By Jared Warner
Willow Creek Friends Church
May 29, 2022
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John 17:20–26 (ESV)
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
There are moments in my life that I feel at a loss. Let me explain a bit. I know who I am. I know what I am capable of. And I a very aware of my limitations. This week we had a workday here at the Meetinghouse. We spent time moving logs, changing rooms around, and just doing a bit of tidying up. We did this Friday and on Saturday, my body decided to remind me that I am not the man I used to be. I used to load hundreds of pounds of fertilizer into a truck by hand, and then spread that amount of product over dozens of lawns all day long. And then after working ten hours, I would come back to the shop and load the truck up for another day. I would throw those fifty-pound bags around like they were nothing…today I grunt when I bend over to tie my shoe. And I have a chiropractor on speed dial.
I know who I am, I know what I am capable of. I am aware of my own limitations. I am also aware of the great harm I can cause. When I was in college, I took karate for my P.E. credit. I encourage everyone to take martial arts classes and any other type of defense training. I encourage this because the number one thing they teach you is that you can get hurt easily and you can also cause a great deal of harm. This is an important thing to know, because every day we interact with people. And within each one of those interactions, we can cause promote community or destruction. We can encourage health or cause harm.
There is a fine line between health and harm. It is an artform to master that process. This is why medicine, while it uses science, is called an art. Because every person is different and reacts differently to substances and situations doctors must be careful and mindful. The same is true with each of us as individuals. We as members of a community have roles to play in promoting the health of this community.
I know that I often reference the Eden account in scripture. I think that this is important, not because I want to promote the idea of original sin, but because I want to remind us of what God created us to be. God created us for a purpose. That purpose is to love God with all that we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This purpose was given to our first parents by God telling them to go out into the world and bring it under dominion. That dominion is the kingdom of God. Where God and mankind live and walk with one another. God’s original plan has always been incarnational.
But we all know that there was a turning away. We turned away from the light of God and began to live in the shadows. When our back is toward the light all we cast shadow, but when we face the light, we reflect it. The shadow lands are where we are left to our own devices, making our own attempt to determine good and evil yet where is our knowledge coming from? It comes from the shadows and the shadows is death. God did not change his plan. Even though we allowed death to enter our existence God remains steadfast, constantly calling us to return, calling us to repentance.
This has always been God’s plan. He has always wanted us to be in communion with him. He has always wanted to walk with us in the cool of the evenings. But we hide, we walk away, we go our own way of self-determination. Instead of communion and peace, we bring in conflict and selfish ambition. It is not wrong to make the world around us better, that is part of God’s plan. God did not create a perfect world, he called it good. This means he wanted us to participate with him in making it into the perfect place. Yet in our blind ambitions we cause war and despair. How will God turn it around?
God initiated our redemption. This is something that the reformers have correct, God initiates our redemption. God had to come to earth, God had to become human so that he could bring humanity back with him. But God does not use force to draw us to him. He calls out to us, just as he called Abraham. He calls to us and caringly leads us back to a place of communion, but the shadow of death remains. He had to confront and conquer that final curse. This is the glory of God. That God became man, he lived a complete life with us from the embryonic state to adulthood. He lives within a family, a community, and a nation. He learned what we learn, he worked the way we worked. He worshiped, prayed, and served. And he calls us to participate in that holy rhythm of life. And then when everything was set; Christ was betrayed, tried and executed. He took on the injustices of this world. He became the victim. He became the cursed. He became everything we despise, everything we hoped for, everything we rejected, and everything we desired. He was crucified, buried, and on the third day he rose from the grave.
This is the glory of God. Not just the cross, not just the resurrection, not just the birth but the entire life and lifestyle of Christ. We tend to focus on one aspect but all is necessary because Christ does not just redeem us for life after death but for life.
This is God’s glory, but this glory does not come easy. Peace does not come easy, there is always a cost. Today we celebrate Memorial Day, it is a day that we in this country remember those that have given their lives to protect the freedoms we as a nation believe are ordained by our creator. This day was originally set aside to remember the ending of the first world war. The conflict that was said to be the war that would end all wars. We celebrated that day of armistice and yet conflict continues to erupt. Peace comes with a cost. Conflict comes with a cost. When we place ourselves between the light and the world, we cast the shadows of death. And the only way to lasting peace requires one party to turn. To lay down their arms and to say no more.
