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Friday, June 3, 2011

Seventh Sunday of Easter, John 17:1-11

From the John Calvin's Geneva Notes:

"He shows that the everlasting and hidden purpose of God is declared in Christ, by whom we are justified and sanctified, if we lay hold of him by faith, so that we may eventually come to the glory of the election."

John 17:1-11

17After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

6”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. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for 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. 9I 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. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.

11And 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.

Some thoughts on John 17:1-11

This section of John's Gospel is often referred to as Jesus' high priestly prayer. It is Jesus' prayer for his followers; it is also considered by the church to be Jesus' prayer for all those who would come to believe and follow Jesus into all the ages.

He prays the prayer between the events surrounding the last supper and his crucifixion.

Most scholars break the text up into the following parts.

1. Jesus prays first for himself
2. Jesus prays for his disciples, left in the world after his ascension
3. Jesus prays for the Church universal.
Jesus, probably standing as was the tradition in most Jewish prayer, looks up to heaven. We here the echo of passages throughout Joh's Gospel as Jesus begins by affirming that the Father has given him all authority. (3:27, 35, 5:27; 10:18; 19:10-11)

Jesus says that he has finished the work he was given to do. This is clearly stated throughout the text as the work of Glorifying God. This is work that is his own and is deeply rooted in his shared will with God the Father, a comes from the mission of God designed before the time of creation. That work is specifically to glorify God in and through the created world drawing all creation to God. This is the culminating statement of Jesus' teaching, healing, and feeding mission aimed at instructing God's people. (See Verse 7: “‘everything you have given me’”.)

Jesus begins to pray for those to whom he has ministered.

In verse 6: “I have made your name known”.

J. N. Sanders summarizes well this statement in his textual criticism:

"The Greek verb ephanerosa is used of the manifestation of Jesus, or of his glory, or of God’s works, in 1:31; 2:11; 9:3; 21:1, 14. Here it is to those given to Jesus by the Father that Jesus, by his words and deeds, makes known God’s “name”, i.e. his character and person." [Sanders, J.N. The Gospel according to John; London: Black 1968]

The witness of the apostles and those who experienced Jesus bear testimony to Jesus' next words. It is their experience of the mission of God in Jesus, his teaching, his life, and his resurrection and ascension that confirm the Gospel Good News.

From verse 8: through "the words...they ... know in truth that I came from you”.

Clearly Jesus is praying his desire for his followers, he is praying on our behalf.

Verse 9: “‘I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me'".

Others are not capable, unless they come to faith in Jesus (see v. 20), of sharing in what the Father gives. [BlkJn]

He knows the road will be difficult. He knows the world will seek to divide and to stop the witness of The Gospel; that it will try to subvert it.

He knows that worldly fights will divide it. All we have to do is read the Epistles of Paul to see how the world quickly divides along opinions and egos. Jesus prays therefore as he and the divine community are one, so may all those who proclaim his name be one. Sanders believes that the scripture and division Jesus may have in mind could be Psalm 41:9 "Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted the heel against me.”

At a vestry and wardens conference some years ago I did a bible study on this passage and challenged the church to live out the high priestly prayer of Jesus. Here are some missionary thoughts to be considered as you prepare to preach or study this passage in your bible groups.

Excerpt from the 2009 Vestry and Warden's Conference:

