Willow Creek Friends Church
May 16, 2021
John 17:6–19 (ESV)
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
The past week, I have spent a great deal of time reflecting. I have thought about what I have done in my life and what I hope I will be remembered by. I do not know if other people think of these things, I have come to accept that my mind is a bit strange at times and have come to terms with my own weirdness. But I feel that when we get a glimpse of how finite our lives are it does bring a few things into perspective.
Over the past few weeks, we have spent a great deal of time reflecting on the last week of Jesus’s ministry as recorded by the apostle John. For those of you that know me, I do not miss an opportunity to speak on John’s gospel account. I love John, and who would not, since tradition tells us that he was the disciple Jesus loved. I love John, he seems to take the crazy unpredictable aspects of life and makes them powerful. It is in John that we are shown the first sign of Christ. You might think that the first sign of the long-anticipated Messiah would be something spectacular like fire coming from the heavens to light a sacrifice on the alter like Prophet Elijah. But it was not something like that. The first sign of Jesus was intimate. The first sign was something ninety-nine percent of the population probably were not even aware of. The first sign was performed at a wedding banquet. The groom ran out of wine and Jesus, behind the scenes, encouraged the servants to fill containers with water and then dip some out to serve.
I have reflected on that miracle often. Something that even today we would label as insignificant has so much power. If we were to look at all the problems in the world throughout all history running out of wine at a party is nothing, it is stupid, why even mention something so insignificant? People were going hungry in first century Palestine. The threat of war was on the horizon and continues to be even to this day. Religiously people in the very promised land were worshiping idols, and Jesus began his ministry by attending a party and making sure they had enough to drink. In the great scheme of world history that miracle is insignificant. Yet for that groom and his future family it meant everything. That seemingly insignificant sign changed their entire future. It changed the course of history for their family and potentially altered their position in society for generations.
Why include something so insignificant at the beginning of the gospel account? This is why I love John. Nothing is insignificant. That singular event in the mind of this young apostle showed him that every person is important to God. It set the tone for everything else that John wrote and changed how he lived his life. If it was important enough to Jesus that there was enough wine at a wedding then there is something of even greater concern that we should be focused on with every individual in this room. I want us to consider that. If Jesus found it so important to make wine at a wedding, what is he telling us? Love one another.
For the past few weeks, this has been the theme in the scriptures that we have read. Jesus calls us friends if we obey his commandments, and the command that he gives is to love one another. We are no longer servants just carrying out orders, but we are friends because we know the will of the Master, and that will is that we love one another. Do we consider this? Do we sit in contemplation and seek deeper understanding of this? Have we devoted our lives to fulfilling and exemplifying this command? And if we do, what does it look like?
It looks pretty much like making sure there is enough wine at a wedding. Let that just saturate your being this morning. Jesus showed us in his very first sign what he meant when he taught us his commandment at the very end.
How are we doing in this area? I found myself considering this question this week. I have sat in my chair, the one that I spend time thinking, praying, and writing in, and I thought about how I am living out my life. I have thought and reflected on all the people that have encouraged me along the journey of we call life and I find myself humbled. Seemingly insignificant things that people have done for me changed everything. There were times that my parents extended grace instead of the discipline I deserved and it changed me. There were times an invitation to eat was given at moments I did not have enough money to buy food, seemingly insignificant yet powerful. I could list countless events over the course of my life where the seemingly insignificant action of someone changed the course of my life in such a way that me standing before you in this church is the result. I am not here because I am a great person. I am here because of the love others have shown me, and because of that love God was able to draw me closer.
Yesterday we celebrated the life of one of those people. We celebrated the life of a person who showed such love to me that without their seemingly insignificant investment in the life of someone else I would not be here.
We do not always see the importance of those events. When Jesus turned the water into wine very few knew the complete story. It might even be the case that the groom did not even know how close he was to complete ruin without the intervention of Jesus. We do not always see, because our attention is being drawn elsewhere. Children do not fully know how close their parents are to financial ruin when they ask for a toy at the store. And most parents do not fully know how close their children are to knowing the truth of their situation when they ask for the toy at the store. A simple act in that moment, can change the course of both parent and child. How we handle that conversation can either inspire or harm. In that moment we can teach important life lessons, we can exhibit grace, we can deepen our trust in God, or we can slide into further distraction.
John teaches us that our lives are important. Every aspect of our lives, lived out in front of and with people, at any and every moment could be the event that changes everything. And John tells us of all the commandments we should focus on one thing love one another as Jesus loves you.
