Broad Brook Congregational Church
June 1, 2014
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Reception of New Members
Bearers of Hope
We have been talking over the last two weeks about the farewell discourse that Jesus delivered to his disciples as recorded by the Fourth Evangelist. We learned that God dwells in Jesus and Jesus in God. Jesus in turn dwells in us. We also learned that Jesus sent an Advocate to be with his disciples and ultimately the Advocate dwells with us too. Jesus’ love for his disciples and us would never end.
Jesus calls his disciples to be bearers of hope. To be a bearer of hope means to be a witness to the works of God in and through Jesus Christ. This week we also are called to be bearers of hope.
In today’s Scripture we overhear a prayer just as the members of the Fourth Evangelist’s community is overhearing it. Jesus is no longer addressing his disciples. Jesus is in intimate conversation with God the Father on the eve of his death. The Fourth Evangelist has written and positioned Jesus’ farewell prayer as a kind of exclamation point to the theology of the Fourth Gospel.
Within the prayer are references back to all of Jesus speeches. It also stands as a bridge between the farewell discourse and the passion narrative. The prayer is a pivotal point that announces a dramatic change in events.
Unlike the Lord’s Prayer this petition offered to God the Father is not an ageless and universal one. Rather, it should be heard and understood as a prayer grounded in and shaped by Jesus’ hour. The language of the prayer unites the past, present, and future into one particular point in time.
Time is being redefined. Jesus’ hour is the in-breaking of God’s work in the world through the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
Through out his prayer Jesus speaks only to God. He prays for the disciples but never interrupts his conversation with the Father in order to address the disciples directly. Thus, the disciples and the faith community of the Fourth Gospel play the same role as we do, that is, as over-hearers of the prayer.
Jesus asks God to sanctify the disciples “in the truth;” God’s “word is truth” (John 17:17). He also asks God to protect them from the evil one. Jesus also prays on behalf of the faith community. He turns the future of this community over to God. Jesus’ promises to the believers are entrusted to God to fulfill.
As the church of the Fourth Gospel overhears this, they understand that it is God’s grace that will sustain their faith community.
When we overhear this, we too realize that the church’s own work is not the governing factor in determining its future. Its future depends on the grace of God.
All successive generations of faith communities are the recipients of Jesus’ prayer. The love that Jesus and God have for the church continues to be heard and experienced by us today.
Jesus prays that God will be present in the mission and life of the faith community. How would today’s faith communities change how we define ourselves, if we took to heart the understanding that we are a community for whom Jesus prays?
We pray to God offering prayers for others and even ourselves, but do we ever think about our faith community as being one for whom Jesus prays? How would such a realization impact our life and mission together?
Would such insight strengthen and enliven us as bearers of hope?
Our witnessing to the grace, mercy, peace, and love of God for everyone would take on even deeper meaning and purpose.
I wonder would our conversations, our prayers, to God change in some way knowing that Jesus prays for us?
Are our public prayers composed for God or for those who are hearing the prayer?
I think it goes both ways.
I have heard prayers that don’t seem to address God in any prominent way.
Then I have heard ones that have absolutely moved me to think that I was hearing a direct conversation to the Holy One.
This is not about our prayers being answered. It is about living in the belief that Jesus prays for us. It seems to me that living in that belief would deepen our personal relationship with the Triune God.
It would make our relationship with our Creator, Redeemer, and Holy Spirit even more communal. When we humbly recognize that we are dependent on God’s loving care and that Jesus prays for us as a faith community, it can embolden us to be bearers of hope in a meaningful way, to be stirred into action as witnesses to God’s work in the world.
When we live in that way, when we understand that we are recipients of Jesus’ prayer, then we can live in the hope that God is stirred to actions by our prayers!
This prayer promises that God will be present with us. Be bearers of that Hope and of God’s love.
In the greatest of hope I offer my thoughts to you.