Thursday, May 11, 2017

Reflections on the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A: There's a place for us....

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 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.”John 14:1-14
One of the great mysteries and challenges of life comes when we must face, inevitably, separation from others. When the relationship with that other is positive, life-giving and life-affirming, then the separation is a cause for grief. Even momentary separations can cause immense reactions. Take for example the first day a child is dropped off at pre-school. That can be a trauma for both child and adult in so many ways. Or perhaps the last time a loving couple says, "good night, I love you" when one is on hospice care...and it is perhaps the last time in this life that they will be able to speak and hear those words to and from each other.

Even when the relationship is a negative one, that moment of separation is challenging. After the end of an abusive/wrong/unhealthy relationship, often confusion and fear about what comes next tempt us to return to what was certainly and definitively NOT the place to be in with someone. Imagine that, the dread of separation is enough to send us BACK into places we only just moments ago we hoping to flee. That is how much we as human beings lack in desire for the state of separation.

We would avoid it at almost all costs.

Why? Well, because we are at our core social beings. We know that we are, not just because is Descarte's view "Cogito, ergo sum" (As I think, therefore I am); but because as we are known, we know. A child has awareness, but they only learn what awareness really means as they interact with others. Being is, perforce, a referential art form. We have a sense of our own personal self, space, boundaries only when there is someone, something else there to interact with at the place where we end and they/it begin. Isolation tanks have been used for a long time to help people experience a state of NOT being in relationship with anything or anyone. What comes next? Altered states of awareness and consciousness. Regression. Strong emotions of anxiety, even panic...and then deeper awarenesses of what true isolation really feels like: being completely out of relationship to the point that we lose touch with time and space itself.

Little wonder then, that we fear separation?

So, when Jesus tells his disciples that it is time for him to leave them in order to "go to prepare a place for us" in the Father's house...and that in his absence the disciples (and we) are to figure out the way, it is no small wonder that his words cause consternation in the assembly. Thomas is the first to say what all, what WE, are thinking..."We don't know were you are going...so HOW can we know the way!?!"

Either stay, or show us! Don't just GO!

Even when Jesus tells them that he IS the way to the Father, that they should not let their heart be troubled, that they should have faith. Even then, Philip folds back and doubles down, "Show us the Father, and we will be satisfied."

Oh, the desperation of separation!


The point I believe Jesus is trying to make, and the thing we really need in this life and at this point in our walk with the resurrected Jesus as we hear him beginning to talk about his Ascension to the Father and the coming of the Holy Spirit, is that with God in Christ the idea of separation itself has been sundered and rendered moot. Every loss is a passing loss, no matter how absolute. Even the separation of death has lost dominion over us with Christ's resurrection! That "place for us?" It's here and now with Christ, because no matter where and no matter what, in Christ God is with us. Nothing, as Paul asserts in his letter to the Romans, can now separate us from the love of God. Nothing can prevail.

So, if you are in a broken place or are being broken, do not be afraid to get up and go. That separation is essential for you and others to find an opportunity to heal. Do that with open eyes and a penitent heart. Do it with hope and certainty that God desires you whole, and for the breaker to he healed as well. It is not on you to fix or maintain brokenness that breaks you.

And, if you are facing a separation that means the end of a journey with someone whose absence from your life will mean sorrow and grief? Don't be afraid to weep honestly about the closing of a chapter of your existence together. Instead, weep and grieve knowing that every adieu, every commendation to God means not "goodbye for ever" but "until that moment when with God we will be together again.

Why do I believe that?

Because we have the testimony of Christ himself. There is a place for us in relationship with him, with each other and in the complete fullness that is God. Even God is because God is in relationship with the three persons of the Trinity.

Loss and separation are not so concrete. For in Christ, we are forever healed...and forever together in a place that God has prepared for us from before the beginning of creation.

There is a place for us.

Here.

Now.

For ever, in Christ Jesus.

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