The Seventh Sunday of Easter (5/24/2009)

That All Might Be One

Lessons:     Acts 1:15-17, 21-26     Psalm 1     1 John 5:9-13     John 17:6-19

Prayer of the Day     Gracious and glorious God, you have chosen us as your own, and by the powerful name of Christ you protect us from evil. By your Spirit transform us and your beloved world, that we may find our joy in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

17:6 "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. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for 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. 9 I 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. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 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. 12 While 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. 13 But 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.14 I 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. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.  19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

St. John 17:6-19 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

I'm no connoisseur of art. I am often awed by what the masters were able to do, and occasionally impressed by the capabilities of modern-day artists. But for the most part, the subtleties of great art slide right past me.

A pastor once told the story of his visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He had the chance to view Seurat's "Final Study of the Grande Jatte." He was awed as he looked at this painting, one that he had seen many, many times in art books. There was the couple having a picnic, the woman with the parasol, the dogs, the children, and all that shimmering sunshine - you may remember this painting. It was breathtaking, and standing in front of it the crowd seemed hushed, as if they knew there were in the presence of greatness. But as he continued to tell his story, he said that when they moved closer to the painting, they were intrigued. That is when they remembered how Seurat had created that masterpiece. It was made from "confetti" - the millions of tiny colored paint dots that the artist had painstakingly placed side by side to create the beautiful study in oil. This Impressionist technique is called Pointillism. Standing close to the canvas, it is a blur of colors. But from a distance, the familiar scene comes back into focus, in a way that seems to be filled with light and life and motion.

In the last week of his life, our Lord prayed that his followers might be one. But what does that mean? There are those who will suggest that he wanted all believers to be identical to one another in their understanding of the faith; that there would never be disagreements among God's faithful people; that all true believers would be able to live with the same thoughts and attitudes. But that is not unity. It is uniformity. Remember that impressionist painting by Seurat: there are no two dots of color identical to one another. Yet together, there is a tremendous unity. When viewed as a whole, those little dots made a beautiful image.

In the same way, the body of Christ today includes many different people, with many different perspectives. Some of us are politically conservative; others quite liberal. Some of us are athletic, aggressive, and energetic; others prefer a quiet night and a good book. Some of us live simply, enjoying the unadorned life; others surround ourselves with toys and pleasures. Some work for stability in our life together; others thrive on change. We come to this community with our personalities and preferences intact, and make up a diverse group. As we give ourselves to this church, we bring to it the wealth of experience that makes us who we are. At the same time we come together, called by our Lord, united by our Baptism, and gathered into a union that only can have its origins in God - a union that is far more beautiful than the best of the Impressionist masters - a union that displays the presence of the risen Christ in our midst - a union that gives us a corporate strength far more powerful than anything we could ever experience on our own.

That's the unity Christ prayed about during the last week of his life: the unity he wanted for his followers. So let us take a step or two closer to that marvelous pointillo masterpiece called the Body of Christ. Let us see the individual flecks of paint that represent brothers and sisters in the family of faith - brothers and sisters who have been a gracious blessing to us from God. Let us hear the prayer of our Lord, and bind ourselves to one another. As we do so, let us experience the kind of unity that can never be shattered: The unity that has its roots in the real presence of our Lord in our midst.


David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week's Gospel:

  1. How were Jesus' first followers different from one another?
  2. What did Jesus' first followers have in common?
  3. How would the unity he created among them give them strength for the trials that lay ahead?

Connecting with This Week's Gospel:

  1. What diversity do I notice in my community today?
  2. How is the gift of faith and the presence of Christ able to give me unity with my brothers and sisters?
  3. How can I celebrate that unity in a way that strengthens me?