Sunday, May 16, 2010

Still Here

John’s Gospel is impossible to really understand.
That’s because he didn’t write it to explain things.
He wrote it to blow our minds with strange and wonderful ways
of imagining God, ourselves, and our relationship with God.

In today’s lesson, Jesus says that he and the Father are one,
that he lives in the Father and the Father lives in him.
Right away that’s hard to grasp.
Then he prays that we -- that’s you and me --
that we may be one just like Jesus and the Father.

Obviously we are not the same.
We live in different bodies and different places.
We each have our own different life story.
We have different thoughts and feelings.
We look different.

But Jesus prays that, underneath all the differences,
we might be connected by something we have down deep
in common.
The way that happens, he says, is that he lives in us,
and the Father lives in him.
So we all have the same Christ – not just ruling over us,
but living inside us.

That is the most amazing thing of all – the idea that Christ
should live in us just as God lives in Jesus.
We cannot begin to understand such a thing;
yet in Baptism, we welcome Christ into our lives,
and in Holy Communion we experience that bond
each week.

We cannot wrap our minds around this holy mystery.
But there may be little part of it
we might be able to understand in a way
that will help us live each day.

So I start by asking: where do we find Christ inside ourselves?
In the midst of all the thoughts and feelings
racing, chattering, and swirling in the chaos of myself,
where do I find Christ?

It’s John’s Gospel that says Christ lives in us;
so it helps to see how John describes Christ.
In John, our Lord is not an angry prophet.
He is always the serene, balanced, observer and interpreter.
He is the embodiment of wisdom.

Remember when they brought him the woman caught in adultery
and demanded to know whether she should be stoned.
He did not jump up and shout “you hypocrites.”
Instead he sat in silence writing in the dust with his finger
then said, “Let the one of you who is without sin
cast the first stone.”

In the Garden of Gethsemene, the mob came to arrest him.
Jesus went out to meet them and calmly said,
“Who are you looking for?”
They replied “Jesus.” He said, “You’ve found him.”
And that threw the mob into complete confusion.
Even at his trial and crucifixion, Jesus remained balanced.

In John’s Gospel, Christ is the eye of the storm,
or as T. S. Eliot put it, “the still point of the turning world.”
There is something stable at the center of reality.
So much is constantly shifting and changing
inside us and around us.
Things always seem to be falling apart.

And yet 14 billion years after the Big Bang,
we still have an orderly cosmos.
Something holds it together.
There is something in the universe preserving a balance,
holding things together.
It is a sane center inside the madness,
a calm compassion inside the violence.
That is what John means by Christ
– the Christ who became flesh in Jesus.

This serene center, this wisdom, this Christ also lives in us.
He lives in us deeper than our conscious minds.
The late psychologist, John Firman, said that there is in each of us
“a deeper source of wisdom and guidance,
a source that operates beyond the control
of the conscious personality. . . .”

There is something in us deeper than our thoughts and feelings,
something that holds us together no matter
what kind of experience we are having at the moment.
This center of our souls is so connected to the center of the universe
that they are truly the same thing.

In the 14th Century, the German mystic, Meister Eckhart, said,
“there is something in the soul so closely akin to God
that it is already one with him.”
And Lady Julian of Norwich, said that the soul and Christ
are already bound to each other.

Parts of our personalities split away from our souls.
We are not always true to ourselves,
and that’s where we get into trouble.
John Firman said that our psychological distress
comes from disregarding that deep wisdom
we already have inside.
But a part of us, the central part of us,
the most important part of us
is already one with Christ.

When St. Paul found that he had lost all the other things
that he had counted on to make him secure and important,
he said, “I have been crucified with Christ, and yet I live --
No not I -- It is Christ who lives in me.”

The wisdom and serenity of Christ depend
on his capacity for a special kind of love.
We usually think of love as an emotionally intense approval
of someone who is what we need them to be
or they are how we think they ought to be.
That kind of love can flip in the blink of an eye
when the person does not live up to our expectations.

But Christ – both in the universe and in us – has a different kind of love.
John used a special word for it. Agape.
It means appreciating someone for just for being here.
It does not judge. It accepts unconditionally.
That love is the force that keeps this world turning.
That love sustains our life.
Because Christ lives in us, we can love like that.
We can love people the world rejects.
We can love ourselves – each and every part of ourselves.
We can forgive ourselves and each other.
We can be the still point for ourselves and each other.

It’s like in our lesson from Acts, when after the earthquake,
the jailer is about to kill himself.
Paul calls out to him, “Calm down. We’re still here.”
That’s the voice of Christ and we can say it to ourselves
and to each other in any situation,
“Calm down. We’re still here.”

When we are true to the core of our being,
when we are true to Christ,
that is precisely what we do.
Oh, we forget more often than we remember.
We forget who we are, forget Our Lord.
We judge and condemn each other.
We judge and condemn ourselves ever more harshly.

But Christ is still there, still the center.
And we can still choose to remember,
still choose to look at ourselves and each other
through his eyes.
We can love the whole creation the way the Father loves Christ,
the way Christ loves us -- unconditionally.
There is such peace in that, such balance,
to be rooted in a love that does not shift,
in which, as it says in James,
“there is no variableness, no shadow of turning.”

In Baptism, we welcome the Christ who is already here.
We promise to live out of that center,
to let deep wisdom guide us
instead of our passing moods.
With every Holy Communion, we deepen that connection
opening our hearts to his mercy
and our minds to his sanity.

Glory to God whose power working in us
can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.