‘Breath Maker, Bread Giver’ Doug Norris (based on John 17 (see text at end)
Here are some of the moving parts set out in front of us today.
Ascension Day was this past week. This church tradition marks the 40 days after Easter when Jesus was ‘taken up’ into heaven : he was here, then he died, then his people saw him again, and then he was gone from sight. That’s one thing.
And, we have this very moving prayer of Jesus in the gospel of John, his prayer for his people. This is just prior to his death and it is part of a very long section – which since it was written down 80 years later probably reflects the ideas of the Church which has now formed, as much as the exact words of Jesus, but it is a moving and emotional plea. God, take care of my people. That’s a second thing.
And of course it’s Mother’s Day. A much more recent tradition. In 1905, Ann Jarvis wanted honour her mother who had been a peace activist and had nursed and cared for wounded soldiers on both sides in the American Civil War. It took many years and eventually this became an official recognition. (In 1908, the U.S. Congress rejected a proposal to make Mother’s Day an official holiday, joking that they would also have to proclaim a “Mother-in-law’s Day.)
My mom, who is here today, is worried. Because I ride a motorcycle. 40 years ago I had a bike while I lived in the UK and she had trouble sleeping at night. So 5 years ago when I again bought a bike I didn’t tell her. I kept my helmet out of sight at the house, and when she came to visit I put the bike over on the other other side of the driveway, figured she would think it belonged to my neighbor Sean. Then after a while I decided this was silly way for a man in his fifties to carry on, like a teenager sneaking out of the house for a cigarette, so I showed it to her and she was quite pleased, I took a nice picture of her sitting on it. Now she’s worried again, which I understand.
Here is a quick translation of the several hundred words of the prayer of Jesus for his people : ‘Please, God, care for them. They are fragile, the world can be rough, and I can’t be there…’
I have to imagine that this is also a universal prayer of parenthood. ‘Please, God, care for them. They are fragile, the world can be rough, and I can’t be there…’
I know that there are many versions of this prayer of parenting among us here – parents whose children live on the other side of the world, whose children are, for a time, lost in the complexities of the world, parents among us whose children have died, parents raising children not their own and parents with children being raised by others. Far more complexity than a Hallmark card and a vase of tulips…
‘Please, God, care for them. They are fragile, the world can be rough, and I can’t be there…’
John’s main point, his whole project, his conviction, is this, the Presence of Jesus : Even though I am gone, I am in them, and you, God, are in me, and so we are completely one. There is a continuity which nothing can take away. Among us all. Branches of a vine,
This is his gamble, his wager, in the face of the apparent foolishness of the church which carries on following the absent One who is still present.
Paul – letter to Romans : “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.”
This Table goes by many names – Eucharist, Lord’s Supper, Mass, Communion. I’m going to think of it today as a Communion, an act of affirming this mystical connection in which we all dwell. When I taste the bread I will know for a that moment that we share this common humanity, he too tasted daily bread and was thankful. And taking the bread and the cup into myself I share in this mystical unity. With my parents, and their parents, and our children, and their children. Ages without end.
All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.