I thought about these words this week, and then I considered today’s passage. Today’s passage does not have Jesus teaching a multitude, and he is not performing some miraculous feat to inspire faith. Today we find Jesus praying. I have spoken a great deal about the holy rhythm of Jesus’s life, this disciplined life is the lifestyle I believe that the apostles encourage us to live when they say things like put on the life of Christ. They encourage us to reflect his lifestyle and walk in his ways. And Jesus shows us this rhythm of life throughout not only John’s gospel but every gospel account. Jesus made it his custom to worship God in the synagogues in the community he was with, which teaches us that we need to come together and love God as a community. Jesus worshiped, he read scripture with others, he listened to what the teachers had to say and at times he taught as well. He listened and encouraged others to love and to trust God. Imagine signing the Psalms of David, while standing next to the one the song was written about and to.
Jesus did not just worship, he would withdraw often to isolated or deserted places to pray alone. This time of prayer shows us the necessity to regularly spend time on our own in personal devotion and prayer. This is where we embrace the Spirit of God in our own lives, it is where God’s spirit can saturate our own spirit and guide us through the struggles we might face in life. It is also in this time of personal prayer, where we sense greater calling and are urged into our personal ministry.
Nearly every time Jesus is recorded to withdraw to those isolated places to pray, we see a change in the direction of ministry. He prays in Capernaum after healing Peter’s mother-in-law and many others, he goes out to pray and when he meets his disciples again, he says, “let’s go to the other towns.” Another time he is on a mountain praying and as he comes down, he sees the crowd and has compassion for them. Jesus’s time of prayer directed and opened where ministry and service should occur. We worship and encourage each other as a community, we withdraw and pray, and both actions lead us to service or ministry to others. This holy rhythm of life leads us to the commandment of Christ to love one another.
Loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living the love of Christ with others is what we have devoted our Meeting to. This is what and who we say that we are. We came up with this statement over the course of months of prayer, and I think it is one of the most powerful statements of the life and purpose of a church one could make. I say this because it is the holy rhythm Jesus taught, and it is the lifestyle that the apostles encouraged the early church to adapt as they wrote their letters. If we devoted our entire lives to the fulfillment of that simple statement, we could see amazing things happen all round us. But that life is hard.
There are times when I am not a good father, because my attention is somewhere else. I am consumed with how I am going to provide for my family that I forget why I have a family in the first place. There are times when I am not a good friend because my attention is somewhere else. Maybe I am still upset with someone for something they did to me, so when I hear an opportunity where I could exhibit the love of Jesus to them, I do not act. Why do I not act, because they deserve it because of how they treated me, why should I help them? There are times I am distracted, there are times I forget who I am and how I got to this place.
Jesus knows that. And John records this in Jesus’s prayer today. He says, “I have honored your name to the people you gave me. They are yours and you gave them to me, and they know that everything I have is a gift from you. I taught them and encouraged them and they received that and they know it to be true.” He goes on to say, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are min, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you, Holy Father, keep them in your name.”
Jesus at the end of his ministry, prays for you. He prays for you because he knows how hard it is to live in our wild and crazy world. He knows how easy it is to become distracted. He knows how one action can become a blessing that changes the world or a curse that damns the flow of God’s grace through us. Jesus prays for us, because he gave us a mission and he know that our mission sounds easy but is the most difficult things we could ever set our mind to.
He prays for us. Jesus prays for you. He asks God the Father to keep you in His name. He prays that God will protect and preserve us as we live in the world, so that God’s name will be glorified. How often do we just stop for a moment and reflect that God Himself is praying for you?
The prayer is interesting though. Jesus goes on to say in this prayer, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
Jesus does not want to take us from the world. Often, we pray that Jesus will come and rapture his church, that he will remove us from what we face today, but that is not what Jesus prays. Jesus wants us right here. He wants us right where we are. I get angry at times that God does not remove some of the obstacles that I have faced. I hate to admit it, but I have even come to this very meeting house and yelled at God because I did not have the strength to keep going. Yet even as I yelled, I was reminded that this is right where God wants and needs me to be at this moment. And Jesus knows what you are facing, and he is praying for you and with you. He is praying that God will glorify us as He is glorified, He is praying that we can experience his joy. And that our lives will bring glory to God.
I sat this week in my big blue chair. I sat where I so often sit, thinking and wondering how and why God would call me to the place I am. And I sat there wondering why so many people had spent so much time encouraging me through the years. We can be distracted by so many things but let us rest in the assurance that Jesus is praying for us. The same Jesus that did not want the wine to run out at a party, cares enough for us that he prayed that God would protect and sanctify our lives, so that we could follow him and live his lifestyle where we are. Jesus prays for his friends and his friends respond out of love and joy.
This week let us not focus on everything happening around us that is a result of the evil desires of humanity making a mess of the world, instead let us focus on something else. Let us focus on that one place where we can show love to someone around us. Let us focus not on some grand ministry that could feed or house thousands of homeless, let us instead focus on that one thing we could do for one person so that they know they are loved. Let us leave this place and rest in the prayer of Jesus, knowing that we do not have to pray for ourselves because he has our back, and let us focus on how we can live the love of Christ with others.