Jesus understands that his mission was to glorify God and make known the only true God.  [17.1]
Is the primary purpose of our congregations to glorify God and to make him known, and to make Jesus Christ known [17.3]?
Jesus says that he has glorified God by finishing the work he was given to do. [17.4]
How are we finishing the work you are given to do?
Jesus understood that the people he met… the people whose lives he touched…were each given to him by God. [17.6].
Do we treat the people in your congregation like they were given to you by God? Do we treat every newcomer that walks onto your campus like they were given to you by God?
Jesus understood everything he was given in this world was given to him by God? [17.7]
Do we act as though everything we have been given is given to us by God? Do we act as though the church (the buildings, community, and money) is given to us by God? Or do we treat it as our own personal property?
Jesus’ ministry was so focused that everyone knew he was given to them by God? [17.8]
Does the world look at us and know that the Episcopal Church is given to them by God?
Jesus asks the Father to make us one. [17.11]
Are we as leaders working for unity with Jesus’ prayer or division?  Are we capturing the excitement of support or feeding the virus of anxiety?
Jesus asks the Father to protect us. [17.15]
Do we minister out of the knowledge that God will provide for us? Do we engage in ministry and the challenges of ministry with the wisdom that God is watching over us? Or do we do our work out of a sense of solitude?  Are we the ONLY ones who fix these problems?
Jesus asks the Father to fill us with his joy. [17.14]
Are we filled with Jesus’ joy? Do we laugh at our meetings? Is there joy in our communities?
Jesus asks the Father to sanctify us through the word. [17.17]
Are we as leaders bathing our ministries in scripture?
Jesus sends us into the world. [17.19]
Our congregations are in the world geographically, but are they out in the world in ministry?  What would those who live two blocks away from our church say about our ministry?
Jesus is apart of us. [17.23]
What is the view of Jesus that people see when they look at our congregations?
Jesus hopes that his love is in us and in our relationships and in our communities [17.26]
Are our congregations places where Jesus’ love is felt throughout the leadership? …throughout the congregation?  Does Jesus’ love flow out into the world from our communities?
Jesus’ priestly prayer is a powerful prayer.  It is an amazing thing to think that Jesus was praying for his disciples and he is praying for us today.  Jesus’ prayer, captured here in John’s Gospel is a prayer for us, for our ministries of leadership, for our congregations.  
John 17 holds within it the hope Jesus has for his mission, the mission that is our own.
What would it be like to finish your term on the vestry or on your bishop’s committee and be able to say to yourself and to your God:
We were faithful.  We were faithful as a congregation in making God and Jesus known to our members and to the community around us.
We glorified God with our very best.  And, while the mission isn’t fulfilled, we made headway on the goals and objectives we knew would make a difference.
Today we are better at treating people in our congregation as God given and beloved people of God.
We were good stewards of what has been given and we did not bury it in the ground but were like the sower of seeds and scattered our gifts increasing 10, 20, 40 fold what we received.
Today I hear people freely talk about our church and its ministries and people as gifts from God in their life.
We are more unified around our mission and we have a great feeling that God is watching over us and protecting us and providing for us. Even when things were tough we ventured out in faith because we knew God was with us.
What if you could say, “I had a great time serving on the vestry”? We laughed and I feel really close to those folks.  Church is a fun place to be.  We enjoy being together.
I know more about the bible today and how it affects leadership than I did when I first began serving.  I am hungry to know more.
I was wearing a church T-shirt the other day and someone came up to me and said, isn’t your church that church that makes a difference? It made a difference in my neighbor’s life.
Jesus is really alive to me.  I know he loves me and that was revealed to me through my work with these leaders.  In fact people in our church today feel a lot of love and talk about Jesus’ love more today than they did.
The reality is that all of these things are possible.  You are the leaders of our church.  Together you affect the ministry more than any other group in the church, any other group in the Diocese of Texas.
Will you take an honest and fearless inventory of the work that is before you?  Will you take and honest and fearless inventory of the way you live out your ministries?  Only you know the answers to Jesus’ questions of you.  Only you know the gap that exists between where you, your leadership, and your congregation is on the path to the vision Jesus has set for you.
Only you can bring the gifts of ministry to the altar of God and to bear upon the challenges before you.
Will you choose to be better leaders tomorrow than you are today?  Will you choose to be a better congregation than you are today?  Will you choose to increase your impact on the world around you?  
Will you through your leadership and your ministry and your congregation make the world a better place?
Only you the leaders of this church, the people of the Diocese of Texas, can answer these questions.
Let me tell you what I believe.
I believe that Jesus expects the people and congregations of the Diocese of Texas to change the world in which we live.
I believe that Jesus calls us to build up the kingdom of God, not tear it down.
I believe that Jesus calls us to make God known and to grow and expand our ministry in the Diocese of Texas.
I believe that Jesus calls us to partner with people, share our stories, and help in the work of transformation.  
I believe that Jesus expects us to love and care for the world around us and to help with its healing.
I believe Jesus calls us to be the resource filled diocese we are and not minister out of scarcity but an understanding that God has given us all that we need to grow and make a difference.
Jesus expects nothing less than that we glorify God by our work, and God deserves the very best.

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