You are never alone
Felicity Ward O’Brien,June 5, 2011. All Rights reserved. PDF
The prayer in the John reading is a very special one. Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, and he and the disciples have had their Passover meal. He has been talking about the future, and the mood is somber, a bit unsure. It is quiet and intimate, and Jesus is commending the disciples to God’s care. This prayer shows us how Jesus prays, the tender concern he feels for his followers – and that includes all the disciples down the ages, including us here.
Jesus then prays that God will glorify him, so that Jesus can glorify God, and this refers to the events to come – his death, resurrection, and the spread of the message of Hope, the good news.
The reading from 1 Peter shares the themes of glorifying Jesus through sharing his sufferings, and we are reassured that the holy spirit is with us in glory when people revile us for our faith.
The glory of God in the reading from the Psalm is a more obvious type – the natural world quakes and rejoices at the presence of God. This awe-inspiring but scary God in the Psalms, God of thunder and earthquakes, is the same loving father Jesus is addressing intimately. The bigger picture of who God is, makes our earthly concerns seem so trivial.
When the disciples were with Jesus he guarded them, but life still wasn’t easy. Even with him there beside them, there were still challenges. Sometimes people expect that becoming Christians will wave a magic wand over their lives, and make all the trouble disappear. But we know from the example of the disciples, and from our own experiences of life, that this won’t happen, and the Peter reading reinforces that we need to be prepared for, even expect, trouble.
So when Jesus is with us, he guards us too, but life always has its challenges. That’s when we remind ourselves that we do not travel the path alone. It is beautifully summed up by the Footsteps in the Sand prayer, where the suffering soul wonders where Jesus was, because he can only see one set of footsteps in the sand in the darkest hours. Jesus replied that that what when he carried him – in short, we never walk alone, even if it feels that way,- Jesus is carrying us. The writer of that prayer was a girl of 14, who helped her father raise his 8 children alone during the depression. She had probably read this portion of John’s gospel that we heard today, and discerned Jesus’ loving kindness and concern towards all his flock, even in the darkest days.
The end of the John 17 reading is:
“:14I have given them (that is, the disciples,) 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.”
This passage refers to the same trials as in the reading from Peter – and Jesus asks God to protect his disciples from the evil one. He knows where the greatest challenge lies, not in circumstances or illness, but in the persecution of Satan, which lies behind the evil in the world. It is common these days for church people to dismiss Satan as a religious idea prevalent in the Jewish mind, or part of a literal medieval world-view, but Jesus believed that Satan was real, and that’s good enough for me.
Jesus reasserts that the disciples do not belong to this world, that is, the domain where Satan has free rein, and that neither does he. Satan can have no hold over Jesus or the disciples, or over those of us now who believe in Jesus, and have the Holy Spirit on us, revealing the Glory of God. These words from scripture point us to where the truth is – that God and Jesus love us, no matter what goes on in our lives, and that the Holy Spirit is the real power of God to help us.