Enduring love. The presence of the spirit with us forever. Enduring love.
It would be so nice to just want a normal day. Just once. A day which goes the way we want it to, ends the way we need it to, allows us the space to get everything we need done. Indeed, as humans we are predisposed to this sense of pattern in life, a pattern which brings us into relationship with ourselves and the world around us. Being in a relationship takes time, patience, and commitment- especially when life is uncertain, a phrase which is easier said than lived. During my final year of Seminary, I was graced with a surprising example of enduring love as an intern at the Society of St John the Evangelist in Boston. Under the direction of the guesthouse brother, I was responsible for many things. I was asked to lean into my weaknesses to provide leadership in new ways, and to reflect on my strengths in order to quiet my soul and truly hear what God was asking of me, all while resting within the pattern of monastic prayer. My only known, even to this day is prayer and prayer alone. Prayer is the place from which we begin to build our deepest and most intimate relationship, which is with God. It is unusual to hear weakness as a place from which leadership is empowered, and yet it is often our place of greatest strength because of need to be as open to humility in order to truly recognize it. Relationships call for humility, something we share with the disciples in our Gospel this morning.
There is something in the air this morning as we hear the words from Johns Gospel, a sense of weakness, something we might connect with in our own lives. In the passages which surround this pericope, or section, we continue to hear the disciples slowly losing their mind at a world and relationship which isn't going the way they thought it would. There is some fear in the room, remember we are sitting at supper with Jesus in this chapter of Johns gospel. At the table we see Jesus surrounded with the people he knows will let him down, betray him, and yet there is an intimacy in how we speaks to them again this week. There is a sense of enduring love which is willing to die for those around him. Jesus is getting his disciples ready for his departure by way of the Cross. YetI wonder how front of mind the message of “don't rock the boat,” is for the disciples, a message directly from the roman machinery of power through death. How many times have we heard that in our own lives? In our families, at work, from friends. Just fit in dear, it'll be easier to get through life. Indeed it was the style of the times with these roving preachers, as Jesus was assumed to be by many outside the circle of disciples, to be a passing fad. Those who claimed to be the messiah often found their message and disciples quickly dissipated after their death. Yet Jesus is not worried about this. It's frustrating how calm he seems to be, really. I wonder if that calmness is what is being picked up on by the disciples, and why they are questioning their ability to do this work without Jesus as we hear this morning. Jesus in this moment is both teaching and equipping a band of disciples who are focused on themselves and losing their minds at the same time. Yet Jesus persists in his relationship with them, a relationship grounded in humility.
Humility can easily take the form of self-promotion. We hear many times in scripture about how self-promotion leads to a duality of person, one which claims to be for God on the outside but which has no intimacy in prayer on the inside with God. Humility in this mornings gospel is about being willing within us to walk along side someone, and be willing to be taken somewhere new and even challenging. When we authentically open ourselves up in grounded and prayerful ways, as Christ asks us to do through the gospels, we find ourselves being taken to places where our greatest ability meets the worlds greatest need head on. I wonder where that is for you today? Where does your greatest ability meet the world’s greatest need? Christ reminds us this morning that we are not alone in this question, as it is a question worked out in relationship with him.
How Jesus chooses to walk with his disciples in the days and hours before his death are an important reminder for how we choose to live our lives in ministry to the world in which we live. He walks intimately with them. Rather than walking before or behind, Jesus stands with them, trusting in the power of the Spirit to continue the work he has begun among them after his death. In our own sense of ministry, it can feel easy for us to construct things we think people want or find the perfect cookie-cutter ministry and replicate it here in the hopes that it will revive and increase our finances, congregation, or prominence in the community around us. Rather, I would suggest, our true sense of purpose and ministry becomes known when we are walking beside someone hearing their story, their dreams, their fears, and sharing our common humanity as equals. In my blessing every week I remind us of that important witness- go back to where god has given us authority; do no one evil for evil; stand with the rejected; cloth the naked; feed the hungry; give voice to the voiceless; love the forgotten… walk with someone in the intimacy Christ shows us today.
This is the hallmark of our parish, one which is constantly seeking the relational walk alongside others;
- We walk with the Neighbourhood ministry, seeking Christ in the streets and advocating for those society has chosen to forget.We walk with our bible study, encountering Christ in scripture and wrestling with the intimacy it demands of our lives.
- We walk with our prayer team, listening for Christ within our hearts deepest yearnings.
- We walk with our fairs, socials, potlucks, and parties, intentionally creating space for people from every walk of life to come and be as equals, in a relaxed and relational way.
All of which is brought together and empowered through the Eucharist, the weekly practice of our comings and goings in life. The place in which the everyday bread and wine is taken, blessed, broken, and shared. The moment in which we are given a taste of the enduring love which is beside us forever, a love which accepts us for who we are today. In the Eucharist we are shown the truth of our lives, that we are enough. You are enough and god demonstrates that through the his enduring presence with us forever, expressed through the Spirit.
Friends, this is the crux of our gospel today. This is the hope in which we found our lives. Christ comes to us, walks next to us, speaks with us, breaks bread with us and sends us out to walk and accompany others as equals in this crazy life we call human existence. Christ this morning is reminding us, you and me, that in this ministry which we share, you and I, that we will be pulled, challenged, loved, held, and given awareness of strengths through humility, strengths we never knew we had. We will doubt, we will fail, we will succeed, and in every single moment of our lives, the Spirit of the living God is walking next to us, listening, loving, empowering, calling.
God is calling you and me into a world which needs to hear the Gospel even more than ever, and is starving for authentic relationships. God is asking us to walk along side someone in our own receptive humility, as God walks alongside us. Who are you going to walk alongside this week, as we seek to respond to God's transformational and enduring love in your life?