That is the glory of God. God came into this world, to make peace. He gave his only unique son, a son that is of the same essence, light of light, God of God. God himself laid down his own life for our sake. It was not taken, but it was freely given for us.
The day that the betrayal was in its works, Jesus did something astonishing. He withdrew to the isolated place and he prayed. He prayed for his own life because he knew the pain that he was about to face. He conversed with the Father attempting to find an alternative way, all the while knowing that the pathway to glory required sacrifice. Peace comes with a price.
He is in that isolated place. He prays. He prays with such earnest that the stress within his body begins to sweat blood. He knows that there is only one way, he knows that he must confront the curse of death so that he can be the incarnation of the complete human existence. This prayer is important, because it tells us that our personal desires are not always the will of God. Jesus, although he was obedient unto death even death on a cross, he did not want to experience the pain. Our prayers are not magic incantations that can force God into doing our bidding, prayer is a conversation that brings us into communion and community with God. And community is a place where there is mutual profit. Meaning that the greatest good for the community is the goal, not the greatest good for the individual. Jesus prayed that the cup would be removed, Jesus had faith, and yet Jesus faced the cross.
This is God’s glory. And this is our glory.
Jesus prayed that spring evening saying, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Jesus not only prayed for himself, but he also prayed for his disciples. He prayed for his disciples, but he also prayed for those that would listen to the words that they spoke and wrote, so that they may also share in the community of God. That we too may be one.
This is the glory of God, and this is our glory. Our glory is to be united with Christ. To be joined with him in spirit and in truth. To live his holy rhythm: Loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living the love of Christ with others. This is the glory of God, to take up the cross and follow him. To say, “Not my will but thine.”
Have you ever really stopped to consider what that means? What does that mean when you are standing in line waiting to check out at Walmart? What does that mean when someone asks you to put on a mask during a pandemic? What does that mean in our family, in our marriage, and in talking with our parents? What does it mean to live out the glory of God in our lives?
It means that we die. We sacrifice. We take up the cross and we take the hits of injustice so that someone else might be able to live free. God so loved the world, the fallen broken, sinful world, that he gave his only son not to condemn the world but to save the world. And who ever believes in him, will not perish but will have everlasting life. This belief is more than just knowledge, or trust, but it is entrusting or embodying that life and lifestyle. We become united in Christ through belief. It is no longer me who lives, but Christ lives through and in me.
That is the glory of God. That he gave his life to make peace with us. What is it that he expects then from us?
“I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them and I in them.”
I have thought a great deal about unity. I have thought a great deal on what God expects from those who call upon and embody his name. What does this all mean? One commentator I read while in study said this, “The unity in question, while it is a spiritual unity rather than one of organization, as we have seen, yet has an outward expression, for it is a unity that the world can observe, and that will influence the world.” I read this and I considered the history of Willow Creek. I considered the history of Friends, and the history of the Church.
Every great movement of faith begins in the same way. It begins when someone dies to self and begins to live a life in a way that they believe reflects the image of God within them. Usually this begins with self-denial or a life of simplicity. They cast off the luxuries of this world, so that they are in a position to serve the people around them. Along with this lifestyle of sacrifice, they engage in a life of prayer and the study of scripture. They seek to know the mind of God and they humbly submit to the leading of the Spirit within their life.
You can see this in the monastic orders within the historic catholic church, you can see it in the Society of Friends, and the methods of the Methodists. You can see it in every denomination and expression of faith. They deny themselves, and they Love God with all they have and are and they love their neighbor as themselves. This is the glory of God. And the world begins to see, and they respond. They see that there is a different lifestyle available, one of hope and peace. One that does not seek only after their own benefit but also for the benefit of those around them. And the kingdom of God expands. This is God’s glory and it is our own.
Jesus came to live true life among us. He showed us how to live, how to commune with God and man, and he is calling us to follow. He is not only calling us to live this lifestyle, but also praying for us. He is asking that God will send the Spirit to empower and embody us. That is why I love that we have an icon depicting this story at the front of our worship space. God is with us. God is for us. God is within us, and he is empowering us to join with him in his glorious mission. The mission that was set up at the beginning of time. Our Father in heaven, Holy is your Name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have offended us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
 Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 651.
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