May 24, 2020: Embraced by Christ in Prayer

open hands
Seventh Sunday of Easter

In my home church, Canaan Moravian Church in rural North Dakota, the most beautiful and exquisite stained-glass windows offer a sacred presence in the sanctuary. Above the pulpit is a portrayal of Jesus in prayer, possibly in the Garden of Gethsemane or another sacred moment. As a young boy I had this belief that Jesus was holding me in prayer, lifting up a child’s fears, worries, and frets unto God. Maybe one of the pastors of the church had spoken of this notion, but I always had this inner belief that Jesus was holding me in prayer.

The Gospel reading today centers on a prayer offered as Christ’s time on earth is ticking down. Jesus is praying for those disciples who would be called on to share and shape future ministry in his name. This prayer is personal, intimate, and revealing of the hope that this ministry would hold a spirit of oneness, of unity, and of common purpose. Praying that “they may be one, as we are one” (John 17:22) expresses a vision of ministry and partnership in mission to which we are still called today.

As I recall that image of Jesus lifting me up in my younger days, I still believe that Jesus is praying for me. However, I’ve come to recognize that prayer isn’t so much to alleviate my worries, frets, and concerns as it is to call me to live in “oneness” with sisters and brothers with whom I share creation, to approach those with whom I disagree with deeper understanding and love, and to live a life committed to greater unity around the world.

Stephen Gohdes, pastor, Christ Moravian Church, Calgary, Alberta