Loving Worship Series: MARKED
Fifth Sunday in Easter - May 19, 2019
Marked by a Loving God
Key words/phrases: Gone out, look, know, love
This passage begins a collection of passages known as the Farewell Discourse. Jesus is preparing the disciples for a life without his physical presence. More than offering comfort, Jesus is trying to reorient them toward their mission. The community is still at a vulnerable state in its life together. If the community doesn’t learn to inhabit a love that will thrive despite its differences, the message of God in the broader community will be affected.
“When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him” (vs. 31).
This section begins with the betrayal by Judas Iscariot; this can’t be forgotten, as Judas is the subject of the first part of verse 31 (“when he had gone out”). Here we also have the language of immediacy, in Markan style, drawing the line of actions clearly. The betrayal of Judas initiates the process of Jesus being glorified. Dictionary.com defines glorified as “to be represented in such a way to appear more elevated or special.”
“If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, 'Where I am going, you cannot come'” (verses 32-33).
In the moment following his betrayal, Jesus is in the process of becoming glorified—representing something more than he already has—which is so astounding that Jesus has to reassure the disciples yet again without making them feel as though they will be abandoned. The disciples have not yet fully understood the glorification of Jesus, which is linked to what must be done on the cross. They have not fully understood that Jesus is beyond special; that Jesus is their source of abundance in times of uncertainty.
Perhaps you have had a time in your life when you were waiting for bad news, or what felt like an ending that you didn’t want to accept. I can imagine the disciples in the moment before Jesus spoke these words, getting a lump in their throats, trying to swallow down their fear: “Little children, I am with you only a little longer . . . where I am going, you cannot come.” Laura A. Young describes it succinctly as “intimate and off-putting.” 
“You will look for me” (v. 33) acknowledges the longing the disciples will feel after his departure – the beginnings of a deep nostalgia for the assurance that comes from the intimacy of physical presence, of hours journeying together, weary with exhaustion, sharing inside jokes along the way.
Perhaps one responsibility of discipleship is to always keep looking for the image of God in others; for ways to show that we have been marked by love; for ways to see the sacred in others that go beyond “the spark of the divine” and instead affirm their distinctiveness as those children whom Jesus loved enough to give them a new way of being with one another: the love made possible by Jesus’ own presence as a human, and Jesus’ own suffering at the hands of empire.
On our more honest days, we admit that there are some in our own communities whom it is hard to love. Our proximity to others with whom we disagree creates complexity in how we relate to one another. The power dynamics in our own relationships cannot be avoided. There are some in our church who feel betrayed by their siblings in the church. There are yet others who would be the first to announce that they would never cause such harm to the work of God.
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Verses 34-35).
The commandment to love could be easily dismissed, were it not so context specific. In Feasting on the Gospels, John Yieh explains that the commandment to love was “necessary for a minority group under stress . . . if they cannot love their own brothers and sisters, how can they love their enemies?”  It is because we are marked by love that we are brought to the same table, and it’s because we are marked by love that we leave the table.
Questions for Reflection:
- Imagine the one person in your church community or workplace with whom you struggle. What would it look like to give this person “elbow room” at the table of God?
- Name one way you have been “marked” to show love in your community.
- When was the last time you looked for God in an unexpected place?
 Laura A Young. Ed. Cynthia A. Jarvis & E. Elizabeth Johnson. Feasting on the Gospels. John, Volume 2: Chapters 10-21. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015). 130.
 John Yieh. Feasting, 133.
The Rev. Adrienne Stricker graduated from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 2009 and has been in full-time ministry since 2010, serving in Christian Education and administration in Evanston and Chicago in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and The United Methodist Church. Her primary appointment as an ordained deacon in the Northern Illinois Conference is to The Connectional Table of the UMC, an organization that works to articulate vision and stewardship for the denomination with its 64 elected board members from across the UMC. Her secondary appointment as a deacon is to Central UMC in Skokie, a diverse, multicultural congregation. She is involved in Native American ministries in the conference, serves on the conference board of ordained ministry, and is the co-chair of the Northern Illinois Order of Deacons.