Tag Archive | John 14:6

Jesus Prays for Us!

John 17:6-19

Eternal and ever blessed God, grant this day light to the minds that hunger for truth, and peace to the hearts that yearn for rest. Grant strength to those who have hard tasks to do, and power to those who have temptations to face. Grant unto all within this place the ability to find the secret of your presence, and to go forth from here in the strength of the Lord. Amen.

Today we celebrate two important and seemingly very different things – one – Mother’s Day – is a secular sort of “made up” holiday that indeed fulfills a wonderful purpose: to remember, honor and thank our mothers, whether alive or not, whether biological or not – that woman or those women who love, nurture, and guide us through life – often from our first breath of air.

The second is a truly sacred day – Ascension Day – the day we mark Jesus’ ascension from earth to be with God – after he appeared several times to his disciples following his resurrection. After Ascension Day, no one sees Jesus again, but in his loving prayer in the gospel today, he asks God to be with us and protect us – to show us the way – and so God sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts and minds – if we will but seek it and listen.

Much of what we human beings experience involves our emotions. Whether we like it or not, we respond to everything emotionally. Our emotions are involved when we experience love, hurt, anxiety, stress, anger, jealousy, depression, happiness, joy. The most important growing experiences that we will encounter as we travel along the journey we call life, are emotional experiences and feelings. Certainly, they affect our mind and body, but they really reside in our spirit: that part of us that we Christians believe is eternal and connects to other spirits – and to the Holy Spirit of God. Our minds cannot fully comprehend the spiritual depth and breadth of our lives, for it is woven into our very nature – and we believe it is that part of us that exists before and after our life on earth.

The Gospel of John, from which today’s reading comes, is very different from the other three gospels. Written some sixty years after Jesus’ crucifixion, death and resurrection, it is less a narrative and more philosophical; in many ways, it seeks to summarize all of Jesus’ teachings and work. In John, after washing their feet and sharing the Passover feast with his disciples, Jesus began a long series of sermons, known as the ‘final discourses’. In them, he reiterates again and again that God is love (1 John 4:8), and we are to love and serve one another (John 13:34-35); that he is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5); and that we are to draw nourishment and direction from his teachings and examples.

Jesus reminds us that if we follow him, we cannot be ‘of this world’. If the world hates us, hurts us, demeans and wounds us, we must know it hated him first, and that we are part of a different kingdom – God’s Kingdom. Following these discourses, Jesus prayed. In the other gospels Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, and we are told he prayed for strength for what he knew lay ahead. In John, however, this prayer, which we read today, is almost entirely for us – his disciples, for those he loved then and for those he loves today – you and me!

In the discourses, he promised the disciples that God would send them a companion – the spirit of truth – to guide and protect them, and so in this final prayer, he fervently asks God to do this.

He prayed, “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 kept your word. Now they know everything you have given me is from you; of the world that you gave to me I have given to them, and they received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 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. All mine are yours and yours are mine; and I have glorified them.” (John 17:6-11)

Jesus continued to pray for the protection and unity of his followers, but then his prayer shifted to praying for all of his followers in times to come.

“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes, I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:14-19)

In the years following Jesus’ death and ascension, his disciples would endure difficult and painful days as they spread his word throughout the known civilized world. They would be imprisoned, tortured and beaten, murdered; they would be alone and reviled. But we can only believe that the power of ‘the Companion of Truth’ that God sent – the Holy Spirit – was so strongly with them, so vibrant and clear, that they all endured, prevailed, and made sure that the work of Jesus of Nazareth changed the world forever.

We are all well aware that our world today is far from the Kingdom of God, but with all its flaws, it is closer to that Kingdom than it was 2000 years ago. Here we are, followers of Jesus, still facing difficult journeys of life, still encountering hate, deception, greed and consumerism, lust and depravity, violence and war, poverty and despair, addictions and destroyers, evil things and evil doings, just as Jesus acknowledged we would in his prayer. Each of us carries, in some way, the marks and scars of battling our way from birth to death in this world.

