May 23, 2023

MESSAGE – Seventh Sunday of Easter – A – 21 May 2023

MESSAGE – Seventh Sunday of Easter – A – 21 May 2023

HAPPY EASTER IN YOU! How are we living the resurrection?

THEME: Glory – how do we show the presence of God? How do we make visible the presence of God? Revealing God’s glory. Revealing the glory of Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
I also love the image of eternal life as ‘knowing’ God. And this is not a surface awareness of God, but relationship with – abiding in, surrounded by, completely informed and absorbed in that relationship.
Check out verse 3 – and this is eternal life. May know you and God. Welcoming us into that abiding place. Preparing that abiding presence. The ascension. Knowing intimately, God in Jesus and Jesus in God.
It offers a very different picture of eternal life.

One thing that strikes me in this text is that Jesus is praying for the disciples with them there. It is after a long conversation and a meal together.
They heard Him saying these things to God on their behalf. It offers a different dynamic and opens the door to exploring how the prayer would have felt, resonated, inspired, strengthened and challenged.
Draw attention to this important difference and help the listener identify with the disciples who heard it. After all, it is being said for them too.

Jesus’ final prayer is for unity – that we may be one, as God in Christ is one.
That is the prayer the disciples heard said for them. How do we answer that prayer for Jesus?
What can we do to bring that reality into being?
Where are the places in the world and in our lives where we are blocking that vision?
Use what is happening locally, nationally and globally to explore that question.
Finally, it is striking to note the number of times the word ‘give’ is used.
God gives Jesus (and through Him, us) so many things: a name, words, work, life, others to love and claim, authority that is coupled with relationship.

his prayer, found in John 17, serves as the significant prayer of Jesus. Rather than teaching us how to pray, it gives us an in-depth account of what Jesus prioritised in prayer.

He begins by praying for himself and then prays for his disciples. The world will benefit when this prayer is answered, but he is praying specifically for himself as part of two communities–Jesus as part of the Triune God and as part of the community of disciples he has cultivated. The prayer seems to echo his articulation of the greatest commandment. Jesus centers his prayer in God and prays for his closest neighbours to enjoy what he has experienced in the divine-human relationship–mutual indwelling, belonging, and union.

Jesus was confronting death, the most challenging and radical aspect of incarnation since his birth, as he prayed. It was the ultimate act of love of God and neighbor, which leads him to pray. Again, he starts with himself and then moves to those he has called to do the same. His prayer is part of the preparation he does for his disciples to continue the ministry after his ultimate physical departure. Only through his divine union will he be able to finish what was started at his birth; only through the disciples entering into that union will they be empowered and sustained to follow him wherever their ministry leads.

But it is not only their union with God that will keep them steady and encouraged. They will need to remain in unity with one another. Their fruitfulness will not be a result of their individual effort and dedication alone; the commitment and work of the community will make ministry possible:

The love that Jesus hopes for his disciples, the first ones called as well as those to come, may seem aspirational but is essential for the reign of Christ to be fully realised in the world, because that reign is love, that reign is incarnation, and that reign is union.

Note that unity is not uniformity. God’s reign does not repudiate diversity; it celebrates and nurtures it. The metaphor of the church as the Spouse of Christ reminds us that a deep, abiding, and covenantal joining can take place while maintaining distinctiveness and individual identity. The prayer is not that they will all be the same; it is that they may be one. Even the Trinity celebrates and amplifies God’s distinctiveness in each Person. The disciples were called with their unique, beautiful, and messy personalities, characteristics, gifts, and traits. Curious Thomas has a role. Questioning Phillip has a purpose. Simon brings all that he is as he has been appointed to be Peter. Mary Magdalene continues to exercise her leadership in her persistent presence in spaces otherwise denied to her.

As we listen to Jesus pray for the next leaders of his ministry, we note he does not ask for them to prevail over Rome, to grow the church to a certain size, or to have an easier time. He does not pray for their strength, resolve, or discernment. Jesus prays that they may be one, because in their unity of spirit, they collectively will have what they need to be fruitful and advance the reign of God in the world.

A splintered body of Christ does not reflect the resurrected Jesus. When we break our relationship with one another, we project his body broken but not healed.

I’m not sure that we fully appreciate how much Jesus prioritized the relationship of his followers. It was the complete subject of his final prayer (according to John). What if our response to splits and divisions in the church was abiding love? I’m not suggesting submitting to or endorsing abusive environments, doctrine, or theology. But, what if we pursued unity, mutuality, love, and compassion within the body as we do beyond the body…and vice versa? What if the resurrected life applied not only to us individually but also collectively?

What if we believed in the aspirations of this prayer? What if we embodied this prayer?

I in you. You in me. As we are one.