Monday, May 13, 2024

Given / Guided / Guarded


John 17:6-19

Easter 7 / Year A

Wednesday was a big day for Chanco, our diocesan camp and conference center on whose board I am proud to sit.  We completed our first ever Big Day of Giving, which was aimed at raising awareness about our camping program as well as raising money.  The goal was $25,000.  123 donors gave just shy of $38,000 in a single day, which is truly amazing and the window for giving is still open through today. 

If you followed any of this on social media you had the opportunity to watch over a dozen posted video testimonies given by members of our diocese – both lay and clergy – describing how Chanco has impacted their lives.  Again and again I heard the phrases “make new friends”, “have new experiences”, “take on new challenges,” “enjoy nature,” “get closer to God,” and “have fun.”  It helped me to realize what a special place Chanco is and it made me feel good about the time and work I put in to serving on the board.

As I meditated on today’s gospel reading I kept coming back to the notion of the Father giving the disciples to the Son and the Son giving the disciples back to the Father.  This language of “giving” occurs an amazing 75 times in John’s gospel, with nine of them coming right here in this passage.  Initially, the thought of giving someone to another person struck me as odd.  There is the archaic language of a father giving his daughter to be married, but other than this it is not an idiom we tend to use often.

But then I thought of Chanco and all those parents bringing their children to camp and dropping them off.  In a very real sense they are giving them to us by entrusting them into our care.  It is an image which offers great insight into today’s reading.  It helps to make sense of other elements in the prayer, such as guiding and guarding.  Jesus has a clear sense God has given him specific followers in order for them to be formed in a profound way.  They will be changed by their experience with him.  And they are to be protected, guarded from all that might harm or damage them.  So it is with Chanco.  We trust our children will have a great time (guiding) in a safe and caring environment (guarding).

The more I thought about this, the I began to recognize the many different ways an individual may be given from one person to another.  It happens when we send a child to school (especially if it a boarding school), sign them up for a team or music program, or (as we talked about yesterday) bring them here and drop them off in the nursery.  Parents and spouses of those who serve in the military know what it is to give a person into the care of our country, especially when they go off for basic training.  As an airplane makes its way on it planned flight, the pilots are given from one control center to another.  When my mother moved into Westminster/Canterbury I had a very real sense I was giving her to them to by guided and guarded – a sacred responsibility they kept to the very end.  

Today is Mother’s Day.  Most mothers I know think of their children as having been entrusted into their care.  They feel as if their child or children have been given to them for a reason.  They recognize the need to nurture that which makes each child special.  And they balance the need to protect without being smothering.  As a father I can say we do this too, but mothers seem to carry this responsibility more keenly.  I invite you this day to ponder some of the ways your mother guided and guarded you, to give thanks her efforts, and, for those instances in which she failed, to forgive.

Inherent in Jesus’ understanding the Father has given him followers to guide and guard is the notion of transformation.  Again I draw on boot camp as a metaphor.  In just 10 weeks, a raw recruit changes physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially; becoming someone prepared for service in the United States military.  This mirrors, in some ways, the path we take from being a follower of Jesus to becoming a disciple.  Christianity is not about being able to get your hand into a divine cookie jar every time you need a favor.  It is about preparing for active duty in the service of God’s kingdom.

Here are some of the things this service calls us to do:

·    Exhibit humility by putting others before self.

·    Extend care to the poor and needy.

·    Have respect and regard for a person who is ‘other’.

·    Seek justice for all human beings.

·    Forgive freely.

·    Aim for purity and holiness.

·    Allow God’s word, found in Scripture and liturgy, to dwell in you richly.

·  Let your first words in the morning, last words in the evening, and every word in between be a prayer.

This morning we give thanks the Father has given us to Jesus and he has received us to guide and guard us.  May we continue to grow into the person he is guiding us to be.