To Be One
Prayer is our lifeline to God. It is how we communicate with our creator, expressing our joys, fears, cares and petitions. In short, prayer is life altering and while we often pray to God what we do not consider is how often God prays for us.
When we read through scripture we find verse after verse where God is being prayed to. Jesus talks about prayers several times. The psalms can all be considered prayers to God. Many of the prophets and the writings of Paul have elements in them that are prayers or can be read as prayers.
In the assurance of pardon today I reminded us that Jesus prays for us. That affirmation is borne out in our gospel reading from John this morning. Jesus says, “ I pray for them.” Jesus prays for us.
It is an extremely comforting thought. In some romantic comedies the characters talk about how they have a guardian angel. We may even say that when we escape a risky situation unscathed, that our guardian angel was looking out for us. It is a nice and comforting thought.
However, our passage from John today reminds us that we have much more than a guardian angel. We have Jesus Christ, the son of God, advocating for us, praying for us.
That is a very powerful and comforting thought. Here we are seven weeks after the events of Easter and we are reminded that Jesus prays for us. In John’s gospel this prayer that Jesus makes is done hours before he is crucified. It is a final request of Jesus to God, that God watch over us. That we understand and know who Jesus is and what he has done for us.
During his Earthly ministry Jesus made himself known to us through the disciples. Jesus reveals God’s great love for creation by coming and dwelling amongst us. That love for creation is the message that we receive from Jesus. The message that we agree to follow when we become followers of Christ. That message from Christ is the faith that we have, the faith that Christ is indeed the son of God who came, lived, died and rose from the dead all for God’s great love for us.
The prayer that Jesus offers on our behalf is a powerful one, not least because it is offered by Jesus. However, it is the words that Jesus prays and what he prays for which is something that I find particularly powerful and moving.
In the last verse of our reading this morning Jesus prays, “Keep them safe by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one just as you and I are one.”
Now I find this powerful as it demonstrates the unity of God and Christ. However, it is when Jesus prays that we may be one that I find particularly moving. Jesus wants us to be one, Jesus wants us to be united.
That this is being prayed for at all illustrates that clearly when Jesus is making this petition on the behalf of the disciples, on behalf of all people that they were not one. They were not of one mind on anything.
Moving forward 2000 years to today, the question we need to ask is has anything changed? Regrettably, I do not think that it has. Whether it is in this room, the wider community, the world at large, we are divided.
Jesus gives us a message from God. Jesus asks that we follow in his footsteps, that we become followers of the way of Christ. Do we receive it? What do we do with it? How does it change us? How does it affect us? Does it inspire us? Are we afraid of it?
Friends, when are we divided?
What divides us and keeps us from God?
You see I don’t think that Jesus was concerned that we are divided, in the sense that we are different. I think that the diversity that comes out of our difference is a blessing from God. It is a gift that enriches us all. To think otherwise is to suggest some very dangerous ideas that the lens of history and our understanding of the gospel says is wrong. So if Jesus is not concerned about our diversity, what is he going on about in praying that we be one, just as God and Jesus are one?
Well perhaps that is our clue. Jesus came to Earth to live and dwell among us. To teach us, which we are reminded about in this very prayer. Ultimately Jesus came to set us free from sin, from broken relationships, from our separation from God.
So when we look at the teachings of Jesus, we need to ask what was he going on about? What was a concern for Jesus? Because if it was a concern for Jesus then it was also a concern for God?
We can take our examples from the Beatitudes. We can see that Jesus had some very important things to say about how we should behave and treat others. We can look to the miracle of the bread and fish and the feeding of the 5000 and we can say that hospitality was something that was very important to Jesus. We can look to when Jesus entered the temple and chased all the money changers and merchants out and we can deduce that corruption was not something we should tolerate. Jesus also had some very sharp things to say about how the poor are treated.
These are the things which Jesus and God share the same mind on. These are thing things that are important to Jesus. They are the things I believe that Jesus is saying we need to get together on. These are the things in which we need to share one mind.
My father volunteers at Evangel Hall in Toronto. He is usually there every Thursday for breakfast or lunch, often both. This past week my dad posted a picture on Facebook of the meal that was served for breakfast on Thursday. It was a cupcake and half a slice of banana bread. It all looked very tasty, however I know that if I ate that I would not be anywhere near full. Considering that some of the guests that are served do not know where their next meal is coming from or if there will be enough food it really is not enough food.
I re-posted the picture and I asked the question that given our current election climate and all the spending on campaigns and attack ads, what about the least of us? Every city, every town in this province, indeed in this country has a portion of the population that are homeless or who simply cannot make ends meet. I think that in our comfort it is an issue that we overlook. I think that in our comfort, we don’t often want to consider it.
This is an issue that was important to Jesus and I struggle to figure out why in a country like Canada we have poverty rates and children who do not get enough to eat at the levels that exist. I wonder why it isn’t a priority.
Jesus prays for us to be one. That in becoming followers of Christ, we would become one and that we would live up to what Jesus has taught us.
In our passage from John this morning Jesus is praying for us. Jesus is demonstrating the power of prayer. Prayer is not a passive activity. Rather prayer is something we actively do. It has power in the world. When we pray we are aligning ourselves with God. We are saying that we are in agreement with God’s plan for the world. We recognize God’s power and authority. Why else would we ask for prayers of healing and intervention? We believe in and follow a God who does all of these things.
In one sense prayer can be likened to activism. When we pray we are saying we agree with a cause, God’s cause. When we pray we are taking a risk as we are investing of ourselves. We are applying our minds, hearts and beliefs to petitioning God about a particular issue. Though physically we might not move from our seats, spiritually we are joining with and journeying with God.
When we pray as a community of faith and when we pray as individuals are we praying for things to happen or are we asking God to help us make the things happen in the world that we know Jesus and God are one? Amen.
Text: John 17: 1-11