“Pray for us Jesus” - John 17:6-19 WPC, Santa Fe May 24, 2009
Sodo you practically have your bags packed? Ready to get somewhere, anywhere, a long way from here? Family Vacation? Getting away from it all, Turning off your cell phone, your tv, and the news, and disconnecting completely. How many of you experience stress? When are those times when life becomes unbearable: difficult people, disappointments, bad news; and we just need a break and to get away: Beam me up Scotty. Travel agents, the tourist industry, and the real estate business know this “need”; and spend millions to lure us to travel to exotic destinations.
Surely this dream of escape was a temptation for the early Christian community. They were a fledgling group that had been inspired by Christ to live a new kind of way…But then came some rejection and persecution. Strange looks from people in the neighborhood as they were walking down the street singing some praise songs. “Oh just be quiet will all of that Jesus nonsense!” Some got kicked out of the neighborhood gathering places--synagogues. And it wouldn’t be tool long before some would lose their life defending their faith. It would have been easy for this early community to want to escape, to just go to a separate place and tell memories and stories about Jesus and leave it all behind.
But Jesus, before he goes away, prays this prayer found in John 17. It is often called the priestly prayer. Jesus’ prayer for the people. It is a prayer of Jesus just after the last supper that he has had with his disciples and just before he is Crucified. and taken away from them. This is not the easiest passage in the Bible; and one can get lost in some of the wording: but at the heart this is
a beautiful prayer that Jesus prays—he prayed it for disciples then…he prays it for disciples now, in every time and place, this is Jesus prayer for those who are his.
Before we dive right into the prayer I want to point out that the prayer opens and closes with two very important things: First, it opens with what is essentially Jesus mission. (mission impossible theme song) Did you hear those words? What was Jesus mission and purpose at it’s core?
This passage says, To make God’s name known. What do you think this means? To
make the name known that is is love. The name that is forgiveness. The Name that is mercy. This is the good news that Jesus came to bring. And now he is going. And before he goes, toward the end of the prayer Jesus says, “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”
IN John, Jesus has a strange relationship with the world; it is unique to this gospel. Kind of a love hate relationship. Disciples are from the world and to remain in the world, but they do not belong to the world; instead they are sent to the world. Have you heard it said that Christians are to be in the world, but not of the world? What is it about the world?
Another problem is that sometimes we too readily accept how the world is…the status quo…must be the way God wants things. Sure there is injustice and oppression, and war and famine, but what can I do? Eat, drink and be merry? Who then is doing the work of making God’s name be known if we accept the world for what it is?
Just as I was sent into the world, so I am sending my disciples. As attractive as it might be to want to escape from the world, or embrace the world for what it is, if we are to fulfill this mission disciples must be living, acting, and doing in the world, but we do not belong to the world.
Jesus knows that this relationship to the world for disciples is not an easy one to figure out. So let’s look at what he asks for? At what he prays in John 17? Does he pray that we can get anything and everything we want? Does he pray that we will be healthy wealthy and wise?
In this prayer, Jesus prays for three things: did anyone catch them?
1. Jesus prays for protection
2. Jesus prays that the disciples may be sanctified in the truth.
3. Jesus prays that disciples may have his joy complete in themselves.
And it is in these three things that we gain better insight about our relation to the world.
First,knowing that disciples are sent into the world Jesus prays for protection. Kind of like a prayer for safety. But is seems that Jesus isn’t necessarily praying that no ailments will come our way, and this isn’t a prayer for safe travel. It’s a prayer of protection in our relationships. Protection so that disciples may be one as he and the Holy Father are one; and he prays for protection from the evil one. Somehow, the health and wellbeing of our relationships are what is vital to this ministry disciples are commissioned to do. When we can demonstrate love for one another it is when we best proclaim the loving name of God. When there is unity, there is peace. Now unity does not mean uniformity: I don’t think this means that we all think alike, believe necessarily the same things, and dress the same way. But we can show unity in our diversity. Like when we ordain people in our church who are very different from one another, those ordained as elders or deacons promise to work toward the peace, unity and purity of the church. And the evil one would want nothing more than to tear those relationships apart and keep us from this purpose. For us to experience brokenness and separation in relationships. Families torn apart, churches split. To hurt one another. To lie, steal, or cheat to get ahead. To deceive each other and ourselves. The evil one is most effective when we are not loving: and John says we have to love. Love isn’t easy. There is the day-to-day grind that leaves us tired and frustrated and we can get on one another’s nerves; misunderstand one another; and betray one another. There is suffering and evil; and the evil one wants nothing more than for us to carry a lot of bitterness and hatred in our hearts toward others. Jesus is still praying for protection so that we might be one so that we might carry out the mission of making God’s name be known in the world.
