St. Mary Nanoose Bay
June 2, 2019 Sermon
It might be difficult for some of us to remember that moment when we screwed up our courage and told a special someone, “I love you,” for the first time. I remember that moment quite clearly, feeling light headed and that my heart might burst through my chest. I was not only afraid of the unlikely prospect I would be rejected – I had waited way too long for that to be a real possibility – but I was afraid of the commitment I was making. Those three words, I knew, would launch me onto a trajectory that would be difficult to change. Once I uttered those words, I could not say, “Well, I didn’t really mean that,” or “I changed my mind,” without creating suffering for the person I supposedly loved.
So, as I say, I waited until I was as sure as I thought I could be so that I would stating the obvious, not making a leap of faith.
And here I am all these years later, well down the path of that trajectory, in a relationship that has been very fulfilling and life giving.
Now you are probably assuming that I am speaking about my commitment to, and life with, my husband, Jim. And you would be right.
But the same could be said for my relationship with God and the church.
For decades I had been “spiritual, not religious,” exploring different traditions and committing to none. I danced around Christianity for a long time until I finally decided to commit. And once committed, the door opened and my relationship with God and Jesus became real to me. And my relationship with and in the divine, propelled my life in ways I could never have imagined or hoped for.
The German philosopher Goethe said, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.”
We can have all kinds of ideas about someone, or about God, but until we choose to enter into relationship, we are on our own; on the outside looking in. Safe, in control, seemingly in charge of our own destiny.
Today’s gospel reading from John is all about relationship. In it, Jesus is assuring his followers that “knowing” or “acknowledging” God, makes it possible that “the love with which you (God) have loved me be in them, and I in them.” Such mystical sounding words yet so clearly about being in relationship, not standing back and spouting ideas, ideologies or theology. But simply, and profoundly, being in relationship. With all the tensions, problems, tenderness, joy and mystery that come with relationship.
When my youngest son was quite small, his philosophical tendencies were already becoming evident. One day, he was probably 5 years old or so, we were walking hand in hand when he asked, “Mama, what is love?” Well, I had to think about that one for a while. And then this idea came to me and I shared it with him, “Can you feel the little pocket of air between our hands?” He nodded. “That little space that isn’t you or me, and seems really small and not important, that contains the immense love you and I share. It comes from our hearts. And love fills that space between us, even when we’re not touching, even when we’re far apart.”
I’m still not sure what that answer fully means. But he seemed satisfied. At least for the time being. He still asks questions like that!
Too often we objectify God as though God were an elderly man sitting in judgment, far away from us, in another realm. Even if we don’t do that consciously, we often think of God as separate from us. We are seeking God as if God were somehow playing hide and seek, and once we’re good, really good, God will let Godself be found.
In this reading today from John, we get a totally different presentation of God. We have Jesus; the human manifestation of God speaking about a magnetic love that infuses everything. Everything, everyone is connected in this love, regardless of physical distance. Heaven and earth are one; love has existed since before the foundation of the world. This man, who is God is human form, comes to us to tell us that we are not separate from God, that we can become “completely one.” With him, with God, with each other. And in this is God’s glory. Not separate from us, but with our participation and engagement. In being in relationship!
Jesus came to make God’s name, God’s true nature, known to us. Our response is to acknowledge God. To say “yes!” And how do we do this? By uttering a few words and being saved? Or by entering into the mystery of love and allowing the One, who created us in love, for love, to engage with us, to love us into fullness of life and beyond? And, if we say “yes!” in response, can we sing out in thanksgiving that it is indeed love that powers the universe? And in our daily lives share the good news and care for neighbour and stranger to bring God’s mercy and justice more fully into the world?
Come to the table this morning, allow yourself to be fed by the One who welcomes you, who loves you and asks you to go out and feed others, in turn.