5/17/2015 Seventh Sunday of Easter Text is John 17:6-19.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
As this Sunday is the first Sunday after the ascension of our Lord, these words which we have proclaimed throughout the Easter season take on new meaning. For today, we are not only proclaiming our trust in the resurrection and the promises that this event holds for us, but also we are attesting to the fact that Jesus is no longer with us. For Christ has risen. He has risen indeed.
He is no longer here. He is with his Father. Jesus is no longer in the world to walk with us and to talk with us. Yes, we believe that he is here among us (for he said that I am with you always to the end of the age), but he is not here in a bodily presence. He is here in the waters of baptism and in the bread and wine of communion. He is here in love shared and in common mission and ministry. He is here among us in a strange and mysterious way for he promised us his presence. Yet, we do not see him face to face.
Jesus knew that the time would come when, physically, he would no longer be part of our world. And as the time of his betrayal, his crucifixion, his death drew near, he prayed for us who would be left behind and who would struggle to keep the faith in each generation. Today, in our gospel, we hear part of his prayer and we get insight into what Jesus wants for us. Jesus wants these things, not for those who have rejected him and those who do not know him, but for people like us, who claim him as Lord and Savior.
What Jesus wants for us is that we will be kept in his word. We wants us to truly know, not only here in our heads, but here in our hearts, that everything is from God. He also wants us to believe and trust in the words that his Father gave him to speak and to do in this world. He wants us, and his Father, to know just how special we are and just how important we have been and will be in fulfilling his mission in the world.
So, in his prayer, Jesus tells his Father that he has been glorified in the people who are his. In spite of our faults and our failures, when we reach out to others in the name of Christ, we glorify him. We are not perfect in what we do for everything is done with mixed motives. We may help others, not just because there is a need, but because it makes us feel good. We may even serve others and do things for the church because we like that pat on the back and the kudos for a job well done. Unlike Jesus, who glorified the Father by helping people even when it got him into trouble with religious authorities, family and others, we would rather not put ourselves in harm’s way. We may even sulk or refuse to offer our help in the future if we don’t get what we think we deserve. Yet, Jesus says that he has been glorified in people who are his. So, what we do in his name gives glory to God in spite of those mixed motives.
Jesus also prays that we be protected from this world. And, we all know that there are many things in this world for which we need protection – things like war, violence, terrorism, pollution, disease, accidents, natural disasters, and maybe even family and neighbors. But, we also need protection against those things which entrap us – things like commercialism, greed, lust, egotism, possessiveness and the like. Jesus knows that we need help. We need God to protect us from all the outside forces which would destroy us and all the inside forces which would cause us to destroy others and ourselves. So, Jesus prays for us.
The world is not a safe place to live, but it is the only place we have. In order to help us get through the trials and temptations in life, Jesus prays that we find help in each other, the same type of help that his Father gave him. Jesus prays that we may be one as he and the Father are one.
In Jesus, we are intricately connected to one another, forming Christ’s body, the church. In baptism, we become brothers and sisters, members of the same family of God. We are one as God has made us one. But, we are also sinners and in a less than perfect world, we know that there are times when relationships break apart and families fracture. It is especially destructive when this happens within the family known as the church. The bickering, in-fighting, power struggles, one-upmanship, and insensitivity that is sometimes experienced in the life of the church gives witness to only one thing – that God’s family is torn apart and that the oneness Christ prayed for has not yet come into being.
We cannot achieve this oneness by wishful thinking. In fact, unity cannot be achieved by our efforts. For us to be one as Jesus and the Father are one can only happen through the grace of God, a grace which is renewed every time we gather together in the Lord’s name and each time we partake in his supper. Jesus is the hub of the wheel and we are the spokes, drawn together and united in the framework of God’s grace. Jesus prays that we live in that grace and find the unity that he seeks for us. Jesus prays that none of us will be lost.
As if this were not enough, Jesus asks for even more. As Jesus seeks the very best for us, he prays that his joy may be complete in us. Joy, in this case, is kind of a curious word for it doesn’t refer to some kind of never ending high in which pain is eradicated. No, the type of joy that Jesus is talking about is best described by the word, “contentment” – a contentment which allows us to find peace in all circumstances of life.
I have seen people die in that kind of joy – it isn’t that they wanted to die, but that they had peace with God and others and did not fear what death would bring. Beneath the pain of disease, on their face was the smile of hope, for they knew that they were indeed protected from the evil one. Jesus’ prayer assured them of safety in spite of what was happening around them, for they knew that they belonged to Christ.
We belong to Christ. And we, who belong to Christ and who live in this world do not belong to this world – we belong to God as we have been marked with the cross of Christ forever. This same God protects us, guides us, unites us and sets us apart.
The final part of Jesus’ prayer for us deals with being consecrated, set apart and being sent out into the world armed with the truth. We are all called. We are all chosen. We are all set apart to do the Lord’s work. What that service will look like will be different from person to person. No all are apostles, not all are teachers or leaders or hostesses or healers, and not all are pastors – but some will be. For, the same Jesus, who unites us, gifts us for different tasks in his kingdom and he prays, that as we go about the work to which we have been called, that we will find peace and joy.
This, and so much more, Jesus wants us to have. So, Jesus prays for us as his life in this world is coming to an end. He prays, knowing that the day will come when we will proclaim: Christ has risen! He has risen, indeed! And in his rising from grave to heaven, there is hope and promise for more to come.
May Jesus prayer for us be fulfilled, and may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.