we've been coping with a lot of funerals at St Matthew's – some for
parish neighbours we didn't know well, but others for members of the
church family whose passing leaves a real gap. I've been blessed to
spend time with these dear friends in the last stages of their
journey, and that has inspired me to think a bit more about the whole
business of saying Goodbye.
know that I will never forget the last thing that Pat said to me, a
few days before her death
see you later...” she said “Here or there”
words were a wonderful expression of the faith that had filled her
life and spilled out to touch the lives of others...and I paid
special attention at the time because I was pretty certain that this
would indeed be the last time we met in this life.
words have a special power – and our gospel today is part of the
the lengthy prayer that Jesus
offers at the Last Supper in John's
gospel – the wise words that are know as “The Farewell Discourse”
words of advice from our Lord himself...Clearly we should all sit up
and take notice.
NEED to hear what Jesus is saying.
what does he say?
on one level, he says nothing to US at all.
are eavesdroppers, listening in as he prays to his Father – but as
so often in the gospels there is a sense that we are meant to hear
just as elsewhere in John Jesus says to God
always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these
people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me."
this prayer is both an entreaty to God – to make things happen –
and a declaration for us of the way things should be.
this most crucial point in his earthly ministry Jesus asks God for
one thing for us
they may all be one”
that have troubled and burdened us ever since, as we deal with
factions and disputes, as we take sides over theology and worship
separately on the grounds of belief or simply of preference.
that can change how you feel in a matter of moments.
couple of years ago I was at a training event – and sitting at the
same table as our own Bishop Michael. I wasn't very pleased with him
that day. Only a couple of days earlier he had refused to publicly
affirm something that mattered a great deal to me – and I was
planning to air my disappointment with him in the course of the
event. Only very early on, as an illustration of something (I can't
remember what) we were asked to give something we valued to someone
else around our table to look after for the rest of the day. And so
it was that I found myself wearing Bishop Michael's episcopal ring
for a few hours.
was heavy on my hand – a man's signet ring with a dark stone...and
around the stone I saw engraved “Ut unum sint” “That they might
all be one”
I read those words and realised that for Bishop Michael they would be
non-negotiably present whenever he caught sight of his hand, at any
moment on any day, I understood just HOW heavy the ring really was –
and how heavy the burden on our bishops to be a focus of unity within
day they are confronted with the need to make Jesus's high priestly
prayer a reality – while the members of the churches they serve
seem intent on ignoring it as much as possible.
a little while that day I was able to put aside my own anger and
disappointment that +Michael had not fallen in with my particular
agenda as I recognised his role in calling us back to the over-riding
agenda that Jesus placed before us in his farewell discourse.
they might all be one”
oh, we seem so far from becoming the answer to that prayer.
are divisions within our families, our churches, our nation.
seemingly endless series of opposing pairs –
male or female; rich or poor; gay or straight; Christian or Muslim;
conservative or liberal; educated or uneducated; young or old; have
or have not.
those labels that we bandy about so liberally are attached not to
issues but to people...
people, with names, lives, joys, sorrows, concerns, and needs just
like our own.
think we sometimes forget or ignore this. It is easier to deal with
an issue than a real person...to keep our distance from the
unfamiliar by drawing lines to exclude and to reassure ourselves that
WE are right, approved of, accepted, in control.
order for me to win someone must lose, in order for me to be included
someone must be excluded otherwise winning and being included mean
nothing. The divisions of our lives in some way become
Jesus prays “that they may be one”
doesn't pray for tolerance, for smoother relations between
doesn't pray that differences would be eliminated.
prays “That they may be one......as he and the Father are one –
so that OUR oneness might be a revelation of God's presence in the
does not mean, however, that we will lose our identity or
does not stop being Jesus nor the Father stop being the Father
because they are one. Jesus and the Father are one because they love
and give themselves to each other.
oneness – and the oneness to which we should aspire - is not about
is about love.
is the only thing that can ever overcomes division...for divisions
are, ultimately, based on fear...and perfect Love (the love we meet
in God) casts out fear.
love there may be differences but there is no division.
love knows no conditions and no boundaries.
loves male and female, rich and poor, gay and straight.
loves Christian and Muslim, conservative and liberal, educated and
loves young and old, introverts and extroverts,haves and have nots.
are loved fully, completely, and uniquely.
when I'm baptising I tell the family “Baptism will change nothing
on God's part. God already loves your child so much that if she was
the only person every born, Jesus would still have come into the
world for her.”
don't often unpack what that total love means...
love has NO boundaries...not even between Jesus and you...or me.
I say that again?
loves you as much as he loves Jesus.
loves your neighbour as much as he loves Jesus.
loves your enemy as much as he loves Jesus.
difference, no distinction.
love for each and every one.
that is how God loves how can we be content to do less?
far too long we have dealt with each other through our boundaries,
differences, and divisions. See where that's lead! It's not very
Jesus is praying to the Father you and I will in large part be the
ones to answer his
can collaborate with Him – or go our own way,clinging to those
divisions wrought from fear and suspicion.