May 12 2013 Sermon
John 17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may 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 to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
We struggle; we suffer; we dream dreams that never come true; we make plans but they don’t turn out; disappointment replaces expectations; illness interrupts our life, sometimes even takes it altogether. We are busy, running, chasing, chasing, chasing our dreams, and never quite catch them; searching for something more in life, some meaning, some purpose, some happiness. But it is allusive. Once we think we have found it, it stays but a moment then slips out of our hands like trying to grasp the air.
In our pain we call out into the night: “God, where are you? Do you see my hurt? Do you even care?” All is silent. We don’t hear an answer to our cries. We become disenchanted. Our heart breaks when we realize our dream will never come true. We yearn, we long for something, someone who will make it all right, take away the pain, comfort us in our sorrow, be a friend in our loneliness. We cry out for help, but all we hear is silence.
That’s life in the midst of evil. Evil surrounds us, with it injustice, pain, failure, and even death. Life isn’t fair. And at times, even those who believe in Jesus are afraid and fell alone and abandoned.
In our hour of death, in our longing, our crying, our pain we hear a sound, a sound of Easter. We hear the sound of his voice praying to the Father on our behalf. That is our real hope; our true comfort. “I do not ask for these only,” prays Jesus, meaning the disciples who were with him that night when he was betrayed, “but also for those who will believe in me through their word,” meaning us,…those who came after, those who were born late, after he had ascended to the Father. He is praying for us, born of the word of the apostles, the word which the apostles preached and handed down to their successors, who in turn handed it down to their successors, until finally, generation after generation, it came to us. He prays “for those who will believe in me through their word,” which we hear and read in the Scriptures. He prays for us!
The sounds of Easter… the sound of Jesus praying for us. We hear him pleading for us. We hear his yearning, his gut wrenching compassion for us. With all his heart he implores the Father on our behalf. For his heart is loving and tender toward us, his brothers and sisters in the flesh. We are his blood relatives. He has shared our human flesh and blood. Now God is one with us; he is one of us; he is our brother.
On this Mother’s Day, there is perhaps no better analogy than the pleading prayers of a mother for her children. There is no one who loves their children more than their parents. And when the child is sad, lonely, sick, hurting, in trouble, or straying from faith, one can hear the prayers of a mother throughout the dark and lonely night; crying out on their behalf, beseeching, begging for them. It is on account of that love that we set aside a special day each year to honor our mothers and show our love and gratitude for them.
Perhaps a good illustration of a mother’s prayer is found in the prayers of St. Monica for her wayward son. A prodigal son who though baptized, strayed from his mother and from his mother’s Christian faith. A son who was a brilliant scholar; the greatest mind in the world at his time and perhaps of all time. He is considered the greatest thinker in Western civilization. But, as he himself tells the story, as a young man he strayed into an immoral lifestyle of carousing and licentiousness. He became a confirmed follower of the pagan religion of Manichaeism in search for spirituality in the natural sciences. Then he strayed into neo-platonic philosophy. All this caused his Christian mother great distress. But she never gave up. She persevered in prayer. She persisted imploring her son to believe in Christ. She followed him as he traveled and studied around the world. She followed him to Rome, but by the time she got there he had gone to Milan. She then followed him to Milan, praying and pleading for her son every step of the way. Day and night she prayed, until there in Milan she met St. Ambrose, the bishop, and through his preaching of the Word’s of Christ, she had the joy of seeing her son, St. Augustine, convert to Christianity. As he himself tells the story, it was because of the steadfast, earnest prayers of his dedicated mother that he came to faith in Jesus Christ; and ultimately the most influential person of western Christianity, and is even responsible for the faith of Martin Luther.
The love and constant prayer of a mother saved her son. The love and prayer of Jesus saves us! Jesus, whose triumphal entry into the heavens we celebrated just three days ago, who now sits at the right hand of God and prays for us. He prays for us as we live out our cross shaped lives in this world. As we daily face the challenges to our faith, and the temptations, sorrow, doubts, fears, and pain of this life, he is in heaven praying for us. This is the one who sustains us. His prayers are what keep us steady and preserve us until the end. His prayer is the only sure thing. In this life of change and insecurity, of broken relationships, of lost love, of unfulfilled dreams, his prayer for us is the only constant.
Jesus prays for us that we may all be one, as Jesus and the Father are one. “As I am in you and you are in me, may they be one.” The unity and bond of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—are reflected in the unity and bond of his people. Our unity with Christ is an extension of the unity of the Trinity which reaches out to include us. Our unity with each other, is a mirror image of the unity of the Trinity. That same oneness of God, is to be the oneness we have with each other. Jesus prays that “as he is in the Father and the Father in him, we also may be in him and he in us.” “that we may become perfectly one.”
And this oneness comes through the Word. The word which the Jesus gave to the apostles and which they wrote down for us in the Scriptures. The Word which has been passed down from generation to generation for us. The word which we have received in order to pass it on to the next generation. The word we pass on to the nations so that they too will believe. That those whom the Father has given to the Son may become perfectly one with the Father and perfectly one with us.
All are born dead in sin and children of God’s wrath. All mankind is separated from God by nature. But that’s wrong. That’s unnatural. That violates creation. Man was made to be one with God, just as God is one. To restore this union, God became a man. In the person of Jesus Christ, God and man were united, became perfectly one with each other. On the cross Jesus atoned for sin. On the cross Jesus paid for your sins and your sins are forgiven, breaking down the wall of separation between you and God. In Baptism you are joined to Jesus, united with him in his death and resurrection. By means of baptism, you are joined to Christ and to each other. You are born a child of God and become a brother to Jesus.
So Jesus prays for us who have believed in him through the word which was handed down to us; that we may be one with him. That we might be in him as he is in the Father and the Father is in him.
And as we spread the word to all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, they become one with us and one with the Father. So we become a link in God’s plan of salvation. A link to those who do not yet know Jesus. What we have received through the word of the Apostles, we pass on to others for the salvation of all mankind. And oneness is created by the Spirit of God.
Surely, Jesus is coming soon. “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.” The day is at hand. He is nigh. In the midst of this evil and death, he is praying for us to preserve us until his return. It will be soon. Our focus in this world is to be good people, serving our neighbor, our community, our society. Doing good to others while we wait for Jesus to come. Spreading his word to all people. That through the word of the Apostles, they too may believe and become one with Christ, with the Father, and one with us. So patiently we wait; we yearn for him to come again. For he promised that just as he left, he would return in the clouds for all to see, surrounded by the hosts of angels. He will come. “Behold, I am coming soon,” he says. “The time is near. Surely I am coming soon.” And we pray, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”