But if we go into the world might we become corrupted by the world?
This leads to another aspect of this prayer: Sanctify them in the truth, Jesus prays. The world is so attractive with all its glam and glitter. What if the greed that is found in the world makes me
greedy? The world is so sly, so me focused what if I just start looking out for me? I want to be the next American Idol..or at least the next Westminster Idol. Jesus prays in this prayer that disciples would be sanctified in the truth: your word is truth. Knowing the lures and temptations in the world, to seek fame and fortune, to have fun all the time, and to not worry about other people’s problems, with all of the different ideas in the world that don’t seem to fit with ideas of God; Jesus prays that disciples would be made holy.
But how do we become sanctified in truth? A few weeks ago, Sander van Doorn (aka the colonel) and I went camping; and he told me a little more about how he became an evolutionary biologist. He grew up in a church community where anything that smacked of evolution was
suspect: This was not Christian the young Sander was told. But Sander enjoyed studying biology; but in order to try and be a good Christian he avoided those classes that got into evolution, or just kind of closed his eyes and ears when they talked about it. But, he went off to university, and continued to walk this tight-rope until he could no longer simply avoid the issue. So instead he took it head on, is evolution contradictory to my faith, and to the Bible or not? And he concluded that it was not, and in fact now sees how God is using him to help bring understanding between biblical faith and science. The prayer of Jesus: sanctify them in the truth.
Sanctify: that we would become God like, through mediation on God’s word and seeking after God in our lives, even as we are in the world. And this is done not on our own, but as we gather in community and share our experiences with each other.
And the final thing I want to mention about Jesus prayer is that he prays that his joy would be made complete in the disciples themselves. What do you think gave Jesus joy? I’m sure he loved hanging out around the fire late at night with his friends. I’m sure he enjoyed a good harvest party when the occasion would arise. But what seems to have given him the most joy is fulfilling the mission for which he had come. IT is when we fulfill Jesus mission of making God’s name be know that we experience this joy of Christ.
Have any of you ever seen a life transformed because a word of love was spoken to places where there had been hatred and brokenness. A word of forgiveness where there had been bitterness and mistrust. A word of mercy where there had been guilt and pride? Have you seen a life
that was spinning out of control or full of destruction and hate, be transformed into a life of love? Is there a greater joy than this transformation.
Trasie told me about one of her clients who was depressed lonely and decided that he was ready to kill himself. But before he did he went up to the plaza one last time, and there he found, “a bum”. This “bum” told him about God’s love and told him about a program that could help him. And the young man changed his mind, and is on the road to recovery.
It is when we make God’s name known, and share good news with others, that we find great joy in life...immeasurable joy. When we pass the peace to someone who is lonely, give a hug to someone who is ill, speak a word of love to someone who feels rejected; in this hurting world we can experience God’s grace.
Where are you going this summer? Maybe you’ve got a great vacation lined up…a nice get away. Well, enjoy, it but the world that is so full of pain and hurt is waiting for our return. That we might go into the world this summer, and be his hands and feet, that we might make the loving name of God known to everyone we meet, that we not fear those we encounter but come before them in love, so that Christ’s joy may be made complete in us and throughout the world.
Close: Teresa of Avila said "Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands
but yours, no feet but yours; yours are the eyes through which the
compassion of Christ looks out on a hurting world, yours are the feet
with which he goes about doing good; yours are the hands with which
he is to bless now." Amen