Jesus’ prayer for the disciples in John 17: 20-23
Did you know that Jesus prayed for US? In the Gospel of John, Jesus PRAYS FOR his disciples – and not just the ones who walked with him through his ministry. For ALL the believers through history. FOR US.
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
This is the climactic moment of Jesus’ longest prayer. Jesus prays that we will be ONE – be united. He knew we would need to be – that the world has problems – and it isn’t easy to be a part of the answer. We need prayer – and we need unity – to be and do what Jesus hoped we would be and do.
It isn’t easy. Being united is hard when we have so many different perspectives.
This has always been true. It was true when Jesus was alive and the disciples argued over who was the greatest. They all had opinions. It’s true now too. The different strengths that St. Paul talks about in I Corinthians mean that we have different perspectives. Plumbers and preachers and lawyers don’t approach problems the same way – getting our thoughts on the same wavelength is a challenge. And we all have an opinion.
To complicate this further -- sometimes we are critical of those with a different opinion, or a different perspective, a different way of doing things or who are just different. And if we voice our criticism out loud, it creates a tear in the fabric of the congregation. If anyone overhears us, they do not see or hear a unified body of Christ – they hear something much less godly.
We need to STOP THIS! Before we speak, we need to THINK!
Is it TRUE?
If we can THINK before we speak, and say things that build up the body of Christ, we can be one.
It is made more complicated by the world around us, which tries to distort our way of seeing things. WE NEED A MORAL PENTECOST!
Peter preaches and invites the people listening to “save yourselves from this unjust generation” – or in the language of The Message, “Get out while you can.” WE – TODAY – live in an unjust generation. Consider our context: Systemic racism – even as young as 3 our children are conditioned to think white children are more trustworthy than children of color. False narratives abound – including nationalism which says that the only patriot is the one who never questions. And yet, without a few independent thinkers we might still be a colony of England! In what we are told by politicians is the greatest nation on earth, 43.5% of the nation is living in poverty, 37 million people are without healthcare. We spend more than any other nation on earth of healthcare and yet people go without necessary medication. Our military spending WAY outspends every other category of our national budget. We need a moral Pentecost.[i] We need to speak up by the power of the Holy Spirit to share a fresh wind of truth! It is just as hard to do today as in the days when Emperor’s liked to put their faces on coins and their names on buildings.
It isn’t easy – but it is possible to stand together with the help of the Holy Spirit! We can overcome our differences of opinions when we have a BIG project to work on.
This is a new beginning! We don’t do this alone! God doesn’t just sit around talking about how bad it is. God ACTS!
It was a turning point. On the day of Pentecost, they were in the right place. They were doing the right things: gathering together, singing and praying. BUT IT TOOK THE HOLY SPIRIT to create unity and fill them with strength. And God’s Spirit BLEW. Fresh and powerful with the fire of inspiration and prophetic illumination.
Poet Christopher Fry has words that describe our moment of waiting for God to work in us in his poem, “A Sleep of Prisoners”:
The human heart can go the lengths of God… Dark and cold we may be, but this Is no winter now. The frozen misery Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move; The thunder is the thunder of the floes, The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.
Thank God our time is now when wrong Comes up to face us everywhere, Never to leave us till we take The longest stride of soul we ever took.
Affairs are now soul size. The enterprise Is exploration into God. Where are you making for? It takes So many thousand years to wake, But will you wake for pity’s sake![ii]
God won’t let communities dedicated to God’s service just stay on the sidelines. God empowers us.
“We need to face the simple fact that to try to follow Jesus without the Pentecostal power of the Holy Spirit doesn’t work. We just cannot do it. From a biblical point of view, it appears that everything that happens before Pentecost is a preparation for this gift of Wind and Fire. This world was created so that in following Jesus Christ, we can have friendship with Abba, Father and be given the Holy Spirit. God-made-flesh lived, died, and rose so that our eyes would be opened to the unfathomable depths of God’s love and we would be ready to receive God’s Spirit. The message of Pentecost is that there is a new power available, the very power of the kingdom of heaven.” —Excerpt from Pauses for Pentecost by Trevor Hudson
DREAM TEAM . God is recruiting a dream team. Not just the clergy. God wants each of us to do what we do best for the good of the whole.
In 1992 the Olympics allowed professional basketball players to play on the Olympic team for the first time. Coach Chuck Daly was in charge of recruiting the team. He picked an all-star team. The first ten players chosen were Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls, John Stockton and Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz, Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers, Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics, Patrick Ewing of the New York Knicks, Chris Mullin of the Golden State Warriors, David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs, and Charles Barkley of the Philadelphia 76ers. The Dream Team. They learned how to work together, playing to each other’s strengths – and they not only won the Olympic gold medal, but they won by an average of 44 points per game.
God is recruiting a dream team for Oak Park – for our community. A team with each person doing what they do best. And the Holy Spirit is the coach of this team. It’s time to say “Yes” and head for training camp. Are you in? Are WE in as a part of a larger team?[iii]
And God will come among us, fill us and enable us to do what we are called to do.
Let us pray:
God of Wind and Fire, on this Pentecost Sunday, we are more aware than ever of our deep need for you. It's true—we do not know how to pray. We do not know how to form on our lips the words to express the prayer that lingers on our hearts.
We are troubled by our sin, by the brokenness of our congregation. We are guilty of contributing to that brokenness – every one of us. Help us to look at the ways that we have participated in the brokenness. Help us to repent, to turn around, to change our ways. Forgive us.
Fill us with your Holy Spirit so we can live as NEW people. Fill us with the Holy Spirit so that we have the POWER from you to live different lives than we have in the past. FILL US with kindness, love, and compassion. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit—comforter, teacher, inspiration, and translator of every soul's deepest needs.
Guide and bless all of us today God. Free us from whatever safeguards we have placed around us to keep our lives and worship predictable. Free us to encounter you in a new way, that your Spirit might truly dance in our midst and inspire us to love and service in Christ's name.
God, bless us as we enter into the Spirit-filled celebration of this day.
— adapted from a prayer written by Sue, and posted on the RevGalBlogPals website.
[i] William Barber, “A Moral Pentecost” at the Festival of Homiletics.
[iii] Jim Forbes sermon at the Festival of Homiletics used this argument and the Olympic Dream Team in a far better (and far longer) sermon.