1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57 But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.
1 Peter 2:2-10
2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and 5 like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,” 8 and “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
In our gospel lesson from John, Jesus is talking with the disciples on the night before his death. And Jesus says to them, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” And then a little later still, not in our reading, Jesus says, “you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
I am in the Father and the Father is in me. And you in me. And I in you. Let that sink in for just a moment. Jesus is in God the Father. God the Father is in Jesus. We are in Jesus. And Jesus is in us. If this is true, then the first thing that we learn today is that we live and move and have our being in God. And that if Jesus is in me and Jesus is in you, and we are in Jesus, then we are all interconnected with one another and with God. And together we are one. There is no separation between us. Because we all live and have our being in God.
When Angie and I were at the synod assembly a couple of weeks ago, we got to hear this in relation to the Trinity. God as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Three in one. And the keynote speaker reminded us that in our Trinitarian theology, the very essence of God, the heart of God is relationship. God as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is God as relationship. God at God’s core is a community. And the Trinity is so interconnected that you cannot separate them from one another without losing the community. God as three persons makes one community.
And so if the very essence of God is relationship or community, and you and I were made in the image of God, then you and I were created in relationships and for relationships. And so if as we learned in our Gospel, Jesus is in God and Jesus is in you and me, and we are in God, then you and I are forever interconnected by God. Imagine another triangle. Only this time, it has God, you, and me at its corners. At the core of God, God is relationship. And so God creates us to be as God is…in relationship. God will be found in our relationship to one another. You and I can never really be separated from one another, our connection can never be broken, because we both live and have our being in God.
We were made by God in relationship and for relationship. But then we learned one more thing at the assembly. So often, we want to divide ourselves from one another. It is amazing how much energy we give to trying to divide ourselves from one another By our differences. By the way we look or act or believe. And in doing that we are trying to separate ourselves from one another. To destroy our community. To make us separate instead of one. And when we do that, when I separate myself from you, I separate myself from God.When I separate myself from you, when I act as if you do not matter to me, I destroy the community that God has created us to be.
And God won’t have it. God won’t rest until all are one. The heart of God is in relationship and therefore, God is on a mission to restore community. To restore who we were created to be. To erase the line between me and you. Us and them.
And while it may not seem like it at first glance, we get a beautiful witness to this in our story from Acts this morning. In this story we hear the story of Stephen, a follower of Jesus. And at this time, there was a great debate going on in the Jewish community. Was being a follower of Jesus a departure from the God of Israel, or was it not. Stephen defends Christianity, that to be Christian is to still believe in the God of Israel. And as a result, Stephen gets stoned to death. He is the first martyr of the Christian church. The ruling authority put a very firm line of division up. A bold and broad line of separation… but not Stephen. Did you notice that just before Stephen died, he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Sound familiar? Lord, forgive them for they know not what they are doing. Those are the same words Jesus spoke on the cross about those who were killing him. Stephen asks God to forgive those who were stoning him.
So you could say that he took Jesus’ command of loving your enemies literally. He loved his enemies by praying for their forgiveness. Or in other words, he was unwilling to draw a line between himself and his enemy. He was unwilling to ignore the presence of God that was within them too.
Okay, now a more modern example. My friend, Alan, who is a pastor in South Africa, was once teaching the Bible in Sudan. And then two years later he goes back and meets a student who told him this story.
His family had been killed by a neighboring group of people. And this man walked to the edge of his jurisdiction and stood at the edge of theirs. And he stood with nothing but a bowl in his hands. And he just stood. For three days he stood there without food, but with the prayer that they will eventually feed him.
Alan then asked him, “Why did you do this?”
He said, “I needed to trust that even my enemy has it within them to save my life.” Jesus said, “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” Standing there was an affirmation of his enemy’s humanity. It was an affirmation of the promise that God cannot be separated even from his enemy. “You have killed my family but I trust you will feed me!” And so he proclaimed the gospel that God will be found in our relationships and when we separate ourselves, we cut ourselves and others off from God.
Just like Stephen who forgave those who were stoning him, this student affirmed his enemy’s humanity and godliness by being unwilling to draw a line between him and them. It is a story about offering mercy and grace to those who had killed his family. He too took the scriptures and Jesus’ words literally.
So what would it look like if you and I took the Scripture literally? If we lived into the promise that God exists in you and you exist in God, and together we are one in God? That God will be known and found among us in community? And that we cannot separate ourselves from one another or from anyone out there without separating them and us from the very heart of God?
Jesus said, “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” We live and move and have our being in God. We are all connected to one another through God and through Jesus. And do you know what that makes you? It makes you a priesthood. Did you hear that in the reading from 1 Peter? He said, “You are a royal priesthood.” If you are a royal priesthood, that means I am not the only pastor in the room. But rather that each and everyone of you is a pastor. Because Jesus is in you and you are in Jesus and together, you are in God, then each one of you has the capacity to be a pastor to one another and to others. Offering a word from God of grace, forgiveness, and hope to the people you meet.
And so I would like to share with you how you are already living this out. This past week, when I was feeling down and insecure and ill-equipped to be a pastor, you spoke a word of encouragement and confidence that was pure gospel medicine for me. After receiving an anonymous and disturbing and criticizing phone call this past week, you spoke a word of reassurance and compassion to me. And this past week, when I let one of you down. When I wasn’t the pastor that you needed me to be, you offered me forgiveness.
You were my pastor this week. And it was life-giving for me. And humbling. But more than anything else, just really, really, powerful. So thank you.
You are pastors. Not because you went to seminary or have received training to be a pastor. You are pastors because you love – and it’s the love that is revealed and given by Jesus Christ. You are pastors. To one another and to people outside of these walls. Jesus said, “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” We all live and move and have our being in God. When we realize that, when we embrace that, there is nothing more powerful. The very essence of our Trinitarian God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…the very essence is community and relationship. And because of this, God is on a mission to restore community, to restore relationships…through you. With your offering words and actions that share the compassion and love and grace of God.
And so, what a great day to welcome new members to our church. To show that we are one and we are not divided. To stretch the boundaries of our community. To make promises of love and support to one another. And to know that each of our new members has the capacity and the power to be pastor to us. And us to them. And that together, we will live out the very essence and heart of God. To be in relationship with one another.
Jesus said, “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” Thanks be to God. Amen.
 Rafael Padilla, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMQbgZMylUg
 Alan Storey, http://cmm.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/2014-05-11.mp3