The Seventh Sunday of Easter
Pastor George Pejakovich
John 17:20-26

IN THE GOSPEL FOR TODAY, WE PICK UP AGAIN AS JESUS PRAYS WHAT IS KNOWN AS HIS HIGH PRIESTLY PRAYER. THIS TAKES PLACE RIGHT AFTER THE LAST SUPPER, AND JUST BEFORE HE GOES TO THE GARDEN WHERE JUDAS WILL BETRAY HIM WITH A KISS. HE BEGAN BY PRAYING FOR HIS DISCIPLES WHO GATHERED AROUND HIM AND WHO WOULD BECOME HIS APOSTLES, BUT THEN HE SHIFTS THE FOCUS OF HIS PRAYER TO YOU AND ME. HE PRAYS TO THE FATHER “NOT ONLY ON BEHALF OF THESE,” MEANING HIS DISCIPLES, “BUT ALSO FOR THOSE WHO WILL BELIEVE IN ME THROUGH THEIR WORD.” YOU AND I ARE THE ONES WHO HAVE COME TO BELIEVE IN JESUS THROUGH THE WORD OF THE APOSTLES; THE HOLY SPIRIT INSPIRED WITNESS OF THE APOSTLES THAT WE FIND IN THE NEW TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES. WE HAVE COME TO BELIEVE THROUGH THE GOSPEL THAT HAS BEEN PREACHED TO US. WE HAVE COME TO BELIEVE THROUGH THE SACRAMENTS THE APOSTLES WERE COMMISSIONED TO PASS ON TO THE CHURCH FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION. THROUGH THE APOSTOLIC MINISTRY OF WORD AND SACRAMENT, YOU AND I HAVE COME TO BELIEVE IN, TO TRUST IN, OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST, SO WE ARE THE ONES FOR WHOM JESUS PRAYED JUST BEFORE HIS PASSION AND DEATH.

HE PRAYED TO THE FATHER “THAT THEY ALL MAY BE ONE, JUST AS YOU, FATHER, ARE IN ME, AND I IN YOU, THAT THEY MAY BE IN US, SO THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT YOU HAVE SENT ME.” HE PRAYED THAT WE WHO HAVE COME TO BELIEVE THROUGH THE WORDS OF THE APOSTLES MIGHT BE “PERFECTLY ONE, SO THAT THE WORLD MAY KNOW THAT YOU SENT ME AND LOVED THEM EVEN AS YOU LOVED ME.” JESUS PRAYED FOR THE UNITY OF HIS CHURCH; NOT THE KIND OF UNITY THAT COMES FROM SINGING KUMBAYA AROUND THE CAMPFIRE, HOLDING HANDS, AND DEALING OUT WARM FUZZIES. IT IS A UNITY CREATED BY THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BINDING US TO THE FATHER THROUGH THE SON BY THE GIFT OF FAITH; THE FAITH WHICH UNITES US IN NO LESS THAN THE LIFE OF THE TRIUNE GOD. THIS IS KNOWN IN THEOLOGY AS THE “MYSTICAL UNION,” IN WHICH ALL BELIEVERS IN CHRIST ARE ONE, INCORPORATED INTO THE LIFE OF THE ONE TRUE GOD, AS ALL BELIEVERS IN EVERY TIME AND PLACE ARE MADE INTO THE “ONE HOLY CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH.” THIS IS WHAT WE CONFESS EVERY SUNDAY, AND THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE THE CHURCH.

THIS MYSTICAL UNION HAS A PURPOSE, AS JESUS PRAYED, “SO THAT THE WORLD MAY KNOW THAT YOU HAVE SENT ME AND LOVED THEM EVEN AS YOU HAVE LOVED ME.” THE PURPOSE OF THIS UNION WITH GOD IN CHRIST, AND THROUGH HIM WITH ALL BELIEVERS PAST AND PRESENT, IS TO SHOW THE WORLD THE LOVE THAT GOD HAS FOR ALL HIS CREATION; FOR ALL PEOPLE IN EVERY TIME AND PLACE. WHERE THE CHURCH SHOWS ITS UNITY IN LOVE, IT GROWS AS IT DRAWS MORE AND MORE PEOPLE TO THE SOURCE OF THIS LOVE OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS.

YET THIS MYSTICAL UNION APPEARS AT TIMES TO BE SORELY LACKING, AND HAS SEEMED SO RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE CHURCH. THE APOSTLES STRUGGLED AND ARGUED OVER WHETHER TO LET GENTILES IN WITHOUT BECOMING JEWS. LATER, MAJOR BATTLES WERE FOUGHT OVER THE NATURE OF THE CHRIST, AND, EVEN, OVER THE RIGHT WAY TO MAKE THE SIGN OF THE CROSS. IN THE ELEVENTH CENTURY, THE CHURCH SPLIT INTO EAST AND WEST OVER THE ISSUE OF WHO WAS IN CHARGE. THEN THOSE PRICKLY FOLLOWERS OF LUTHER STARTED AN UPROAR THAT CONVULSED EUROPE, QUICKLY FOLLOWED BY THOSE ANGLICANS IN ENGLAND. SO TODAY WE HAVE ALMOST A THOUSAND DIFFERENT DENOMINATIONS IN THIS COUNTRY ALONE, AND ONE MIGHT WONDER JUST WHERE THIS MYSTICAL UNION MIGHT BE FOUND.

