That They May Be One
by Bishop Chris Giesler
Preaching Text: John 17:1-11
Let me just state up front that I am I’m not insinuating that dads don’t do their share around the house, but I am saying that in my experience, my mom did a lot of the heavy lifting. And while I love to cook, clean, and changed far more diapers than my father would have ever done, my wife did far more than I did in managing the day-to-day running of our household, especially as it related to the children. And as I have seen it played out in the many families I have worked with over the years, a mom’s true worth is often felt when she must be away for a few days and Dad must cover the bases. To get everybody ready, Mom has produced a long list of how things get done and when they need to be done.
- School lunches need to be made, remembering that Charlie likes peanut butter, but Susie does not.
- Run the dark colors together in the wash; NEVER, and I mean NEVER, wash whites with the reds.
- Baseball practice is at 4:00 on Thursday, Charlie, but swim team practice is at 4:15 for Susie, so Charlie might need to be dropped off a little early so that you can get Susie there on time, but that is fine because the coach is always there ahead of time.
- You get the picture….
Since chapter 13, Jesus has been with his disciples in the Upper Room, giving them that list that a departing mom might provide. In John’s Gospel, from chapters 13-17, we get the account of all that occurred in the Upper Room. All of this happens on the last night Jesus is with his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion. The end is coming fast, so these are significant chapters. Early on, Jesus says to them, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while, the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.” Then Jesus gives them an example of how to live, and he washes their feet and tells them to humble themselves and go and do likewise.
And after four chapters of deep sharing, there is only one thing for Jesus to do – pray. The 17th Chapter of John is that prayer and is often called the High Priestly Prayer. It is profound!
There might be a thousand things on Jesus’ prayer list, but here is the shorthand of what he finds is most important in this sacred moment.
- To God, Jesus says, “Glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.” For us, glory is being lifted up to popularity, notoriety, and appreciation. But for Jesus, glory means something very different. For Jesus, glory means accepting God’s will, even if it comes at a great personal cost. Jesus knows what is coming and will achieve glory with great suffering and sacrifice. It will be a cross, a painful death, but there will be a resurrection!
- “And this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Perhaps this definition of eternal life sounds slightly different than you might have expected. Jesus expands our definition of eternal life so that it is not just about pearly gates and streets paved with gold. For Jesus, eternal life starts here and now in the joy of a relationship with our creator, the creator of the people around us and the natural world. It is also an invitation to marvel at the infinity of the universe and the precious presence of the people who sit around you as you worship on a Sunday morning.
- Then Jesus prays for his disciples. But listen carefully because he not only prays for those gathered around the table in that room but for all of Jesus’ disciples for all of time. “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.” Let’s note here that while Jesus does pray that his disciples might be spared persecution, he prays not for protection from disease. Jesus does pray for their protection so they might be united in their common humanity and desire to serve others. Jesus knows their witness to the world will be most effective when they are doing ministry together and working as one! Abraham Lincoln used the well-known phrase from Matthew 12:25, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand,” to make his case to Illinois voters who needed to choose between him and Steven Douglas as to who would be selected to run for President of the country as it was then known.
This does not mean that we need to think alike or look at the world and each other through the same eyes, but Jesus’ prayer is that we be united by our common need for a savior and Jesus’ call for us to serve the needs of a hurting world. These are profound words of prayer from Jesus, and even more amazing when we acknowledge that this is Jesus’ prayer for you and me right now. Jesus is praying for our common mission to share his grace, mercy, and peace with a world that is all too divided.