Lutheranlady's Weblog


Jesus’ Prayer: A sermon on John 17: 20-26
May 13, 2013, 8:21 am
Filed under: Sermons, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

Today, we open up the Gospel of John to Jesus praying at his last supper with the disciples. Jesus is praying for them. He is also praying for those who believe in him through the disciple’s witness: he is praying for you.

Have you ever had the experience of being prayed for? Of hearing someone else’s voice bring your name before God? Hearing what you most desperately long for being brought to God’s attention?

Last Sunday, I had the wonderful experience of being prayed for by all of you! I heard you asking God to make me faithful in doing God’s will, as you accept me as a messenger of Jesus Christ, and felt the weight of your voices and hands. What an amazing moment- to know that you already care enough about me- and about this ministry- to ask God to do something in my life, relationships, and leadership.

Can you remember an experience of being prayed for? What was it like for you? Empowering, strengthening, comforting? Was it a little be scary, to be vulnerable, to allow someone else to carry a little bit of your story to God, the very one who begins and sustains your story?

We are blessed here at Cross with a wonderful prayer ministry. Through the prayer chain, you all work together to hold those in need in prayer. Through prayer partners, you form relationships in which you get to know a younger or older person well enough to bring to God both their triumphs and joys and their trials and needs. One of my dreams is that we expand our prayer ministry. I’d like to see us exploring new ways and ancient ways of prayer. I’d like to see us renewing a prayer shawl ministry that creates a physical reminder of the prayers we wrap each other in. Every Sunday, we pray, not only for ourselves, but for the whole creation, all people, and even the natural world. As a whole, we are a people of prayer.

 

 

We are a people prayed for. Jesus himself prays for each of you. Jesus prays for our community, that we would be united. If our holding together was based only on our own power, this congregation wouldn’t have lasted as long as it has! It’s sad, but I’d bet that most of you have had some sort of negative interaction with somebody in this congregation. You’ve been snubbed, you’ve been yelled at, you’ve had something you love changed, you haven’t received what you needed or you wanted. The person who hurt you may not even know it, but you still feel a twinge of pain whenever you see him or her. And if you both come to worship, you may have to relive that painful memory every Sunday, when you’re coming to church looking to have your spirits uplifted. Jesus prays that God would hold us together, even as our sinful selves push towards disunity.

Jesus prays not only that we would be united as a congregation, but as a whole community of believers. As I met with the area ELCA pastors for text study, one remarked on how this text is always used at interdenominational meetings. Sitting around the table with Catholics, many stripes of Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, and Nondenominational types, he’s heard this text pulled out again and again, as the reality that all Christians are far from being one is listed as each particular church on their nametags. Still, it is worth celebrating that our church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, works hard to foster relationships across denominational lines: reaching out to the Roman Catholic tradition which birthed us, and forming special Full Communion relationships with the Moravian Church, the Reformed Church in America, the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, and the United Methodist Church. It’s beautiful when we come together as Christians who hold Christ at the center of our faith, even as we have many other differences in belief and practice, to join in God’s work to heal and restore our world. Often we find common ground most easily when we work to care for the poor, orphaned, and elderly. We are united most when we focus on sharing God’s love.

 

 

Jesus prays that we would join in the community that exists in God’s own self: Father, Son, and Spirit. If John’s language in our reading wasn’t confusing enough, with its “ I in them” and “you in me” and all of them together… let’s add a discussion of the Trinity! We believe in one God. This one God exists as three persons. These three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit experience complete union of relationship in their shared work for the creation and salvation of the world. That work includes constantly reaching outward and drawing in. The full interconnectedness that is God seeks not to be separate but to be ever more united with creation. Through Jesus Christ, we are drawn into the divine community- the deep relationship of shared life and purpose we see the Son sharing with the Father throughout the gospel.

The prayer that Jesus prays is a prayer that God wills, and a prayer that God brings into reality. If it is the will of Jesus, it is the will of God, and it will be accomplished. God has made you one with your pew neighbor, one with the people at the WELS church down the street, one with the Baptists worshipping in Ixonia, one with the Pentecostals in Guyana, one with the megachurch goers in South Korea, one with the saints who have died, and one with God, your creator, redeemer, and sanctifier. The God who desires you to experience unity will make it so.

As Christians, we live as if what God will make happen already has come into being. This is true in many areas of our lives. When a loved one dies, we carry the joy of her new forever life with God alongside our grief at her departure from this life. When we celebrate the resurrection, we rejoice that Christ is victorious over death, declaring that death has no more power over us. When we hear Jesus’ prayer for unity, for communion, between us and God, and through God with all other believers, we enter into community today. We look around at our fellow churchgoers, believing that God is holding us together. We interact with each other, knowing that our differences of opinion, our mis-spoken words, our personalities, have no power to divide us when God is the one who brings us together into a holy fellowship.

 

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian from the mid 20th century, spoke of our ability to have community with another person. In Life Together, he writes:

A Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ. Among human beings there is strife. “He is our peace” (Eph 2:14) says Paul of Jesus Christ. In Christ, broken and divided humanity has become one…without Christ we would not know other Christians around us; nor could we approach them. The way to them is blocked by one’s own ego. Christ opened up the way to God and to one another. Now Christians can live with each other in peace; they can love and serve one another; they can become one. But they can continue to do so only through Jesus Christ. Only in Jesus Christ are we one; only through him are we bound together.

(Bonhoeffer, Life Together, First Fortress Press 2005 32-33)

 

When you look at another person, or come to speak to him, Jesus stands between you and him. You can love that other person because you can love Jesus. You can find healing when that person sends hurtful words your way, because they fall first on Jesus, who has already suffered all the hurt of the world, and been proven the stronger, as he rose from the dead. You can welcome the stranger, because you welcome her through Jesus Christ. Jesus establishes relationship between us and the other.

 

Jesus prays for you. Jesus prays that you would know the joy of community. You are never left alone in loneliness. Jesus brings you into life-giving relationship with the broad community of believers. Jesus brings you into life-giving relationship with the source of all: our Triune God. Jesus prays for you, and fulfills his prayer, that you may have life and joy.

 

 

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