Jesus’ final prayer is for Oneness. Our unity, for which he beseeches God that everyone, all who have ever known of him or ever will, will be embraced in a deep accord, a mystical union in which Jesus and God will also dwell. They will be in us and we in them.
Thinking about what that means is like trying to capture the wind. It means nothing to the mind, and everything to the body. Its meaning lies in what it does, not in what it is. In where it shows up, not in what it looks like.
Echoes of this mystical unity are present in every parable, every sermon, every teaching of Jesus, often given in the face of other opinions. Who are you to forgive sins? he was asked. But he did do that. And, who are you to touch the unclean, to give blessing to unbelievers, to embrace the poor and chastise the rich? Who are you to imagine abundance when scarcity is everywhere? Who are you? is still hard to answer. But what he did, remains.
Ira Glass, host of This American Life on Public Radio, brought his traveling show to NH this week. It’s titled Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host. Glass says it brings together two things that have no business being together: dance and radio.
Jesus, in his traveling show, which could be thought of as Three Years, Twelve Disciples, and One Itinerant Host, brought together God and people. Two things most folks kept at a respectful distance.
Ira Glass writes of his show, that Act One is about the job of being a performer. Hard, monotonous work that can drive you nuts doing the same thing over and over, so you have to keep yourself on your toes by sneaking in some variation. Act Two is about falling in love and what it means to stay in love. Sex is mentioned. Also arguing, sorrow, sighing. And Act Three: nothing lasts forever. Included here are the dead. And parents, who are nearing death. And the way life moves you offstage.
His show began in 2013, at Carnegie Hall, and will end in Sydney Autralia in the summer, and will have collected people from a wide array of lives and places into that shared sense.
This is the Oneness Jesus talked about. Don’t get me wrong. This is not an evangelical Christian event. Ira Glass is Jewish and the show is secular, but the sense and sensibility of it are a spiritual unity.
The Show is poignant, probably because we are living in such a riven time. Jesus lived in a riven time, too. And so how do we pull off unity, in an age when people are tearing each other apart? Jesus couldn’t even keep the disciples united.
Three years. So little time, and yet, if you add two thousand more, so much and such a mess.
Twelve disciples, who managed to repeat the stories, the actions, the practices, and the mistakes, over and over and over, without losing their hope and without losing their sense of the Spirit. There was no choreography, really. Yet the wind dances, we all say that, and we see the dancing in branches, leaves, birds, clouds, people. And the Spirit raises up dancing people, even in riven times. Jesus didn’t leave any one person in charge, despite what Rome says. He could have spent Eastertide setting up an organization, a liturgy, giving them some rules. But he chose not to. He left them the Spirit, given to all of them at once, a dance that never ends, a dance anyone can join in, a dance that speaks volumes about the power of joy and hope, life and love. A dance that can’t be captured except in the things it does.
One Itinerant Host. Nothing lasts forever. Death is real. Things change. People move on and off the stage of life.
The Jesus show has had quite a run, really. People have come from everywhere, and been caught up in the shared sense and sensibility of it all. Sometimes the Spirit blows into the Church. Often, it blows outside the Church, and brings change by blowing open the windows and raising the roof off everyone’s understanding. The Spirit is the dance, and the dance is the Spirit.
In the Scriptures, the Spirit arrives as the end of Act Three, the end of the Easter act. And like all endings, it means a new show will begin soon, another show with a whole-earth sense, that joins together two things that most people want to keep apart: God and people. Dance on, then!
Image: Anna Bass, Ira Glass, and Monica Bill Barnes, in Three Acts Two Dancers One Radio Host. photo by David Bazemore. Berkshire Pillowtalk news.