Seventh Sunday of Easter; John 17
May 20, 2012
Rev. Kristin Schultz
Jesus is at dinner with his disciples.
It is a Thursday night – the night of Passover.
It is the last meal Jesus will eat with his friends before he dies
Like so many teachers, or parents, given one last chance to hand over some package of wisdom for their charges to remember, Jesus tries to tell the disciples what it has all been about.
For three chapters, John’s Jesus preaches to his disciples – trying to sum up three years of ministry together and prepare them for the next step.
Jesus knows what will happen in the coming days –
his arrest, his death, and his resurrection.
And he knows that after the resurrection, he will be with the disciples only a short time.
He is truly going away, and leaving them to tell the story –
the amazing, life-changing story of his life, death, and resurrection.
He knows it will not be easy.
Jesus knows there are challenges ahead,
and so he has promised his disciples help.
He will send an Advocate, he says – one who will guide and protect them
as they carry out their mission in the world.
He will leave them –
but he will not leave them alone.
Then we come to chapter 17, the chapter of today’s gospel lesson.
In this chapter, Jesus does something wonderful:
he prays for his disciples.
David Lose, who writes a wonderful weekly blog for preachers,
calls this “The other Lord’s prayer.”
Once, when they saw him go apart to pray,
the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray.
so he gave them a prayer to teach them to pray – for themselves and for others –
in a way that would shape their faith and bring them closer to God.
Now, again, Jesus gives them an example of prayer,
when he prays for them, with them.
So what does he pray?
He does not pray that all their problems will be solved and their work will be easy. He knows it won’t happen that way.
He does not pray that all their enemies will be defeated
and they will never make mistakes.
As Lose says:
So what does he pray for? He prays for them to hang in there.
And for them to hang in there together.
He asks that God would strengthen them,
care for them, protect them, and keep them together.
In fact, Jesus asks that they would be one,
one fellowship, one family,
not just modeling the “oneness” of Jesus and the Father but actually living into it, participating in it, making it real and in this way sharing in Jesus’ joy.
What’s important for us in all this is that Jesus is not just praying for his disciples back then.
When I read the gospel lesson, you may have noticed that I read a little beyond what was chosen for today.
There is a very important piece in those verses I added on:
Jesus says, “”I ask not only on behalf of these,
but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word”
That’s us, my friends.
We are the ones who believe through the words of the apostles;
we are the ones for whom Jesus prayed, and prays still.
We, too, benefit from Jesus’ prayers for strength and courage,
his prayers for community and love.
Each time we read these words, we are reminded of Jesus' constant care and concern and compassion for us,
and for all the world God loves.
This, indeed, is the work of the Spirit, the advocate and comforter:
to remind us of Jesus' active and ongoing love and compassion
and to draw us more deeply together.
Now I want to invite you to enter a bit more deeply into this message,
and give you something to take with you when you leave here tonight.
Think for a moment about what you would like Jesus to pray for, for you.
What bit of comfort, or strength, or courage do you need.
Try to boil it down to one or two words – words that express what you need Jesus to pray for for you.
Now I invite you to write your word or words on the cards JP passed out.
You can take that with you, put it in your purse or billfold or on your desk,
and remember throughout the week that Jesus is praying for you,
that the Spirit of Jesus is with you to guide and care for you.
(Pray – invite people to share the words they wrote):
Gracious and loving God,
We give you thanks that your son came to live among us, to teach us to live.
We thank you that he lived a life of prayer and service, that we may learn to pray and serve. We thank you that he loves us – that you love us – that you wish for us abundant life. We pray tonight for :
For all these things, and whatever else you see that we need, we pray in the name of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.