Let us pray. Holy Father, protect us in Jesus’ name, so that we may be one as you and Jesus are one. AMEN.
Pastor Kelly Fryer, the author of the book Proclaiming the “L” Word confesses that she grew up Roman Catholic. She shares that a lot of the most important people in her life were Catholic too like her grandmother’s aunts, Hazel, May and Gen. During the summer she would sometimes stay with them in their rustic Indiana farmhouse. She would get to sleep in a big, creaky featherbed in her Aunt Gen’s room. She recalls the power of hearing her old great aunt praying for her.
Pastor Kelly writes: “I would go in early and fidget until Gen came in. The room would be dark, and she would think I was asleep. She would quietly get herself ready for bed and then kneel down to say her nightly prayers. The moonlight would stream in so that I could just make out the outline of her bowed head. She would pray the rosary. And then came the best part, when she would make up her own prayers. I will never forget the sound of her voice praying for me. She prayed that I would grow up to be confident and strong, and that I would love the Lord and know that there was a plan for my life. I suspect that she knew all along that I was awake, listening in the dark. But she probably never knew what a mark she left on my life. Her faithfulness is part of the reason I am here today.”
If you have overheard someone special praying for you like Pastor Kelly’s Aunt Gen, you know how powerful it can be. Today’s gospel is a part of a very special prayer that Jesus prayed for his disciples and for us before he died. If I were to ask you the name of a well known prayer said by Jesus in the Bible, what would you say? Wait for answer. The Lord’s Prayer is the one we all know, but today’s prayer is another. A Lutheran theologian named David Chytraus who lived from 1531-1600 dubbed this prayer the “High Priestly Prayer.’
In ancient Judaism, the High Priest was the one who could come before God as the only one who could enter the Holy of Holies in the temple to intercede for the people of Israel. In this prayer, Jesus took on that role of intercessor. Once a confirmand wrote in his statement of faith “And I hope that God will
always keep me in his prayers.” That phrase may sound odd to our ears, yet, in this prayer, through Jesus, God is doing exactly that, praying for us! Jesus begins his prayer with a petition about himself and his mission. “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.” Jesus knows that his purpose is to make God known to the world. The final hour of glory as presented in John’s gospel is Christ’s death on the cross so all who believe in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Much like Pastor Kelly’s Aunt Gen, Jesus makes it obvious that he is praying in part so that he will be overheard. God surely knows all about eternal life and yet in his prayer, Jesus talks about eternal life and what it means. It’s not just about a heavenly future as we might assume. Jesus prays: And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. “In other words, when you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and trust him, talk to him, seek to listen to and do his will, you already have eternal life, right now. Knowing Jesus and seeking to be his disciple will make your life richer and fuller right now. Think of relationships you have, through St. Paul’s or other Christian friendships and how they have enriched your life or helped you through hard times-that is the beginning of eternal life.
Jesus then continues his prayer by praying for the impossible. Today’s lesson ends with the words: “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
that request is IMPOSSIBLE. Consider all of the varieties of believers, different denominations, not to mention people within those denominations who are not of the same mind. It would take a miracle for God to make us all one as the father and the son are one. Take for example, there are faithful folks who
love traditional hymns and liturgy as well as those who love to rock out to the contemporary sound. There are faithful believers who support our president wholeheartedly and believe that he is doing
precisely what needed to be done in Iraq as well as those who feel they are called to be critical of the administration and pray and work for change. There ere faithful Christians who believe that women should be silent and not preach and teach in church and those equally faithful who believe strongly that every follower of Christ is called to share the good news of Jesus. There are faithful believers who read the Scriptures to be condemning of all homosexuals and those equally faithful who find a mandate from
Jesus to above all seek to welcome them with compassion and grace, even to the point of allowing
them to be united in a church blessing. That all these different voices may be one voice? Jesus is praying
Yet, Jesus is bold enough to pray the impossible, that faithful followers with very diverse
opinions and beliefs based on God’s Word and their own consciences can somehow learn to
understand and respect each other as a part of God’s family in unity with the Father and the Son. Jesus is bold enough to trust the Holy Spirit to do what we cannot.
So even as we have followed Christ’s example in praying the Lord’s Prayer, I would challenge you to imitate him in this prayer. Dare to pray the impossible! Do you think you’d never get up the nerve to invite a friend to church? Dare to pray the impossible! Do you think you can’t possibly afford to give more money in your offering each week? Dare to pray the impossible! Do you hesitate to go and visit the friend in the hospital or the one who is going through a rough time because you won’t know what to say? Dare to pray the impossible! Are you absolutely certain that you will never come to appreciate a different type of worship music or come to understand a more liberal Christian or more conservative Christian point of view on an issue? Dare to pray the impossible! That we ALL may be one as Jesus and the Father are one. AMEN.