The Seventh Sunday of Easter
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Scripture Reading: John 17 1-11
Jesus Prays for His Disciples
17 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all people,[a] to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
Spiritual Dust Bunnies
So…COVID cleaning is a thing these days. Landfills across the country report extra-long lines of people trying to unload their junk.
Of the few Goodwill stores that are open, most have stopped accepting donations. No matter: people just dump their stuff and run.
The CEO of Goodwill Industries in the San Joaquin Valley told one reporter, “We’ve had to call back our truck drivers to service our locations with snow shovels and big bins, and pay to haul [donations] off to landfills.”
COVID aside, there is a spiritual side to spring cleaning. Jewish folk clean their homes to get ready for Passover, in part to get rid of any bread that wasn’t unleavened.
In the Greek Orthodox Church, Christians clean their homes on the first day of Lent, which they call Clean Monday.
Most of you know how we strip the altar at the end of Maundy Thursday worship. It’s a modern-day reminder of the ancient tradition of scrubbing down the church to get ready for Easter Sunday.
Of course, spring cleaning has a practical side, too. On the American frontier, spring cleaning took off the layer of soot that had built up inside windows over the winter. If you wanted to see out, you had to wash your windows.
Spring brought open windows and fresh air that helped blow out a winter’s worth of dirt and dust. Spring cleaning also meant disinfecting and deodorizing homes with a mixture of vinegar and herbs.
Offhand, though, I’d say that the psychological benefits of cleaning are what’s important to us these days.
Psychologist and author Dr. Sherri Carter says clutter brings with it confusion, tension, irritability, and worry.
“In our minds,” she writes, “we view clutter as unfinished business. This lack of completeness is unsettling and stressful to most people.”
Spending just ten minutes a day cleaning and decluttering helps lessen anxiety, she says. With the right help, it can do a lot more than that, as this clip shows.
This COVID quarantine brings with it buckets of anxiety. One way we’re fighting back is with a round of worry-fighting cleaning and home improvement projects overwhelming landfills, clogging resale shops, and keeping hardware and home improvement stores hopping.
No matter how hard we clean, though, dirt and dust are part of life. Science journalist Hannah Holmes says that by age 6, our children have swallowed or breathed in at least a cup and a half of pollen, pesticides, lead, dander, and fibers.
“The dust bunnies that skulk beneath the couch and behind the refrigerator contain…poisonous lead and long-banned pesticides, dangerous molds, bacteria, [and] cancer-causing smoke particles,” Ms. Holmes adds.
“The dust bunny is riddled with allergy-inducing dust-mite parts, with the mites themselves, and with the predatory mites and pseudoscorpions that stalk and kill them.”
Dust is downright disgusting. Maybe that’s why so many of us take such pleasure in cleaning it up. Maybe, too, we’re in denial of how close to being dust we all are.
“You’re dust,” the Almighty told Adam and Eve before tossing them out of the Garden of Eden, “and to dust you shall return.”
“God knows how we were made,” Psalm 90 says; “God remembers that we’re dust.”
So does Jesus. He knows we’re dusty people living in a dirty world, and that the dirt isn’t going away anytime soon.
The pollen of everyday living and temptation fill the air around us, clogging and irritating our faith’s breath. They can take the wind out of our faith and leave us spiritually wheezing.
We can turn on an air conditioner and stay inside to escape spring and summer pollen. We can put in a high-tech air cleaner to keep our home allergen free. None of that works as we make our way through the world.
That’s why Jesus prayed that God would take care of us in this dusty, musty life. “They’re staying in the world,” Jesus said to God, “but I’m coming to you.”
We’re in the world. We’re creatures of dust, up to our necks in dust. We eat and breathe dust, day after day. It’s where we live. It’s who we are.
But it’s not all we are. Jesus knew about Adam, Eve, and the dusty consequences of what they did. All that changed at the Last Supper. He prayed God would give us “eternal life.”
We’re intended for a world that is every COVID cleaner’s dream: a virus-free life without dust or dirt in God’s presence. Knowing that Christ has gone to prepare a place for us in his Father’s spotless house, we don’t have to worry about what this life is finally about.
We don’t know what heaven will look like, but we can know what it will feel like: an intimate, loving, everlasting relationship with our God. Jesus reminds us that we don’t belong in this world any more than he does.
“They’re yours,” Jesus tells God. “My disciples are yours.” What a powerful and profound comfort that is.
- When we’re tempted to believe this virus will rule our lives forever, that the loneliness, frustration and even anger we feel will have the last word, we belong to God.
- When we’re choking on the frustration of quarantined lives, of lukewarm takeout food, of socially distanced family, friends, and church members, we belong to God.
- When we’re fooled by the dust and haze of a world that tries to pretend the only way to deal with a once in a generation calamity is to take care of ourselves and ignore the safety of others, we still belong to God, who calls us to repentance and change.
The dust and dirt of this world can’t satisfy us. They only take away our spiritual breath and keep us from faithfully running the race of discipleship.
We’ll only be happy, Jesus said, when we enter a full, complete relationship with God. We aren’t there yet. Dirt, death, disease, and disaster dog our every step.
Little wonder Jesus prayed for our protection, asking, “Holy Father, protect them in your name.”
Jesus wants us to be safe, secure, and COVID free, joined together in a family of faith—one— just like he and the God whom he called Father are one.
Dust bunnies aren’t our destiny—life in God’s eternal, spotless, house is. We have a hope, you and I, that not even the dirtiest, dreariest, most despairing day of quarantine can take away. Let’s remember that. Even more importantly, let’s live in a way that shows we believe it!