In all the richness of these after-Easter scriptures—the bold witness of Paul, the growth of new Christian communities, the poignancy of Paul’s departure and his words of encouragement to those he is leaving; and in the wonderful circuitous word-play that the Gospel of John presents to us in the last discourses of Jesus (chapters 14-17) heard again and new throughout this late Easter Season, there appears a tiny part of speech, a little word which occurs repeatedly in the farewell prayers of Jesus and in the letters of Paul—It is the word IN.
- The gospel IN which you stand.
- Do you not believe that I am IN the Father and the Father is in me? The Father who dwells IN me?
- Remain in me.
- And whatever you ask IN my Name
- Consecrate them IN the truth
- That they may be one as you Father are IN me and I IN you and they also will be IN us
In. A functional word, a preposition indicating inclusion or location or position.
- So much more. During this Paschal time, and certainly for Christian faith and tradition, a word conveying the mystery of unity: God’s Being and Ours. A transformative sharing of divine love. A deep, deep word that holds God and humanity together, and is and will be the first and final and only Reality—as we put it: When God is all in all.
We believe IN God: not “we believe that there is a God.” We believe in Jesus Christ, in the holy Spirit” not as objects, not about their existence–that is , “we live and move and have our being” in a profound mystery of connectedness, of precious closeness—“Closer to us than we are to ourselves” we say. Or as Julian of Norwich so delightfully puts it, “Betwixt us and God there is no between.”
A closer-ness than even the phrase “being with” God can convey—a condition of utter entanglement where we are, by which we are, lost and found in God.
IN—a word saints and mystics (remember Catherine: “I shall say Ahahhhhhh “) have to fall back on, a word that defies the precision of theologians (remember Thomas Aquinas speaking of his monumental work—“it’s all straw”?) because no language can adequately express the Christian experience of the mystery and its transformative power. Perhaps Julian of Norwich comes closest: “betwixt us and God there is no between.”
Jesus in the Father, the Father in Jesus, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. And we believers, here today, stand in the Gospel, in Christ, in the Spirit, and in the heart of the world—in suffering and death and resurrection, in the body and the blood, in communion.
Celebrating Eucharist, we put out our hands and say Amen. Think of it this way: “I’m IN.”