Dance like God Dances, You Stressy Bessy! (John 17.20-26)
I’m what’s known sometimes as a ‘stressy bessy.’
When I have a big job to do, or large event to organise, I tend to feel overwhelmed and I get a bit tetchy and stressed.
I don’t flap too much, other than inwardly, and my sentences become shorter and more abrupt as I’m juggling things in my head. Yes, no, go away.
I had to organise a worship band recently, As we only had the day of the concert to rehearse together, and as the rehearsal time went on, I got more and more nervous. Was it going to be alright? Were we going to play well enough? What happens if? This event was rapidly heading towards us, and Stressy Bessy reared its ugly head.
I’ve been told since, by my lovely bandmates that I was actually bearable, just a bit stressed, and I wonder now who ministered to who?
I was supposed to be the one leading the rehearsal, making them feel calm and confident, reassuring them. Unlike Jesus it was my bandmates who were constantly reassuring me that it was going to be alright, It’s all going to be alright!
That’s what Jesus says to his disciples over and over again in the speech just before our reading today. Our reading today comes from John, and it’s the end of a long section in which Jesus has been consoling the disciples, a farewell speech if you will, it happens just before they go into the garden and Jesus gets arrested.
I sometimes wonder whether Jesus was nervous about what the future held, like I was. He certainly wasn’t a ‘Stressy Bessy’. I wonder how he felt about leaving this rag tag band of men and women behind to carry on the gospel, and to continue His work. A bunch of tax collectors and fishermen, peasant women and prostitutes don’t really sound like the obvious founders of a major world religion do they?
Yet here we are, over two thousand years later, thanks to the communities that they founded. Jesus does not abandon them, he doesn’t just leave them or us to our own devices, but sends the Holy Spirit to be our guide and comforter.
In this final dramatic scene of the speech, Jesus is imploring on the disciples behalf, out of his great care for them, intercessing in front of them.
I want them to know you Father, he says, I want them to feel our presence with them, I want them to be one with us, as I am one with you. Jesus wants them to be bound up in the sacred mysteries of God’s love.
Now perhaps that sounds a bit mystical and druidy, so let’s try to unpack this a little.
We believe in a God that is both imminent, Emmanuel, God with us, incarnated, one of us, in the world through Jesus.
But also a God that is transcendent, that is almighty, knows everything and is beyond the universe. We believe in a God that is consubstantial in trinity. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all one God, they are of the same substance and essence. Not separate or demi gods of any sort, but one with each other.
There’s also no easy way to describe what God is, everything we can possibly say will fall short, trinitarianism developed over time, it’s such a massive concept that it took over three hundred years for the Church to figure out a doctrine on it, so apologies I’m not going to be able to do it justice this morning.
Almost like a divine dance, they are totally one in relationship and being, one with each other, and like a lover who’s sat on the plastic chairs at the edge of the dance hall, they invite us to participate in this wonderful dance, that has always been going on, since before time began.
To be in the heart and centre of this dance with them.
“Father I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”
Jesus will not abandon his own and sets out here the relationship the disciples will have with him, and we will have with him. Our relationship with the heavenly, resurrected Jesus is to be with him. Joining in with this divine dance of love, caught up forever in the love of God that She has had for us since before the beginning of the world.
We participate in the mystical love of God, in the perfect fellowship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
“Righteous father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me.”
Know is used here more like acknowledge or recognise rather than know. The world does not recognise God, it doesn’t acknowledge God, but Jesus knows God as he is his agent.
The disciples know, acknowledge God because they acknowledge that Jesus is God’s agent.
How do we participate in the love of God, and what’s our place in this divine, human relationship?
We participate through one-ness with each other and God. Jesus asks at the beginning of our reading that “they may all be one. As you father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us.”
When the Evangelist was writing this Gospel, it’s clear that the community or the Johnanine Community, as scholars call it was deeply divided. Here the Evangelist is speaking directly to them, and also to us as a community.
Just as Jesus and the Father are one, we are challenged to be one with each other, to live in a similar relationship to God’s self.
What makes a community attractive? The early followers of Jesus were attracted because the faith offered an alternative vision for society. An alternative to the culture they were living in.
So we too need to offer an alternative way of being, a different kind of community, a community shaped in the love of God, that has created us, surrounds us, and sustains us.
Like my bandmates need to be a community that ministers to one another in love, and to the strangers outside of it too. That calms and helps the stressy bessie’s of this world.
It’s simple and small things that make us an attractive community, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to do their bit. Talking to new people after church, being open to help others in our lives, and sharing who we are with them are all part of our calling as Christians.
A group of rag-tag fishermen, peasants and prostitutes helped change the world, because they got on board with God. It wasn’t easy, as the book of Acts shows us, but they worked together and managed to create a new way of being. We need to think now more than ever, what is my calling?
A couple of questions to perhaps think about this week;
How can I be more one with those around me?
How can I share something of God’s love for me, to others?
What is God calling me to do?
Preached at 10am Service, St Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich