7th Sunday of Easter
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; John 17:6-19
Pull out the small thin sheet of paper. Next to each number, write the name of a person you know you’ll see at some point this week. Hang on to this for now.
This text in John describes John’s version of the events before Jesus was betrayed and crucified. Jesus knows he won’t be with his disciples much longer, and spends five chapters in this gospel doing last minute preparations to help them. The entire 17th chapter is one long prayer that we’re listening in on.
In the portion of this prayer included today, Jesus is praying for the church—for his disciples then, and his disciples to come—he’s praying for us!
Look at this prayer. One of the main emphases is that Jesus is praying for our protection. Why? A couple of reasons: 1) we are the ones who continue his ministry, and 2) we don’t always know what we’re doing.
- As his disciples, we are the ones who continue his ministry in his name. We are the ones who carry on in the world, and it is neither comfortable nor safe.
Jesus doesn’t pray for us to live in monasteries, or sanctuaries, or retreat centers. We are sent right into and among a sinful society which is deeply misinformed about God. Our culture makes bad assumptions based on bad theology and misinformation.
We aren’t separated from the world, but driven into it. The church was not created to be a safe place to escape from the sin and hardships of a cruel world.
- Which is why I personally never refer to this room as a “sanctuary.” It’s not a safe place. It’s a worship area.
- We bring all the brokenness, sin, cruelty, and evil of the world right here into the church with us—because we’re just as broken and shattered in here as we are everywhere else. The church is not for “good people,” but broken people who need a new life.
So Jesus prays for protection in the midst of our living constantly in the brokenness of the world—praying that we would seek God’s presence and forgiveness continually. But he also prays for our protection because
- We don’t always know what we’re doing. Just like the original disciples, we don’t fully understand our role. We feel inadequate, frightened, incompetent to go into the world on Jesus’ behalf.
Do you know why? Because we are!
If the continuation of his ministry of revealing love, mercy, generosity and forgiveness depends on us, Jesus better be praying for us.
- If there’s one thing the church has proven over the centuries, it’s that whenever we attempt to do something for God, we screw it up. There’s that constant reminder that we’re part of the brokenness of the world.
- But it’s not our righteousness or our brokenness that we’re charged with revealing in the world. It’s Christ’s. We go as witnesses to his resurrection, to new life in him, to forgiveness in his name, to the relationship to God that he has provided.
So he prays for our protection—as hurting/broken people sent into a hurting/broken world; and as hurting/broken people who don’t know what we’re doing.
But we go anyway. We’re already there. We go into the world, we live in the world. We’re already part of the world.
But Christ is already there before us: praying for us, forgiving us, protecting us. He gives us his new life.
~~As we belong to him, we now live in the world in his name.
~~With our identity in him, we go out in his name.
~~Inadequate and sinful, we reveal forgiveness in him name.
We go to those who—just like us—are broken, hurting, and undeserving of God’s love. We can identify with those who believe they are furthest from God or who don’t even care about God because we’re just like them.
And yet we reveal something else too. As we go into the world, we reveal who Christ has made us to be: people made new in the grace, the love, the forgiveness, and the new life of Jesus Christ.
Whether we feel prepared or not, confident or not, we are equipped and sent into the world. And we go. We can’t proclaim our own righteousness, but we do reveal the reality of new life in Christ, because we go as forgiven people, as loved people, and new people.
Who will you encounter this week? Look at your list. As you meet them during the week, know that Jesus is already there with them ahead of you. Below each name, jot down one particular way you can show his love, mercy, forgiveness, generosity specifically to each of them. As you do that, know he is praying for you in your encounter with them. He’s praying for you as you carry on his ministry even though you may feel you don’t know what you’re doing. He’s praying for you, because it’s his new life, made real in you, that you bring to them. He’s praying for you so that they would experience his love which is, even now, being made real in you.