His Followers—Including Us, Too

“His Followers—Including Us, Too”

John 17-9 Jesus prays for us

John 17:6-19 (17:9) – May 13, 2018

Throughout the centuries since Jesus’s death and resurrection, believers have followed their Lord Jesus and prayed for others. I suspect we all can picture Jesus and His friends during that last week before His crucifixion. And, Jesus was a person of deep prayer. This profound image is quite precious to me, and I suspect for you, too.

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus prays for His followers. Not just any old prayer, but a significant prayer, at a profound time of Jesus’s life. The night before His crucifixion, when He must have had a thousand and one things on His mind, Jesus takes the time to think of and to pray for His followers; His friends and disciples.

Today is Mother’s Day. Today is a day to take the time to think of beloved mothers (and, those who have acted as mothers). Some more devout people even pray for their mothers. And grandmothers, and daughters and sisters. All those who act as mothers, too.

In many, many cases throughout this country—and beyond, around the world—many caring, loving and nurturing women have mothered those under their care. In cases of religious nurture, caring mothers, grandmothers, aunties, sisters—and others who have stood in the place of these maternal figures—have prayed for their friends, relatives and loved ones, too.

Whether nearby or far away, prayer makes that intimate connection, that bond between friends, relatives, and loved ones. It does not matter whether the pray-er and the ones prayed for are next door, in the next town, or separated by miles, mountains or oceans.

Jesus was making that connection, too, through His prayer.

As we have noted before in weeks past, the disciples were anxious, worried, even scared to death. And, Jesus knew that very well. Remember His words of comfort from just a short while before this? In John 14:27, where Jesus says “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.”

Of course, Jesus knew how serious this all was! He knew He was going to be beaten, jeered at, crucified, and die. He knew it was all going to happen in less than twenty-four hours. Yet, Jesus still had the amazing love, nurture and caring for His friends and disciples that He would say such things as these. Jesus did not allow the horror and anguish of what was to come take away from the love, caring and connection He had with His friends.

In today’s passage from John 17, Jesus expresses His deepest yearning for His closest followers. But, there is much more. Commentator Janet Hunt says “[Jesus] speaks to them all together at length ‘one last time’ as he sits with his disciples at table that Thursday night. … For instance, we get a sense of Jesus’ profound connection to the one to Whom he prays. And we are told that those who followed Jesus had learned of the truth of this as well.” [1]

How often do we hear of a faithful, devout mother or grandmother or auntie or dear friend praying for her loved one, asking God to take care of this dear one, whether nearby or far away? And, even when things become depressingly sad, or that diagnosis turns into a hospice admit, or the divorce finally happens, God is still able to be there and be present with the one prayed for. And their family.

As we can see from today’s scripture reading, Jesus prayed for His closest followers and friends. I love the way Dr. David Lose puts it: Jesus “senses their anxiety, confusion, and fear, and so he prays for them. He knows they can bear no more, and so he prays for them. He knows he will soon leave them, and so he prays for them. And as he does, and whether or not they understand everything he says, he tells them that they do not have to do everything or even understand everything.” [2]

Jesus was a master at making connections, just as relatives do in a close family, just as dear friends make intimate connections with each other. Sure, this climactic point in the Passion Week, this night in which Jesus was betrayed, had all the disciples’ emotions and feelings at a breaking point. Sadness, anxiety, fear, anger, horror. And, we know Jesus was there with His friends in the middle of all of those tumultuous feelings.

What about those in countless congregations today, and those who did not go to a house of worship this weekend, who had (or are still having) difficulty with the relationship with their mom? What about those whose mothers are somehow unwilling or unable to care for their children? What about those who have given children up for adoption? Mother’s Day is certainly difficult for these hurting people.

What about the mothers who have had miscarriages, or stillbirths, or abortions? What about those mothers who have lost a young—or not-so-young child? What about those who have never been mothers—for a whole host of different reasons? Yet, these women often care for and nurture others, whether theirs by natural means, or through choice. And even more important, Jesus is certainly able to love, nurture and care for all of these loved caregivers, all of these called children of God.