But, we, too, still have the Companion, the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth, the God of love which protects and guides us, and we reach The Companion through our spirits, usually through our emotions. I have come to realize that what one truly feels in their heart is more real, more true, than most things we can study or read. We can use prayer, meditation, intuition, dreams, sudden ‘ah ha’ moments. All of these can reveal the Holy Spirit, can speak to us, guide our ways, just as we are taught in Matthew:

seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you”. (Matthew 7:7)

This, and this alone, gives us the strength and clarity of vision to not be of this world – to turn the other cheek, to walk away from conflict, to be the Samaritan who crosses the road to help and serve others in need, to face pain, illness and suffering with hope; to return hate with love, lies with truth, deception with reality, vengeance with forgiveness, and evil with goodness and love.

In short, our work is in this world. Jesus left physically, but we remain. What he began, we must seek to carry on. And Jesus left us the Holy Spirit, or Companion Protector so we may care for and serve others, love and forgive our brothers and sisters. We are promised no hedge, no short cuts, no escape routes, no end to the battle until we at last cross the River of Death to enter, once again, Eternity – and realize Death is not the victor. We are here, and we must stay here for a time to do his work.

Ultimately, we will always find the sheltering arms of God protecting us. Life is not easy, and if it is, we are probably not doing our jobs. But the reward is great and the Truth and Love of God will keep us strong!

So, take a minute today to look ahead to the coming week; read the prayer that Jesus prayed in John. Focus on how Jesus makes us holy for the sake of oneness with our fellow believers, and gives us courage along the journey, no matter how difficult the path. Ask yourself how God might use you to bring love to our broken, hurting world. How can God use you to transform the pain and darkness of our earthly life and turn it into the promise of resurrection and new life for others, as well as ourselves? Consider how Jesus guides you through his Holy Spirit, when you feel lost; don’t shut out your deepest emotions and feelings, – listen to them! Remember that Jesus prayed for and prepared a way for his disciples, and that includes us!

God answered that prayer then, and does so now!

Jesus’way is

‘the way, the truth, and the life”. (John 14:6)

Let us all seek to follow him.

Let us pray:

“Holy Father, keep us in your name … that we may be one … Sanctify us with the truth of your words. As you sent Christ into the world, so send us into the world, consecrated in truth, armed with your protection and love, and the good news of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension. Help us to turn our lives toward bringing the fullness of God’s Kingdom to all, sustained by the hopes and belief that when we reach the end of our lives, there will be no fear, no sadness, but real joy as we hear your trumpet sounding for us on the other side. Amen.

Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, 13 May 2018

Remeber Those Last Words

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Lord, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds and in the longing of our hearts, by the words of my mouth and in the thoughts we form. Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen. Amen.

This week that the Christian world calls ‘Holy Week’ commemorates the last – and most important week of Jesus’ life – for in this week, he moved intentionally from glory and praise to a painful death and martyrdom; from celebrations and acclamations of his divinity; from betrayal, abandonment, torture, mockery, humiliation and death. And then finally the resurrection!

If Jesus had not risen from death to appear to his disciples, we might not remember him at all – and if history did recall him, it would be perhaps as just another interesting, non-conventional Jewish prophet. But we are headed this week to Sunday – and to the resurrection of the Son of Man and the Son of God, and all that means for us. On Sunday we will joyfully celebrate the promise and assurance of eternal life that Jesus of Nazareth revealed to us all.

In this final holy week of Jesus’ life, he spent most of his time teaching his disciples the important lessons for life that he came to show: peace, forgiveness, and the need to love and serve one another to the end.

It was an important time in the Jewish religion – the week of Passover – and Jesus came to Jerusalem with his disciples to observe this high holy day. On this night, Thursday night, he gathered his friends, his disciples for the Passover feast.

Tradition has it that they gathered in the second story room of the house of John Mark’s mother – John Mark being the author of Mark’s Gospel.[1]  During this Passover Seder feast, Jesus demonstrated so many of the things he taught the disciples to do and be.

One thing that he did that has always stood out in my mind, was that he washed the feet of his disciples as they entered the Upper Room. It was the custom that when guests arrived at a home, a servant of the house removed their sandals and washed their feet – feet tired, sore, and dirty from rocky paths and streets. This menial task was beneath the dignity of the master of the house, so a servant did it.

