Preaching Resources

Preaching Mission for the 7th Sunday of Easter and the Ascension (May 12, 2024)

(Our brothers and sisters in prayer at the new Moravian Church in Brazil)

Jesus’ Prayer for Today’s Disciples
By Bishop Chris Giesler

Preaching Text: John 17:6-19

Perhaps you’ve witnessed this scenario before—or maybe you’ve experienced it yourself! Mom is leaving for the weekend and leaving her husband and 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, remembering that one child likes mayo and the other does not.
  • When washing the clothes, make sure to run the dark colors together and never wash whites with the reds.
  • Charlie has baseball practice at 4:00 on Saturday, but Susie has swim team practice at 4:15. 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. Today is often celebrated as Ascension Day. This is a chance to remember when Jesus’ physical departure from his disciples and those who would form the early church. While the words from our Gospel lesson are spoken well before the Ascension takes place, in them, Jesus is preparing his disciples for his eventual departure. The 17th chapter of John’s Gospel is often referred to as the High Priestly Prayer. It is spoken by Jesus in the Upper Room just before he and his disciples step outside and make their way to the Garden of Gethsemane. It was prayed not only for those disciples who were gathered on that night but also for all those who would come after them and take the path of discipleship. This is Jesus’ prayer for each of us.

On behalf of all his disciples, this is what Jesus prayed for:

  1. Protection from the evil one
  2. That all disciples would be sent into the world, not to be like the world but to transform the world
  3. That all disciples would be a light into the darkness of the world
  4. That all disciples would be united as one, just as Jesus and the Father were one.

This is a prayer not only for those who had surrounded Jesus during his ministry but also for those who continue to carry out his ministry today. In the profound words of this prayer, we can see that Jesus looks at the world very differently than we do. We most often look at the world through the eyes of the self. Everything before us is for our consumption, for our taking, for our benefit, and our control. Everything is mine to be used for my benefit.

According to Jesus, the kingdom of God operates very differently. Here, everything is for the benefit of others. Here, everything points towards the true and lasting joy to be found in living in response to God’s love. So now, all that I have is not for me but for me to bring others to know of God’s love for them.

Since chapter 13 in John’s Gospel, Jesus has been with his disciples, and he has been talking almost non-stop. Maybe in not quite the frantic manner as a departing mom, but Jesus is, nonetheless, quite intense. At one point, early on, Jesus says, watch me; I’ll show you how it’s done. Then Jesus wraps a towel around his waist and washes his disciples’ feet. The teacher humbles himself to wash his disciple’s feet and then tells them to go and do likewise.

And after four chapters of talking, there is only one thing left to do….pray.

Here, we find Jesus commissioning his disciples. In the middle of the prayer, he says, “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”

We continue to be sent even today. We continue to be sent from our homes through phone calls, emails, texts, Zoom meetings, and conversations—places where God’s love can be shared. Still today, we have the chance to share God’s love through the humble service that Jesus has modeled for us. We continue to be the Body of Christ, touching the world around us in Jesus’ name. How blessed it is to know that Jesus is still praying for us.