Jesus prays to the Father, “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.” John 17:22-23 NRSV
The glory that Jesus speaks of here is that his death is defined by resurrection in the face of execution. Jesus wishes this reputation of resurrection upon us. He prays that we go through the fire of life together as one and, moreover, that the common experience of suffering forges us together as fully united.
I wish such forging were standard features of suffering. After Hurricane Hugo in South Carolina in 1989, us clergy working on the ground came to conclude that in a disaster good relationships are tested and weak relationships are broken. Sure, there’s an immediate phase of all hands on deck and every one pitching in, but as the days wear one, there’s a tendency to deal only with the things right before your eyes.
Disasters don’t automatically bring people together. My experience is that suffering usually divides people. Folks scramble to take of themselves first. Empathy might be there, but not the resources and energy to act empathetically.
So when Jesus prays that the glory of the cross unite his followers, something more than suffering is going on. I’ve learned since then that unmerited suffering has redemptive power. In witnessing blatant injustice, something gets rattled in us and opens up to change. For Jesus, that change is resurrection and the hope it inspires in those about him.
This is what it means to be loved by the Father. Although the world brings undeserved suffering, God gives unmerited grace. Where the world brings you low, God lifts you up to a higher place. When the world executes Jesus, God raise him from the dead. To be loved by redemption is the love Jesus knew and extended to others. He prays that we too know this love by our own redemption and that we would love and redeem others just as we have been loved and redeemed.
I sat in a meeting at Robles Park Village recently. For the residents who live there, it is home, their home. Since it’s the projects, a lot of authorities see it as transitional housing. That’s two very different perspectives. For those who’ve suffered a lot, Robles Park is the place they can call home and they want things fixed and working right. For the authorities, everything is on an extended deferral because the political process has suggested relocation and replacement. The very idea of relocation generates feelings of hopelessness because that would mean disruption of meaningful relationships and difficulties with transportation.
What does it mean to know why and how God loves us? Moreover, what does it mean for the world to see us and then say, see how God loves them?
If Jesus’ prayer holds true, one thing is that we would have a very profound unity if the world could actually tell that God does indeed love us.
Grace and peace,
Pr. Russell Meyer
Pentecost is on May 15 and we will celebrate the confirmation of Isaac Fritz. Congratulations, Issac!