Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church, Pawleys Island
From Jesus in the Gospel of John just read: “If you love me you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.”
So if you would, ponder a few things with me.
Some of you know I like to fly fish. In fact I am passionate about it. What that means is that it takes me to streams, rivers and lakes in some of the most beautiful settings one can imagine. It also makes me very attentive to how ecosystems operate. To oversimplify for a moment, if anything in the system gets out of wack – if the water flow significantly changes or its quality degrades; if the invertebrates that live in the water, the bugs, are harmed in any way; if the aquatic vegetation that is supposed to be there is damaged or invaded by exotics; everything else in that system is compromised, including the fish. Likewise, if each and all those things are healthy the entire system is healthy. What’s up with that?
Or ponder two protons. If two of them are in close proximity, as within the magnetic field of the other, and both are spinning in the same direction, say clockwise, but then one is sent off several million light years away from the other in a neat device called a cyclotron and then receives an electrical charge to start spinning in the other direction, counterclockwise, guess what happens? The other one, millions of light years away ALSO starts spinning in the opposite direction. What’s up with that?
Or think of a group of people you care about or even your own family. If one person in the group is really happy it tends to infect everyone else in a positive way and everyone is happy. Likewise, if someone is really sad or hurting, so is the rest of the group. You’ve heard the saying, “If mama’s not happy, ain’t nobody happy!” What’s up with that?
Or maybe you have heard of something called the butterfly effect. There are a lot of variations, but essentially it says something like if a butterfly flaps its wings in Tokyo, you will feel the breeze on your cheek here in Pawley’s Island. What’s up with that? It’s a poetic way of saying what the other three examples are saying – that everything is connected. The way that God has created the universe is that everything is connected and one thing cannot happen in one place without it in some way affecting something else. We are inextricably linked together in this creation, sometimes in ways in which we are not immediately aware.
And then, what God also does, is right in the midst of this splendid, beautiful, diverse, sometimes puzzling universe, he sends Jesus, perfect love, right into the middle of us. This is what we are celebrating in the lives of those being confirmed today. Again from the Gospel of John, we are told we know this because the Spirit of truth “abides with you, and he will be in you.” Yes you, the confirmands, and every one of you, sealed sacramentally in the gift of your baptism. A few verses later, “…you will know that I am in the Father, and you in me, and I in you.” Jesus is saying that the relationship with God is being totally redefined by him. And as a sign of our connectedness, the Holy Spirit, in whom we are sealed forever, is sent as an Advocate who connects us to God and one another always and everywhere. We are bound in the truth that connects and holds the entire universe together – God’s love. It is the way we have been created.
God has created the universe in a way that it is all connected. And even as science shows the connectedness of all things, I would say that the binding agent of a stream ecosystem, or the protons of matter, or the flap of a butterfly wing, or the happiness of a family, is the Spirit of God’s love holding it all together. Where there is life and evidence of the transformed world of God’s vision breaking in among us, there is God’s love holding it together.
We find that we are made for relationships with God and one another, for connection. Jesus teaches us that the connecting agent is love, shown forth in the way that we live on this earth. Eternal life is now, not just after we die. And if God has told us once, God in Scripture has told us a thousand times – the answer is love. Not mere tolerance, not patience, not kindness, not being nice. Those things are good, but they are the evidence, the fruit of the root cause, which is love – passionate, dancing-with-our-arms-wide-open love for everyone and everything God has made. It is the love of Jesus shown forth in us and through us calling us to be an offering to God and one another in thanksgiving for the gift of life we have in this amazingly connected world. Did you hear that? All of life is to be an act of thanksgiving. When we do so, lives are changed, relationships are renewed, we see each other and our life on this planet through the lens of resurrection hope. This is what we are baptized into and celebrate in today’s confirmations and in every Eucharist.
Let me leave you with these words from an Anglican theologian named Reinhold Niehbuhr:
“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true, or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context in history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.” We boldly proclaim today, once again, that all is connected by love. That Love abides in us and in the words of Jesus, “to be with you forever.”