As I read the Lectionary texts for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, I’m feeling less than enthused. The Acts lesson is an amazing story, but it is, in many ways, self-sufficient. You could maybe preach on Paul’s “annoyance,” and how even the Apostles were human, but really, is his casting out a demon in a fit of frustration a stronger case for that then, say, his persecution of the Church? Maybe the whole, post-baptism sin thing that was so important in the middle ages can rear its ugly head again. The Revelation lesson is probably the weakest of the series in Easter Season. I’d probably only preach it if I had been doing a sermon series on the book. Unless I feel really compelled to do so, I never preach the Psalm. So, here we are, left with the cliche’ of Jesus’ prayer that “we all might be one.” I’ll try to get myself more enthused as the week goes by. In the meantime…
We wrap up Easter Season with the tail end of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse in John. Our third, straight week there, to be precise. So far, as I mentioned above, I don’t really see a new point of entry into this text. It is what it is. It is a high ideal, to which, the Church, especially in the West, has failed to live up. 41,000 Christian denominations in the world is a lot more than the 1 which Jesus hoped for. I suspect, however, that Jesus was speaking of something deeper when he prayed
The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
A quick BibleWorks search leads me to believe that being “completely one” isn’t quite what we think it means. The verb, which has its roots in telo, has a meaning more akin to the King James’ Version “made perfect…” or the Young’s Literal “perfected into one…” It is used by John in four more places:
- Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. (4:34)
- The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. (5:36)
I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. (17:4)
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished*, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” (19:28)
I think that rather than Jesus hoping we all might have the same tastes in worship style, he was thinking something closer to what Paul had in mind in his letter to the Philippians (2:5-11):
5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
If the end (telos) of the Christian faith for all of us who claim to be disciples of Jesus was humility, obedience, and worship of the Triune God, I think we’d be pretty close to fulfilling (teleo) what Jesus had in mind, no matter how many denominations there were on earth. But, well, I don’t think we are quite there yet.
* This word, translated “finished” has the same root, “telo” and is used only one other time in John, when Jesus says, “It is finished.”