Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Make them One

John 17:1-11
May 28, 2017

This is the concluding part of
the three chapter monologue that Jesus
gives to his disciples at the last supper.
This part is a prayer that Jesus prays to God
in front of his disciples.

The other three gospels kind of portray
Jesus as a guy who doesn’t say enough.
Just a few stories and sermons.
But in John, Jesus talks quite a bit,
and sometimes when Jesus talks in John
it can be a little confusing like in this one.
But really, once you break it down, 
and take away the preambles and qualifying statements,

Jesus has a simple prayer:

 “God, protect those that follow me
so that they can be one as we are one.”

Jesus was praying for his followers, For the church.
For us in other words.
That we could be as close to each other as God is to Jesus.
It takes a while for him to get there,
but it’s beautiful to think that that is Jesus last prayer.

It’s important to remember that during this prayer,
Jesus is not sitting alone and praying while his disciples are sleeping.
They are there in the room at the table with him
They can hear what  he’s talking with God about.
They know what he’s asked.
It’s a prayer for their benefit.
Almost a command for them:
Be unified with the other people who follow.

Now it’s plausible, that maybe after 3 chapters,
 the disciples minds had wandered off,
and they were thinking about other things.
I say that because they seem to forget his prayer almost instantly.
Right in the beginning, right after Jesus leaves,
 Peter and Paul start fighting with each others,
we know this because they were writing letters
about how wrong the other was.

And ever since then,
Arguments and schisms and division seem
to be a major part of the church’s history.
And where there was visible unity hundreds
of years ago, it was sometimes
held together with threats of violence.

And even inside most churches, all you need to do
is change the color of the drapes or sing the wrong
songs or say a prayer the wrong way and people
can disintegrate into shouting matches.

And to be honest, there are some Christians I’d
rather not get to know so well,
some are consumed with hate and preoccupied
with condemning other people that I hardly
recognize the kind of Christianity they subscribe to.

So to some extent, it could seem like the disciples
haven’t heard Jesus prayer at all or take it to heart.
To some extent, it could seem like God didn’t hear
Jesus prayer that we would be one as he and God are one.

But as I was thinking about this,
this week, kind of consumed in the despair of our divisions,
I decided maybe I was thinking too literally about this.
It’s easy to see the division and point out the fights,
The devil would like us to only see the separation between us
and lose hope for the future.
But as I thought more, I believe  there is hope.

For more than 2000 years,
this church has held together in one form or another.
Though it’s changed over time,
we’re still talking about the same things,
sharing the same words, using the same creeds.
We’re still amazed by the same stories,
we still call ourselves followers of Jesus.
And  even through all the disagreements,
we still have a connection over the
centuries to the people that have come before us.
That is unity that very few can claim.

And right now I know there are thousands and thousands of
people all over the world who are
sharing the same scripture this morning,
and struggling to figure out what it means,
and wondering some of the same things we are.
though we don’t all know each other,
or agree with each other most of the time we are a community.
And wherever I go, I know I can depend on that community.

I’ve moved around a lot in my life.
I’ve lived in  nine different cities so far.
I know only one person from before high school,
and  I’m in contact with only one person from college.
My family is spread all over the country and not very close.
But what I do have to rely on is a community in Christ
and I know wherever I go I always will.
Like everyone, I came to Gethsemane a  stranger,
I came applying for a job, so that’s different,
but when I came, I knew that I would find a group
of people who were trying to follow Jesus like me.

And with time, I found lots of people at Gethsemane
who care about what’s going on in my life,
who I can trust and rely on.
Who pray for me and would always help me if I asked.

And I know that if I went to any church -
even if they have a theology and beliefs
that I couldn’t relate to at all,
I know that I could find some
common ground with the people there,
that we would know the same stories,
that we have shared some of the same history.

And if I move to another nine cities,
I know that with a little effort,
I could find a community that would welcome me,
who have struggled with the same Word,
and who know the same Jesus that I do.
And who would pray for me and help me if I asked them too.

So, maybe God did listen to Jesus prayer.
Maybe the disciples heard it too and have passed it on.
We are still be working it all out.

And we may be a long way away from visible unity
or any kind of agreement on anything.

But in spite of our differences,
we are joined together by something larger
and more powerful than our opinions or actions.
We are all joined together by God’s Spirit.
And Jesus is glorified by our life together.
We are one as God and Jesus are one.

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