Devotional Message: The Seventh Sunday of Easter; Year B (5/13/2018)

Revised Common Lectionary Texts

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
Psalm 1
1st John 5:9-13
St. 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  [Jesus said,] “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 Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: “Protection, Unity, Joy and Truth”

After an extended time of teaching his followers during the Last Supper, Jesus “looked up to heaven” and begins to pray for them. For them! The Son of God — the human embodiment of Almighty God — from the perspective of faith the most important person who has ever walked this earth — this One begins to pray for them. The twelve are gathered with Jesus for a last meal, most likely with a few others who have become close followers. He washes their feet, he teaches them, and then he lifts them up to God in prayer. And what does he ask God to do for them? Give them success in ministry? Help them overcome the opposition of the Scribes and Pharisees and Chief Priests? Bless them with long life and prosperity? No: he asks God to protect them, to establish unity among them, to allow his joy to be made complete in them, and to ground all that they say and do in the truth.

Once again, Jesus makes clear his hopes and dreams for them — and for us — and his priorities seem to be in contrast with the priorities embraced by the culture that surrounds us. While we might wish for protection from criminals, economic disruptions, natural disasters and health concerns, Jesus asks that we be protected from the evil one: the one who can seduce us away from a true faith in God. While we might wish to strengthen the boundaries we create between ourselves and those who disturb or frighten us, Jesus asks that we might experience a sacred unity with the brothers and sisters who share this world with us. While we might wish for happiness, pleasure and good company, Jesus asks that we experience “his joy” — the joy that comes from offering sacrificial love to the world (remember St. John 15:11-13 from last week’s Gospel?). While we might wish to twist the truth until it lines up with what we wanted to believe in the first place, Jesus prays that we will be made holy by the truth — the truth that is grounded in God’s word.

In short, Jesus wants us to be well. To be right with God and with one another. And that comes not from using the power and influence we have to insist on our way in this world. It comes, instead, from drawing near to God in faith, honoring every fellow member of this human family, giving of ourselves unconditionally and sacrificially until we experience the joy of Christ, and dedicating ourselves to the pursuit of truth, even when it leads us away from where we intended to go in the first place. This is the ChristLife he entrusts to that first generation of believers who followed him; the same life he invites us to experience as his followers today.

The Easter season is drawing to a close; a season in which we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and the resurrection God wants each of us to experience. But there is a hitch: one can’t be raised from death unless one first dies. So what is it in us that must die, before the new life of Christian faith can take root in our living? What old ways of thinking and doing and being do we need to let go, before we can receive the gift of a new and better way? What change do we resist, that prevents us from following the lead of God’s Holy Spirit. Protection, unity, joy and truth: the gifts that Christ would give us today. Do we have the faith and the courage to receive them?

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What old ways of thinking and believing did the disciples have to give up in order to follow Jesus?
  2. How did their time with him cause them to experience God in a very different way?
  3. How did the life Jesus commended to them serve as a powerful blessing for them?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When God invites me into a new and more meaningful way to live, how do I resist?
  2. What “sacred cows” are there in my life that I find most difficult to give up?
  3. When has God used a signifiant change in my life to bring me to a place I may never have gone on my own?