EASTER VII - C -19 JOHN 17. 20-26
Sometimes we read and hear a passage from scripture and cannot help but wonder is this relevant? What does it have to do with me? Today’s gospel reading could not be more relevant. Jesus is talking about you, me, and all those who are His followers throughout the world.
The words of Jesus in today’s passage are from His “high priestly” prayer that comes at the end of the part of John’s gospel containing Jesus’ farewell discourse to his disciples. These are the final words of Jesus meant to be remembered by the disciples when He is no longer physically present among them.
Although the prayer is addressed to the Father, it is obviously meant to be heard by the disciples. An essential aspect of relationships is thinking, hoping, dreaming, wishing, and praying for and about the future. This portion of Jesus’ prayer we hear today turns its attention to the future.
His prayer reflects love for his own. His concern now is for the future life and ministry of those gathered around him. His desire is for the continuation of the relationship. Through the ongoing work and words of the disciples, people will come to know and put their faith in Jesus as the One sent by the Father.
This prayer is especially appropriate for us to hear today. As they were for the disciples, these words are also meant for us to remember. The 7th Sunday of Easter finds us waiting between the feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost. It is a time to wonder about the future.
There is life and mission ahead for us as church but only if we are untied in that mission, something Jesus also prays for, “that they all may be one.’ That is, untied in one faith and worship. This unity is not just to be a formal arrangement. It is not just an outward thing.
It is based on, and must mirror, nothing less than the unity between the Father and the Son. “As you Father are in me, and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” This can only mean that we ourselves are to be united, as were Jesus’ first disciples in announcing the good news and spreading it around the world.
Those who heard them passed it on, and on, and on. The church is never more than one generation away from extinction; all it would take is for a single generation not to hand the word on. But that has never happened. People have always told other people about Jesus and the love of God sometimes at the peril of their lives.
Today’s reading from Acts is just one example. Paul and Silas get themselves thrown into prison in Macedonia for exercising a dark spirit from a young slave girl. Her owners bring Paul and Silas before the judges accusing them of “disturbing the city and advocating customs that are not lawful for Romans to adopt or observe.” However, the real reason being that they had lost their means of making money off the girl.
Paul and Silas are beaten and thrown into prison. However, they do not despair but sign hymns and pray. The other prisoners listen. God comes to their rescue. The doors of the jail are flung wide open. They could easily escape, but God has a purpose for their being there. The jailor fearing that all have escaped and will cost him his life is surprised to find that they are all still there.
He is moved to ask, “What must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Paul and Silas tell him and his household of the love of God and of God’s son, Jesus, and all were baptized. Jesus’ prayer reminds us of God’s love, of Jesus’ hope and desire for our future that through us, the world may see and come to know that love.
That is the desire and confidence Jesus had for the future of his first followers. It is the same held out for our future. The result of this will be that the world may see and know that this kind of community, united across all traditional barriers of race, custom, gender or class, can only come from the action of the creator God.
This goes hand in hand with Jesus’ earlier words, “this is how all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Unity is vital for our being able to carry out the mission of the church.
Sadly, we all know that Jesus’ prayer for us has not yet been fully realized. However, he is still praying for us at the right hand of the Father.
The whole prayer comes down to just one word - love. It is about the love of the Father surrounding the Son, and this same love surrounding all of Jesus’ people, making Him present to them and through them to the world.
It is our yearning to be united and connected to God that gathers us together here before His altar to celebrate the Eucharist. In this sacrament, we are united with God through Christ. In the Eucharistic prayer, we pray that we might be made one body with him, that he may dwell in us and we in him as we receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
These words echo the prayer of Jesus in John’s gospel. It is here that we come to experience the presence of God.
It is here that we come to remember Christ’ death, resurrection and ascension. It is here that we come to be filled with the indwelling love of God in Christ. It is here that we are feed and strengthened to be sent with that love into the world to face the future of our mission and ministry.
At the Ascension Jesus vanished out of their sight, but the love of Christ did not disappear. It is among us and with us each time we come together to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. Jesus has left us more than a legacy or example: it is an ongoing relationship, a continuing connectedness, a way of nurturing and sustaining.
In the Eucharist we are assured that Jesus dwells in us and that if we dwell in him, others will come to know and have faith in God’s love. Then the hopes, dreams, and final prayer of the Lord who loves us and dwells in us will be fulfilled.
“Righteous Father…I made your name known to them… so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” AMEN+