2019 – Cycle C
Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 97; Revelation 22: 12-14, 16-17, 20; John 17: 20-26
Have you taken time to look at the art quilt hanging in the sanctuary?
Quilts are disparate pieces sewn together that create a greater and more beautiful whole. Images are seen that are intended and some that are revealed only later even to the quilter. You often are only given glimpses of images; hints of reality. What do you see in our art quilt?
The Sacred Scriptures each Sunday are like an abstract quilt, stories and images playing off each other creating new thoughts and giving us insights. The interplay between passages calling out to other passages of scripture invite us to remember other stories, stories of our lives alongside the biblical characters. What do you hear within this crazy quilt of God’s Word?
This Sunday between the Ascension and Pentecost seems particularly like a quilt. Jesus has ascended into the heavens and the Spirit has not as yet descended in fire. We seem to be left on our own as we hear the strains of Advent: “Behold, I am coming soon.” The Spirit cries out “Come” the bride cries out for Jesus to come. Do you hear in between: “O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel…” Is it the coming of Jesus as a human being or the coming of Jesus as judge? Is Jesus coming with clouds or as a thief in the night? Is it a beginning or the completion?
What we do know is that nothing – no wound, no sorrow, no joy or hope – lies outside of Christ’s enduring and embracing presence. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end!” Jesus encompasses our whole universe, our whole life.
As teacher, Jesus taught, “Blessed are …the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the merciful”. Today the Sermon on the Mount is extended with a new beatitude, “Blessed are they who wash their robes…” Who are they who might wash their robes? Newly baptized are offered a clean white robe that is not in need of washing. Saint Stephen washes his robe of life in the blood of the Lamb as countless martyrs have since him. Who needs their robe washed? Doing laundry is not glamourous or exciting. Yet it is necessary. That is why the Sacrament of Confession has been called a ‘second baptism’; it is doing spiritual laundry. No one lives life or comes to the end of life unmarked, free of stains and smudges. Who among us needs their robe washed? Because those of us who wash our robes,
“have the right to the tree of life” – as we are yanked back to Eden’s garden within this quilt of dialoguing pieces of scripture. Remember that in the middle of the garden is the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Beginnings and ending, Alphas and Omegas, firsts and lasts, good and evil mark our lives as it did in the garden, as it does now looking into the future.
Jesus identifies himself with “the bright morning star”. Does this not conjure up images of another star that shone day and night and guided magi to a miraculous birth? The bright light of Venus announces each evening conquering the darkness to be seen in the sky each morning. The light of Venus is equated with the risen Christ who conquers the darkness of sin and death. “I am the bright morning star”. The light of ongoing creation as new planets and stars are being birthed mingles with the light of the Paschal Candle in the middle of the night of the Easter Vigil. Starlight and flame are one.
“Let the person who thirsts come forward…” Who is the person who thirsts? Is it Nicodemus, who comes to Jesus at night with questions thirsting for answers about salvation and new life? Is it the woman of Samaria who, looking for ordinary water, encounters and receives living waters in Jesus Christ? Water. The waters of Baptism, the sprinkling of waters at the beginning of Mass, the mixture of water with wine, the washing of hands with water; all reflecting our yearning, our thirst for the freedom from sin in Christ. “Lord, wash away my iniquities and cleanse me from my sins”. Who is the person who thirsts? Is it you?
This scriptural quilt is created by pieces of life, images, and stories of baptism, creation, martyrdom, Advent, the stars, the Second Coming, the Samaritan woman, Easter, Genesis and beginnings, Christmas, and Nicodemus. We encounter Jesus as judge, teacher, living waters, the origin and end of all things. This quilt of images and stories is bound by the prayer of Jesus who presides at this Eucharist. Jesus prayed for us, a prayer for unity. And this prayer is anything but superficial like the complexity of a quilt. Our unity is to resemble the unity that exists between Jesus and the Father. The unity of a quilt. Therefore, everyone who is thirsty is told to come. “Let the person who thirsts come forward and the person who wants it receive the gift of life – giving water”. No requirements or preconditions are given outside of laundry…“Blessed are they who wash their robes…” Jesus wants us to share in the intimate union that is his with God that the world may believe.
Have you taken time to look at the art quilt hanging in the sanctuary? What do you see?
Do we intently listen to the quilt of God’s Word? What do you hear?