Fellow Passengers: This week’s Pastoral Passage* (I John 5:1-12) transports me to the alchemist’s laboratory, where the old search for the secret of immortality lives on. What is the right mixture of elements that can transform lead into gold, or our human bodies into heavenly beings? What can you stir into the cauldron to create the elixir of life that can empower you to overcome the world? According to John, the mixture was found back around 2000 years ago. The elixir included water, blood, and spirit. These three elements came together to produce Jesus Christ, and these are the elements that come together to testify to the power that enlivened Jesus, the power of love.
The word testify has an interesting history. It comes from from the old Latin word testis, “witness,” which, at the risk of being crude, is where we also get Gray’s Anatomy word testes. The linguists are unclear where this connection came from; some point to the ancient practice of grabbing private parts to swear an oath, such as the time in Genesis when Abraham told his servant, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: And I will make thee swear by the Lord. And then there’s that law God gave to Moses in Leviticus 21 that prohibited anyone from performing the function of the priest who hath his “stones” broken (presumably such a disabled priest would not be able to participate in sworn testimonies). The contemporary connection of these kind of stones with spunk, equating the presence of huevos with heroism, cojones with courage, lends itself to a deeper understanding of today’s Passage, as the early church leaders knew that it would take exceptional spunk and heroic courage to testify to the truth of God’s love in the midst of a hostile world. In essence, the Spirit, the water, and the blood have what the old alchemists called the “philosopher’s stones” necessary to testify that God has given us eternal life, and this life is embodied in the Son, Jesus. Anyone lacking the right stuff necessary to corroborate this witness is a perjurer, held in contempt of the court of Christ. The evidence of such contempt is in their lack of love, for love is exhibit A in making the case for God’s presence in our lives.
The word testify also shares an etymology history with our word testament. Which leads me to say how important it is for us not to leave this world “spiritually intestate” – without having executed God’s will in our lives. As executors of God’s first and last will and testament, which for John was found in the single word love, we are given the responsibility to let the love of Christ flow from our hearts, from our core, with core-age, with courage. We can find this heart, this courage, at the cross, and we can sing our way to the elixir of life. . . Rock of ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee, let the water and the blood, from Thy wounded side which flowed, be of sin the double cure, save from wrath and make me pure. While I’m singing, I’m going to head back to see what else might be found in Leviticus.
How about you? Where does this Pastoral Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.