Easter 7, John 17:20-26
“From love comes glory, not vice versa”, wrote Kosuke Koyama, the former Japanese missionary and Professor of Ecumenics and World Christianity at Union Seminary in New York. This is the core teaching of John’s Jesus in his last prayer in John 17:24:
My parent God, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they may always see my glory which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
In this prayer, glory is associated with love, not power and might! Kosuke Koyama interrogates the notion of glory in this way:
Glory which is not rooted in love tends to be a false glory, the glory of Molech, the Canaanite god of fire. Molech demanded human sacrifice to maintain its glory. Daniel gives a vivid description of the spirit of imperialism:
Peoples, nations, languages! Thus are you commanded: … you will prostrate yourselves and worship the golden statue set up by King Nebuchadnezzar [Dan. 3:4-5].
This violence is inherent in glory that is divorced from the common good, love. Nebuchadnezzar obviously found delight in prostration politics, … This imperial command has been heard in every civilization in the past and present.
Unless there is love at the heart of the glory and power of any institution, even the church, it has the potential to violate people, to disrupt the common good.
Through this prayer of Jesus reveals that love is at the core of the being of God, and the relationships within the being of God, and the relationship between Jesus and God, and our relationship, with God and each other.
What does this mean, to have unity, relationship in love, with friends and others who are as yet strangers, even enemies to us?
Kosuke Koyama was a teenager in Tokyo when US planes bombed his city during World War 2. He was a part of the Christian minority in Japan. It was challenging to be a follower of Jesus in those times. They were considered an enemy within their own country as well as an enemy of those who bombed them. Koyama recalled the courageous words of his minister when he was baptised during that time: ‘Kosuke, God calls you in Jesus Christ to love all your neighbours, even the Americans.’
For the rest of his life, his theology and practice sought to express this kind of love for the stranger.
He was a missionary in Thailand from 1960 to 1968. For him, theology begins from people’s experience. Central to that experience is the notion that we are to find ways of negotiating the divide between cultures! That we are called to find creative ways to build respectful, mutual relationship, always driven by love of the other for who they are, rather than for who we want them to be.
Rev Vladimir Korotkov