If you read through the New Testament, reading Matthew, Mark, and Luke, when you get to John you will uncover something different from the Synoptic (or forming a summary) Gospels. John tells no birth stories, beginning with “In the Beginning was the Word and The Word was with God, and The Word was God”. John reads like an ancient passion play, centering around Holy Week. In chapter two, Jesus cleanses the Temple pouring the money changers coins on the floor. John’s Jesus appears more born of heaven than born of Mary. Jesus’ halo glows a little brighter- as the glory of God passes through Jesus like light illuminating a stained glass window. The Word shimmers with images and icons: Born Again, Abide, Bear Fruit, Living Water, Bread of Life, True Vine or “This is my Body Given for you”. The words beckon us to slow down and gaze heavenward. John’s Jesus delivers long monologues that often leave the disciples, the chief priests, and modern readers asking: “What does that mean? We don’t understand what (Jesus) is talking about?” (John 16:18)
John’s Jesus offers “I AM” selfies. “I AM” is the name that God gives Moses: “Tell them, I AM sent you”. (Exodus 3) In the Synopics Jesus askes, “who do you say I am?” In John, Jesus declares: “I AM the Living Water, I AM the Bread Of Life, I AM Sent from Above, I AM the Light of the World, I AM the Gate of The Sheepfold, I AM the Good Shepherd, I AM God’s Son, I AM the Resurrection and the Life, I AM (correctly called) Teacher and Lord, I AM the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. I AM in the Father and the Father is in me, I AM the True Vine.” Gaze on those icons. Let the Light pass through them. And know that if our passage leaves you asking “what does this mean?”, that questioning might be exactly what John hoped for!
To talk about prayer, worship, or gazing upon icons seems out of touch with the gritty brokenness of 2020. Perhaps, we need to step back from the newscycle.Worship reminds us of Whose we are. Awe realigns us. Our world needs realignment. Deeds do change hearts, but transformed hearts give us courage to change our lives.
The twenty six verse High Priestly Prayer in John 17 begins with “Jesus looked up to heaven.” John’s Jesus seems to always be looking up to heaven. We are just listening in.
Jesus looking to heaven prays:
I pray they (who one day will claim my name) will be One,
as You (Holy One) are in me and I Am in You.
I pray that they will be in Us (Creator, Comforter, & Christ)
I’ve given them Your glory (the shimmering radiance of God)
so that they can be One
just as We (Creator, Comforter and Christ) are One.
I’m in them, and You are in Me
so that they can be made perfectly One.
And then(with Oneness) the world will know that You sent me
and that You love them
just as You love me.
Three times in three verses,with many personal pronouns, Jesus prays that we “might be One”. “One” speaks of relationships. Gaze on that iconic Word: One: Oneness, Unity, Universality, Wholeness, without division, without separation, whole, together. That is catholic with a little “c” meaning not Roman but “all embracing!” Christ prays that we might be One.
How can we who find ourselves so divided become One? How do we find Oneness? Some try to force unity by all manner of argument, anger, or conquest. That is oppression not Oneness. There is no fear in Unity. ( 1 John 4) As a small child, I had a coach that frightened me at times cursing us, kicking us and spitting towards us. We all obeyed and looked like a cohesive unit. We were not One. When I miraculously intercepted a pass and rumbled into the endzone for a touchdown, my coach’s embrace froze my celebration. “There is no fear in Love, Perfect Love drives out fear!” (1 John 4).”
Some confuse Love with affinity or similarity. When “two become one” in marriage they do not lose their diversity. After 32 years, Connie only snickered when she asked why I ordered dental tools, asking, “Are you planning to clean your own teeth?” I was a bit hurt by that, but she was relieved that the scrappers were for a geological fossil project. Love does not need sameness. In Love God made each of us uniquely beautiful. TheTrinity exists: three in One. Creator, Comforter, and Christ hold an inseparable Oneness and diverse experience. Christ is born of Mary, takes refuge In Egypt, grows up, knows hunger, provides healthcare, suffers on the cross, dies, and then rises to commision Magdalene to preach. No one tucked the Creator into bed, taught God the Hebrew alphabet, or spat upon the Almighty’s face. Oneness flows from Love. Love rejoices in difference: finding unity amid uniqueness “There are varieties of gifts, services, and activities, but (One) God activates all of these gifts in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of (God’s) Spirit for the common good…. There is One Body and God arranged each one of us, just as God chose” (1 Corinthians 12) Love celebrates, dwells in, and transcends differences. Love is the uniting bond.
We can be One and angry with each other. We can be One and divided and even alienated. My dad never stopped loving one of his alcoholic brothers. Love does not demand reciprocrosity or a mutual exchange of Love. Dr Martin Luther King JR wrote: “I am very happy that Jesus did not say ‘like your enemies”, because it is pretty difficult to like some people. Like is sentimental, an affectionate emotion. I can’t like anyone who would bomb my home… exploit me… trample over me… threaten to kill me. But Jesus reminds us, love is greater than liking. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill towards all people.” (Love, Law and Civil Disobedience)
On the cross Jesus incarnates God’s Oneness with us. Jesus pleads for those who mock and spit on him, “Father Forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus prays that we might dwell in that Oneness- the Love of God within us. Love is not rooted in another’s person’s response to our Love. If we might dare to attempt living within God’s Oneness (Loving God and our neighbors as ourselves), then perhaps the world might hear Christ’s message of God’s unifying Love for us and God’s deep love for the world.
Jesus prays “that we might be One” , entering into relationship with God’s unitifying Oneness. Love and Oneness are holy mysteries. Love is not formulamatic or scientific. Oneness is not a sociology method or a study in group dynamics. Only Love can resist evil and Love the evildoer. Only Love can hate oppression and long to heal the oppressed and the oppressor. The world will crucify Love again and again, and on the Third day- Love will rise again, and again, and again. I assert with Doctor King, that Love (strong and demanding) is ultimately the only answer to humkind’s problems. (Where Do We Go from Here)
So let us pray
Creator, Christ, Comforter
Sent from Above
Light of the World
Son of Mary
Child of God
One with humanity
One with God
Bread of Life
Resurrection and Life
The Way, The Truth, The Life
Body of Christ, given for you.
Cup of Salvation,poured out for us all.
Makes us One
with all your people on earth
and with all the company of heaven.
Lift up our hearts
Change our lives.