Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B
May 16, 2021
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 willing to step into the vast intimacy of prayer with the Christ.
Key Scripture: All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 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 17:10-11
When I was a young Christian I can remember glossing over the prayer in the lesson from John as something really nice. “Jesus prays for us,” I thought. “Pretty cool but not terribly relevant for where I am in life right now.” As a newbie preacher I remember trying to figure out ways to get around a deep dig into this passage. “Yes, it’s great that Jesus intercedes on our behalf,” I thought, “but I just don’t really know where to go with this, so let’s avoid it altogether or give it a surface-level treatment.” In 2018, that began to change, and now I view this passage in an entirely different light.
Some of you may know that I live with a chronic/terminal condition known as Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC). That reality has definitely altered how I approach scripture, including this prayer of Jesus with this Father. I now see it not so much in abstract terms but rather as a very real cosmic and universal prayer between the Christ and the Creator of the Cosmos, where the separations are thin and the intent so much greater than we allow for in our need to assume some control over God.
Most of us are quite uncomfortable with the God we cannot control, or at least over which we can pretend to exercise an illusion of control. We like a manageable God, one that doesn’t ask too much of us, or that wants too intimate of a relationship with us. This prayer is intimate. This prayer is powerful. This prayer puts us in Christ and in God, in a deep and powerful relationship. There can be nothing else between us and the One who sets the stars in the night sky and bedecks the trees and plants in burgeoning glory.
Notice, too, that this prayer doesn’t seek to take us out of the world in some pie-in-the-sky version of rapture. It places us squarely here in the midst of the created order, and it lets us know that the Christ is right there with us—along with God the Creator and Author of all that is. We do not belong to the powers and principalities of the world, but we coexist with them in Christ. Everything belongs to the Christ, including each one of us. Therefore, we have a responsibility to fall into the arms of our Creator and trust the process of becoming all that God wants us to be. We must also care for one another and for creation. There are no easy, pat answers and quick solutions. This is real relationship, lasting relationship on both an exquisitely intimate and grand cosmic scale.
How then do we communicate this to those to whom we preach and teach? How do we help one another release our iron grip on what we consider to be reality and control? Frankly, I’m not sure that we can do much other than point to the Christ and pray for opportunities to let go and enter in, whether these be living with a chronic/terminal condition or finding ourselves thrust into situations that demand our release (I think of the mystics and martyrs throughout time). This week why not at least invite others into a more grand scale of understanding and living into Christ’s prayer and intimate relationship with the Triune God? If we don’t invite, how will we ever know? If we don’t know, how will we ever experience this deep and powerful relationship? If we never experience life in the Christ, how sad will that truly be?
Blessings on your prophetic preaching and teaching! God is with you, and the Christ intercedes for you.
What sort of emphasis is placed on prayer in your context? Is it merely a functional part of the liturgy, or is it a deep and heartfelt time of connection with one another and God? Why not explore the role of prayer in your congregation’s life? Invite a couple of who understand and embrace prayer at a deep level to share a temple talk or testimony about the role of prayer in their lives? Perhaps take the time to explain the different roles of prayer in worship and why they matter.
I was interviewing a group of youth for a seminary faith formation project, and their prayer life was one of the questions. “I used to know how to pray,” said one girl. “Until I got to confirmation, and now I’m not sure anymore.” This statement broke my heart. How are we teaching our youth about the power of prayer and how the Christ intercedes with and for us? My guess is that we don’t spend a lot of time talking about the power of prayer and letting God be as big as God will be. No, we tend to put God into little convenient boxes to take down and put back on the shelves of our daily life. I suspect our prayer boxes are pretty small and insufficient. Invite someone who understands the power of prayer to talk with your youth today. Be sure that you spend sufficient time teaching about prayer and the vast yet intimate God who seeks relationship with us. It’s a worthy investment of time and energy, I assure you.
This week’s focus verse is John 17:13– “But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.”
How cool is it that Jesus prays with and for us? This week’s gospel lesson is a prayer that Jesus prayed on behalf of his disciples before he was arrested and crucified. He’s asking God to protect and be in deep relationship with his beloved ones. And the risen Christ still prayes for and with us today. We may not see or understand how that happens, but it does because Christ wants a deep relationship with us. Prayer is one way that happens because it is two-way communication. Any time you feel alone, overwhelmed, or uncertain, you can know that Jesus is right there with you, praying on your behalf and seeking goodness and mercy for you.
What should our response to this good news be? Well, let’s pray!
Dear Lord (Dear Lord),
Thank you for loving us (Thank you for loving us). Thank you for teaching us how to pray (Thank you for teaching us how to pray) and for teaching us to abide in you (and for teaching us to abide in you). We want to learn from and with you (We want to learn from and with you) so that we may abide in you (so that we may abide in you) and you in us (and you in us). And let all God’s children say…AMEN!
Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Prayer is an integral part of stewardship. The more we pray, the more we see and understand the relational qualities of God. How will you pray today?
Stewardship at Home
Watch these two short prayer videos featuring Brother David Stendahl Rast. How do they make you feel? How do you feel called to pray?
Have young children at home? Check out these 10 ways to pray with children.
2018 Reflection: https://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2018/05/the-power-of-prayer/
2015 Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/05/got-life/
2012 Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/05/can-i-get-a-witness/
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