16.05.21 SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER St Andrew’s Indooroopilly
Acts 1:15-17,21-26 Psalm 1 1 John 5:9-13 John 17:6-19
Have you ever known the satisfaction of accomplishing something that is really important and then experiencing a sense of joy in its completion? I know that I have experienced that feeling many times in my life. The birth of my four children is one example and another is that in July this year, I will have been married 50 years. I imagine that many of you would have examples of experiencing this joy that I speak of. Well Jesus expresses this joy in today’s Gospel. He knows that his life is drawing to its close, yet even as he consecrates himself for his death, Jesus is able to pray to his Father for his followers, ‘that they have my joy made complete in themselves’.
Even in the face of death Jesus can speak of joy because he knows his work, that he was sent into the world to accomplish, has been completed. The feeling of fulfillment of his life’s work stayed with Jesus right up to the end. His final words on the cross were ‘it is finished’ (John 19:30).
Today’s Gospel reading is by far the longest of Jesus ‘prayers and is commonly known as ‘the farewell prayer’ or ‘the high priestly prayer’ given that it is an intercession for the coming Church. The prayer takes place at a unique time in the ministry of Jesus, at his final instructions to his followers, and at the beginning of his Passion. It is the night of the last supper and Jesus is very mindful of his impending death and that his disciples will soon be left to find their own way.
It’s a prayer of great depth and tenderness and we can sense Jesus’ deep love for his disciples. This prayer of Jesus is one of the most profound theological and spiritual documents in the whole New Testament because its purpose is oneness with God.
Jesus prays for his disciples, asking the Father to be their guardian and protector, and calls for the Father’s continued blessing and protection upon them, as they grow into the fullness of his love. Jesus prays that they may have the courage, wisdom and the fortitude that they are going to need for their mission to the world. In other words, Jesus is saying – you’re going to follow me in the way, not only of the cross and bitter fighting against you, but you’re going to have to follow me even in the path of martyrdom and sacrificing your whole life for the Kingdom of Heaven and the preaching of love.
Jesus knows they will be alienated from the world yet invites them to remain joyful in believing, and live according to his truth as opposed to the truth offered by the world. Jesus understands from his own experience that the world can be a scary and dangerous place. However, there is no escape for the disciples because Jesus is sending them into the world to live, work and minister in a space that hates them. This is why Jesus asks the Father for the disciple’s protection from the evil one. In other words, from temptation. The power of the evil one was very real for Jesus and he experienced this power during his temptations in the wilderness. He knew his disciples would experience temptations just like him
Jesus calls us to follow his and the disciple’s pattern of engaging with the world. We are called to influence and seek to affect the world, without being dominated or drawn in by it. Despite all the distorted powers and pressures in life we are called to pray and work with God and with each other. God gives us the strength and courage to ‘become one’… to resist the world and all its temptations and to work for transformation. Indifference, apathy, and complacency are not options. To behave in that way is to be ‘of the world’, condoning by inaction what Jesus calls evil.
It is so easy to be overcome by despair when we view the world as disordered and full of pain and struggle. We can feel that we have little power to make a difference, but this is when we must take heart, be led by Jesus’ example and remember that God comes with us into the world. As preservers of the knowledge of the love and forgiveness of our God, and as those who have experienced at first hand that love and forgiveness, we have a responsibility to hand down this Good News to future generations.
There once was a man who was watching his eighty-five-year-old neighbour planting a small peach tree. He said to him, “You surely don’t expect to eat peaches from that tree, do you?” “No” said the elderly man, “At my age, I know I won’t! But all my life I have enjoyed peaches and never from a tree that I have planted myself. Now it’s my turn to ensure that those who will follow me will find the same joy that I found through the work of others.” As Christians we must work actively as proclaimers of Christ’s message for future generations.
The life that Jesus gives is a life of oneness with God, both on an intimate personal level and as a collective whole. Our oneness with God and each other must be tangible and visible for all to see. Our lives and relationships are to be seen as outward and visible signs of God’s inward and invisible presence.
We, like the disciples, are encouraged, strengthened, called, commissioned, equipped, and sent out into that same world not simply to survive but to flourish. We are sent out to share – that is, to give – Giving God’s love to others in word and deed as we have received it.
Today in this parish we celebrate Care and Concern – A dedicated group in this parish who for many years have provided care and support for those within the community who really need assistance. This support is provided in many ways and is similar to the support that we provide in Anglicare. I want to congratulate those who have dedicated themselves to this wonderful community service – thus responding to human need in the name of Christ.
The glory of God can be seen in the serving actions of his people and this is a great example of these serving actions. As believers, Jesus is asking us to make him present to the world. Jesus is saying that you are my body and my blood. I live in you and you live in me. Jesus is a real presence in the hearts of believers. His glory is remembered and made present to the world.
All of this calls us to reflect on
What is it like for us to live by a different set of values and be governed by different hopes and expectations?
What is it like for us to belong not to this world but at the same time be bound by the same physical limits as everyone else?
What is it like for us to be led in a different way on a different path?
This is what Jesus calls us to now when he reminds us that we are to live in the world, but not be governed by it. Amen