Final Prayer, Final Blessings, Uniting in Mission
The Rt. Rev. Chris Giesler
Perhaps you’ve witnessed this scene yourself. Perhaps you’ve experienced it yourself – Mom is leaving for a trip and leaving dad and the children for a few days. She has produced a long list of how things get done and when they need to be done.
- School lunches need to be made the night before, remembering that Charlie likes mayo, Susie does not.
- Run the dark colors together in the wash, and whatever you do, never wash whites with the reds. On second thought, don’t do the wash.
- There is baseball practice at 4:00 on Thursday for Charlie, but swim team practice at 4:15 for Susie. So, Charlie might need to be dropped off a little early to get Susie there on time, but that is fine because the coach is always there ahead of time.
You get the picture! In much the same way, this is where Jesus is with his disciples.
Since chapter 13 in John’s Gospel, Jesus has been with his disciples in the Upper Room just before his betrayal. Since then, Jesus has been talking almost non-stop. Maybe in not quite the frantic manner as a departing mom. But it is, nonetheless, quite intense. At one point early on, Jesus says, watch me, I’ll show you how it’s done, and he washes their feet and tells them to humble themselves and go and do likewise. And with that, Jesus begins with his final, departing lessons. So, after four chapters of talking, there is only one thing left to do – pray. Our passage for today comes out of what has since been named the “High Priestly Prayer.” It’s Jesus’ prayer for those in the Upper Room with Jesus that night, as well as for the disciples who will take up work in the church for all of time. So, I would say this is Jesus’ prayer for us today.
There might be a thousand things on Jesus’ mind on his prayer list, but here are the things that seem to be closest to his heart. These are his priorities.
- First, Jesus prays: “Glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.” – Jesus knows what is coming, his crucifixion. His glory will be achieved with great suffering and sacrifice. Glory for him will be a cross, a painful death, but then there will be a resurrection! This is eternal life. Jesus knew that those who would follow him and take up the work he began would need to understand this same notion of “Glory.” It does not come cheap and does not look that what we would define as glory today. We might see glory as financial success, getting to the top of the ladder, and having nothing but good health for ourselves and our loved ones. Quite the contrary, in the Kingdom of God, glory comes from walking the path of service to others. It comes by extending grace and providing hospitality to those at the margins before taking care of our own needs. Furthermore, working towards this glory might even upset the status quo and bring persecution upon us.
- Next, Jesus prays: “And this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” When we think of eternal life, our first thought is often pearly gates, streets paved with gold, and a grand reunion with loved ones who have gone before us. But here, Jesus is talking about eternal life as the joy of a relationship with the very creator of this beautiful day, the infinity of the universe, and the precious presence of the people who sit around you this morning. For Jesus here, eternal life is not something simply relegated to what happens after death, but rather something that begins now and will only continue beyond our lives here. Eternal life is a present-day reality for Jesus. And it is for us right now. This calls us to view the world through these lenses and do all we can to make God’s will a reality here on earth, even as it already is in heaven. I do believe that Jesus taught us to pray this way – “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
- Then Jesus prays for his disciples, and his prayer is not only for those gathered around the table in that room but for all his disciples for all of time. Here Jesus prays, “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.” He prays not that they might be spared persecution. He rays not for protection from disease. Jesus prays for their protection so that they might be one, even as he and God are one. Jesus knows that their mission to the world will be most effective when they are one in heart and one in mission. This does not mean that we need to think alike or look at the world and each other through the same eyes. Jesus’ prayer is that we be united by our common need for a savior. These are profound words of prayer from Jesus; we will do well to know that this is Jesus’ prayer for you and for me right now!
This prayer has powerful things to say about our mission here on earth. As the body of Christ in the world today, may we do all that we can to make God’s kingdom a reality in our lives as we eagerly await the coming Kingdom of Heaven. May we, as disciples of Christ today, align ourselves with these priorities by uniting in mission to touch those next door as well as around the world, in Jesus’ name.