1 After 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, 2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So 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. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for 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. 9 I 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. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And 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. — John 17:1-11
Oneness does not always mean similar. Oneness does not mean exactly alike.
Oneness is about connection. It is about togetherness.
If we are to truly learn about becoming one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry we must admit those facts. So often we think if we are to be one we have to all think, believe, and act the same. However, as we look at this final, and crucial, aspect of oneness we will see this embody at its finest.
We are in our last week before Pentecost, and in that we have walked this journey of Easter. Much like the day of Easter itself being an earth shaking event it is these 50 days that we travel after we celebrate the resurrection of Christ that define who we are as the church. The disciples used these 50 days to experience Christ, much in the same way I have called us to do this year as well. In that experience we have taken on two aspects. First we were awakened. We were awakened to Christ’s calling to a ministry of peace, to our ministry, and we were awakened to God’s gift of grace through Jesus in the sacraments of Holy Communion and Baptism.
As important as it is each and every day when we awaken, so too in our faith once we awaken we must become something. We must make something of ourselves. We must be changed by what has awakened us, and we have worked towards that. Christ calls us to three changes out of our awakening. Three changes that we are reminded of in our liturgy for communion. That we become one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.
Today we focus on our becoming one in ministry, and it concludes this cyclical progression of who we are becoming. We become one with Christ in the manner in which we accept this invitation to come into the fold of Christ. We continue to express this love for Christ by showing our love to God and our love to others. We become one with each other through this love, and show our care to creation through expressions of love. Becoming one in ministry focuses on those who are in our community, and ideas here extend from our love for neighbor. However, the call is deeper as we are the ones serving together in Christ’s name. Therefore the manner in which we love must also work in the same respect of doing God’s work together.
In our scripture today Jesus is offering a prayer to God and as we close our reading today we hear Jesus say,
“And 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.” (John 17:11)
We have talked about the magnitude of this final discourse that Jesus gives. The weight of these statements, and now specifically we move to this prayer as Jesus’ time with his disciples is quickly ending. Very soon Jesus will be arrested and executed, and in that Jesus offers this prayer to God for those who remain on this earth in his absence. The cool thing we see over and over about Jesus’ prayers are that they not only are prayers to God, but very often they teach us things. This prayer contains that kernel to help us understand our relationship in ministry.
The bond that has held these disciples together is leaving, so what will keep them together once Jesus is gone?
Well simply put, Jesus will continue keep them together, but in a much less “human” way. You see it is Paul in Romans and Ephesians who reminds us that we are the Body of Christ (Rom. 12, Eph. 4), and in that we reflect on how we hold together the body of Christ in the manner in which we do ministry as the body.
Christ calls the disciples together as a community, and in turn calls generations of Christians together in community as well. We know that this is not a solo journey. When we try and go alone we fall short. There is so much that we can gain from others as we go along this journey. We not only have company and help, but we also can gain a greater perspective or are able to look at things with a new lens. I think this is very important as we think of the work we do together as the church. New things help us to grow, they stretch our comfort zones, and they mature us in the Kingdom of God.
However, we have not been so good at this recently. I am sure many of you have noticed the divisiveness in the church. Not necessarily this church, but in the worldwide church. We have allowed our differences to control how we do ministry together. Now don’t get me wrong, this has been happening since the Great Schism in 1054, but it has become so much more toxic in our contemporary time. We are forsaking God’s very call in our lives to argue with each other and that is not alright. Not only have we not been transformed to become one with each other, we have also impacted the manner in which we do ministry. In the United Methodist Church this has meant people talking about breaking apart the denomination. It hurts me that despite our differences we cannot work together for the ministry which God has ordained.
This is the main thing Christ is praying to God about in our scripture today. Yes Jesus cares about our personal spiritual being, but Jesus, even more so, is praying that we would be one church. That we would be one in ministry. That we would be the body of Christ.
But how do we do this in such a divisive time as this?
We must start by working together. We must start by right here in our congregation being committed to doing what Christ calls us and not allow petty squabbles to get in our way. Then we must rely on an ancient form of communication as a metaphor.
In ancient times a communication method called beacons were in place. Beacons are such an awesome thing because of how they worked. Beacons would be built a specific distance apart and would be used to signal along a long range various messages. One beacon would be lit, signifying the message, and then many more beacons along the route would illuminate the same message. Until the message reached it’s destination.
So what does this have to do with anything?
We have to become a beacon for others to see what the church should look like. We have to illuminate and show the way for others who have lost the vision of where God calls us. We unify our community. We work together despite our differences and we come together to do the work God has called us to. The church is falling apart because we have forgotten that oneness does not mean that we are all alike, but that we all commit to doing the work God calls us to do. The call to ministry we heard from Jesus at the beginning of this series, the call to peace and forgiveness, is the manner in which we live out doing ministry as a community.
As long as we continue to hold onto our own selfish squabbles we shine the wrong king of message. If we are to be a beacon and light the way we must show how God truly calls us into ministry together.
Now this will take some personal sacrifice on our part. We have to give up our selfish ways. We must think less about our own goals and think about the goals of the community. Sometimes it is aligning our goals with the goals of the community. Most of all it is remembering that in Christ we are part of a greater body. We cannot exist on our own and we rely on the body, not just for support but in carrying out our calling as well.
To be the body of Christ means we work as a community for the greater call of God in this world.