Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19
One day a group of friends was shopping in a local mall. It was a normal day of crowded walkways and loud noise; just another day. As the group stood at the edge of a large, open space near the food court, the PA system began playing an upbeat dance tune. Suddenly, two young women ran into the middle of the crowd and started dancing. Within five minutes, two dancers became ten, then ten became twenty and then, the whole space was filled with dancers who were working together, energized, joyful, and they were inviting others to join in with them. The group of friends out for a stroll in the mall suddenly became witnesses to what is known as a “Flash Mob!”
“Flash Mobs” are a new phenomenon that developed whereby, a group of people (sometimes as large as 100+ dancers) all of a sudden show up in the most unexpected places to dance, to perform, to create a shock factor for those witnessing the spectacle. The carefully disguised mobsters, who appear as a part of the crowd, suddenly become unified around a common mission and together, they step out in order to bring about an outrageous feat into a mundane afternoon. For a Flash Mob to be effective, you of course, have to have dancers, but there must also be spectators, who are regular folks enjoying a regular day, and then suddenly, they find themselves watching something happening around them. In the midst of a Flash Mob, the folks in the surrounding crowd may do nothing, some may tap their feet and clap, and then there are some, who might even join the dance. Can you imagine the practice, collaboration, and unity necessary to bring as many as 100 people together for such a feat? So what in the world does a Flash Mob have to do with the Gospel?
Today’s gospel reading is often referred to as Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer” and in it; unity and mission are at the heart of this prayer. Mission: “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18 NRSV) Unity: “so that they may be one, as we are one.” (John 17:11b NRSV) Jesus’ ministry was the incarnation of God’s perfect love among us. Jesus was sent into the world to bring the experience of God’s love to us, in himself. Equally, Christ sends us disciples out, in order to carry forth that mission of love and reconciliation to the world. In a peculiar way, Jesus sends us out to be a “Flash Mob” for the Gospel, in the unexpected and unlikely lives of the people whom God loves.
“So that they may be one, as we are one.” If you ever have the opportunity to watch the dance of a “Flash Mob” in person, you will notice that the dancers are all in step with each other. They have a common purpose and they have a mutual goal. Like those dancers, the church has common purpose and clear mission, which is to be gathered into unity, so that we might carry forth Christ’s ministry of reconciliation. However, we sometimes get distracted.
Dean Lueking wrote an article in Christian Century a few years ago, that challenges the problems of church distractions and calls us back to our mission. Lueking asserts “The blight . . . of power games, and the obsession with always being right still throws up huge, offensive roadblocks against Jesus’ prayer. Such sin drags us back to the Upper Room . . . to the grief of our Lord over our tearing apart the seamless robe of unifying love in which he would wrap us. “ 2 When we lose sight of our mission, our call to witness to the gospel in the world, our mission fails, and the world around us is unable to come to know the love of God. We must live in unity in Christ in the church, so that others will know that same unity. For us to accomplish our mission, which is “to bring all people into unity with God and each other in Christ,” (BCP p. 855) we must seek our common purpose, and a mutual ministry together. We must dance the dance of love together.
Unity happens, when we begin to dance in the circle of love of God, but we must never forget that coming together is not merely for our sake. In today’s Gospel, “Christ prays ceaselessly for and through the church to the world—that they may be one, as we are one.”2 “For God so loved the world,” it does not say For God so loved the church. That may be hard to hear, but it is through the mission of the church, God “seeks to reclaim and redeem a world gone astray from that love, and to draw that world back into the sphere of that love.” 1
Our unity is not merely for us to be at peace and without strife as a gathering, our mutual life together is a visible sign, and it challenges the world about Jesus’ ministry. Because “if Jesus was sent into the world as one who sanctified himself for the sake of his followers, so that they might be sanctified in truth, and if they are sent into the world as he was sent into the world, does this not raise the question of the purpose of our sanctification.” 1 Sanctification is about being set aside for a holy purpose. We are sanctified, we are set apart, and our purpose is to witness to life!
In Christ, we live as witnesses to life in the midst of tragedy, life in the midst of death, and life everlasting. Our hope is in Christ, in God’s promise of love, in which we will never be abandoned. Our lives are changed by this kind of faith, and it will change the world that is, if we but recognize the gift and give it away. With that kind of good news in our lives, we must share it.
We the church are brought together to learn to live the life of reconciliation together, but not for ourselves alone. It is by this communal dance of mercy, grace, reconciliation, and love that takes place among us, that we can go out and share it with the world. We are sent out to invite others into this dance.
We are called to be a “Flash Mob of the Gospel” that shows up in those unexpected places and situations: in coffeehouses, stores, and restaurants; with the sick, poor, downtrodden, and the hopeless; and we just show up everywhere God sends us. We are unified in Christ, sanctified by love, and sent out into a hurting world. With joy, exuberance, energy and the support of the Holy Spirit, we are called to dance the jig of resurrection, of new life, of everlasting life in Christ, not just here, but out there.
It is when out there we show up out there as agents of Our Lord, everything changes. We meet people where they are, just as Jesus did. We dance and people are watching then, suddenly people on the margins of the dance begin to move, some join in and dance beside us, and maybe others just tap their foot, but they hear the song. The song of God’s love plays loudly, and we dance. So here, we are, taught, fed, strengthened but now, it is time to for us to go dance. After today’s sermon, the Eucharistic meal, the dismissal, the postlude, and coffee hour, “Go out into the world together. Go everywhere and go announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all.” (Mark 16:15 The Message) show up in the unexpected places, unified in our common purpose. Go, dance, and invite others to join with us.
1 Janzen, J Gerald. “The Scope Of Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer In John 17.” Encounter 67.1 (2006): 1-26. ATLASerials, Religion Collection. Web. 14 May 2012)
2 Lueking, F Dean. “That They May Be One.” Christian Century 114.14 (1997): 407-22. ATLASerials, Religion Collection. Web. 17 May 2012.)