The Godfrey family after the service.
Congregation after the service.
Cecil and Vickie playing beautiful music for us.
[Father Riley's sermon:]
EASTER VII -A - 17 JOHN 17.1-11
Christ’ prayer concludes his final discourse delivered to his disciples in the upper room prior to his arrest in the garden. Today’s gospel reading contains the first two thirds of the prayer. Jesus prays first for himself and then for the disciples he is leaving behind, “the men you have given me.” These are the Apostles. They are the ones through whom God’s word comes to us.
Jesus’ prayer gathers up the themes of the preceding discourse. It is both a final resolution of Jesus’ obedience to the death, which will be his glorification and an intercession for the fruits of his accomplished work after his ascension. The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus is a consecration of himself as the mediator of salvation. In his prayer Jesus offers himself for the Father’s purposes and shows concern for the destiny of his disciples after his return to heaven.
In this portion of the prayer, Christ prays for the unity of the disciples, “that they may one as he and the father are one.” He prays that they will have His joy fulfilled in themselves and that they will be kept safe from the evil one. Moreover, He prays that God will “sanctify” them in truth.
The unity Jesus prays for on behalf of his disciples will undergo many strains, not the least of which were the successive persecutions that plagued the early church. The “fiery trial” as Peter called in his first letter to the church.
The temptation was ever present for the early followers to renounce their faith in the face of death. Jesus prays for their protection and growth, realizing that such growth can only reach perfection in union with each other and with God.
In the midst of Jesus’ prayer for himself is the revelation of what constitutes eternal life “…that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” What does it mean to know God?
We live in world today where information of all sorts and conditions are readily available at the touch of button. You can literally google anything, or simply ask “siri.” Hardly any decision is made without first learning something. At times, we bring that same intellectual concern to our faith.
We want to know God, and so we attend classes, we read theology, we think and we argue. We support opportunities in our churches to teach the faith once delivered to the saints to our children so they may know God. We extend those opportunities to the wider community through venues like VBS and ecumenical Bible studies. A great part of the Church’s mission is, and always has been, to teach.
Intellectual grasp of Christian teaching does play a role in faith, but it is not all there is. Alone it does not lead to eternal life. To know God is to know Jesus to be the eternal “Word.” “To know,” as it the verb is used in Hebrew, refers to direct experience and intimacy.
It is not enough simply to be in agreement with the teachings of the Church. Eternal life also entails an encounter with the living Christ, and experience of what God has done and is doing, not just in history, but also in our own lives. To know Jesus is to live in relationship with God.
Again, Peter warns us of the temptations to unfaithfulness. To live in relationship with God in this world is a struggle for the enemy explores us individually looking for our weaknesses. The enemy offers appealing visions to our eyes, music to our ears, to each of our senses setting forth whatever might tempt us to sin.
He arouses our tongues to speak evil about others and urges our hands to injure them. He sets forth profits to be earned by shady and immoral means and holds out earthly honors and false values to be preferred to heavenly ones. When he is unable to tempt us, he brings forth a threat of persecution so that fear may come to us to betray the faith that is within us.
Thus, Jesus prayed that God would protect us from the evil one. For our part, we must always be alert for his many faceted attacks ready to resist him at every turn. For the closer we get to God, the more frequent the attacks that are always aimed at our weak points.
Knowing God also means living a life of obedience to God’s commands. Just importantly, it means being a part of a community of believers. To know is to share in the life of God’s people. That is precisely what we see happening in the lesson from Acts.
Those who had been closest to Jesus during his earthly ministry, the eleven, and the women who had followed him, as well as his mother and brothers, had seen him and had heard his message. They know God and that knowledge continued after the Ascension; knowledge they shared that drew others to Christ.
The final and eternally continuing prayer of Jesus is that the unity of love and purpose he has with the Father will be reflected in the unity of the Church, in her mission to make disciples, to teach the faith by sharing our knowledge of God, and to baptize in His name.
In that spirit we meet today as God’s family committed to do the work God has given us to do, eagerly seeking a deeper knowledge and awareness of God in each of our lives. In that spirit John will be presented for holy baptism where he will renounce the enemy and all of his evil ways and accept Jesus Christ as his Savior promising to follow and obey him as his Lord.
In baptism, John will be buried with Christ and raised to new life in Him. He will be sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’ own forever. Our final prayer for John will be that he be given an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and persevere, but more importantly a spirit to “know and to love God and His Son, Jesus Christ. AMEN+