5/8/2016 Seventh Sunday of Easter The text is John 17:20-26.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today is Mother’s Day and I couldn’t let it go by unnoticed. So, from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, I thought I’d share with you what happens when Calvin approaches his mother on a rainy day like today. The exchange between them goes like this:
Calvin: “Can Hobbes and I go play in the rain, Mom?
Calvin: “Why not?”
Mom: “You’ll get soaked.”
Calvin: “What’s wrong with that?”
Mom: “You could catch pneumonia, run up a terrible hospital bill, linger a few months, and die.”
Calvin, looking out the window at the rain: “I always forget. If you ask a mom, you get a worse-case scenario.”
Hobbes: “I had no idea these little showers were so dangerous.”
(Bill Watterson, The Essential Calvin & Hobbes, p. 130)
Well, my friends, thank God…showers aren’t that dangerous. But sometimes worse-case scenarios can be.
In today’s Gospel, we have Jesus facing the worse-case scenario in his world. He is facing the horror of the cross. Jesus knows that he is not long for this world, but rather than attempting to run away and hide or back away from his mission, Jesus prays to his Father in heaven: “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Just a few short prayers of Jesus are recorded in the Gospels. This is the final sentence in the longest one, the one which is called Jesus’ high priestly prayer. This prayer ends Jesus’ final discourse to his disciples. It is a prayer in which Jesus prays for himself and for those who follow him, and it is prayer which he prays for the future and all generations to come.
Now, it’s not unusual that we should find Jesus in prayer at a critical junction in his life. Prayer is the one tool that Jesus uses throughout his earthly ministry to invoke the power of God and to discern the will of God. And yet, I wonder if any of us could find the compassion and courage of Jesus to pray for another while facing such significant crises and difficulties. Jesus is about to suffer the death of the cross. Judas, who has already betrayed him, will sign Jesus’ death certificate with a kiss. Peter will soon deny him. James and John will leave him alone when he needs them most. And yet Jesus prays for them. Jesus prays not only for those who have failed him and will fall short in the immediate time ahead, but also for those who are to come centuries later. Jesus prays for us all.
In the pain of the moment, Jesus prays not for revenge, but for love and salvation, a love and salvation which shows itself in unity, a oneness with God and oneness with other people. The unity that Jesus seeks is a unity of purpose so that the world might see in us the love of God.
If the love of God which others have experienced through him is to continue, that love needs to shine through the lives of his disciples. So, Jesus prays that we may be one as God is one. And yet, it is often brokenness, rivalry and alienation that prevail in our culture and in our lives. It is difficult for us to be united even within the family, let alone among others. Brothers and sisters strive to outdo one another. Children learn how to play parents against one another in order to get what they want. In-laws offer unwelcomed advice to newlyweds who struggle to find their identity as husband and wife.
We don’t have to go far to find the signs of fragmentation and disunity whether we are talking about our individual lives or the life we hold together as church. We cannot even come together when it comes to a simple task, like putting in a few extra dollars in the place on a Sunday morning, so how can there be unity in the more difficult areas of our life together as a Christian people? And yet, we know that Jesus does not pray empty prayers. Jesus does not pray a prayer which is impossible. Jesus prays with the power of God. So, no matter how disunited we may seem to be, it is in unity that we stand.
The unity which we have is a unity which centers around the baptismal font. It is a oneness which God creates that breaks down human barriers. It is a unity which transcends time and space. For, in the waters of baptism, we are made one family with each other and with those who have gone before us and those who are yet to come. We are made one with God and one with each other. This oneness is not of our choosing. It is by the will of God and the power of the Spirit that it is made possible. You did not choose your family. God makes you my brother or my sister through Jesus Christ. We are a family. We are a family of many rituals and languages. We are a family which spans the globe. But, we have a unity of purpose in Jesus Christ and that purpose is to show the love of God and to proclaim Jesus as lord of our lives. We may not do that too well. We may bicker and struggle like any family. And, we may display to the world that we are anything but a united people. Yet, this does not take away the gift of our baptism from us, nor does it take away the power of Jesus’ prayer.
It may seem as though Jesus’ prayer for unity is nothing more than an invitation to a life-long struggle. But, some struggles are worth it, my friends. Some struggles have a purpose. Some struggles are designed to help us grow. And, some struggles give hope to a world in need of a sign that God has not given up on us. So united we stand, as a people, one in baptism and one in purpose as we struggle in the labor of love and stand firm on the ground of faith.
May we gather together often, commune at the one table, and sing praises to the Lord who has made us brothers and sisters. And may the peace of the God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.