Friday 6 May 2016

Ut omnes unum sint

On the night he was arrested, according to John’s gospel, Jesus talked to the disciples at length, something referred to by bible scholars as the Farewell Discourse.  Knowing what was to happen next, “that his hour had come to depart from this world” (John 13:1), Jesus tells the disciples - and us - some really important things.  It’s long, the Farewell Discourse, and full.  At the end of it Jesus prays to God for the disciples.  And us.

I’ll just repeat that.  At the end of a lot of important teaching, Jesus prays.  For the disciples.  And us.

And it ends with something huge: “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”  (John 17:20-23)

That they may all be one.  Maybe I’m a little biased, because those words, in latin and French, are on the United Church crest, but I think that’s huge.  Not Donald Trump huge - really huge.

I wonder, though how we hear that.  In the United Church, I think we’ve always tried to understand that as meaning we are both united and uniting, that it’s an ongoing process, this unity thing.  It means that we recognize the uniqueness of the individual and that we are all different, but we respect those differences and welcome everyone for who they are.  That, in itself, is a unifying thing, as is our unity in being followers of Jesus, as is our unity in being children of God.

Of course, that’s just my opinion.  There may be others.  And I respect that.

The thing is, people are a lot of work.  Relationships are a lot of work.  And sometimes we stop there.  But it’s bigger than that.  Jesus said “all” and “one.”

A few years ago, the church added another line to the crest in recognition of our First Nations heritage.  In Mohawk, it means “all my relations.”  That’s not just about people, it’s about the interconnectedness of all things, a sense of harmony with all forms of life.  It reminds us of our place in the web of life.  All life.

That’s huge.  Overwhelmingly huge, even.  When Jesus says “all” it’s not selective, it’s truly all.  Just as the love Jesus lives and shares isn’t selective, it’s for all.  All our relations.

And so is the “one.”  There is a power in that “all”  - it’s the “one.”  God.  That’s what all that “you’re in me, I’m in you, they’re in us” is all about.  That’s what adds “completely” to “all” and “one:” it’s our relationship with God.  Jesus prays that we may all be one in relationship with each other, all of creation and with God, recognizing that that very interconnectedness of life we talk about, the relationships we know are there, the harmony with all living things, the thread that weaves the fabric of life - this is the power of God: love.