“Why does it say, ‘I won’t lose anyTHING he has given me’?” a classmate asked in the Sunday School class this morning. “It seems like it should be ‘anyONE.’”
We were reflecting on the story in the Gospel of John in which Jesus describes himself as “the bread of life.” In the course of his sermon on the subject Jesus notes that, “…I won’t send away anyone who comes to me,” but then expands that theme to acknowledge more. “I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but the will of him who sent me. This is the will of the one who sent me, that I won’t lose anything he has given me.”
It’s a wonderfully wide embrace; one that ought to puncture and start letting the air out of the various prejudices we have erroneously assumed God props up as vigilantly as have the rest of us. “Whites, but not blacks.” “Protestants, but not Catholics.” “Christians, but not the Jews who gave us spiritual birth, or Muslims, our spiritual siblings.” “Straight people, but not those LGBTQ+ folks.” “Us, but not them.” “America first,” which might make political sense but is ultimately as spiritually blind as it is relationally naïve.
As I pondered my classmate’s good and observant question I thought about the old adage that “history is written by the victors.” At least those who consider themselves victorious. Which reminded me of Galileo and Copernicus before him (this, alas, is the way my mind works, even in Sunday School). Theirs is a sad and tragic story, not simply because of the harsh and despicable treatment they received, but because despite what the science books attest and the astronauts observe, those ancient thinkers never really convinced the rest of us. We still blindly and arrogantly believe that we are the center of the universe — racially, religiously, ethnically, sexually, geopolitically…
... even humanly. We like to believe that we are the big “it” — as though the sequence in Genesis’ first account of Creation was in order of importance. Lowly light, up through critters and crawlers, flowers and flyers, until God finally worked God’s way up to the really important stuff; the crown jewel of it all: us. But of course that’s not what it says. What Genesis actually says is that God looked back over everything made and declared it special. “Very good!”
And so it makes sense, when I think about it, that the will of this One who made it is not to lose anyTHING. Not merely anyONE, but anyTHING. We seem to be the only part of God’s creation unconcerned about and completely content with the prospect of losing the mountains and the trees, the aquifers and the streams, the air and the birds that flutter on its breezes, the soil and the billions of life forms contained in every teaspoon of it. Or, as the old hymn poeticized it, “rocks and trees and skies and seas…” You know, all those THINGS out there that aren’t human. All that stuff that isn’t us.
But the tear contained in every drop of rain is God’s knowing lament that we all survive together, or we don’t survive at all. I suspect that the sun — firstborn of creation and orbiting anchor of all that subsequently came to be — chuckles in bemused amazement that we (the caboose in the creative train) ever thought of it any other way.