This Sunday the mindful preacher always has a dilemma: do you preach on the Feast of the Ascension (a festival that always lands on a Thursday but can be transposed to this Sunday), or do you preach on the John text (John 17:6-19) which is a convoluted philosophical discourse that is about as clear as a morning on the coast of Maine?
What to do, what to do…
Well, preacher, you could do either, I think, because the message of both days pulls at a golden thread running through these last days of Easter: you gotta do this together, church.
You gotta do this together, because the Divine isn’t sticking around in the same way anymore.
if there’s one thing we know about God, Beloved, it’s that God cannot be pegged down. God cannot be nailed down.
It’s one of the reasons that Jesus left the scene in the first place in the Ascension. He wasn’t going to accompany his disciples in his resurrected form forever, or else the quest would always be one to find Jesus.
Instead he left, promising that they’d never have to look for him again, that he’d always be with them, and so instead of looking for Jesus, the disciples could do what they’re actually meant to do: look after their neighbor. Love one another. Embody Jesus, as they and Jesus are one…
Jesus left the scene so that, just as the woman touched the hem of his garment to stop her bleeding, there is a possibility that every hem is the hem of God imbued with Divine grace and love. Jesus left the scene so that, just as the mud was spread on Bartimeaus’ eyes to give him sight, we might see all the earth as having the potential to give us insight into the Divine mind.
Jesus left the scene, Beloved, so that we wouldn’t just follow him around anymore, but could actually embody him for a world that is still bleeding, still suffering from lack of sight and insight, still tormented by the demons of racism and sexism and all the isms, still run by the powerful who prey on the weak, and still intent on trying to nail God down so that they can control God.
God is more mysterious than we can ever imagine, which is good news for us, because it means that there is nothing but possibility when it comes to the wild, mysterious, tongue-twisting God we have. Possibility that, even if we can’t figure out how, life can come from death, hope will triumph over cynicism, and love will rule the day.
A God who can’t be nailed down is full of surprises, Beloved.
I mean, remember what happened the last time they tried to nail God down?
It didn’t work then, either.