Jesus prays, “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.”
Today’s Gospel reading contains Jesus’ epic prayer for his disciples
(it is called the priestly prayer).
He is soon to leave them—he is headed to the cross—
and he finds this deep urge to ask God’s protection for his friends.
Jesus very human self is revealed in his prayer,
intricately woven together with his divinity.
“Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”
“Protect them”, Jesus worries for his disciples;
he has walked alongside of them, shared meals, experienced “family time”
he knows the road ahead of them will not be easy.
This prayer is the longest prayer of Jesus, there is pleading, worry, as he commends his disciples into the knowledge and love of God…
“I am asking on their behalf”
“I have given them your word”
“they have kept your word”
Worry. We can be quite good at this.
Our first child was such a professional worrier
that my sister once told her, “Hayley, why pray when you can worry?”
Jesus prayed, but it is easy to see in this prayer, he also worried;
he was leaving loved ones “in this world.”
Several years ago, a friend of mine was losing her son to cancer.
The young man was 17 years old
and he had suffered from bone cancer since the age of 12.
I watched this boy grow up over the years in the school where I worked.
I helped him with his Algebra a couple of times
when he was not able to be in school.
He was tall, strong, bright, and insightful.
Mostly, I remember he had an amazing cohort of friends
They stuck with him all the way through his many treatments & surgeries.
They hung out at his house, took him for ice cream,
argued over which video games they’d play…
This cancer was aggressive, and at 17, his body could no longer fight it.
Just before he died, all his friends dressed up in Gryffindor regalia,
and took him to the theatre to see the newest Harry Potter film just out.
It was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. This story is exciting, as the school puts on a great tournament –the Quidditch cup, and Harry is chosen to play. This story is dark, as one of the students dies at the end.
Dumbledore, who is the headmaster of the school, offers one of the many great teachings in this story, “there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”
The book, turned movie is Full of life–lessons, on loyalty, love, and death—
So appropriate for these teens on this day.
It was just a couple of days before the movie premiere,
that the family’s pastor visited the boy and his family at home.
During the visit, my friend noticed her son was being unusually quiet
And thinking he needed to talk to someone, she left the two alone.
The pastor later told us, he came away from that meeting
as tranquil as he’d ever been in his life.
He said the young man was quietly worrying about his family and friends.
The young man knew that he would be fine and he was at peace with dying,
but he worried that his friends and family would be devastated.
He was worried about leaving his loved ones—
the very same emotion Jesus was having
as he was praying for his Father’s protection,
“I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world,
but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours…
I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world,
and I am coming to you.”
In this gospel, John writes about “the world”—kosmos—58 times!
All together, Luke, Matthew and Mark write about
“the world” only 18 times
John, the last gospel written, the latest gospel written,
Approx.. 60 years after Jesus’ death.
He wants the followers of Christ to be aware of what it will mean
if we organize our lives, and form our society without God.
I am not talking about having doubt
or occasionally losing sight of God’s kingdom,
I am talking about deliberately putting God aside
as we set up our daily patterns, as we choose our politics,
even as we interpret scripture.
Jesus worries…we are at risk of putting God aside in favor of the world.
Going on to pray about his disciples, he pleads with God
“they do not belong to this world” but
“As you have sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”
Jesus knows that putting God first, is risking
rejecting, scorn, even death.
When John was writing, the landscape for Christians was tough!
If you followed the way of Christ,
Family members rejected you,
You lived under fear of threat by Roman authorities,
And were ostracized by society.
Many early Christians met in secrecy,
I’ve always thought how scary it would have been;
how hard it must have been to be a Christian in the early days.
I wonder I would have the courage to testify to my faith
in the face of death…..
In our day, we can speak freely about our faith;
we don’t worry (at least in this country) about outright persecution.
In a bible study several years ago, before I went to seminary,
My class was talking about the hardships early Christians faced—
and the great bravery it must has taken to follow Christ.
I confidently said, “It is much easier to be a Christian now.”
“What?” another person cried out.
We all looked at her with confused faces.
She took this as her cue and began a tirade I’ll never forget:
“Our lives are so easy now,
not only can we openly worship in our faith,
we don’t have to work the land sunup to sundown or forage for food.
Our lives are so busy with our own stuff, in our own safe neighborhoods,
we can easily overlook the plight of the hungry,
the suffering of orphans; we can turn off the television, so we don’t have to see the images of horror in the world and then go about our business.”
In 20 years, I have not forgotten her lecture.
Easier to be a Christian now? No.
It is easy to be “of this world” organizing our lives without God,
going to church on Sunday, but then
living lives of complacency.
Jesus worried and prayed about this very thing….
“Don’t forget whose you are,” is Jesus’ worry.
“Remember you are God’s,” is Jesus’ prayer.
Eastertide comes to an end today, so we read of Jesus leaving his friends.
His Ascension is before us.
Jesus, God incarnate and God made human
departs with a heartfelt prayer.
While on earth he made friends and made choices,
he experienced human joy and felt the pain of loss,
all so that we may know and come to love God
all so we may understand that God knows us—
knows what it is like to be human with all its longings, hopes, fears, worries, and decisions to be made—and loves us, faults and all.
“Holy Father,” Jesus prays, “I made your name known to themso that the love with which you have loved me, may be in them, and I in them.”
The love you feel welling up inside yourself, my friends, is that love of which we are made, God in us.
You feel it when you kiss your mom goodbye, or your son goodnight—
You feel it when you cry heartbroken at the scenes of shootings, of school children and grocery shoppers, because we are made of this love.
You feel it when you hug a friend who sees you through the pains of this life,
And when you remember loved ones no longer with us –
this is the love that never dies, God’s greatest gift to us.
Thinking back to my friend’s son, I’ve wished at time
he could have lived to see the 7th
and last of the Harry Potter films—
where Harry finds his parent’s tombstone and reads this very
Christian Easter quote: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”
But knowing the love he had in him, offering back to his family and friends the love that God bestowed inside of him,…
I have no doubt he knew better than I,
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
Thanks be to God.