Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sermon; Easter 7B; John 17:6-19

Happy Easter!
Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

That seems just about right.  It has been six weeks and seven Sundays since Easter.  That is a long time to carry on a celebration.  That is a long time to carry on with Easter greetings.  But this is also part of the beauty of living a life with a liturgical calendar.  All of these seasons and holy days on our calendar remind us of how God acted in the past, how God acts in our present, and how God will act in our future.

Today is the Seventh Sunday of Easter.  Every year on this Sunday the Lectionary gives us a gospel reading from John 17.  Year A is roughly the first third of the chapter, Year B roughly the middle third, and Year C roughly the last third.  I bring this up because unlike the first three Sundays of Easter – Resurrection, or the last three Sundays of Easter – preparation, the message of Easter 7 is specifically focused on us.

Today's reading, as with the previous two weeks, comes from the Farewell Discourse – that part of John between Judas' departure and Jesus' move to Gethsemane.  Chapter 17, the final chapter of the Discourse, is what is known as the High Priestly Prayer, and is the prayer Jesus prays over his disciples.

Like most of John, it is theologically dense (as in, there's a lot to it, not that it's stupid).  So what I want to focus on is its focus on unity.

First, there is the unity between God the Father and Jesus, the Son.  Jesus and the Father are united in purpose – the words you gave me, I gave them; mine are yours and yours are mine; I protected them in your name that you have given me.  There's a clear sense here that the mission of Jesus is the mission of God and that the two of them are fully united.

This unity between Jesus and the Father is not exclusive to that relationship, though.  It now extends to include the apostles.  Note that the apostles belonged to God before they were given to Jesus.  Jesus is now praying for their protection because they belong to the Father.  And in the middle of this prayer, Jesus prays that they may be one as we are one.  To tie it all together, Jesus says that the disciples do not belong to the world, just as he doesn't belong to the world.

This sense of unity, besides flowing between Jesus and the Father and the apostles, also spans time itself.  They were yours.  They are mine.  As I am sanctified, may they be sanctified.  There is a sense that this prayer covers past, present and future.  This is typical John.  Think about his prologue which states that Jesus is present always.  Or his confrontation at the end of Chapter 8 when he says, “Before Abraham was, I am.”  In this prayer, not only are Jesus and the Father present in all times, but now so are the apostles and their community.

The Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father.  The Father and the Son are one.  Jesus is bringing this new community of apostles, which will eventually become the Church, into that same union.  All mine are yours and yours are mine.  The Father is in the Son is in the Church is in the Son is in the Father.  We are now part of that unity.  As the Father and the Son are united, so are we united.

If we are united to the Father and the Son in love as they are, then we are also united in their mission.  The mission of the Father and the Son is to bring all people into the love and knowledge of God's kingdom.  That is now our mission as well.  Jesus is no longer in the world to perform this mission, but we are.

In this prayer, Jesus is recognizing that we have been called by God to help fulfill God's purpose on Earth.  He is recognizing that we are called into dangerous (at worst) and unwelcoming (at best) circumstances, and is therefore praying for our safety and protection.  And he is asking that, like his life glorified God, our lives will also glorify God.

The future of the Church, and the future of God's mission, is now being entrusted to us.

But maybe it's best if we don't think about the future.  The future can be a large and daunting country.  Maybe instead we should think about the mission of God in the same way as God and Jesus think about themselves.

“Who should I say has sent me?”
“Say, I AM has sent me.”
“Jesus said, 'Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am'.”

For God, there is no past, present or future; there is only now.  There is only is.

Last Thursday Jesus ascended to the Father.  The onus is now on us to complete his mission in the world.  As we live through the seasons of the year, as we are reminded of how God acted in the past, how God acts in the present and how God will act in the future, let us remember that we are forever united with the Great I AM.

We have been called to be in union with God and we have been called to fulfill God's mission.  Let us remember that the mission of the God of past, present and future to which we are called can only take place in one time – now.



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