Today’s reading is part of Jesus’ farewell prayer, a long prayer that covers all the future situations. It’s almost like he’s writing a list of all the situations that may arise. Do you remember back to the days when you had a babysitter coming to mind the children, and you left a list of instructions? That list can get pretty long, as you think of all the eventualities.
This prayer that Jesus prays is a bit like this, but there are a couple of main ideas we need to note.
First, that Jesus is consciously praying for those who will come after the current disciples. He makes it clear that he’s not just praying for those ones with him, but for all those to come. He’s looking ahead to the future, to us. This prayer Jesus prays is for us. Isn’t that amazing? Jesus’ love and care for us goes beyond time, beyond his death, and beyond our lifespan.
The other point to note, which Jesus comes to several times, is his prayer for unity, that they may all be one.
The church has not done a very good job of being one has it? There are so many denominations of the Christian church, where people who don’t agree on a position of theology, instead of taking Jesus’s prayer literally and working so that they may be as one, have to keep their differences by flinging off and starting up another church. Jesus doesn’t pray that we may all be clones, but just that there be a unity.
There’s a part of being Anglican that I really like. There is a wide spectrum of ideas about God – and at the extremes of both ends they do tend to be a bit wacky and unorthodox. But there’s a sense of tolerance, of loving each other and staying together, and not letting little differences of how our feeble human minds interpret God’s word to us, determine how we will act together.
And it’s when the church is divided that the secular world takes notice and crows in delight. You see the reports in the paper:
“They couldn’t even get that right ! What sort of religion is this?” They say.
You will notice that it’s only the controversies in the church that get on the news. How about the triumphs? The times when we all work together, and God’s kingdom is built a little bit more on earth.
Jesus prays that we may all be one, so that the world may believe. He knew that the world would be quick to find gaps and areas to criticize. But did you notice the promise? Maybe, if we can all be one, in heart and mind, one church, the world will believe! Does this mean one church with no differences of worship style and theology? I don’t think it can – after all human beings are creatures of free will and infinite variety, thanks to our creator. It’s about our hearts, about loving our fellow Christians, even if we think their theology is a bit strange, or their music is too loud, or their services too modern.
In a few weeks the Tawa Ministers’ association is holding a service at Tawa College, which we have planned together. People from the Anglican, Baptists, Salvation Army, New Life, Catholic and Uniting churches are working together to lead worship in our community. We will all be one, so that our community will believe.
What can we take away from this message today? That Jesus loves us and prays for us, even when he was facing his own death. That he knows our frail human hearts and desires for self-determination, but that he also knows that for the church to really transform the world we have to work together, pray together, and let what joins us be more important than what divides us.