Psalm 68:1-10,32-35; John 17:1-11; Acts 1:6-14; 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
May 24, 2020
Chapters 14-16 of John are Jesus Commencement speech. Some commencement speeches begin with prayer. In Chapter 17 Jesus closes his commencement speech with a prayer. Please stand for the gospel of our Lord from John 17:1-11
A young mother was trying to teach her daughter to memorize the prayer we call “the Lord’s Prayer.” As the little girl repeated back to her mother phrase by phrase she said, “and deliver us from email.”
Some of us may be facing virtual fatigue, but for one I can’t imagine what our lives would be like in this challenging time without the ability to communicate and be in contact with each other through email and zoom.
How many of you know what we call the Lord’s Prayer by heart? When did you learn it? Was it in Sunday School? How many of you learned in public school? Technically the prayer we call, “The Lord’s prayer” is not a prayer of the Lord’s. It’s not a prayer that Jesus needed to pray. Jesus certainly didn’t have any debts or trespasses or “sins” for which he needed to be forgiven. I prefer to call it the prayer our Lord taught.
The disciples asked Jesus to teach THEM to pray. So the prayer we learned by heart is the model prayer he taught them. But in this morning’s gospel lesson however, we have the words to a prayer that Jesus did pray! This is one of the Lord’s Prayers.
Throughout the gospels we read of Jesus going off alone to pray. We don’t know what the content of those prayers were. We only know WHAT he prayed on a few occasions. We know that in the garden before he was arrested he prayed so hard that blood fell from his brow like sweat. We know that there he prayed for the cup of suffering to pass from him. He agonized in that time of prayer to the point of sweating blood. Jesus prayed through blood, sweat and tears.
We know that on the cross he prayed, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” In our gospel lesson this morning we get to hear the longest recorded prayer of Jesus.
Jesus is in the Upper Room with his disciples. He has washed their feet. He has shared the Passover meal. He has predicted his death. He has warned Peter that he will deny him 3 times. He has taken bread and wine and given the disciples a ritual by which to remember what is about to happen. He has revealed his betrayer and sent him out to do what he had determined to do quickly … and then, Jesus prays.
So many times when we go to prayer we are looking for the Lord to answer our prayers. What this morning’s lesson to us is that sometimes we can be an answer to the Lord’s Prayer—that we be united—that we be one.
Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments. What are those commandments? In the Upper Room he commanded them to love one another as we have been loved by him. As I shared in my Annunciation meditation on Thursday before he ascended into heaven he commanded them to wait until the Holy Spirit came in power and to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.” The disciples obeyed his commands. They loved each other and they waited.
It the 1st chapter of Acts we read about what they did while they were waiting. (Hear verses 12-14.)
These two verses are very telling. They tell us that after Jesus ascended into heaven the disciples were with ONE mind, continually devoting themselves to prayer. They were answering Jesus’ prayer of John 17. They were united. They were praying.
But notice that it was not only the 11 disciples. Verse 14 says also that “Mary the mother of Jesus and ‘the women’ and his brothers” were there. His brothers were James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. (We aren’t told where his sisters were.) So apparently his brothers, who previously reprimanded Jesus and thought he was off the rails, had had a change of heart. In fact, his brother James became the head of the church in Jerusalem and is credited with writing the book of James later in the Newer Testament. If we read on to verse 15 says there were 120 people gathered there. So, in addition to the original disciples there were 109 others that had gathered in prayer.
You see, after Jesus rose from the dead he Appeared to his disciples over a period of 40 days. But on that 40th day, he DISappeared. He went up in the clouds and two men in white sent the disciples home to wait and pray. And for the next 10 days 120 folks did just that.
The apostle Paul charged us to “pray without ceasing.” I don’t think he meant for us to pray 24/7. We have to sleep sometime. I think he meant that there was no place that it was not inappropriate to pray. After all, as long as there are finals, there will be prayer in schools! And now that home is school there’s nothing to prevent prayer in schools. Who would have thought that all of our children would be home-schooled this year?
Pray when you are at home-(which most of you are doing now as you watch this service). Pray when you are at work. Pray when you are at play. Pray when you are front of City Hall. Pray the Lord’s Prayer. Pray that you, that we might be an answer to the Lord’s Prayers. Pray that his disciples might be protected from the world and that his disciples might be one, might be united.
Our churches don’t need to be reopened. They were never shut down. We just have had to change our location and configuration for a season, but we have been continuing to be the church wherever we are. It’s not possible to go to church. We are the church wherever we are and wherever we go.
Next Sunday we will honor our graduates. Keith Wagner writes,
”The world young men and women are stepping into now is quite different from the world that I graduated in. In the 60’s we lived under the “cold war.” No one ever thought of terrorism. We didn’t have cell phones, VCR’s or DVD’s. Instead of the Internet we contacted our friends with a rotary telephone. Gas cost about 30 cents a gallon and it wasn’t difficult to find a job. Even paying for a college education in those days was relatively easy. But, that has all changed. This is a different world. The world is much smaller because we can communicate anywhere in the world instantaneously. It is very challenging to venture out on your own, since things like utilities; rent and health insurance are very expensive. The world travels in the fast lane and the majority of folks are doing whatever necessary to survive, even if it means stepping on people in the way.
