Avril at Romsey

… and Lancefield and Riddells Creek and Mount Macedon

Sermon: Eavesdroppers hear good of themselves

Sermon for Riddells Creek and Mount Macedon Uniting Churches

The Seventh Sunday of Easter, 5th of June 2011

John 17:1-11
Acts 1:6-14

It’s very late in the evening. The meal is long over. Earlier, as the meal ended, Jesus had knelt and washed his disciples’ feet. He then began to prepare them for life without him. He gave them the new commandment, that they love one another. He prepared them for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth. He shared with them the oneness of the Father and the Son. And he spoke of his betrayal and death.

Now, he turns from the disciples to his Father. The disciples become involuntary eavesdroppers on a prayer of communion, on an intimate meeting between the Father and the Son. But because they’re listening, this prayer of communion is also a prayer of revelation. In this prayer the theological heart of the Gospel of John is revealed.

Today we’re also eavesdroppers. We’re in the same position as Jesus’ first disciples, overhearing a private conversation, and learning from our eavesdropping who God is and who we are.

The prayer that we overhear shows the unity of the Father and the Son. This prayer is a moment of unique intimacy, in which Jesus is praying as the divine Son. Jesus’ knowledge of the Father gives him an immediate experience of God; Jesus is face to face with the God to whom he prays. The will of the Father and the will of the Son are one, so Jesus’ prayer is more of relationship than request. Jesus can make petitions in the complete confidence that they will be granted, because what the Son asks, the Father wants to give. They are one.

This is an unusual position for a petitioner to be in. Most of us, those of us who aren’t saints or mystics, see God in a mirror, dimly. We don’t yet see God face to face. And so when we pray there’s always an unspoken caveat: “Not my will, but yours, be done”. We do not know the mind of God. But Jesus does. Who is Jesus in the Gospel of John? He is the only Son of the Father; he is in the Father and the Father is in him; on earth he did the work that the Father gave him to do. The core of that strange Christian concept, the Trinity, is here, in the union revealed in this overheard prayer.

Jesus is also the one who has glorified the Father and will be glorified by him. Jesus has glorified God on earth by revealing Him to the disciples. His completion of the task is shown by the small group that surrounds him as he prays, the disciples to whom he has made God’s name known. In the reading from Acts we see that same group again, with Jesus’ family and the women, the nucleus of the church that will glorify Jesus by sharing their knowledge of God to the ends of the earth.

And yet there is further glorification ahead. The Father will glorify the Son and the Son will glorify the Father in the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. This is the mystery, the incongruity: Jesus’ crucifixion is also the revelation of the glory of God. This is the nature of the God whom Jesus has made known.

Throughout the Farewell Discourse Jesus talks a lot about love. Love is the new commandment; love is what he calls his disciples to. And in the crucifixion he makes that love, God’s love, manifest. Jesus has glorified his Father by making his Father’s name known on earth. We now know God intimately, we know God by name. And this nature of God that is revealed to us is seen in the Son. Father and Son are one. Their unity is one of love, revealed in a criminal’s death that is also an act of glory.

Finally, Jesus asks his Father to protect his disciples in the Father’s name. Jesus is leaving the world, and he is leaving his disciples in the world. They will need God’s protection.

The ‘world’ here is not a good thing. ‘World’ does not mean the earth, this beautiful and fragile planet. And ‘world’ does not mean creation, which God called good. The ‘world’ is the realm that doesn’t acknowledge God. It’s the ‘Empire’, the greater realm within which the Church is an agent of resistance. This is the ‘world’ in which Jesus is leaving the disciples.

But, as they and we overhear, they’re not being left alone. Throughout the Farewell Discourse Jesus has talked about the Holy Spirit, who will come when he leaves, and next week we will celebrate the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. And in this prayer, the disciples hear themselves commended to the Father by the Son. The incarnate Jesus may be leaving the world, but the Triune God will never leave them alone.

The prayer of Jesus is as much for us as it was for the disciples who first overheard it. Later in his prayer, he says that, “I ask not only on behalf of these but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they might be one”. That’s us. Two thousand years later we are as much the subjects of Jesus’ prayer as the people who reclined with him at supper. We, like them, have been commended to God by Jesus. Jesus has asked that we, like them, be protected by God. We, like them, belong to the Father and the Son. We, like them, have a role to play in the glorification of Jesus. And we, like them, have been given the gift of the Spirit so that we may not lose our way. Jesus is about to leave his disciples, but by overhearing this prayer they know that they will never be alone. The same is true for us. We belong to God, and we are never left alone. Amen.

Let us pray:

Our Father,
Thank you for the gift of your Son, our Lord, Priest and Mother, Jesus Christ.
Thank you for your love, revealed to us by Christ on the cross,
and for your gift of the Spirit, the Advocate and Comforter.
In everything we do may we glorify you.
We pray this in the name of the Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit,


June 5, 2011 - Posted by | Ministry | , ,

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