EVEN WITHIN A PARTICULAR DENOMINATION, AND EVEN WITHIN THE LIFE OF A SINGLE CHURCH GATHERING, DIVISION SEEMS MUCH MORE PREVALENT THAN UNION. A PROPOSED BUILDING CAMPAIGN CAN TEAR A CONGREGATION APART. POLITICAL DIFFERENCES PULL US APART FROM ONE ANOTHER AS WE SEPARATE OURSELVES INTO US AND THEM. SOCIAL ISSUES AND OUR PERSONAL ACCEPTANCE OR REJECTION OF WHAT WE CONSIDER NORMAL OR PROPER CAN AND DOES CREATE MORE DIVISION THAN UNION. WHERE, THEN, ONE MIGHT WELL ASK, IS THIS MYSTICAL UNION TO BE FOUND?

IT IS TO BE FOUND SOLELY IN THE LOVE OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS, AND, IN THAT LOVE, OUR LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER. ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT THINGS TO LEARN, BUT WHICH IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL TO THE LIFE IN CHRIST, IS THAT I DO NOT HAVE TO AGREE WITH YOU TO LOVE YOU. THIS IS SOMETHING MOST PEOPLE NEVER REALLY UNDERSTAND, AND THE PROOF OF THAT IS THE VITRIOLIC LANGUAGE THAT CONSTANTLY BOMBARDS US DURING THIS PARTICULAR PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN. IT IS ALL ABOUT DIVIDING US FROM THEM, AND CATEGORIZING THEM AS CORRUPT AND EVIL. THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD WORKS, AND HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE WAY THE WORLD WORKS; AND THE WAY OF THE WORLD HAS TOO OFTEN WORMED ITS WAY INTO THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH. YET WE ARE CALLED TO A DIFFERENT WAY OF LIVING; LIVING IN THE LOVE OF GOD, AND, IN THAT LOVE, LIVING A LIFE OF LOVE FOR OTHERS.

IN THAT WAY OF LIVING, THERE CAN BE NO EXPECTATION THAT YOU AND I WILL AGREE IN ALL THINGS, SINCE WE HAVE DIFFERENT HISTORIES, AND, INDEED, DIFFERENT CULTURAL BACKGROUNDS WHICH FORMED US. WHAT BINDS US TOGETHER MUST BE STRONGER THAN ALL THOSE THINGS WHICH WOULD PULL US APART FROM EACH OTHER; AND THAT IS THE WORD OF GOD, GIVEN TO THE APOSTLES OF THE CHRIST BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, THAT GOD LOVES YOU AS MUCH AS HE LOVES ME. IN CHRIST THE LOVE OF GOD IS MADE KNOWN TO ME; IN CHRIST THE LOVE OF GOD IS MADE KNOWN TO YOU; IN CHRIST THE LOVE OF GOD FOR ME AND FOR YOU IS MADE KNOWN TO THE WORLD IN THE LOVE WE HAVE FOR EACH OTHER.THAT IS THE LOVE FOR EACH OTHER THAT THE CHRIST PRAYED WE WOULD HAVE FOR EACH OTHER AS HE FACED THE CROSS ON WHICH HE WOULD DIE FOR YOU AND FOR ME; AND, BY THE WAY, FOR EVERYONE.

WE MAY NEVER EXPERIENCE THE FULLNESS OF THE MYSTICAL UNION OF THE CHURCH DURING OUR EARTHLY LIVES, BUT, FROM TIME TO TIME, WE MAY HAVE GLIMPSES, A FORETASTE IF YOU WILL, OF THAT GREAT MYSTICAL UNION TO COME. AS WE ARE UNITED WITH THE CHRIST AND WITH EACH OTHER AS WE FEAST ON HIS PRECIOUS BODY AND BLOOD, THERE WILL SURELY COME A DAY WHEN WE WILL BE UNITED WITH HIM, FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT IN THE FULLNESS OF HIS GLORY. IN SPITE OF ALL THAT APPARENTLY DIVIDES US FROM EACH OTHER, WE HAVE THE WORD OF THE APOSTLES OF THE CHRIST THAT ALL WHO HAVE WASHED THEIR ROBES IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB WILL BE HIS OWN FOREVER. BY GOD’S GRACE, IN THAT WORD WE LIVE, AND TRUST, AND LOVE. “THE GRACE OF THE LORD JESUS BE WITH ALL THE SAINTS. AMEN.”

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