This is an inbetween Sunday—between Ascension and Pentecost
all the faithful in Christendom are waiting.
Ascension happens 40 days after Easter;
it was celebrated on this past Thursday
and you can read about it in the first chapter of Acts.
The Ascension marks a turning point in the life of the church.
Jesus is lifted up into a cloud like the cloud of God’s glory on Sinai,
or at the Transfiguration.
No longer tied down to local geography,
Christ becomes available in a universal way.
The Ascension is a stunning moment, of loss, and of promise.
The disciples return to Jersusalem to watch and pray
for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
That’s where the story finds us this morning,
in deep prayer, waiting for something wonderful to happen.
It’s appropriate, on this morning of watching and praying,
that we hear to Jesus’ great intercessory prayer in
chapter 17 of the Gospel according to John.
The prayer takes place,
in the context of the Last Supper,
on the night before he was crucified,
at the end of the evening,
after the disciples have eaten and listened to his teaching.
This is the living healing prayer of a loving teacher:
the good shepherd, the Vine, the Friend,
the Savior, the Holy One, Beloved of God,
the mighty Prince of Peace praying for you.
Jesus prayed for his disciples that night,
for those with him,
and for all those who would come after.
And so this prayer, we hear this morning, is for us, too.
It’s an intercessory prayer we can cling to.
It reminds us that Jesus led a life of prayer.
As Jesus practices it, prayer is a way of abiding in God’s word.
We have only one section of the great prayer this morning.
The prayer concludes a portion of John
called the Farewell Discourses: beginning in Chapter 14.
Each discourse offers a self-disclosure on Jesus’ part.
Have you ever wanted to understand another person
in order to be closer to them?
And just wished they would sit down with you,
and tell you why and what they have been doing?
Most of us can only have those kinds of conversations
with close friends.
These final discourses of Jesus
are the gift of a Holy Friend
his last words for those he loves.
Chapter after chapter unfolds with a revelation of Jesus’ loving heart;
he talks about what he did and why he was doing it.
And then he prays.
He prays that we may share the joy
he has known in the company of God.
that we may share his joy in loving God.
Jesus prays on our behalf, he says,
helping us to understand that all we have been given comes
from the hands of God, that all he was given comes from God.
“I have made your name known to those
whom you gave me from the world,”
he prays, “they were yours and you gave them to me.”
“All mine are yours, and yours are mine—
and I have been glorified in them.”
It’s a pastoral prayer,
the good shepherd interceding for his lambs.
“Father, protect them,” he prays, “in your name,
so that they may be one, just as we are one.”
“I speak these things,” he says,” so that they may have my joy
complete in themselves.”
Jesus prays here for a radical reorientation of our lives
toward God—and not just toward God, but union with God.
so that his joy may be our joy.
He came so that each of us can be one with God.
This is a powerful prayer.
A life-changing prayer.
Jesus’ prayer doesn’t stop with him.
He gives it into our hands as church, so that we pray for others,
as he has prayed for us.
Many of us pray for others daily.
And every Sunday, for two thousand years,
we intercede for the life of the world in the prayers of the people.
for creation, for this world, for nations, and families, for food,
for all those in need of shelter, for healing
—we pray, as Jesus taught us to pray, for everything we can think of.
We lift up names each week,
of those who have asked us to pray for them.
Many of us reach out to people whose names are on our prayer list,
but there others, who are in need of prayer and comfort who aren’t on this list.
Often people ask me how someone is.
I can usually give a little information,
but more often I can’t because of confidentiality
or because of Hippa laws.
If there is someone you haven’t seen for awhile,
or are wondering about,
chances are they would love to hear from you,
would love to hear from others besides me,
to know you are missing them and praying for them.
Sometimes when we pray, a person might come to mind—
that’s the prompting of the Holy Spirit—
that’s a spiritual call to pray for them and reach out to them.
It’s a manifestation of the ministry of that great intercessory prayer
of Jesus. He hands it over to us, prays it through us,
as his presence in the world.
It’s our ministry to connect with each other, to pray for each other.
On any given day,
when we recall the way Jesus prays and
intercedes for us, that we may all be one with God,
that our joy would be complete, when we recollect this,
and grasp it in faith,
our spiritual lives are planted by streams of living water.
We are nourished by streams of grace
as we sang in the Psalm today.
In prayer, we tap into the deep waters of Christ’s peace.
Jesus doesn’t pray for us to suffer here,
he prays for our joy, for our faith, for our safety,
he prays for our healing, for us to held in God’s hands;
he prays that we would be made holy in truth, just as he is.
He prays that his life would be our life on earth.
This is a prayer for the whole church,
for the whole body of Christ on earth.
As you read this prayer, you see the words give, given, giving,
appearing over and over again.
The prayer is a rushing fountain of flowing gifts—
Over and over again, like a fountain of water,
God gives to Jesus, Jesus gives to us, we give of ourselves
to God and to the world. It is a giving life, a joyful life,
a life washed with prayer, a life abiding, one with God.