Theologically we have dived in at the deep end this morning. I’ve taken three sentences from that piece and strung them together to get the picture. I’ll not pretend that this is easy to get a handle on – but to follow where Jesus leads requires a necessary shift in consciousness. It needs repentence, the original word for which is metanoia, which means literally to “Go beyond your mind”
“As you Father are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us. That they might be one as we are one, so the love with which you have loved me, may be in them and I in them.”
Those phrases taken from John 17 need to be spoken about sure, and that is what I am doing now, but ideally they need to be meditated upon and felt.
They speak of a level of perception so deep you could drown in it – yet modern Christianity is mostly so shallow we rarely even get ourselves wet.
This is talking about our fundamental oneness – a fundamental unity both with the divine and with all creation. This speaks of our beginning and our end – the Alpha and Omega. There is no “other”. We are all born of the same root
I speak of oneness of being but Christianity has another word for that and it is atonement. Breaking the word atonement down reveals its meaning: At-one-ment.
Missing the mark completely Christianity usually goes to war with itself on how atonement is achieved instead of going back to our beginnings, our Alpha, Genesis to know that we were always at one with the divine. Perceiving it is the problem.
To know that we are at one with God and each other is a spiritual and physical and scientific fact, but because we are all individuals, all separate bodies, we cannot conceive of our innate unity, either with each other or with God because we have set up a rival divinity in ourselves – our egos. To realise it and perceive it requires a change in consciousness. A change in consciousness so profound that Jesus likened it to being born again – or born from above.
If we step outside of theology and into science this is all confirmed for us. We know intellectually facts like we are all made of the same stuff as the pews we are sitting on – atoms – just configured differently. We know that all the atoms in our bodies are changed roughly every five years so physically we are all completely different people to the ones we were five years ago and yet by some incredible energy and design every atom conforms to the same basic pattern that it us. We know that every part of us was forged in the nuclear furnaces of the stars. One scientist says, “Some people look at the stars and it makes them feel small. I look at the stars and feel huge for I know that they are all a part of me”. We see in that statement the two levels of perception alongside each other. It is mind boggling, and while words and explanations can help get us started, only silence, contemplation and meditation get us close to an appreciation of these things.
This is why symbols are of such value to the church because a symbol can reach the parts that words can’t.
The Eucharist is a symbolic representation of oneness of being. We are united one with another because we all share in the one bread and that bread also represents the divine so in sharing bread and wine we are symbolically connected to God and each other in a mystical communion. Communion, oneness, at-one-ment.
This is why I insist on a loaf of bread rather than silly plastic wafers. It is the symbolic value. When in the Eucharist at the breaking of the bread I say “Though we are many we are one body because we all share of one bread” this is played out in the sacramental sign.
It is Jesus’ prayer that we perceive this unity amidst our separateness. We have to recognise our separateness as well of course. We have to hold both in tension. We are one yet differentiated. A bit like the Christian understanding of the Holy Trinity. Different aspects of God held in unity.
As I say, trying to get to grips with the fundamental concepts underpinning what Jesus is praying for here is like wading out into very deep water indeed, to the point where you might feel that your feet no longer touch the bottom and we feel a bit scared and can feel a bit overwhelmed like you are going to drown.
But, no matter how scary it might feel I would still recommend to anyone to wade out there. You will eventually learn to swim. Your perspective on life and death as a part of life is altered. The themes are so big we can get tired, start to flounder and think we are going to drown. Then wade back in a bit and find the firmer ground of your given life. We have both and we need both. Like God we are one yet differentiated. Holding both truths in tandem, in a kind of balance is the most difficult thing in the world.
I am me, and yet I am a part of everything that ever existed and ever will exist. I subsist in God. So I like everything and everyone else can never be extinguished. There is no-where else to go. We already possess eternal life.