St. Mary Nanoose Bay
May 17, 2020
“They were yours, and you gave them to me…”
Did you notice? In our short passage from John’s gospel this morning, the word “give” (“gave” or “given”) was used 9 times.
What is necessary for “giving” to be successful? It involves “receiving.” So there must be a giver and a receiver.
I know I’ve used this image before but it is so illustrative of the kind of giving that the reading from John is referring to. It comes from Marshall Rosenberg, the creator of Nonviolent or Compassionate Communication. Imagine a little child feeding a hungry duck. Who is giving? Who is receiving? The child feels joy, the duck is nourished. The duck’s hunger makes it possible for the child to give and the duck’s receiving delights the child and gives it joy. This wonderful exchange serves everyone involved.
Jesus talks about the impact of this kind of giving and receiving when he asks his Father that his disciples “may have my joy made complete in themselves.” This selfless giving is the basis of the kind of love we are created for and capable of. This kind of giving melts barriers and makes life dynamic and simple, an exchange, like our in breath and our out breath. We are invited into mystical relationship – “so that they may be one, as we are one.” There is a wholeness, a holiness, a unity in this relationship.
Everything Jesus receives, he gives to his followers. Not only to them, but to us. As God gives, Jesus gives – this is their nature - for…"they were yours, and you gave them to me."
Jesus prays to his Father – “All mine are yours, and yours are mine….” –Can we hear that it is we who are included in this divine exchange? How can we doubt this invitation to love and belonging?!
Jesus reassures his disciples that belonging to him and his Father won’t end with his upcoming death. In fact the relationship will be enhanced. “But now I am coming to you (the Father), and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.”
For us, on the other side of Easter, we know this to be true. We can know we are included, if we choose to see. We can know the joy of this divine relationship, if we choose to do.
And if we choose to be in this holy relationship, we accept the mission contained in it - “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”
Inclusion, belonging, unconditional love, purpose, meaning, service.
These are incredible gifts. And they are ours. “Give,” “gave,” “given.” Our part is to be open to what has already been given. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.
I think this is the ticket to our way through this pandemic. What do I mean? We need to focus on what we have been given, and are being given. Because when our focus is on the banquet table, we can relax and know that we are being taken care of in the most amazing ways.
When we focus on what is missing from our lives; on the things, people and experiences we think we are lacking, we imagine we are not being taken care of because we are looking in the wrong direction. Our failure to see correctly makes us imagine and create scarcity. We become uptight, we don’t experience joy, we feel left out, alone.
I have a little plaque in my kitchen that reads “Joy is not in things, it is in us.”
Does anyone come to mind when you read those words? Someone who is, or was, content with seemingly little? Someone who appreciates the small and simple things in life? Someone who isn’t incessantly in pursuit of more, more, more – relationships, stuff, experiences?
I think of my friend Grace, a nun, who regularly expressed appreciation for things I would take for granted. Being in her presence felt like time slowed down. I would notice things I usually never paid attention to. Her joy was contagious as she pointed out a flower, or spider’s web, or a bird’s song or took time to interact with my then small son. Now that I think of it, Grace was like a child herself. Not childish, but very present, without expectation, enjoying each moment. Her life wasn’t easy, by any stretch of the imagination, but she knew and cultivated joy.
Not everyone will know one of our former parishioners who passed away several years ago now. Babs would pray and through her words, bring you directly into the moment with a profound appreciation for the things we rarely notice, or take for granted – the colour of a flower, or the scent of a rain washed morning. She had the gift of prayer because she was able to receive the blessing of the moment. And in praying out loud, she brought into an appreciation of the moment; of God’s presence; God’s gifts.
There are so many distressing things going on in the world right now. There is so much that is unknown about what the future holds. How we walk into this unknown future is paramount.
We need to be grounded, rested, healthy. We need to be able to let go of what is unnecessary and hold onto what is essential. We can’t know what will happen, but we can strengthen our relationship with the One who is walking with us.
Our need is God’s opportunity to provide. Our gratitude is our gift to God. Inner joy is the evidence of being loved. And love sets us free from fear.
The relationship is a dynamic.
We listen to the news, we worry, we feel afraid, we constrict and project the worst onto the future and feel alone.
Then “something” calls us back into relationship. Perhaps we read a passage in Scripture, or see a rainbow or a stunning sunset, or a friend calls and reminds us of the Good News. And our heart relaxes again, our fears crumble and we feel gratitude for the blessings in our lives; big and small.
And so it is, over and over, as we discipline ourselves to stop during the day to breathe in deeply, to appreciate the fact that we are able to breathe. And to remind ourselves that when the day and time comes when we won’t be able to take another breath, there is One who will be there with us; One bound to us in eternal love.
The future will have its challenges. And as we have been praying all these mornings at 10am – “(Oh God, make us the equal of whatever lies ahead. Bring us courage to endure what cannot be avoided, for Your will is health and wholeness. You are God and we need You. Your love is never changing; and in that lies our future.”)
For as Jesus is praying today to his Father, we too can pray, knowing that we are not alone, we never have been, and knowing this, we can find joy in the moment, see life yearning in the moment, and rest in the knowledge that we are loved, and we are part of this incredible web of life and love.
And for this life, and for this love, for this community of St. Mary’s, we give You thanks, Holy One. Amen.