There are some truths in life that are indisputable and eternal. In early April while under COVID isolation Karen and I on our daily walk were a witness to one such truth, the truth of water and little boys. As we descended into Fish Creek park on the path there were rivulets of water running down the edge of the path from the slow melt of the snow on the hillsides either side of the path. We approached a family, a mother watching her two boys, a toddler of 2 to 3 years and her husband, in his thirties. Both of the boys were on their hands and knees scooping snow and creating little dams to divert and capture the water streaming down. I remarked to the mother “water and little boys, they are inseparable”. She laughed and replied “especially these two”. The husband turned from his work and remarked “my son is my excuse to play”. It was to Karen and myself a remarkable, beautiful scene of love and peace shared by this family. Simple pleasures in life can reveal the divine moving through and about us. The divine is not nearly as distant as we think.
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit, John 14:15-21
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[a] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
A recurring theme in the ministry of the man from Galilee was his efforts to convince his followers and the citizens of Israel that God is not a distant hazy impenetrable object but rather this was a god who desired a relationship with each of his creation. The scripture just read is confirmation of this. Most notably Jesus addressed God as ABBA, father, as he hung on his cross.
This scripture from John is among 3 ½ chapters comprising of 136 versus to recording the commentary of Jesus at the last supper. Most of the commentary in John is not found in the other gospels who devote 9 to 24 versus for the last supper. Why did Matthew, Mark and Luke not include all the additional teachings found in John? I think this discrepancy is due to when the Gospel of John was written.
The Johannine community was the last to write about Jesus’ ministry some 100+ years after his death and 30 years after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman Empire. They have had time to reflect on remembered words and phrases from Jesus’ witnesses recorded in the Gospels as Jesus sayings. They have seen the movement go from just another Jewish sect in Israel to one including Gentiles spread across the Roman Empire under the missionary work of Paul. The Jesus movement expected Jesus’ imminent second coming but after 100 years there are no living witnesses of Jesus, and one senses they are resigning themselves that the second coming will be an event for the future. The Jesus believers are facing an uncertain future, they have been shunned and isolated from their birth faith, Judaism, and they are beginning to feel persecution from the Roman and Greek communities. In some respects, we in the COVID dance can relate to the early believers with isolation, social distancing, economic challenges and a new reality. Many in our community are trying to grips what is in store for them in the coming months. And yes, the speculation about Christ’s second coming is starting to surface among some fundamental and bible literalist groups as has happened numerous times since a Jewish rabbi of the poor and dispossessed hung on a cross outside the walls of Jerusalem.
What does the Johannine Community offer to us today, some two thousand years later? The strength they drew on was the common focus on the teachings of Jesus and the application of those teachings in the day to day life. ” If you love me, keep my commands.”, which can be summed up in the slogan of “Love all, serve all”. Give yourselves time to daily centre your thoughts on the divine and reception of the divine into your heart, mind and soul. Actively look to see the divine in and around you, it can be the emergence of green from the winter grass, seeing the flocks of waxwings moving from tree to tree, seeing a newborn looking at their new world, hearing a voice not heard before, hearing a melody again like the first time you heard it, finding the new in the old, receiving an insight from unexpected sources. Be open and childlike to the world around you. Reach out via the phone, text or email to old acquaintances and new friends. Speak without assumption or presumption, hear. “I will not leave you as orphans…you will realize… I am in you.”
The divine, God, is as the young father on the side on the hill with his son playing with the water moving downhill, looking to be with you and in you as a source of peace. This happens when the heart is open to the divine. It is my hope that as members of our small community of believers in the sacred and the divine we can reflect to the larger community around us that peace and hope so desperately sought by many in this COVID world.
May the streams of the Spirit flow to you and through you.
Calgary Spark is a collection of stories told by members and friends of the church alike. Each person's story is helping to shape our community in new ways.