Sunday, April 5, 2015

Giving Blood and the Blood of Jesus

1 John 1:1-2:5

"And the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin..." (1 John 1:7)

I have been a sporadic blood donor over the years.

Back when I was younger I would give every eight weeks. Then I moved to a town where blood drives in church basements were virtually unheard of.  It became inconvenient and I never seemed to get around to it. Then I was traveling a lot and my schedule was unpredictable and by then I had just fallen out of the habit. Lately though, I've been trying to be better about it. I do know what a difference it makes. More than that even, since my type is O-Negative, I know what a gift a pint of my blood is. So in this last year I've been trying to get into a more regular routine with it. It really demands so little of me and what a difference it can make!

The last time I was in to give blood I got into a conversation with the phlebotomist.  I asked her then if there was more that I could be doing. She stepped away to look at my records. When she came back she told me that I am CMV- Negative.  Apparently I have never been exposed to the cytomegalovirus. (I know. I'd never heard of it either.) This means that all the blood I donate will be designated for infants who are especially vulnerable. Since my blood type is so rare she told me that this is all they will ever use my blood for.

Now I have to say that I walked away feeling unreasonably proud of myself that day. To think I had this doubly rare blood type which is in such high demand. And all it takes is an hour of my time every couple of months and I can be saving a life --- and not just any life, but that of a little one newly born.  I say 'unreasonably proud,' of course, for in no way can I take credit for any of this. I was born with this blood type. And as for my exposure or not to a particular virus? Well, how can I possibly take credit for that?  Even so, it just made me so happy that a pint of my blood could help save the life of a baby.

In today's reading from 1 John, we hear the disciple trying to make sense of all that happened on that first Easter and in the events which preceded the discovery of the empty tomb. Indeed, in this letter John easily speaks of what I still struggle to understand sometimes -- how this dying, this death, this very blood could somehow make clean that which is so not clean in me and in all the rest of the world, for that matter. Even, so John says it so beautifully, doesn't he?

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life ---
This is the message --- that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.
If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
And he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world...

And yet, in some ways it does seem rather primitive, this business of blood being shed in our behalf, doesn't it? I'm still trying to sort out just how that is so and even more than that, how it is you and I are to speak of it in a world which knows little of the sort of ritual sacrifice which would have been so familiar to those who first heard and shared the story of Jesus. At the same time?  For all I can't completely understand, this much is surely true: This blood shed was for all. For all the world.

Indeed, entirely unlike me, Jesus took no pride in the particularity of who his blood was shed for. One specific type of person in need of it was of no more concern and no less concern to him than any other. My blood, a pint at a time, is good for babies. Jesus' blood, and in his case all of it, brought life, brings life to all sorts of people. Those who deserve it and those who don't. Especially those who don't. Like the criminal hanging next to him on the cross. Like all those who looked on, who mocked, ridiculed, and humiliated him. Like those who called for his crucifixion and yes those who crucify him still. Like those disciples still huddled together in their unrelenting fear in the upper room today, a full week after they have seen Jesus alive face to face. And more than all of these, of course, for John's testimony has the blood of Jesus covering what needs to be covered in the 'whole world.' People of all races and hues and persuasions and ages. All of us and all of them and them and us together.

No indeed, this much we know. Jesus doesn't think in terms of 'not just any life' but always in terms of every life. That is the profound gift we celebrate in these Easter days. That is what compels us to share this word of hope and joy with all the world.

  • Giving blood and the Blood of Jesus are, of course, so very different and yet, at least in my mind, there are some similarities. Does this comparison work for you? Why or why not?
  • What does it mean to you that Jesus is "the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world?" (1 John 2:2) When we say 'the whole world,' what does that mean? Who or what does that include?
  • If it is, in fact (and it is) for the whole world, what does that mean for us? For our shared mission? 

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