Oneing with God

Year A
Acts 17:22-31
Psalm 66:7-18
1 Peter 3:13-22
John 14:15-21

And the Father will give you another Advocate… to be with you forever… this is the Spirit of Truth… and because I live… you also will live… I will never leave you orphaned…

The Rev. Dr. Sam Wells preached recently… about the ideas of a transactional Jesus… and a transformative Jesus… he asked… do we use Jesus… or do we enjoy Jesus… do we think of Jesus like a ladder… which we simply use to climb up to the roof… to climb up to heaven… believing that our ladder is better than other ladders… or do we simply enjoy Jesus… do we rejoice in him for his own sake… and what he offers us… and I might add… and let ourselves be clay in the potter’s hands… or gold in the refiner’s fire… and be transformed… and it got me wondering… transformed into what…

And these questions got me thinking about free will… about how receiving the Spirit of Truth… choosing to allow the Spirit to abide… to linger… to hang out… within us… might affect our free will… and it got me wondering… what is free will…

I can use my free will to choose what to have for lunch… I can have a salad… a turkey sandwich… I could make grilled cheese and tomato soup… God doesn’t mind for a moment what I have for lunch… does God… God certainly has bigger fish to fry… though my decision depends on what we have in the house… but what if I want something that’s not here…

What if I’m a billionaire… and I want freshly caught crab legs… and so I instruct my pilot… to fly my private jet to the Ketchikan Alaska King Crab Company to get me a few… are there any moral issues which might inform my decision… questions about how that expense could be used instead… to feed those who have nothing for lunch… what about the pollution getting this meal would create… or are crab legs on a whim… nothing more than capitalism at its best… and to take the question further… would it matter… if I earned my billions by honest… or dishonest means…

And I am by no means… an expert in the theory of economic development… but I do agree with Walter Brueggemann’s conviction… that the Gospel has become all tangled up… in a white western sense of entitlement… so am I entitled to have what I want… even if it means that others can’t have what they need…

For a very long time… I have believed that God gave us free will… so that we could choose to love God… because we all know that forced love… abusive love… isn’t love at all… and in the Lord’s Prayer… which we will pray shortly… we pray not that my will be done… but God’s will be done… and so I wonder… how can I use my free will… to choose God’s will… so I can fully experience that Jesus is in God… and I am in Jesus… and Jesus is in me… or is free will… little more than an exit strategy which enables me to reject God’s will…

Romans 8:26-27 says… likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness… for we do not know how to pray as we ought… but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words… and God… who searches the heart… knows what is the mind of the Spirit

The Spirit teaches us to pray in Jesus’ name… training us to love what Jesus loves… and desire what Jesus desires… sometimes to the detriment of our own private desires… ambitions… or assumptions… so to pray in Jesus’ name… is to pray with the hope that God will shape and refine our desires…

But in the pandemic wilderness we’ve entered… many feel abandoned… or perhaps punished by God… as many felt abandoned or punished during the bubonic plague of the fourteenth century… during which time Julian of Norwich lived… author and Episcopal priest Mary Earle writes… one of Julian’s most radical insights… is her insistence that there is… no anger in God… and this forces us all to look at ways in which we project our own anger… vengeance… and bitterness… upon God… in a resolutely maternal way… she encourages us to grow up… to cast aside our immature and punitive images of God… and to be honest with ourselves about how our own actions have their roots in spiritual blindness…

Julian uses the idea of “oneing”… to describe the divine union about which Jesus speaks… she writes… this beloved soul… was preciously knitted to God in its making… by a knot so subtle and so mighty… that it is “oned” in God… and in this oneing… it is made endlessly holy… if I pay special attention to myself… she wrote… I am nothing at all… for it is in this oneing that the life of all people consists… the love of God creates in us such a oneing… that when it is truly seen… no person can separate themselves from another

And Julian’s insight reflects a recurring theme in all of the world’s religions… that (1) there is a Divine Reality underneath and inherent in things… that (2) there is in the human soul a natural capacity and longing for this Divine Reality… and that (3) the final goal of existence is union with this Divine Reality… so as God emptied Godself into human form… so we humans… pour our small self out… so we can make room for God’s unbounded Self… and fill our humanity… with divinity… we empty ourselves… as a river empties itself into the sea…

And so as I’ve thought about free will… I wonder how I can use my free will… to choose God’s will… and I don’t think it’s rocket science… but it may begin… just begin… in asking ourselves… why we do… what we do… and for whom do we do it… do we do it on a whim… or it is to seek… as Julian wrote… the oneing which already exists… but to which… too many are blind… or afraid…

We are on a new wilderness journey… most of us more fortunate than the ancient Israelites… and we don’t yet know where new Promised Land will be… what it will look like… or how we will be transformed… though we hope we will arrive sooner than yesterday… and we hope it will be familiar… and we hope that the Spirit teaches us to pray God’s will… but as Henri Nouwen wrote… Jesus speaks about hope that is not based on chances that things will get better or worse… Jesus’ hope is built upon the promise that whatever happens… God will stay with us at all times… in all places… and will never leave us orphaned

About the author: The Rev. Mike Wernick

The Rev. Mike Wernick is a second-career Episcopal priest who grew up in a Reform Jewish family; though he relishes his role as the Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Officer for two dioceses and affirms all faith traditions (he has this idea that diversity was never intended to be divisive). He serves on several diocesan and synod committees, including the N/W Lower Michigan Synod’s Task Force on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity; and is finishing the final year of a practicum to become a Spiritual Director.