Our culture has changed too. Our society is much more diverse. For example, your doctor will most likely be from another country. It is very possible that your next door neighbor might be from Japan or Mexico or Vietnam. The company that you work for may be owned by someone overseas. It is a very different world. (1)
My General Practitioner is Dr. Bvhuana Muthuswamy. My neurologist is Dr. Igor Cherches. My pulmonologist is Muralikrishna Chelikani. My urologist is Dr. Michael Mineo (an Italian).
Down at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Steve Jacobs, the rabbi of Temple Emanu-El was always a big hit with the students. One day after class he chatted with students. One bright young lady asked shyly, “Rabbi Jacobs, I really have been interested in the things you say, would I be allowed to come to your synagogue for services?”
Steve turned to the young woman and smiled. “At the top of our building,” he said, “it is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.'”
“Uh, yes,” she said, “I understand, but I’m a Christian, you see, and I didn’t know, I mean, is it okay, can I come to your synagogue?”
Steve grinned and explained very carefully: “The synagogue is on South Highland Street. At the top of the building it is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples,’ it’s from the prophet Isaiah.”
The young woman stood very still. Everyone was quiet for a moment. You could tell from the confused look on her face that she hadn’t a clue to what Steve was saying. Here she was, asking an honest, polite question and he wouldn’t give her a straight answer. Then it sank in and you could see her imagination rearranging the furniture of her faith. Great, ancient walls were crumbling inside her. “Oh,” she whispered, “and Jesus said that too, didn’t he? ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.'”
She smiled, nodded her head and walked away, and as she went, I heard her say once more, just to herself, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.”
This week I stumbled onto an online Interfaith Dialog led by a Lutheran pastor Emmanuel Jackson of the Church of the Living Word in Katy and a friend of mine Rabbi Dan Gordon of Temple Beth torah in Humble. The title of the dialogue was, “A Rabbi and a Minister walked into a Zoom Room.” Here’s the link for that dialogue. https://youtu.be/aDWu6KmAccI.
These days I find myself more and more working not to find the missing link but the connecting link. Isn’t it fascinating how we can continue to do the work of the Lord together in this season of not-being-able-to-be-together? I’m a part of a regular Friday night zoom song circle with a dozen songwriters from all over the country. On Saturday night I will (was) a part of a virtual campfire song circle as a part of the Kerrville Folk Festival that has been postponed until October, hopefully.
In John 10:14 Jesus was talking to his disciples about his being the Good Shepherd. He said, “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me. Just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep too that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice and there will be one flock with one shepherd.”
Jesus said that to his Jewish disciples. In light of our Lord’s prayers in John 17 I think that Jesus was thinking about some of us Gentile sheep that would be brought into the fold through the testimony of those Jewish disciples. In verse 20 of Jesus’ prayer in Chapter 17 says, “I am praying not only for these disciples alone, (meaning the 11 Jewish disciples with him in the room hearing his prayer with the disciple John taking minutes) but also for all who will believe in me because of their message.”
Isn’t that awesome? On the night Jesus is about to be betrayed and arrested and deserted and tried and convicted and executed Jesus looks down the corridor of time and prays for those of us gathered in this room and wherever you are watching this service. We can be one even when we are not able to be in the same room.
Jesus doesn’t call us to be uniform, but he wants us to be unified. He doesn’t want us to be identical but he wants us to be identified with Him. Not even identical twins are identical. No two fingerprints are alike. No two Christians are alike. There are myriads of expressions of faith in this world but there is ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, ONE God and Father of us all.
Daniel Chambers writes,
“We all know how it feels when we’re somewhere we don’t belong. We know because it is one of the most fundamental human needs, the need to feel at home with ourselves and our surroundings. There is no greater desire than to long to know to whom we belong and that we are not an impostor there, but utterly and completely at home. Every religious tradition responds in some way to this fundamental need for identity. Jesus’ prayer in John’s gospel is for us all, that we may know our identity beyond a social security number, a driver’s license number, or a Nordstrom account number… *(2)
We are not uniform, but when we are in Unity I believe we are and will be answering … our Lord’s prayers.
Let’s pray. Dear Lord Jesus. Thank you for praying for us. Thank you for answering our prayers and for calling us to answer your prayer that we might be one, that we might be united in our mission to take the good news of your love to the world. We pray that as you taught us to pray that Your WILL WILL be done on EARTH as it is being constantly done in Heaven. Use us to that end that we might be an answer to your prayers.
(1) Keith Wagner, In a Different World
(2) Daniel Chambers