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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter 7A May 28, 2017

Quotes That Make Me Think
Jesus Prays in the Garden coloring page.

Whatever the relationship between Jesus and God entails, glorification is a substantial part of it. In 7:39 we learn that believers had not yet received the spirit because Jesus had not yet been glorified.
Commentary, John 17:1-11, Jaime Clark-Soles, Preaching This Week,, 2008

"John helps us avoid the commodification of the gospel and invites to an understanding of being good news by being community in which love is lived out."

"First Thoughts on Year A Gospel Passages in the Lectionary: Easter 7," William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from


We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on John 17:1-11
[Some lectionaries may have Matthew's transfiguration - 17:1-9. Please see last Epiphany A for this text commentary]

Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

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.

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.

Some thoughts on John 17 and Church leadership

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, in Sunday school or by helping serve at the altar, 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.

"1 Peter reminds us that what is at stake in the sufferings of Christ-believers is not so much what they believed but what they did. Because they believed that Christ was Lord, and not Caesar, they strived to establish communities marked by love and solidarity rather than by hierarchy and a system of patronage and debt."

Commentary, 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 (Easter 7A), Valerie Nicolet-Anderson, Preaching This Week,, 2011.

I was enjoying preaching and thinking about Peter but today I am having a tough time. This is a difficult text because I think it is hard for us to understand the context as western people of global power whose suffering can often times be limited to cell phone outages and coffee shortages. Yet...lets have a go at it again.

The author continues to "exhort" his readers to be hopeful in their "ordeal". And, here is perhaps the important and revelatory preaching hermeneutical key for today....Jesus is with us. Jesus is with us in our suffering, Jesus promises to be with us, Jesus is with us.  Even when we may not think Jesus is with us he is. God is present.  It is not a matter of us suffering like Jesus so we can be with Jesus but that Jesus is with us by virtue of his promise, his suffering, and his resurrection.  

Moreover, this presence is a preparation, a foretaste, of the unity which we will experience in the world that is yet to come.  

We experience God's presence in our suffering and in our joy.  Sometimes we think God is only with us when everything is good and happy - going our way.  God is here, and perhaps even more visible, through our experiences of suffering.  We are keenly aware of him in both the good and the bad times.

Then our author turns to the leaders - the elders - of the community and charges them to behave and care for the faithful.  They are to be about the nurturing and pastoring of their flock.  They are to make sure that they share the truth of the gospel with everyone in the community.  They are to help all members understand what it means to follow Jesus.  They are to be examples of disciples themselves.

In this there will be humility for the whole community of Jesus followers.  In this they will be alert.  In these things they will be with God - even in their suffering.  In these things they will participate now in the kingdom that is to come.

Some Thoughts on Acts 1:1-11

This passage is used in both the feast of the Ascension (A, B, and C years) and on Easter 7A. It is the prologue to the book of Acts. In it Luke begins by writing to Theophilus and making it clear that the first books was about “all that Jesus did”. The second book though is about all that is done by God through the power of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles. This is a book about mission and how the first followers of Jesus chose to respond to the events of Jerusalem and Galilee. That the teaching, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus forever changed the friends of Jesus.

The resurrected Jesus appeared to the followers of Jesus in many forms. Jesus was ever more real and present after his resurrection than he was, in some ways, before his resurrection. And, that his promise was to be with them to the end of the ages, by virtue of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Luke understands this work as the great restoration of the kingdom of Israel. This was not a political kingdom or a coup of the existing reigning powers and authorities. Instead, Luke appears to grasp the great expansion of the kingdom from primarily an inheritance for the faithful family of Abraham to include all sorts and kinds of people. He has a vision, God’s vision, that he mission work is to offer the reign of God to all people in every land and of every nation. Here we see an expansion, and glorious multiplication of invitation from the cross which echoes after the resurrection throughout the whole of creation to all humanity.

Luke does this through a weaving together of the past and an expansion of the present for the sake of the future.

Jesus like Elijah is to be taken up into heaven. Luke has cast him as Elijah but with a global prophecy.

Luke also builds this first chapter to echo the first chapters of his Gospel wherein the Angel promises that the reign of God, through Jesus, will be restored. “He will reign of the house of Jacob,” and, “His kingdom will have no end,” says the Angel. So the restoration is to begin with the coming of the Holy Spirit after the ascension. What was foreshadowed in the Gospel will not be unveiled or unraveled in the Book of Acts.

Richard Hays, in Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, writes, “…the witness bearing of Jesus’ disciples that the nations are to receive the light of revelation that Isaiah promised…” foreshadowed by Simeon and the whole of the Gospel narrative. (272)

We are of course always reading backwards from our perspective. But Luke is careful to interpret the Old Testament prophecies, especially Isaiah, as always having meant that this light, this restored kingdom of Israel, is one that includes the gentiles.

The task here for the missional preacher is to think carefully about who we are speaking to in and what the invitation to us is. It would be normal for us to read back in that in fact we are the Gentiles and Luke’s prophecy and the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit has been successful for here we are. Yet Luke’s missiological premise and our responsibility cannot be shirked so easily. The question for the sermon hearer and church goer is: who are our gentiles today?

It is my contention that we now hold the place of the religious in the Gospels or the disciples. We are the ones now responsible for answering the Holy Spirit’s invitation. The mission that once was to the “gentiles” is still held out to this church. It is an invitation to bear the light to all those who still live in darkness. And, to do so as disciples and bearers of that light. We were once far off, we were once the gentile, but no longer. Today we are the ones who shall be part of helping God in Christ Jesus restore the reign of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Whether we read this passage on the last day of Easter or on the Ascension, hear Luke’s invitation to tell the story of the risen and ascended Lord to the world.

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