The Seventh Sunday of Easter
Pastor George Pejakovich

 


John 17:6-19
FIRST OF ALL, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL. IN THE GOSPEL FOR TODAY, JESUS IS PRAYING TO GOD HIS FATHER, AND OURS, ON BEHALF OF HIS DISCIPLES. WHEN HE USES THE TITLE “FATHER,” HE IS EXPRESSING A DEEPLY INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HIM AND THE ONE WHO SENT HIM, BUT IT IS NOT INTENDED TO IMPLY A SPECIFIC GENDER DISTINCTION, FOR GOD IS ONE AND ALL IN ALL. THIS PASSAGE IS A PART OF WHAT IS COMMONLY KNOWN AS JESUS’ HIGH PRIESTLY PRAYER, WHICH IT IS NOT, FOR JESUS IS NOT FUNCTIONING AS A PRIEST. IT WOULD BE BETTER TO CALL THIS THE LORD’S PRAYER, AND WHAT WE CALL THE LORD’S PRAYER AS THE DISCIPLE’S PRAYER. JESUS NORMALLY WENT OFF BY HIMSELF TO PRAY, BUT HERE HE PRAYS OUT LOUD IN FRONT OF HIS DISCIPLES SO THEY CAN HEAR WHAT HE IS ASKING OF HIS FATHER, IN ORDER TO ENCOURAGE HIS DISCIPLES AND STRENGTHEN THEM FOR WHAT IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN, BECAUSE THIS IS THE NIGHT OF HIS ARREST AND THE START OF HIS PASSION LEADING TO HIS DEATH ON THE CROSS.

THE PRIMARY THING JESUS ASKS OF HIS FATHER IS TO PROTECT HIS FOLLOWERS FROM THE WORLD. HE HAS CALLED THEM OUT OF THE WORLD, YET THEY MUST REMAIN IN THE WORLD, AND BECAUSE THEY ARE HIS FOLLOWERS THE WORLD WILL HATE THEM JUST AS IT HATES JESUS. HE KNOWS IT WON’T BE EASY FOR THEM, AND HE DOESN’T ASK THAT THEY BE TAKEN OUT OF THE WORLD, BECAUSE THAT IS WHERE THEIR MISSION WILL BE, BUT HE PRAYS THAT THEY WILL BE PROTECTED FROM THE EVIL ONE WHILE THEY ARE IN THE WORLD.

IN THE WORLD BUT NOT OF IT MAY BE A DIFFICULT THING TO UNDERSTAND, SO LET ME TELL YOU A LITTLE STORY. YEARS AGO, I WAS WALKING IN THE HILLS ABOVE BERTHESGADEN, WEARING BUNDHOSEN, LONG SOCKS, AND LOOKED VERY GERMAN. I CAME ACROSS TWO ELDERLY COUPLES, PROBABLY A LITTLE OLDER THEN I AM NOW. ONE WOMAN STOPPED ME AND ASKED IF I KNEW THE WAY TO A PARTICULAR SCEANIC CHURCH. I POINTED TO A PATH AND SAID I THINK THAT’S THE WAY, BUT I WASN’T SURE BECAUSE I’M NOT FROM AROUND HERE. IF I DON’T CONCENTRATE, I TEND TO SPEAK WITH A SCHWABIAN ACENT, WHICH IS WHERE I LEARNED GERMAN, BUT TO THE GERMAN EAR SOUNDS LIKE HILLBILLY. SHE SAID, WITH SOME DISTASTE, “ACH, YOU’RE A SCHWAB.” NO, I REPLIED, I’M AN AMERICAN, WHICH SHE REFUSED TO BELIEVE UNTIL I PULLED OUT MY MILITARY ID CARD. OLD ENOUGH TO REMEMBER THE WAR, SHE “ACHED” AGAIN WITH DISGUST AND TURNED HER BACK TO ME AND WALKED OFF. I WAS IN HER WORLD BUT NOT OF IT, AND SHE WANTED NO PART OF ME.

