Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Easter 5A

John 14:1-14

1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going." 5Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" 6Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." 8Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." 9Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father'? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

As I've been saying... John is the Gospel of Abiding Presence.

In contrast to John, despite each of them conveying at least some unique content and a particular perspective, you could say the synoptic gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke all bring us law and gospel. We can consider the three sections of the canon of the Hebrew scriptures: Torah / Pentateuch; Prophets; Writings (that include Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, Job, Ruth, Daniel, Song of Solomon...) and roughly place the synoptics within the traditions of Pentateuch and Prophets, the gospel according to John's community alongside the Writings.

The worldview of John's gospel opens with "in the beginning" and tells us about the pre-existent divine logos that's about order, wisdom, prudence, strength, discernment, knowledge, discretion, honor, well-being, shalom... God's essence that fills and permeates all creation. Similar to the Hebrew tradition of wisdom literature, John's community offers ways to live faithfully and fruitfully with speech and action that make a difference in the world—"God's abiding presence" in creation, rather than the articulation of law and gospel we find in the synoptics and in the apostle Paul's undisputed epistles. Although Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God, always is enfleshed, incarnate, embodied, John's community especially makes a major point of that reality.

Easter is Fifty Days; the fifth Sunday of Easter is day 29 / 50. To some extent, for the course of the church's year of grace, the people who assembled the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) that we generally use for our texts, follow the trajectory of Jesus's life. However, today is day 29 of Easter, meaning we've already journeyed through Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and the astonishment of Eastered resurrection, but the scene we have today from John's gospel is the Upper Room of Maundy Thursday and Jesus's farewell discourse (speech, counsel, advice, "talk") to his disciples.

Discussion: how reassuring it is that Jesus tells us of his ongoing presence, and that he will prepare places for each of us. Note: He already has done so!

How wild to be revisiting Maundy Thursday, the place and time where Jesus just had washed his disciples' feet?! More than a calendar month after the day of resurrection?! We considered what the greater works Jesus referred to might be. I piggy-backed on the former Linda Vista PCUSA pastor's asking, "Where were you born? St. Mary's Hospital? Presbyterian Central? Lutheran General? Where did you go to school? Whitworth? Notre Dame? Concordia? Holy Rosary Elementary?" Those works of health and education are significant ones. A participant mentioned the mighty work of forgiveness, that permits all parties involved to continue living without getting irrevocably stuck in the past.

For John's community, resurrection isn't quite the end of the story; in a sense, ascension trumps even resurrection. As persons who live "in Christ," we also share in his ascendancy. I briefly described ascendancy as authority, sovereignty, stewardship over creation, over life, but didn't go on to quote the Heidelberg Catechism's response to "But why are you called a Christian?": Because by faith I share in Christ's anointing, and I am anointed to reign with Christ over all creation for all eternity.

As we learn from the gospel according to John, in Christ Jesus and in the power of the HS, we are part of God's abiding presence throughout creation.

For Easter 6 we'll continue Jesus' farewell discourse with John 14:15-21.

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