’ intercedes on behalf of his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion. Both are prompted by the repetition of key words.

“The first is “world” (kosmos). According to John’s Jesus, the world is not a friendly place. It has rejected Jesus, it poses threats to Jesus’ disciples, and it is something that occasions Jesus’ request that God protect the disciples from it. Although some of John’s theology feels a bit gnostic in its portrayal of a remarkably dispassionate Jesus, I don’t think John’s thoroughly negative characterization of “the world” needs to be interpreted as an absolute rejection of the physical and mortal dimension of our lives. Rather, I think it reflects the experience of John’s community of being rejected by so many of their friends, neighbors, and synagogue members because of their belief in Jesus; their feelings of being orphaned (see Jn 14:18); and their feelings of abandonment after Jesus’ departure (and likely the death of the founder of their community).

“In short, the “world,” to the folks for whom John is writing, feels like a pretty dark place. It’s not a rejection of nature or the environment or our physicality, but rather a deep foreboding that the deck has been stacked against you and that you just can’t count on much. In the larger context of the farewell discourses and high priestly prayer (chs. 14-17), the “world” is that entity (even more than a place) that is at deep enmity with God and so poses a threat to those who worship God.

“I’m guessing that more than a few of our folks have felt like the “world” has been conspiring against them as well this year. They may not have characterized it in the religious or theological categories John employs, but it’s been a rough year. Pandemic, job loss, grief, uncertainty, new recognition of centuries old injustice, a general languishing even among those who otherwise are doing “pretty well” – these are the words and emotions that characterize so much of the last fourteen months. All of which may provide some insight into what John’s community felt and what difference Jesus’ words might make.

“The second word that stands out to me is “giving” (didomi). There’s a lot of giving going on in this prayer (and some receiving, too!). God has given Jesus his disciples, his teaching, the Word, and God’s name, to name a few. Jesus, in turn, has given these things to the disciples. While one might want to explore the theological dimensions of giving and receiving in John, I’d simply note that one of the dominant characteristics of God in John’s gospel is one who delights in giving. I wonder how many of our folks realize this. Not just after a rough year, but in general. I suspect that if you pull a few folks off the street (or even out of our pews) and ask what they think of God, they’ll likely describe something approximating an old man with a white beard, sitting up in heaven, looking down in mild disapproval with an outstretched and wagging finger ready to enforce some archaic morality code or scold us for having too much fun. In short, I think that when most people think of God, they think of a meaner version of Santa Claus, you know: “he knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good, for goodness sake!” But the God to whom Jesus prays looks nothing like this. Rather than a wagging finger of warning, you have arms reaching out to embrace and an open hand giving all good things. God, according to Jesus, gives, and gives, and gives some more. Why else come to God in prayer, sharing hopes, concerns, fears, and dreams. God listens, God cares, God gives.

“With these two words and emphases in mind, we might acknowledge, first, that yes, the world is a challenging, at times dark place. But, second and more importantly, God is not done yet, has not given Jesus’ followers and God’s children all there is.

“These two words – “world” and “giving” – come together at another place in John’s Gospel a number of chapters and, in John’s chronology, several years earlier. Jesus has just had a fairly lengthy and rather metaphorical exchange with a Pharisee and local leader who came to Jesus at night with questions about his teaching. It’s hard to tell whether Jesus’ answers were satisfactory. It’s even hard, at least at this point in the story, whether they have impacted the Pharisee at all. But near the close of their conversation, Jesus says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

“You know the verse. Yes, the world – the world at enmity with God and hostile toward God’s world – is the one to whom God gives the great gift. Why? Because nothing in or of the world can ultimately withstand the grace and mercy of God’s gift of love. Included in the scope of God’s sacrificial love, Nicodemus returns to speak on Jesus’ behalf later in the story and bury him with honor at its close. And included in that love, Jesus’ disciples and John’s community keep on keeping on and bear witness to the one who dwelt among us in grace and truth. And wrapped in that same love, we are encouraged, strengthened, called, commissioned, equipped, and sent out into that same world not simply to survive but flourish, sharing – that is, giving! – God’s love with others in word and deed as we have received it.

“I’ve shared before that I often have a hard time with some of John’s more metaphorical passages, and typically that’s most true of this passage. But this year, at least, I find in these two words anchors to remind me of who God is and what God has invited us into.”