Proper 13B, Year B
August 5th, 2018
By Svinda Heinrichs
I pondered the Gospel of John passage for this Sunday as I took a walk down the hill into the ever-expanding raspberry patch in the field to the place where the raspberry bushes and forest meet. I ate my fill of the red, juicy, sweet bursts of sunshine and made my way back up the hill marvelling at how the shrubbery had grown up over the two years since we cleared the space to make a better view for ourselves.
A confession: I do not understand the Gospel of John and large chunks of what Jesus says in that Gospel. Like the people chasing after Jesus I don’t get it, I am confused by the way he talks and the imagery he uses. When I think about what Jesus says here I feel as though I am wrestling with a fitted sheet, trying desperately and failing miserably to make sense of how to fold it. I suppose that is actually part of the point of the Gospel – maybe in the end it is less about “getting it” than letting ourselves be “gotten” by God’s revelation to us.
So, I offer some thoughts on what “got” me about this passage this time.
First thought: The persistence of life in Creation, God’s first incarnation and revelation, is an incredible thing to behold. Is this Eternal Life?
Life in God’s Creation is persistent, inevitable, eternal. It’s a time scale we humans cannot comprehend. It is an inevitability we cannot understand. We know from the long view of evolution that even if 95% of all life goes extinct, as it did some 250 million years ago, Life will persist and the earth will at some point burgeon with life again, though it will look very different from what came before it. In fact, scientists now know that it was this mass extinction that gave dinosaurs the opening they needed to grow into the giants they became and to populate the earth [Scientific American, vol. 318, no. 5, May 2018, 28-35]. Mind you, the dinosaurs’ proliferation and domination did take some 20-30 million years!
By virtue of living, we participate in this Life, but it is only by opening ourselves to it that we can begin to grasp what we are a part of. We, everything that is, including the raspberries I just ate, are part of the Eternal Life of Creation, God’s first incarnation.
The paradox: Creation, Eternal Life, are vast, and God cares about us. Jesus, the Word made flesh, God’s second incarnation, comes into this world reaffirming the goodness of Creation and humanity. In his ministry he cares for people: healing them and feeding them with real bread. The reality of our human life matters to Jesus, it matters to God.
Second thought: To “believe” (pisteuo) – to have confidence in, to put our trust in, to assert what is true. I wonder what it means to have confidence or put our trust in Creation.
Third thought: Sin: turning away from what it true, leaving God’s path, going astray, missing the mark, denying what is true. When humanity perceives itself as separate from Creation, God’s Bread from heaven, that is a sin – that is humanity going astray.
Final thought: If I can begin to realize that because I am, I am part of Eternal Life. That means that I now no longer need to chase after those experiences that fill me for a time and then leave me empty again (food that perishes). If I am part of Eternal Life now, then I can begin to realize my relationship with the rest of Creation. I, we all, are inextricably bound up in and with Creation, and as Paul says, when one part of the Body suffers, we all suffer. This means that I must do something to alleviate the suffering of Creation. Put another way, God’s Incarnation will persist with or without human help. [Life has persisted after each of the mass extinctions – six in the last 500 million years – Life will do so again.] I believe, claim as true, that God is imploring us to turn away from our sin of “separateness” and to turn to God and God’s way once again, and to be part of Creation’s mending. Will we answer that call?
I walk back down the hill, through the persistent shrubbery, across the field to the place where the raspberry bushes and forest meet. As I do, I am hopeful that enough of us have and will answer God’s call. The raspberries seem even more plentiful and taste even sweeter today. This time I pick enough to share.
Svinda, a settler women of European ancestry, calls Maynooth, Ontario, and a piece of Land close by home. Both homes are in the unceded territory of the Algonquin Nation. The cabin on the Land is on the ancient shores of what was Shawashkong Lake. Svinda is a minister in the United Church of Canada, currently serving with the Bancroft-Carlow Pastoral Charge, Ontario. She and her spouse, Marilyn Zehr, are also on the brink of starting a forest church that will meet on the Land. For more visit riseabove470.wordpress.com
Wild Lectionary is a weekly blog on ecological justice themes in scripture, curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territory.