Monday, May 22, 2017

Easter 6A

The readings appointed for Easter 6A can be found here


Where True Love Is, God is Surely There

I’ve been reading of late about the risk of joy. How it is our tendency as human beings to push back against joyfulness because at it’s core, joy is terrifying. Terrifying, because ebullient as we may be we have already anticipated losing that very thing that has brought us to this place of goodness.

This is such a common phenomenon that it has coined sayings, “waiting for the other shoe to drop” and even diagnostic terminology—euphobia or “fear of good news” is apparently a treatable condition.

Perhaps that’s why the angels so often say, “don’t be afraid”?

Afraid of the good. Afraid of a love beyond reckoning…

And so, we push away the good itself wondering, “what if?”.

What if?

What if he leaves? What if the plane crashes? What if I fail? What if? What if?

What happens if I give myself over to anticipation and delight and then lose it all?

Scary, and painful…the anticipation of a grief that may, or may not come. Is it any wonder that is might seem easier to avoid joy altogether? 

Awe, fear, joy, and love—all a tangle.

A tangle we see represented in scripture, as the authors weave together the pain and pleasure of our belovedness; exploring the cost of goodness, and love in the midst of loss. Their world, like ours, was a complicated one. And, while the pressures they faced were different than many of those we face, as Christians—we are alike in our confusion.

Wasn’t he supposed to fix everything? Wasn’t Jesus the man meant to save us from Caesar the emperor? Wasn’t he supposed to come back to us? Why did he come back and then leave us again? Why do we suffer? Why do we feel so alone? How are we to live? How are we to love? What does this all mean?

Imagine life for the early Christians--expelled from the temples, persecuted by the political authorities. Imagine the authors of the passages we hear today. Imagine the immense pressure they must have felt to put down the words that would both comfort and convict the listener.

Come and listen, all you who fear God.

We too are his offspring

I will not leave you orphaned.

Those who love me will be loved.

A clear message in a confusing world. A message that conveys a promise of God’s abiding presence, the truth of our nature as children of God, and a commitment to love.

A message that today’s collect of the day, embraces

“O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire…”

It is tempting to define this promise of goodness by human terms--good grades, good behavior, good salary, good stuff, a good life. But, if we do this, we limit the goodness to things we can understand—and this is a goodness beyond our understanding.

This is a goodness that is more complicated than simply the stuff we have, the stuff we get. It is about the goodness of abiding in God and God abiding in us. It is about the goodness that comes from knowing that we are not now, and will never be alone. It is about a goodness that can be found even in suffering when the cause is right.

It is about knowing that no matter how far away we are from the physical body of Jesus, we will and do abide in the limitless body of Christ.

This is a goodness unlimited by our limited imagination.

As Mary Oliver puts it in her poem, “Wild Geese”

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes, 
over the prairies and the deep trees, 
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, 
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination, 
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
In the family of things. 

You do not have to be good. You just have to love.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” Jesus says…

And, what then is his commandment?

If you turn to chapter 13 of the Gospel of John you will read the following explication of Jesus’ commandments

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

Simply, love one another.

And, in this love you will find your place, in the family of things. In this love, you will find the Spirit within that compels us to mercy. In this love, we will find the strength of the body of Christ manifest in the household of God.

Our love and care for each other, indeed for all of God’s beloved children, is the means by which we experience the presence of Christ in our lives and in our midst. This enjoinment to love therefore is quite fitting with the context of Jesus’ farewell discourse—the long narrative goodbye that he gives to prepare his friends for his physical departure.

To paraphrase today’s Gospel, “If you love me you will love each other. If you love each other, you will find my continued presence through the Spirit who will abide.”

The Spirit who will abide within, the Spirit who will be sent as an advocate—by whose presence we can remain certain that we have not now and will never be left behind by the God who loves us.  The Spirit of truth that remains so that even if we forget the realness of Jesus, the realness of Christ will continue within us.

 “I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”

No matter where we go, we remain in God’s presence. No matter what we become, we will not be forgotten.

Euphobia means fear of good news. The Gospel is good news we need not fear. 

This good news contains words we need to know--words that we can take with us throughout our lives. 

These are words that describe a joy that can never be taken away from us.

A joy in which we need not fear.

And now, go out into the world in peace, be of good courage, 
hold fast to that which is good; 
render to no one evil for evil; 
support the weak, 
help the afflicted, 
love and serve the Lord, 
rejoicing in his presence as he goes with you always. 

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