Fleshing out John’s meaning in “The Father and I are one”

Finding the seed of true humanity – God’s spirit within ourselves.

Fourth Sunday in Easter, April 29, 2007. Scripture and communion with Bob Cramer,
First Congregational United Church of Christ, Open and Affirming, Santa Rosa, California.

“The Father and I are one.” Jesus, in John 10:30, New Revised Standard Version.

“The Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Jesus, John 10:38, NRSV.

“The honor you granted me I passed on to them, so they may be one, as we are one, I with them and you with me, so they may be perfectly united.” Jesus, John 17:22-23, Scholars Version.

“What goes for the Father, goes for me too.” Jesus, John 10:30, Scholars Version.

Judy’s dad once told me I’d be a much better Christian if I just didn’t think so much. You believe what you’re given, he said; and for him, that was true.

I find much of what I’m “given” – especially in the seeming simplicity of scripture – is just not all that easy to believe.

Today, the common lectionary has Jesus telling us he is one with God. Or, as the Jesus Seminar translates John, that he is not God, but is God’s son who has been called to be God’s witness in the world who has fully, radically, embodied God’s design for full humanity.

John Butcher, a San Francisco Episcopal priest, goes about North America offering workshops on incorporating fresh material into the readings for each Sunday. He uses Gnostic insights from the Nag Hammadi Library; some of the sacred literature found in Roman Catholic Bibles but not in ours; psalms from the very first Christian hymnbook (called Odes); and the Hebrew scriptures.

For the Fourth Sunday of Easter Season, which is today, Butcher chooses some texts that highlight the image of Godself deep within us. Is this John’s meaning?

Fom the Gospel of Mary, where Jesus visits the disciples after his resurrection:

When the Blessed One had said this, he greeted them all. “Peace be with you!” he said. “Acquire my peace within yourselves!

“Be on guard so that no one deceives you by saying, ‘Look over here!’ or ‘Look over there!’. For the seed of the true humanity exists within you. Follow it! Those who search for it will find it.

“Go then, preach the good news of the domain. Do not lay down any rule beyond what I ordained for you, nor promulgate law like the lawgiver, or else it will dominate you.”

After he said these things, he left them.

But they were distressed and wept greatly. “How are we going to go out to the rest of the world to preach the good news about the domain of the seed of the true humanity?” they said. “If they didn’t spare him, how will they spare us?”

Then Mary stood up. She greeted them all and addressed her brothers. “Do not weep and be distressed nor let your hearts be irresolute. For his grace will be with you all and will shelter you. Rather we should praise his greatness, for he has joined us together and made us true human beings.”

When Mary said these things, she turned their minds toward the Good, and they began to ask about the words of the Savior.

In Ezekiel, the Voice tells the prophet what he must do to exhibit true humanity:

“Son of Man, hear what I say to you; be not rebellious like (Israel); open your mouth, and eat what I give you.” And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and, lo, a written scroll was in it; and he spread it out before me; and it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and woe.

And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it; and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.

The Gospel of Philip enlarges the Apostle Paul’s list of crucial Christian virtues by capping “faith, hope and love” with an essential, direct “knowledge” of the spirit of God instilled in God’s children. The “seed of our true humanity” must grow but it cannot if it is not recognized for what it is.

“A harvest is gathered into the barn only as a result of the natural action of water, earth, wind and light. God’s farming likewise has four elements – faith, hope, love, and knowledge. Faith is our earth, that in which we take root. And hope is the water through which we are nourished. Love is the wind through which we grow. Knowledge is the light through which we ripen. Grace exists in four ways: it is earth-born; it is heavenly; it comes from the highest heaven; and it resides in truth.”

That Jesus and the Father were, and are, one, I believe. That I can be one with them I also believe. I believe it to be possible “that they all may be one,” which is the scripture selected to accompany Cross and Crown on the official logo of the United Church of Christ. The oneness is spiritual and it is the only thing about any of us that lasts. And lasts, and lasts. Praise be to our Creator God.