As we look at John 17, we can be sure that Jesus used His masterful way of connecting to show love, care and nurture. Pastor Tim Yee had the following illustration: “Jedd Medefind and Erik Lokkesmoe’s book, The Revolutionary Communicator, stresses seeking connection as an important communication tool that Jesus modeled, as he engaged people… This story [the authors] share of a little boy visiting a grieving elderly widower illustrates the power of seeking connection: The mother noticed the little boy crossing into the neighbor’s yard and climbing up into the old man’s lap. He remained there for some time, sitting quietly. When the boy returned home, his mother met him with her hands on her hips. “I told you not to bother him!” she scolded. “What were you doing?” “I wasn’t doing anything,” the little fellow answered. “I was just helping him cry.” (p. 23) [3]

Yes, Jesus prayed for the disciples, and “not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word…” That includes us! Just as a devout mother or grandma prays for her loved ones, just as Jesus seeks a intimate and loving connection with His friends and followers, so we can seek to have that deep connection with one another.

Dr. David Lose invites all of us to hear these words of Jesus addressed to each of us today. To imagine – really, to know – that Jesus was praying for us all those years ago and continues to care for us, support us, and love and connect with us today. Please take a moment to think about where we need to be more whole, to have more peace in our lives. And then, imagine that Jesus is actively, intimately praying for each of you. And, indeed, for all of us. [4]

Jesus is caring for us, you know. Jesus loves each of us that much.

Alleluia, amen.

[1] http://dancingwiththeword.com/last-words/  “Last Words,” Janet H Hunt, Dancing with the Word, 2018.

[2] http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=2566  David Lose The Power of Being Prayed For

[3] Revolutionary Communicator: Seeking Connection

https://lifeforleaders.depree.org/revolutionary-communicator-seeking-connection/?utm_source=Life%20for%20Leaders&utm_campaign=6da0a06843-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_05_12&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_daeb77a376-6da0a06843-85700765&mc_cid=6da0a06843&mc_eid=6effffadbb

[4] http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=2566  David Lose The Power of Being Prayed For

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my regular blog for 2018: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!)

Jesus Sends Us Forth!

John 17:11-19 – May 17, 2015

Sent into the world - John 17-18

“Jesus Sends Us Forth!”

Most everyone I know like to receive packages. Have you ever received something extremely fragile in the U.S. mail, or from Federal Express or UPS? Can you just visualize the package? Unpacking something like this is a multi-step process! Opening the box, taking out the protective foam pellets, unwrapping the layers of encasing bubble wrap, taking off the newspaper cushioning the fragile piece. And, then—there it is. Finally, unwrapped.

We didn’t want to allow the fragile piece of glassware—or pottery—to get chipped or broken. Heavens, no! So, we take extra-special care. We wrap it, protect it, and swathe it, even immobilize it, in order to make extra sure that it’s safe and won’t get hurt or broken.

Except—as we consider our gospel passage today, we aren’t talking about fragile glassware or delicate pottery. Here, our Lord Jesus is praying to His Heavenly Father about the disciples. Asking some things for them, specifically.

Let’s set the scene. It’s a familiar scene. The Upper Room, after the Passover dinner with His disciples. Jesus has just finished His last words to His friends, and now in John 17, He prays. It’s an intimate time, with Jesus addressing God His Father in the most intimate way.

God sent His Son into the world—special delivery. Into a battered, fallen, sinful, hate-filled world. Did you know that? Did you realize that? From time to time we may say that, in an Affirmation of Faith, or some such statement of belief. I try to make it a central point in my sermons, when the Scripture passage mentions it.

Yes! Jesus, the Son, was sent into the world in order to proclaim the gospel, as well as to give everyone a picture, an actual physical representation of God in heaven. Here, on earth. One of the names of Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us.

Question: when God sent Jesus into the world—special delivery, what was the situation?

Where was He sent, in the first place, according to the Christmas narrative in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2? We remember! Jesus—the eternal Son, laid down all of His heavenly Godly-ness, all of His awesome power and might, and was born as a helpless infant to an unmarried girl. In an occupied state, from a marginalized people. Here on this earth in amongst fallen, messy, dirty people who often make mistakes. Lose their tempers. Are unkind and rude—and even worse—to others. Where sin and disease and unemployment and accidents happen, on a regular basis. Imagine that!

