Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD!
1 John: God’s commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.
Whatever is Born of God Conquers the World
When my granddaughter Eva was born ten years ago, her parents decided they wanted her to bond with me in a particular way. When she was only a few hours old, still in the hospital, they had me lay down and they laid her on me, skin to skin, her little head tucked beneath my chin and her heart next to my heart.
We lay like that for what seemed an eternity. And you know what happened? Our hearts synchronized. Our breath became one breath. We breathed one another in and slowly, surely found a rhythm that was unique in all creation, her and me, me and her. We became one being, outside of time. Someone took a picture of us, and it’s a marvelous picture. Every time I look at it, I think: this is what I look like fully present. Fully conscious and connected. This is what I look like.
What’s more, this is now the normal way to connect for Eva and I. Whenever we have been apart for more than a few days, when we first get back together, we move into that same position. She comes right up to me and we look into one another’s eyes and smile, then she closes her eyes and tucks her head under my chin. I wrap myself around her, and we travel again to that holy place where we flow into one another, and soon we are breathing as one. Our hearts synchronize. We are two and we are one at the same time.
We all have a roadmap inside us for this, an ancient blueprint for this kind of connection, for bonding deeply. It’s part of being human.
This bonding experience is my way into Jesus, and into his relationship with God. This is how I resonate with Jesus, why he is so real for me. He was human. He had a human mother, who most certainly connected with him the way I connected with my sons when they were born, and my granddaughter.
Jesus says, in the translation of John’s gospel you heard this morning: As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. I prefer another translation of the word “Father” that helps me relate to Jesus’s relationship with God more deeply. Jesus’s mother-tongue was Aramaic. In Aramaic, Father is “Abba” which is closer to papa.
So now the reading becomes: As Abba God has loved me, so I love you. Further, in Aramaic, “Amma” is mama. I borrow from the Circle Service theology when I call God Abba/Amma.
The reading now becomes: As Abba/Amma God has loved me, so I have loved you.
This rendition gives me a vision of two things that make me smile, the same deep, outside-of-time smile of my original bonding with my granddaughter, that special and deep knowing. Because here is how I see it in my mind’s eye: First I see and feel and smell how Jesus is related to God. Jesus is curled up on Abba/Amma God’s chest, his head tucked under God’s chin, and they are breathing as one, their hearts beating together. In some cosmic way, they are curled up together.
As Bishop Spong puts it: “Jesus was the place where the human and the divine flowed together as one.”
The opening of John’s gospel confirms this intimate connection between God and Jesus. John’s prologue says, “No one has ever seen God, it is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart.” Or, translated from the Greek, close to the Father’s breast or bosom.
And the second thing I see in my mind’s eye is how Jesus loves me. He loves me like Abba/Amma God, like a grandmother. Jesus loves me like that, and you like that, and you and you. As Abba/Amma God has loved me, so I have loved you.
Jesus goes on to say in today’s gospel: This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you. Commandment can be a scary word, all those “thou shalt nots.” But all the word command means is to say with authority, with confidence. Jesus says with full confidence, love one another as I have loved you. You are my friends if you do what I command you. Love one another.
And the Epistle, First John, gives us further insight and instruction: God’s commandments are not burdensome. They are not difficult to carry out. For whatever is born of God conquers the world. Whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Here when we say the world, we are not talking about creation, which we do not want to conquer or dominate, but about the overculture. What Paul calls the powers and principalities, the spiritual forces of evil.
Whatever is born of God conquers the world. Love is born of God, connection, forgiveness, and courage. Our faith is the victory that conquers the world. Our love is bigger than the forces of evil.
You have tremendous power given to you by God, through Jesus the Christ and through the Spirit. It was not just Jesus who had this power. Jesus showed us how to access it. He understood that he and God were one. But this is true of you as well. You have full access to Abba/Amma God, to your grandmother God. You have the power to love, you have the power to bless, you have the power to change everything that needs changing. You have the power to conquer the world with your faith, not with manipulation and domination, but with love.
So may it be for you, and so may it be for me. Amen