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5/29/22 Sermon

17 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you, 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. 9 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. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

20 “I ask not only on behalf of these but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. 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. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them and I in them.”

John Chapter 17 is Jesus’ prayer to God, on our behalf, before he is arrested and crucified.

Chapter 17 is Jesus’ fervent prayer that we know God in the same way that he knows God.

The prayer expresses Jesus’ desire for us to all be one. One with God. One with Jesus. One with humanity, with each other. In verses 1 – 19 he prayed this for his disciples. In verses 20 – 26 he prayed this for us.

I asked Pat to read all of Chapter 17 so that you could hear the entirety of Jesus’ “Farewell Prayer” as written in the Gospel of John. This prayer encompasses (1) belief (2) unity, and (3) love.

Jesus’ belief in his place in the world. With God. With humans. Bridging the space between. With Jesus, I think it is safe to say there is no space between himself and God. With us, I am afraid the distance is sometimes immeasurably vast. Jesus prays for us to bridge the gap.

Jesus desires unity among all nations, all races, all religions, all people. He prays that we know the same unity with God that he knows, that we have unity not only with God but with one another. Verse 21 begins mid-sentence, “…that they may all be one.” That is the scripture that I chose to anchor my ordination authorization paper in 2018. I made reference to a three-legged stool of God, Self, and Other. All three must be kept in balance… that we may all be one.

This prayer ends where we need to begin, with Love. Jesus prays that the love of God as he has known it, be in us also. Some weeks we seem so very far from the fulfilment of this prayer. This was certainly one of those weeks.

Nineteen elementary school children dead. Shot in their classroom. Two teachers dead. And a grieved husband, dead two days later from an apparent heart attack; a very literal broken heart. Seventeen more injured at Robb Elementary. And so much collateral damage. Psychological pain inflicted on other children, teachers, and staff at the school. Grief of family and friends. Fear in schools, in families, in cities and towns across the country, fear that it might happen in our communities next.

What’s next? For surely there is a next time. How do we prevent the next time?

How do we find unity? peace? love? How do we find ourselves living into Jesus’s prayer that we may all be one instead of living into this nightmare of escalating gun violence?

I was reminded again this week of perspective, of expectation, of how prayer works and how prayer doesn’t work. To be frank, we don’t know how, or if prayer works. Or when or why. I do believe with all my heart that prayer is the place to start. And I believe just as strongly that we aren’t done praying when we are finished talking to God. We need to leave space in our prayer lives to listen for God’s answer. And then to respond to God’s answer.

I read a blog post this week reminding me that when we pray, most of us are waiting for God to do something. Or waiting for someone else to do something. God is waiting for us to do something.

When will we have honest conversations about mental illness? About our national obsession with guns? About the grave danger when mental illness and gun ownership collide? About giving up some personal freedoms for the greater good of national freedoms of life and liberty for all?

I am reading a book titled, “Trust Women.” In it, the author, Rebecca Todd Peters lays out the foundational beginnings of our country in this way. “The US government is built on the principle of social contract theory as developed in the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophical tradition of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean Jacques Rosseau. The idea of the ‘social contract’ begins with a recognition that nature is a primitive state without any laws or morality. Human capacity for reason, cooperation, and organization has allowed us to create governmental systems that provide for a more orderly state of existence for humankind. The principle behind the social contract is that citizens agree to give up some measure of freedom or individual liberty to secure a more civil and safe social environment. Most of our contemporary political debates are about the nature of the social contract: First, how much individual liberty should we concede to the government in return for security? And what role do we collectively agree is acceptable for the state to play, particularly in issues that begin to encroach on personal liberty?” (Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice, Rebecca Todd Peters, Beacon Press, 2018, p. 70)

This quote is taken from a book about women’s reproductive justice but the same principles apply broadly to other issues, such as free speech and the right to bear arms.

If we apply the three-legged stool concept of God-Self-Other to the gun debate in our country we surely topple over. We are way out of balance. Self has grown to behemoth proportions to the detriment of God and other.

With any societal issue, change is best achieved through listening, and through sharing of personal stories. There are certainly more than two sides to this or any issue. But let’s start here… Why owning guns is important. Why protecting the peace is important.

How can meaningful compromise be achieved while balancing the concerns of God, self, and other?

Can we, when working for peace and justice, keep the three components of Jesus’ “Farewell Prayer” (1) belief (2) unity, and (3) love, in mind?

Can we believe as Jesus did that we have a rightful place with God – in and around us – and cultivate that belief through prayer practices of thought, word, and deed?

Can we work toward unity of humankind by putting God and others first? Unity requires being in relationship with God and others. Unity does not mean uniformity. One does not have to give up self, but strive to keep it in balance with God and other.

Can we let the Love of God shine through each one of us as it shone, as it shines, through Jesus, so that we may each be our very best selves, reaching our highest ideals… that we may all be one?

We can and we must.

We have work to do.

It begins now.

Rev. TJ Mack – May 29, 2022

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