John 17:6-19 7thSunday of Easter
What is the best gift you have ever received? Was it the gift of time with someone you love? Maybe a family heirloom? Maybe a grade you did not deserve? Or a job? My sister puts a lot of thought into the gifts she gives. She examines every aspect of her perspective gifts, making certain that all details are fitting for the recipient. She delights in the giving.
We are the gift that God delights in giving! God gives us to Jesus. We are a gift! It is mentioned four times in our reading, emphasizing that our “givenness” is important! I have made your name known, Jesus prays, to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me…
We often hear that someone is a gift from God, usually when they bring some form of relief to someone. Do you think of yourself as a gift from God? Based on the articles and books that I see published, many of us do not. “You can be better” can also say that you are not good enough. If you do a search on Amazon for self-improvement books, the results indicated that there are over 100,000 of them. I suspect Amazon stops counting when it gets that high because when I did a Google search, the result came back 20,300,000. Most of us do not see ourselves as a gift.
Jesus’ prayer in our Gospel reading speaks to our being in the world, but not belonging to the world. This is the world that tries to tell us who we are, which is anything but a child of God. At best, the world tells us we are nothing special, and at worst, we are told we are defective. How easy it is to listen to the voices that say we are not enough—not smart enough, not thin enough, not doing enough,–not enough something. Somehow those voices stay with us more than the voice of God that says we are a gift. Richard Rohr ends his book, The Divine Dance, with this observation: God is on your side, honestly more than you are on your own. How true that is!
We have to dare to reclaim the truth, Henri Nouwen writes, that we are God’s chosen ones, even when our world does not choose us. As long as we allow our parents, siblings, teacher, friends and lovers todetermine whether we are chosen or not, we are caught in the net of a suffocating world that accepts or rejects us according to its own agenda of effectivity and control.
There is a cultural thread in Japan called wabi-sabi. It arose in the 15thcentury out of a time when lavishness and perfection in all things was valued. Wabi-sabicelebrates cracks and crevices. It embraces authenticity over perfection. When the Japanese mend broken objects such as pottery, they fill the cracks with gold to highlight the damaged area. They believe when something has suffered it becomes more beautiful. As Lutherans, we say that Christ is present in our suffering. The light of Christ shines in our broken places, and through our cracks.
In our time and place, we think being cracked and broken makes us worth less. But in our brokenness, God gives us to Jesus as a gift. God proves God’s love for us in that while we still were sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). We are God’s gift, but we also live into becoming God’s gift. To recognize that we are a gift to God helps us not only to live with our brokenness, but also allows us to better grow into who God created us to be, and to deepen our relationship with God. When we accept both our own giftedness, and our own sinfulness, we learn that it is impossible to compete for God’s love. We are loved enough. We are better able to see God’s gifts in others, which opens us up to find joy in community.
Jesus continues his prayer, asking his Holy Father that he protect us so that we may become one with both the Father and the Son, that we may share in that relationship. He goes on to say, “But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.” Jesus’ joy is our joy, and our joy is in Jesus, but because we still live in the world, we live between God’s joy and the world’s anger, prejudice and human judgment.
As you have sent me into the world, Jesus prays, so I have sent them into the world. As one commentary states, this is the world that we are sent into, a world that “loves its people in such a way that we do not love its ways…. The world is our goal, not our source…not our measure of worth.”
My sister engages every part of her being into matching the gift’s qualities with the recipient’s character. In doing so, she delights in the joy of the other. Sometimes the gift says more about the giver.
~Pastor Cheryl Ann Griffin
Rohr, Richard. The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 2016. p. 194.
Nouwen, Henri. Life of the Beloved. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992. p. 48.
Bruner, Frederick Dale. The Gospel of John: A Commentary. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2012, p. 993-995.