May 13, 2018 – Easter 7 B

John 17:6-19

[Jesus prayed:] 6“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 12While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. 14I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”

—–

There is a prayer in our hymnal on page 304. It’s in a part of the hymnal we don’t normally use, the service of Morning Prayer. This would essentially be a liturgy we’d use if we met during the middle of the week and didn’t do communion at it. It’s been a prayer which has consistently been a part of my prayer life in these last 5 years of seminary. It goes like this:

Oh God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Seminary has been nothing if it has not been a journey. I’ve journeyed the world, I’ve taken trips through the history books, and I’ve moved from town to town. And all of that change, all of that transition, has been very unnerving at times. It’s hard to keep your balance when you’re not exactly sure where your center of gravity is.

In our gospel reading for today, Jesus is addressing another group of people who are about to lose their center of gravity, too. This is a prayer at the end of his farewell address we’ve been hearing from lately. Shortly after this, he will be killed and forsaken, betrayed and tortured. But in the gospel of John, Jesus knows this and he seems to have come to grips with it. But the disciples don’t seem to know. And it’s telling that Jesus’ prayer would be not for his own protection, but for the protection of his followers.

He asks God for their protection and, in doing so, reassures that, whatever comes next, whatever they might encounter, that they already have what the need for the journey. Jesus has made known to his disciples and to us the very heart of God. Jesus has given them and us a glimpse into what God is doing in the world – healing, consoling, protecting, confronting, and saving. This is the work of God on earth. And this is the promise of God, that nowhere they could go could lead them beyond the loving presence of God.

We face many challenges in our lives, many new chapters, and many journeys with an unknown destination. Yet, we are eternally supported and loved by God, who is present in each and every situation. We will sin and make mistakes, yet we are unconditionally loved and saved through Christ’s resurrection. We will travel to different places, yet the Holy Spirit has and will continue to unite us, equip us, and lead us on our journeys.

As I have been preparing and learning, this has been my hope. The promise of God remains, whether I know the path or not, whether I feel ready or not, whether I understand or not. And the same is true for you. As St. Paul’s Lutheran begins to transition again, with new faces and new passions, God’s promise for you remains the same. God is here, among the people of this congregation. God is here, guiding, equipping, and encouraging us. God is here and nothing can stop that – not sin, not death, not defeat, not uncertainty, not doubt. God is here and will continue to guide and use you for the work of the Kingdom. God will never forsake you.

This congregation has been creating a legacy in these years, one which adds to the already important history of proclaiming the gospel through words and actions. You have been the training ground for pastors who then journey and take the lessons, the insights, and experiences that you’ve given them to build up the body of Christ. This is a mission which is not taken lightly. You have been, for many of us now, the place where we can begin to imagine what a body of faith can look like. I thank God that I’ve had nearly two years here and I know that Michelle, coming after me, will have a wonderful set of years here, too. This is a journey we take together, with interns and students joining you on your journey as you become a part of theirs. And through it all, both the intern and you get to witness the grace and love of God in action.

The journey isn’t always easy. We are not without sin. We are not without fear and anxiety. Saying goodbyes are hard (but easier over food and music, like we’ll have next Wednesday). But the journey you are on and the journey I am on are made better by having been able to travel together.

And in the uncertainty, hear what Jesus is saying: “All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” We are forever united in the communion of saints. We, like all the forgiven people of God, are united by the cross of Christ, by the bread and wine of Communion, and the waters of baptism. You are claimed by God and in that claiming you are united with God and all whom God loves. We may part ways, our journeys together taking different directions, but the paths we walk we never walk alone.

Oh God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

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