Note: The scripture references listed are for Ascension Day (May 13, 2021) and can be used for worship on May 16. These notes are based on the Gospel reading for Sunday, May 16: John 17:6-19.
There are so many threads in this tapestry that the picture might be a bit obscured. And to spend the time picking them all apart is beyond the realm of these notes. But let’s consider a few, shall we?
We could talk about that sanctify ending. Jesus calls on the Spirit of protection so that we could be made fit for God’s purposes. Jesus hands us over to God and asks God to let us live and work in this world, but as signs of God’s presence, pointing beyond the world in which we work. We could talk about what this protection means and what it doesn’t mean.
Or we could talk about unity, one of my favorite themes. Jesus prays that we (that’s you and me and everyone else) would be one as “we are one.” We are to be as close as Jesus and God; we are called to function as parts of the Trinity, aspects of the same thing, different, but one in essence and in hope. That is what community really means. It doesn’t mean individuality is lost; differences make the whole what it is. But it does mean that we acknowledge our need for the other, acknowledge that we are somehow incomplete without the other. How can we fight amongst ourselves? How can we hate and cast stones at one another when we are part of the same whole? We are hating and casting stones at ourselves. The church is many things, but in this prayer it is clear that the church is called to be one.
Or we could talk about that in the world and out of the world language in the prayer. Yes, on one level it is Jesus’ farewell address; he is on his way out of the world. But then we also believe that Jesus is in the world, still today – just as we live in this world but we don’t belong to the world. Our eyes are on eternity; our true home is in the kingdom that might have embassies here in this world, which might break through, which might peek around the edges, but it isn’t here. At least not yet.
Or we could talk about the hundred other things that I haven’t figured out yet. Maybe you saw something or wonder about something or figured something out from this prayer that you didn’t know before, or that confirmed something inside of you. Or maybe we could simply talk about what it is like to know that Jesus is praying for us – what a blessing that is, even when we don’t always know what is in that prayer. Even when we don’t know how to respond to that prayer, or even what we should be looking for. Just knowing about the prayer means something.
(A week away is May 24, Aldersgate Day, the day we remember John Wesley and his heart strangely warmed experience, as he finally understood that Jesus’ love and salvation was a gift for him too.)
But instead of all of that, the words that jumped out were those in verse ten: “All mine are yours and yours are mine and I have been glorified in them.” I know that really says more about who Jesus is than it does about us. But it also speaks deeply of relationship and of community. Eugene Peterson (The Message) translates the last part of the verse like this: “my life is on display in them.” How we live and love in this world is the presentation of Christ to those who don’t know him yet. How we share and give does not just reflect on us, but it reflects on Jesus. How we treat one another, how we honor one another, how we celebrate one another and the commitments we have made are parts of our faith. And Christ is glorified by the way we live in community.