John 13; v31-35

23 April 2016

One of our Bible Readings in this post-Easter period The Gospel of John Chapter 13 includes a discussion about what it means to be Jesus' 'own'. It is important to look at these things as we head towards our celebration of the Ascension (when we recall Jesus' leaving the Disciples to be in the nearer presence of the Creator), and the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost where Jesus' 'own' come into their own so to speak. This discussion centres on two things: Glory and Trust.

What does 'glory' and glorify' mean? A sense of Joy, peace, transcendence, perfection, everything being right with the world. How we imagine we might feel in Heaven. Surrounded by beauty and love. The end of pain and sorrow fear, anxiety, threat. All of these things. The Hebrew people had a word for it: Shekinah. Usually when glory is mentioned in scripture this is the word that's either used or implied. It suggests a radiance a glow... Something that surrounds God and those blessed by God. We see something of God's Shekinah when we saw Christ on the mount of transfiguration, covered in the glory, the glow, the Shekinah of God. Glory is just about the best feeling, hope, rejoicing, truth you can imagine... The bright light of the Kingdom of heaven. Which brings us to trust.

Or, more importantly and relevantly, in today's passage, brings Jesus to trust. In John 13 he has just let/allowed/sent Judas Iscariot off to betray him. He then has a quiet chat with Peter letting it be known - and, indeed, that he fully understands - Peter's fallible humanity will lead him to betray Jesus also. Who we are, how we've been to each other and to those we encounter in our daily lives will be tested, thrown up in relief against the backdrop of the Glory of God. And, speaking for myself, backlit by the Shekinah, I will see that I've been found woefully wanting - like Peter. But, of course, Jesus' love is self-giving. Is so self-giving it ended up with him being led by the people he loves - the people he came to save, the people in whose hands God entrusted his son - and being hung by them on a cross. Such love means that, though we are woefully inadequate, though we fail and betray, we nonetheless will be covered by God's Shekinah. Wholly undeserving.

Importantly, what Jesus lays before Peter and before his disciples before he leaves to ascend to the Father is this: You have been given this gift. Totally unconditional, totally unwarranted... it has been entrusted to you; despite everything. What are you going to do about it? This trust asks. How are you going to share of the glory of God to your other fellow human beings? How are you going to pass on that unconditional love that has been shared with you? But then, almost with a wry smile - but certainly, I believe, with a smile of loving understanding Jesus follows this up with: I know you can't do this on your own. So I will not leave you on your own to try and manage this. So - as we celebrate at Pentecost - he sends his Holy Spirit to help us. (Christians consider more about all of this in the days and weeks to come).

Meanwhile, we should do worse than spend some time trying to imagine the Shekinah of God. God's glory. God's unconditional, self-giving love. The perfect world against which we frail and fallible human beings have been set... and in which we are welcomed and invited to participate... and with which we are entrusted to share with everyone; whoever they are, whatever they believe. For if we participate in glory, so we are trusted to show it forth in our lives. With God's help.

With every blessing as we journey towards the Ascension, Pentecost and our celebration of the birth of the Christian Church.