JESUS KNEW HOW THE WORLD WOULD GREET HIS DISCIPLES, SO HE PRAYED TO HIS FATHER ON THEIR BEHALF, TO PROTECT THEM, TO GIVE THEM THE SAME JOY HE HAS IN HIS INTIMATE RELATION TO HIS FATHER, AND TO SANCTIFY THEM IN THE TRUTH OF GOD’S HOLY WORD. AS THE FATHER HAS SENT THE SON INTO THE WORLD, SO TOO THE SON SENDS HIS DISCIPLES INTO THE WORLD WITH EVERY EXPECTATION THAT WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE SON WILL HAPPEN TO THOSE WHO FOLLOW HIM. ALL WHO WERE WITH HIM THAT NIGHT DIED THE DEATH OF A MARTYR FOR THEIR FAITH, EXCEPT FOR JOHN WHO DIED IN EXILE ON PATMOS. WE NEED TO BE REMINDED AGAIN AND AGAIN OF HOW RADICAL THE TRUTH OF GOD’S WORD REALLY IS, AND HOW IT CONFRONTS AND CHALLENGES ALL THE POWERS THAT BE IN THIS WORLD. THOSE WHO SPEAK THE TRUTH OF GOD’S WORD TO THOSE IN POWER OFTEN EXPERIENCE THE CRUEL NATURE OF WORLDLY POWER; AS DID DIETRICK BONHOFFER AND SO MANY OTHERS.

WHAT JESUS MEANS BY THE WORLD IS NOT THE WONDERS OF GOD’S CREATION, BUT THE DIVISIONS AND OPPRESSIONS CAUSED BY THOSE WHO REJECT GOD’S HOLY WORD AND PURPOSE. GOD LOVES THE WORLD, WHICH IS WHY HE SENT HIS SON TO THE WORLD, AND THAT LOVE CONTINUES THROUGH THE MISSION OF THOSE WHO THE SON SENDS INTO THE WORLD TO RECONCILE IT TO GOD. WHEN JESUS PRAYS FOR HIS DISCIPLES, HE PRAYS FOR US AS WELL. HOW COMFORTING IT IS TO KNOW THAT OUR RISEN LORD IN GLORY PRAYS CONTINUALLY FOR EACH OF US WHO HAVE THE SIGN OF THE CROSS MARKED ON OUR FOREHEADS IN BAPTISM. WE NOT ONLY HAVE HIS PRAYERS TO STRENGHTEN US, BUT HIS PRESENCE AS WELL BY THE HOLY SPIRIT DWELLING IN US TO GUIDE US AND ENCOURAGE US IN OUR MISSION. OUR MISSION TO WHICH WE HAVE BEEN CALLED IS RECONCILIATION.

WHERE THERE IS STRIFE, WE ARE CALLED TO BRING PEACE. WHERE THERE IS SORROW, WE ARE CALLED TO BRING COMFORT. WHERE THERE IS NEED, WE ARE CALLED TO GIVE AS WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN. WHERE THERE IS DESPAIR, WE ARE CALLED TO BRING HOPE. WHERE THERE IS PRIDE, WE ARE CALLED TO BRING THE HUMILITY OF THE CHRIST. WHERE THERE IS HATE, WE ARE CALLED TO BRING LOVE. WHERE THERE IS DIVISION, WE ARE CALLED TO BRING THE UNITY OF ONENESS WITH GOD. WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN BY GOD TO JESUS, AND, AS HIS DISCIPLES, WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN BY HIM TO THE WORLD, TO LOVE THE WORLD AS GOD LOVES THE WORLD, UNCEASINGLY AND COMPLETELY, EVEN IN THE FACE OF REJECTION BY THE WORLD GOD LOVES.

THIS IS NO EASY TASK, AND, BY OURSELVES, WE WOULD SOON GIVE UP IN FRUSTRATION, BUT, THANKS BE TO GOD, WE ARE NOT ALONE. WE HAVE THE STRENGTH AND ENDURACE WHICH COMES FROM THE MILLIONS WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE US AS DISCIPLES OF THE CHRIST, THE MILLIONS WHO STILL CALL UPON THE RISEN CHRIST AS LORD AND SAVIOR, THE PRESENCE OF THE RISEN CHRIST IN OUR MIDST AND IN OUR SPIRITS, AND THE UNENDING PRAYERS OF THE GLORIFIED SON OF GOD. THIS IS THE SOURCE OF JOY MADE COMPLETE IN US BY THE WONDEROUS GIFT OF GOD’S GRACE.
AMEN