John 17: 20-26

The Power of One

It’s time for my family and I to depart, time to say good-bye. No doubt, there will be mixed emotions as we say good-bye. Nonetheless, God’s plans are greater than our own. He is the one that closes and opens doors, he is the one that calls and sends so that life maybe preserved and renewed.

As my family and I depart from you, I would like to take advantage of Jesus’ prayer to his followers (John 17: 20-26) and make it also my departing prayer for this parish. Jesus knows that his time with his faithful followers is short and he will soon be betrayed, arrested, tortured, and crucified on the cross. It is a departure that no one would want to face, but it is all part of God’s plan to bring about salvation for everyone.

Out of his bountiful love for his faithful followers, Jesus prepares them for his departure. Jesus prays to his Father in heaven. His first request is that all his followers everywhere be united as one, even as Jesus is in the Father and the Father in him so may all Christians be in them. Jesus prays that the one unifying spirit will unite Father, Son, and Disciple.

Jesus expressed this love by giving himself for others so that they may have renewed life. He was empowered to do this because of the Father’s love in him. Jesus prays that he be in us as the Father is in him so that we too may be able to give of ourselves, to love one another. Jesus prays for the Church, that we look after our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as he would himself. He prays that we too may feed those who are hungry, heal the sick, comfort the broken hearted, and especially to forgive one another. It is only when we give of ourselves that the Church can remain united as one.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd is departing for awhile. When he is away his sheep can easily go astray. There are many tempters in the world and they come to us as wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing ready to disperse and devour careless sheep. Guard against them, support one another and this flock will remain as one.

Many people have left the church, and many congregations have died and closed. They have been tempted away from God and joined the way of the world. As people move away form God, disunity increases in the wider community.

Today, people are passionately doing so many different things it is as if they are following other gods. The largest of these small gods is looking after number one, self. Many people are so passionate about self that they have developed their own thoughts about life and death, truth and justice as if they have control of destiny. They live as if they are a god. Each one lives out what they believe in.

For example:
Some enjoy duck shooting, while others save them.
Some believe in speed restrictions on the road, while others speed.
Some play the game fair, while others cheat.
Some take too much, while others struggle with too little. Some work too long and hard, while others have no work. Some live in grand houses, while others live in the gutter.

Can you see from those few examples that there is no unity of spirit? To make things worse there is pain and suffering, anger and hatred, and continuing violence as each little god struggles to keep their own truth, their own way, and their own life.

Jesus prays for the Church that we may all be one, not only for our own well being, but also to witness to the world. God desires all to have life now and forever. He works through the Church to show his glory, that is, his love to the whole world. The Church when united in Jesus is holy, set apart from the world so that all people may see a clear difference between how Christians and others live in the world.

God has chosen Christians everywhere to demonstrate God’s love to the whole world. People need to see how unity in Jesus has affected the life of a Christian. They need to see that the God of the Christian is loving, forgiving, offers peace and hope for the future.

I believe that the real difference Christians can show others is how they deal with a crisis in life. How does a Christian deal with a life threatening illness, unemployment, a crippling accident, financial ruin, one’s own enemies, and especially death? These are the big issues that confront both Christians and others. Where these life dramas are played out everyone is watching closely. They watch for there own sake, watching for a better way through life and a hope for the future. For this very reason I believe funerals are well attended by people who hardly ever step into a church. Deep down, they want to know: Is this as good as it gets? Is there life after death?

Jesus prays that all believers be one, united in him to reveal a life of victory over death. When we are united in Jesus we have a hope for the future. We have experienced the loving concern and ongoing care of God through our daily life. Even if death threatens us, or takes a loved one there is still hope. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, he has given us the victory over death. There is no need to fear death itself any longer. As God raised Jesus from death to life, so will he raise us also to eternal life. Let us live a life as if there is no death. That’s what Jesus would like us to do.

Since we are human, we are weak and prone to fail even in the simple matters of life. Therefore, how can we always love one another, even our fellow Christian? How can we sustain unity in the Church and even in Jesus?

Jesus is already praying for those concerns. His second request to God is that all believers be with him where he is. Jesus longs for us all to be with him so that we may be strengthened in his presence. Wherever the Word of God is preached and taught, there is Jesus. Wherever the body and blood is given through Holy Communion, there is Jesus. Wherever the water and Word is given through Holy Baptism, there is Jesus. Wherever Christians freely give of themselves, there is Jesus. Where Jesus is he will give us his love, so that we may love one another and be united together in him.

Jesus is praying for us. And his will be done. Since Jesus is in the Father as the Father is in Jesus when they speak their word creates. When God spoke, the universe was created. He said, ‘Let there be light, and there was.’ When Jesus said, ‘Rise up and walk,’ the lame man got up and walked. When Jesus spoke to the storm it became calm. When Jesus said, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ our sins are indeed forgiven. Such is the creative power of the word of God.

When we pray, we are not alone. Jesus who is in us prays with us. Can you imagine that? Jesus whose words have power and creates is praying in us. There are two important things that Jesus will pray in you. Jesus prays that we will be united as one, united in the spirit of love that is in the Father as it is in Jesus. Secondly, Jesus prays that we will be where he is, so that we may be transformed to be like him.

My family and I are soon departing from you. This prayer of Jesus is also my prayer to you. He is praying it with me. I pray that you all will be united as one, and continue to be fed in word and sacrament. In this way the world will know that Jesus is their true Saviour.  Amen.

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