The journey to the depth of union, however, is at the heart of the quest for all world faiths. The hundred day journey from The Mount of Transfiguration to Pentecost peaks this Sunday with Jesus’ prayer for unity that all who follow the Way may be one, even as God the Father and he are one, that the whole world may “believe” (that is, follow the Way).
Such is the Christian discernment of the quest – that the Way has been revealed and is acquired by union with the Creator through an engaged relationship with the Christ, empowered by his risen presence at large among them and within them, and soon, through Pentecost, to empower them for the way ahead.
Looks like I drafted this 11 months ago but never posted it! It’s strangely prescient. Soon after I wrote these words we were plunged into a collective housing and financial security crisis as victims of fraud and regulatory negligence. With fellow survivors, we are campaigning towards the conclusion of a heroic journey marked by drama, tragedy, comedy and startling revelations. Vindication, restitution and prevention are the boons we seek. Onward and upward!
There is something about mileposts – or way markers – whichever one prefers. Passing them can mark an exhilarating achievement or bring to the fore awareness of a looming background of existential dread. For me, this year marks 40 years of soul partnership in marriage with Jenny, 45 years since ordination as a Churches of Christ minister and 70 years since being born onto this beautiful and challenging planet. There will be celebrations, but I look over my shoulder and perceive the black clouds of failed ventures, broken dreams and unrealised ideals. The numbers 40 and 70 have spiritual significance in our ancient sacred texts. They signify liminal spaces, unfamiliar borders between what was and what is to come. Hence the children of Israel cross into a Promised Land after 40 years in the wilderness, honing the temperament and culture necessary for the transition from slavery to nationhood. Jesus emerges from 40 days of wilderness preparation for world-changing ministry and mission. Notional borders are crossed. 70 years, of course, is the biblical span of years allotted to us (80 if you’re worthy), marking the nearness of the liminal space we traverse from this life. It’s right to mark the dread, and wonder if it might instead be awe, the apprehension of something far bigger, wilder and all-embracing of anything we’ve ever experienced.
There are things I heard and believed in my youth that I see quite differently from this high up the mountain on life’s journey.
Take some sound bites (as often employed)) from the passage set for the fifth Sunday of Easter – John 14:1-14 – part of the monologue presented as Jesus’ final conversation with his disciples! Just three will do for now:
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places… I go to prepare a place for you … (verses 2,3) Frequently quoted at funeral services, sometimes offering an assured view of the afterlife beyond the present experience of those now living.
Jesus said … “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (verse 6) Often used as a slam-dunk defense against views that question a narrow perspective on personal salvation.
I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. (verses 13,14) A frequently heard admonishment for persistence in prayer that raises expectations that are sometimes naive and superficial.
Further up the mountain, we see that this passage appears on the calendar that celebrates the Christian story as told near the culmination of the pilgrims’ 100 day journey that begins high on the Mount of Transfiguration, and climaxes at the celebration of the feast of Pentecost. The whole journey is bathed in the Christian experience of union with Christ, hence the frequent references to the Gospel according to John.
In union with Christ, the “dwelling places” are always now, no matter what. This is an eternal truth.
The Christ who dwells within and who is always accessible to those who are fully awake and receptive daily reveals the way. the truth and the life as we negotiate and transact our life relationships.
The Christ who dwells within prays our prayers – we cannot ask for that which is not in line with what is “in his name” or character. Prayer is a relationship rather than a shopping list.
It is no accident that this passage follows closely on the Good Shepherd passage (John 10) from the previous Sunday. Again, when we have the eyes to see, we can see this truth in places we have never dreamed of looking before. When we have the ears to hear, the most simple and mundane conversations carry its depth.
This week’s challenge was to respond to an invitation from Wembley Downs Uniting Church to prepare and present an online service for the fourth Sunday of Easter, typically Good Shepherd Sunday. So wrestling with PowerPoint and video-clips, plus sitting in rabbinic style while preaching into my computer, the final result can be seen by clicking here.
Or here is part, a simple reflection on John 10:1-10 if you are so inclined. I’m not as angry as I look!