Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B
May 13, 2018
Lessons: Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people are called to be stewards of prayer following the model of Jesus, who taught us to pray.
Key Scripture: “And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” John 17:11
“My prayer was answered,” said my friend, “it just wasn’t how I expected it would be answered.” Looking back after some time and perspective, she was able to see how the answer to her prayer was what she needed, even though at the time of her prayer, she so hoped for a different outcome.
Prayer works—no doubt about that—but sometimes our limited human vision can be a stumbling block, as can our fear and concerns about even how we are to pray. Jesus gives us a wonderful model of how to pray, and it’s something he does regularly throughout his ministry. This week’s gospel lesson is part of an entire chapter-long prayer, Jesus’ final prayer before he is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and led away to his crucifixion.
Jesus’ prayer is a passionate one that is full of love, care, and concern for his disciples and in complete obedience to God. Jesus has tried to instruct his closest friends in how to carry on without him, but they aren’t quite getting it. Nothing he says or does seems to penetrate their limited human vision and general confusion. So he turns to God in prayer. He quite literally hands them over to God with both general petitions and specific requests for protection, for joy, for unity.
In the section of the prayer we have this week (verses 6-19), Jesus is praying for his disciples’ protection, knowing that he has sent them out into a hostile and dangerous world. As contemporary Jesus followers we can embrace this prayer and feel its power in our own lives as we are sent from worship each Sunday knowing that God goes with us in the Holy Spirit and that Jesus loves us. We are, my friends, in very good and powerful company, even when we do not realize it.
Most of can probably relate to Jesus’ petition on behalf of his disciples. I think of the many mothers who pray every time their black sons and daughters walk out of the house, knowing the hostility and danger they face simply living each day. I think of the parents who watch their children go off to fight wars, whose sons and daughters serve as aid workers in areas of conflict. I am reminded of spouses who watch their husbands or wives put on the uniform of police officer, firefighter, or EMT, knowing their lives may be on the line at any moment of any day. And I think of families whose loved ones are living with substance abuse disorders and who fear there will be an overdose that will prove fatal.
Life is both beautiful and dangerous, my friends. There are no guarantees of another day or even another breath. As cliché as the saying “Life is fragile; handle with prayer.” may be, it makes an important point. Prayer forms the foundation of our faith. It’s where we meet God in a very real and tangible way. Sure, it may feel awkward, and we may wonder whether it’s making a difference, but our Lord Jesus Christ models that prayer does matter, and that we are called to follow his example.
This week, my colleagues in ministry, consider preaching the power of prayer. Lift Jesus up as the model we can follow. Teach prayer as an aspect of stewardship—stewarding our relationship with God, with one another, and with this beautiful yet broken world. And, perhaps you might end your preaching or teaching time with a heartfelt prayer for God to equip and protect your faith community. I will be praying for all of you, that God will guide you and that the Holy Spirit will give you the words and the wisdom to proclaim this very good gospel we are called to share.
In 2018, the Seventh Sunday of Easter is also Mother’s Day in the United States. Make sure that you are aware of the mixed emotions this day can stir. There are children whose relationships with their mother is not good. There are those who long to be a mother and are not able to conceive or adopt. There may be birth mothers who had to make the difficult choice to give up a child for adoption, or who chose to abort a pregnancy. Make sure to handle this day with care and to honor and affirm all who nurture children.
You might also invite congregants to write brief petitions for protection of your faith community, the community in which your congregation is located, those who serve in dangerous vocations, for children, for those in the armed forces, etc., and offer a special prayer seeking God’s care, protection, and unity.
This week, consider Psalm 1 with your youth. The very first word of the Psalter is translated as “Happy.” (“Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;”) But what kind of “happiness” are we talking about here? What does it mean to be happy and to delight in God’s law and in the walk of discipleship? It’s certainly not a once-and-done kind of happy but rather an ongoing journey. You might use Pharrell Williams’ video “Happy” to make your point. There’s even a 24-hour version of it, too, that you can find here. Watch the shorter video here.
Learn about the making of the video here. It’s visual proof that “happy” is a process—both in making the video and in living a life as a disciple.
Covered in Prayer!
Tell the children a simple summary of the gospel lesson—that Jesus was praying for the friends he loved so dearly, for their protection and unity. Jesus is still loving and praying for us today—and so are our parents, grandparents, and church community. We are covered in prayer just like a blanket.
If you have a special blanket from your own childhood or from your child, you can make a connection between how being covered with that special blanket made you feel safe and secure. It’s the same way with Jesus’ prayer for his disciples (and us, too!) and their safety and unity.
Finish with a simple prayer for protection for the children who are gathered.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Prayer is an act of stewardship, in fact it is the foundation upon which our very faith is formed. Make this week one to spend extra time connecting with God by listening and talking to the One who loves you beyond all measure.
Stewardship at Home
Consider taking a prayer walk this week around your neighborhood to pray for its protection. Pray for your neighbors as you pass each house. If you live near a school, pray for the children. Do the same when you pass the police station or a police cruiser. Pray for ambulances, EMTs, and fire fighters. Pray for drivers on your street to be safe. This week cover everywhere you go with a blanket of protective prayer. Invite your friends and family members to do the same. There is power in God’s people praying!
Here’s a look back at our 2012 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/05/can-i-get-a-witness/
Here’s a look back at our 2015 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/05/got-life/
Photos: Moose128, Rachel Tanugi Ribas, and lel4nd, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
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