Monday, May 15, 2017

All Our Eggs in Jesus' Basket


Before I arrived at St. John's, where I now serve, several people warned me about our organist. Among many overused images for clergy life, the one that has been used so frequently as to completely drain it of any novelty is the organist-terrorist descriptor. (Want to know the difference? You can negotiate with a terrorist.) Several people used the same particular words to describe our organist: "He enjoys playing the part of the curmudgeon." Those seemed like insightful words, and they've proved their value. Foster is a true delight to work with--in large part because he enjoys pretending to be upset about just about everything. But there's always a little twinkle of joy and fun and playfulness in his eye. People love Foster. I love Foster.

Unlike anyone else, however, there's another side of Foster that I get to see and appreciate. Our organist cares more about the health and vitality of our church than he does about himself. He does not play hymns or anthems or preludes simply because they are fitting (though they almost always are) or because they are impressive (though they almost always are). He plays them to glorify God and to draw the congregation more deeply into worship. He wants people to sing. He wants people to hear themselves sing. He wants them to smile and hum their way to the parking lot. When I insist on singing some unsingable hymn that they taught us to love in seminary, he says in half-mock derision, "That's the stupidest idea you've had yet." When I want to change the way we've been doing things for thirty years, he says, "You can do that. You're the rector. But that's the stupidest idea you've had yet." If I put my foot down and insist that it be a particular way, he's willing to go along with it--even all seven verses of St. Patrick's Breastplate on Trinity Sunday. But he wants our parish to grow closer to God and closer to each other.

Foster wants worship to be the best it can be. He wants the whole church to be the best that it can be. And he knows that my success as the rector of this parish is an important party of the health of the overall parish. He wants me to succeed so that the parish will succeed. More to the point, he wants me to avoid failure because he knows that my failure will hurt the parish he loves. Because of that, I trust him. I know that when he doesn't like something just because he doesn't like it he'll complain and grouse the whole way through. But, if he doesn't like something because he thinks it will hurt the church, he'll pull me aside and say it to me plainly. He doesn't want me to step on the wrong landmine not because he cares about me (though he does) but because he cases about our church. His work as organist is tied to my work as rector, and my work as rector is tied to our shared ministry in the parish. If any of that falls apart, we're all in trouble.

In Sunday's gospel lesson (John 14:15-21), Jesus gave his disciples an image that uses similar logic: "...because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you." Throughout John, we see that Jesus likes this "I in you and you in me and I in the father and you in the father" kind of language. It makes my head spin. I have a hard time keeping up with who is in whom. This time, however, it seems to come together in the light of the resurrection. Essentially, Jesus tells his followers that they will see him raised from the dead, and, when they see him, they will know that Jesus is completely in the Father and that they are completely in him and he is completely in them. And that's good news for all of us.

Jesus is going away. He's saying goodbye to his disciples. As he said yesterday in the gospel lesson from the first half of John 14, Jesus is going to a place where they cannot follow, but he is going in order to prepare a place for them and will come again and take them to himself. He's saying goodbye, and he's asking them to trust that, even though they will be parted, that will not be the end of their relationship. Despite his upcoming departure. Jesus is asking them to double-down on their relationship with him. "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father," he says to Philip. "How will you know the way? I am the way," he says to Thomas. "I am the way and the truth and the life." "Believe in God," he tells us. "Believe also in me."

Jesus is asking us to put all of our eggs into his basket. He is asking us to trust him so completely that we allow our future to be tied up completely in his future. He is asking us to let his way be our way. To this point, his disciples have made a considerable commitment. They have declared with their obedience to this radical rabbi that Jesus' way is God's way. And, when he is raised from the dead, we will see that his way is indeed God's way. And if Jesus is in the Father and we are in him and he is in us, then everything will be a-OK.

Being obedient to Jesus as Lord means putting all of our eggs in his basket. Our whole understanding of who God is and what God wants for our lives and for the world is bound up in the story of Jesus. If we love Jesus so completely as to put all our eggs in Jesus' basket, then whatever happens to him will happen to us. God has raised Jesus from the dead. In the resurrection, God has shown us that Jesus' way is God's way. If we put all our trust in him, we cannot go wrong. His victory is our victory. His resurrection is our resurrection. His way is God's way, so our way is God's way. Easter is about seeing that. Easter is about knowing that. We have one hope, and, when that hope is God's own hope, that one hope is enough.

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