Seventh Sunday of Easter
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
1 John 5:9-13
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from the one who prays for us. Amen
Today Jesus prays for us.
In our gospel,
Jesus is gathered together
with his disciples in the upper room
on the last night of his life,
they are about to go out to the garden
where he will be betrayed,
handed over to the authorities,
put on trial and executed on the cross
Jesus knows that all this is coming,
and he goes to it willingly
laying his life down for his friends,
but first he prays for them.
In their last moments
Jesus turns from teaching to prayer,
talking with God his intimate parent,
and the disciples there overhear his prayer,
they overhear Jesus praying for them,
just as we overhear Jesus praying for us this day,
because Jesus’ prayer is not restricted to those first disciples in that moment
but it is a prayer for the community
that gathers in his name throughout time and space.
Take a moment and let that sink in,
Jesus prays for us, and we get to hear his prayer.
In the last couple of weeks,
I’ve been reminded in a variety of ways
of the power and importance of being prayed for by someone else,
particularly when you hear what the other person says to God on your behalf.
Even if you have been using the same words
somehow they sound different coming from another person
and going to God,
sometimes they sound more true.
To offer prayer for someone is a sacred thing.
To receive a prayer from someone is a sacred thing,
and I think it’s a gift we give and receive too little,
some Christian traditions
have much more vibrant and vocal traditions of prayer
but generally speaking
and yes there are always exceptions to the rule,
we Lutherans tend to be more quiet with our prayers,
whether that is the result of a largely German and Scandinavian heritage
or something else I’m not sure
but praying a loud for others is something that we don’t practice very often
I think we get intimidated about having the right words
but the Holy Spirit helps God and the other person
hear the intent of our prayer
even if the words are a little clumsy,
and the good news is that prayer like anything else
gets easier with practice.
I encourage you to give it a try,
even if you feel a bit foolish at first it is a special gift to offer.
And Jesus gives us that gift
Jesus prays for our community,
The language of John can get kind of loopy and confusing,
but when it’s all boiled down,
essentially Jesus prays for three things:
The safety of the community,
the future of the community
and for the work of the community.
that the community is based on the love
that Jesus and God share,
and as Jesus has been with the community
he has been able to protect them
now that Jesus is returning to God
he prays that God protect the community
and that the life of the community
continues to rest on loving relationships with God.
Jesus doesn’t want God to take the community out of the world,
but for the community to remain
and for God to protect them from the evil that they will encounter.
In praying for the safety of the community
Jesus places the future of the community in God’s hands.
The future of the community
that gathers in Jesus’ name and love
depends on God.
We tend to forget this.
We feel that the future of the community is up to us,
and the way we envision that future
is often very similar to the present
and we forget that often what we want,
is not what God wants,
is not how God envisions the future of the community.
We have a role to play, yes,
but the future depends on God,
which means that one way or another
the community that gathers in love
even if we try some new things and make some mistakes
and even if we never try anything new and make some mistakes,
somewhere there will always be a community that gathers in Jesus’ name
by placing the future of the community in God’s hands
Jesus frees us to focus on the present task at hand,
the work of the community
which is sharing the love of God with others,
loving our neighbors as ourselves,
with love that Jesus has defined as laying down one’s life for one’s friends,
This is the work of the community,
and Jesus prays that God sanctify the community for this purpose,
to sanctify is to make holy,
which essentially means to set apart for the work of God,
Jesus has set us apart,
has authorized us, commanded us
to live in love under the protection and future of God
just as he set himself apart and lived out his love on the cross.
The way we live out our love
might not be that dramatic,
often our love is shown in the small and regular parts of life,
in the caring for our families
the putting aside of our own desires
so that those we love are fed and clothed,
or it appears in the way we treat those we encounter in life
with dignity and respect,
perhaps it means contributing to the life of the community
or working on behalf of the marginalized and those without a voice.
However we do the work of the community
who gathers in Jesus’ name,
we are able to do it because of the love of God
that Jesus has shared with us
and the future that Jesus placed in God’s hands on behalf of us
all by praying for us,
a prayer we overhead
speaking the truth in love. Amen
Pastor Emily Johnson preaches weekly at Christ Lutheran. These are manuscripts of her sermons given at Christ Lutheran. Feel free to engage with them in the comments section of the blog.