God the Heavenly Father could have wrapped the man Jesus securely in bubble wrap. Or, in case Jesus even moved, God could have made sure He was packed in protective foam pellets, so Jesus wouldn’t get injured or harmed. But—that sounds silly! Maybe that idea works for shipping fragile items or glasswear, but not for people!

Let’s take a closer look at verse 18 of this intimate prayer. Jesus says, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” So—Jesus is talking about sending the disciples out into the world. Do you get the picture? The past three years were a training program. An internship, if you will, to get the disciples prepared for ministry.

Being sent out. Getting down to the business of letting others know about God. The disciples are getting ready to be launched into the world. In order to proclaim the gospel, the Good News, as well as to give everyone a picture, a representation of God in heaven. Here, on earth.

Wait a second, Jesus. That’s scary!

The thought of the disciples going forth, being sent out. Who knows where they might end up? Here on this earth in amongst fallen, messy, dirty people who often make mistakes. Lose their tempers. Are unkind and rude—and even worse—to others. Where sin and disease and unemployment and accidents happen, on a regular basis. Imagine that!

These words in this intimate prayer to God are words that entrust the future to God. These words do not leave the disciples as orphans (as Jesus said), nor do they set the disciples adrift, completely on their own. These words do prepare the disciples for His departure, and for their work and lives in ministry after His death and resurrection.

In short, Jesus is asking God to take care of His friends, after He leaves. How caring! How considerate! How awesome! But, Jesus did not ask for God to pack the disciples in protective foam pellets or encase them in bubble wrap.

In preparing this message, one of the resources I used is one I occasionally turn to. An online website where clergy discuss the lectionary passages of the week. In one of the discussions on this gospel passage, a pastor from North Dakota gave the following reflection and then, illustration.

“The thing that strikes me this year about this text – this prayer – is that Jesus prays for protection. He doesn’t pray for removal – removal from the world – removal from evil. It seems to me that we are expected to be in the world (not of it) and with that comes dealing with sin and evil. And Jesus prays for protection. I also think there is a difference between protection and shielding.

“Here in North Dakota (not in May, mind you!) an image that works for me is that we dress our kids in snowsuits and hats and mittens and boots and then we send them out into the cold. We don’t just hide out in the house with the nice warm furnace and hot chocolate and we don’t shield our children from the weather. We protect them, yes, but, still, they are sent out into the wind and cold. I think God is like that with us as well. God doesn’t help us to hide from the world and all its ‘stuff.’ God gives us what we need as protection … the Word, faith, a conscience … you get the idea.”

You get the idea—God protected our Lord Jesus while Jesus was here on the earth, even though I’m sure Jesus and His friends had to put up with being itinerant and homeless all the time they were traveling around Israel, with all the accompanying discomforts and getting dirty and sometimes going hungry. God protected the disciples, the followers of Jesus—and they were still sent out into the wind and the cold. Into the world where sin and disease and unemployment and accidents happen, on a regular basis.

The part of this passage that hits home the most, for me, is that Jesus prays for His friends. Not only the disciples, but we can also see His prayer broadened to include all those who follow Him. That includes you and me! Us. All those who receive Jesus’ good news, His Gospel of the revelation of God.

Just as Jesus prays for us in this prayer in John 17, so we share in this mission. We, too, are being sent! We, too, have the awesome direction from our Lord Jesus to go forth, let others know about God. We are launched into the world. In order to proclaim the gospel, the Good News, as well as to give everyone a picture, a representation of God in heaven. Here, on earth.

The best part is that Jesus has prayed for us, already! He has covered us with prayer, with protection, so that we are suited up to go out into the world. Just as we don’t shield our children from the weather; we protect them, yes, but, still, they are sent out into the wind and the weather and cold. I think God is like that with us as well.

We are sent out into the world, to spread the Good News about Jesus. God is right by our sides, too. God gives us what we need, too. We can have that assurance. For sure, and certain. Alleluia, amen!

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind .  Thanks!)