By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge
In our Jesus story (John 17:13-21), we find our guy in the midst of a prayer for his disciples.
His prayer is a lesson on how to pay attention and make room at the table for all of creation. In his prayer, he talks about speaking God’s word into the world, and finding more hatred than love for his efforts.
He knows that, because of the hatred of the world, especially the hatred of Roman and Jewish leaders, he’s probably not going to physically be around much longer, so he prays for his disciples, that they be spared the “evil” of the world.
Here’s the key piece, though: Jesus prays, “They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
What in the world does that mean? Well, it’s close to what the Apostle Paul would later say in his letter to the Christians in Rome, telling them not to be conformed to the ways of this world … to be “in” the world, but not “of” it.
These days, our more conservative Christian brothers and sisters use this instruction to condemn anything in society they see as being “of” the world – meaning part of the overarching secular culture, such as the acceptance of same-sex marriage, the legalization of marijuana, the acceptance of women as equal to men, or people of other skin colors or nationalities being on equal footing with white, male Americans. These are the things they see as “moral failings” of our world.
Jesus would not recognize their idea of being in the world but not of it, because when Jesus scolds the Pharisees for how they live in the world, it’s not an exercise in moral finger wagging. They were beyond moral reproach because they followed the law to the letter.
But, what Jesus berated them for was putting the law above humans, for following the letter but not the spirit. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day – as well as in our day -were consumed with being morally superior, because that’s the kind of superiority the ego thrives on. Jesus says to be truly superior – or sanctified – is to be whole, to return to the consciousness of unity, not of division – and to do that we have be open to all of creation.
When you look closely at this idea of being “sanctified” or “made holy,” we often think such words mean beyond reproach or even unapproachable or unfathomable.
But, I prefer to think of being “sanctified” or “holy” as simply being weird – someone who is rejected by the world, a misfit. Not so much because they are morally superior, but because they are morally suspect.
I mean, it’s normal in our world to be greedy, needy and selfish – and there are plenty of churches and religious leaders giving scriptural cover to this kind of behavior. This is exactly what Jesus condemned in the Pharisees – the morality cops of his day who found someone talking about love, compassion and equity to be weird – if not downright dangerous.
Think about it – the world considers those who want to protect this world we’ve been given as weirdos – tree-huggers, dirt worshipers, hippies and commies. To love a tree more than the almighty dollar, to fight for the rights of an animal wrongly vilified or condemned, or wanting tighter regulations on the pollutants we chug into the air or the waters every day seems really weird to the people who see plants, animals, water and air as simply resources to be used and exploited. To really make room for all of creation – to respect and love Mother Earth and seek to care for her as best we can is weird to most of the world – if not downright insane.
This is our calling, Jubilants, to be as weird as we can be … to be “in” this world in a way that reveres it all … and live our lives as a call to others trying to find their way out of the world’s normalcy of greed, need and selfishness.
It’s the truly weird who can see the world as a remarkable place … a place where we are all one … even in the midst of all the greed, need and selfishness … and find it, like Jesus did, easy to love.