Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Magnetic Pull to Divine Life and Mission

Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year A:
Appointed Scripture passages

When I was a child, one of my favorite workstations in Kindergarten class was the magnet station. Perhaps you had one in your early-childhood classroom, too. Our magnet station was very popular. So if I didn’t get there first, I would bide my time, gluing macaroni to a paper plate at the nearby art station, waiting for my turn at the magnet station.

Once there, I would pick up the large magnet and sweep it across the table, picking up clumps of metal bits. I would continue to move the magnet around, attempting to gather up every last metal bit so that they all clung to the big magnet. Some would fall off. So, back around I would come to gather them again. Child after child would continue this work, as I imagine they still do today.

In John’s gospel, Jesus describes his mission as this: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). This what he accomplishes in the pivotal events of crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. But it seems to me that throughout the gospel, Jesus does this “drawing-all-people-to-himself” business all the time. Through his preaching, teaching, healing, and feeding...and just hanging out being Jesus…he is drawing people to himself and to God.

For example, the story of the Samaritan Woman at the well: through her encounter with Jesus, her conversion, and witness, many people in her city came to believe. She had gone to the well to draw water. Jesus was there to draw all people to himself: offering living water, abundant life — the source of which is God.

In today’s gospel, in Jesus’ prayer, we are given insight into this dynamic and the relationship of the Father and the Son. How the love and action of each of them, together, creates the magnetic spiritual pull on us. God glorifies Jesus in his ministry, and Jesus glorifies God by imparting the divine life to those attracted to him.

Then, as those drawn in, Jesus prompts us to consider our place in this relationship and our place in the mission of divine love when he prays:  “And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, […] Holy Father, protect them […], so that they may be one, as we are one.”

Like a child sweeping the magnet across the Kindergarten workstation table, Jesus draws us to him, to each other, and makes us one…for the purpose of mission.

Jesus prays for our protection and unity so that we can continue in his work, not so that we can be a cozy club. In his own life, he shows us what is essential in carrying out the mission. It is this: being connected to God, the source of light and life, and being ever mindful of our identity as children of God. This is how the Divine love in our lives and within our community creates a magnetic spiritual pull on others.

And this process is activated through the power of the Holy Spirit. Today we hear in Acts the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to do all things, including being witnesses, to “those who are far off and those who are near” (BCP, p. 100).

And so, when Jesus is “lifted up”, the two men in white robes ask the dumbfounded disciples, “Why are you standing around looking up to heaven?” As your Canon for Welcome & Evangelism, I must confess, what I hear in their question is this: "You’ve got work to do! You’ve been given a mission!" And this message is for us today as well.

Enlivened and guided by the Holy Spirit, God is now working through us — the Church — to draw all people to God’s self. Through our many and various ministries, together we carry on with Jesus’ preaching, teaching, healing, feeding, and “hanging-out-just-being-Jesus” work in the world.

And as we begin to reach out to downtown and into our neighborhoods through our new initiatives, it is important to remember what it is that we have to share. What it is that the Church has to offer. It is what Jesus offered the woman at the well: Living water, Divine love, eternal life — abundant life in Christ.

God created us for this relationship. Yet many people do not understand the yearning within them, confuse it with other things, and they don’t even have words for it. St. Augustine sums it up best: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O Lord.”

So, children of God, are you ready? In this age, it is our turn at the table, to be about the mission of drawing all people to Christ — our friends, neighbors, our city, and the world — through the magnetic divine love of God.

The macaroni art can wait.


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