Thursday, May 21, 2009

Jesus the Revealer- Part 4- God as Teacher/Protector

Good morning, everyone! Jeremy here, writing from San Francisco (which means I will miss the sermon on Sunday, sadly). I'm looking out of our cousin's house at the mountains and the beautiful, varied landscape, which I think is influencing my view of this week's gospel passages, John 17:6-19. This is the last part of the series of meditations on what Jesus reveals about God in the book of John.

Throughout this passage, two main themes jump out at me - one of which is easier to deal with, the other is more of a balancing act maybe (i.e. Jeremy has questions - surprise!). The first theme I felt drawn to talk about is God as teacher. Those of you who know me probably know that I ask lots of questions and am generally pretty cautious about what I accept to be true or useful (well, I suppose they might describe me as being a skeptic). I want to learn all I can about something before I make a decision, so I ask a lot of questions. Which, oddly enough, can be pretty darn annoying.

A major part of this desire of mine is rooted in my belief that we live our finite lives in this existence in order to learn, and that we each need to learn different things and in different ways to reach our potential. There are many choices we can make in order to do so, too - some of which are fairly horrible (more on that in a minute). Jesus talks about how much he has taught the disciples and that it is from God - in other words, referencing content and source. As a teacher myself (formally and informally) and as a relentless questioner, these are two things that matter the most to me in connecting the reliable information with the learner's experience. Just as Jesus was teaching the disciples about God and God's kingdom and making connections, God continues to teach me as I sit here and look at the mountains (or as I watched with wonder and a bit of fear as we crossed the US at 35,000 feet). These are the "easier" lessons, perhaps. The painful lessons are there, too. Jesus even references the one doomed to help fulfill the scriptures, though I believe that Judas had choices on how this was to come about and how it was to affect him - and that these were lessons he needed to learn in this life in preparation for the next.

The second issue here is God as protector, and this one bothers me a bit. You might say, who doesn't like/want to be protected? Well, I certainly felt protected as we flew over to California! What bothers me is the stress on dividing the disciples and the world as a method of protection here. In fact, the same phrase is repeated nearly back to back in this passage - they are not of the world just as I am not of the world. Us and them. This passage is used in some churches and sermons to create/enlarge a separation between believers and unbelievers (which is a nearly useless distinction, in my view - who doesn't have moments of unbelief?). But yet we are to be in the world, too, as Jesus demonstrated time and time again by breaking social rules dividing the outside and the inside. The table is always open and everyone is invited, as Stephen says. So, what's up with the binary emphasis here? By repeating the same phrase, it seems to indicate a higher level of importance to this part of the text. Is this a way of God protecting or shielding us a bit as we learn? How do we balance these seemingly conflicting messages of being in the world and yet apart?

I'm sure Stephen will hash this all out on Sunday! 'Cause there's only one answer, right? The answer to life, the universe, and everything is 42. Piece o' cake.

Peace to you all,


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