But our Redeemer was a King like no other, and just as he had entered Jerusalem triumphantly on a donkey, rather than on a war horse, just as he was greeted by peasants with palm branches rather than legions of soldiers with swords, so Jesus became a servant to his friends, and washed their feet.

After the Passover dinner, he gave his disciples a ritual feast and asked them to remember him always by sharing a meal – the breaking of bread and drinking of wine.

On this Thursday night, Jesus knew full well what lay ahead of him – he knew Judas would betray him, that even Peter would not stand by him, that all his disciples would abandon him, hiding in a locked room, full of fear and cowardice. On this night he prayed for strength, he asked God, his father, to spare him, but knew it could not be.

Jesus knew if his teachings and examples were to go forward, his disciples would have to do it, and ready or not, he kept showing them what to do. He told them:

You can’t say you love me, if you won’t love those I suffered and died for!” (1 John 3:14-18 & 4:7-12.)

Jesus then went willingly to his trial, sentencing, and crucifixion in preparation for his resurrection for all humankind.

For anyone who has traveled the end-of-life journey with someone they care for, they have learned that near the end, the person leaves a message for those who survive. This is something that is extremely important to the dying person – something they want their loved ones to remember them by. It is always important to remember the last words of the person who is about to die; they usually spend their last breath saying things critically important to them. And finally, on this night, Jesus’ last words to them were:

“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. You must love each other like I loved you.” (John 13:34)

So tonight we remind ourselves what this world would be without love – we remove the music, the art, the flowers – and finally the light. We leave this place in darkness and silence – for our world and our lives would be dismal and fearful indeed, had Jesus not come to earth and shown that love and service, forgiveness and compassion are

“the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6)

His final words that night were for his disciples – and for us:

“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. You must love each other like I loved you.” (John 13:34)

As followers of Jesus – as human beings – we must remember those words, and do our best to live into them every day of our lives.

Let us pray:

God our creator & sustainer, thank you so much for Jesus! Thank you for blessing us with a spiritual meal which reminds us and proclaims again that Jesus died, offering his body and blood as the atonement for our sins. Thank you for giving us the day of his resurrection as the day we can powerfully remember this great sacrifice, and anticipate the great day of reunion that his resurrection has secured for your children. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
 
[1]      https://www.quora.com/Who-prepared-the-food-at-Jesuss-last-supper; Cenacle is a room in the David’s Tomb Compound in Jerusalem, traditionally held to be the site of the Last Supper.
 
 

Delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington & Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 29 March 2018

Who is God?

The last couple of weeks I have been talking about following Jesus and that the Holy Spirit has been sent to help us do that. But one of the things that is often overlooked, is

‘just exactly who is God’.

As I was preparing for this homily, I was thinking that we hear about Jesus and have a pretty good understanding of who He was and what his life, suffering and resurrection mean for us. And although the Holy Spirit is a bit of a mystery, we can accept that the Holy Spirit was breathed upon us to help us follow the teachings of Jesus. But it suddenly dawned on me that we never talk about who God is – probably the most important person – the creator of us all and everything that lives and breathes.

Little children often ask that question, ‘who is God?’, but by the time we reach adulthood, everyone assumes we know who God is – therefore no one talks about that. I think it is time for us to look at who we believe God to be and what God means to each one of us.

We hear in the story of creation in Genesis that the world and everything in it was created by God in only six days. Now, we don’t know what a ‘day’ was in the time before creation, but science has just proven that the earth is a little over 4.4 billion years old. So God, the creator, has been around for a very long time – since before the universe.

God is known by many different names; sometimes God is called ‘Lord’ – not in a political sense, but as a sign of ultimate respect.

Wikipedia defines ‘God’ as ‘the Supreme Being’, the principal object of faith and worship,’ all knowing’ (omniscient); ‘being every present everywhere’ (omnipresent); ‘having unlimited power’ (omnipotent) – after all, you would have to be pretty powerful to take nothing and make the world out of it – and ‘all-loving’ (omnibenevolent).

But, God has no gender. I have a bag that says ‘God is not a boy’s name’, which often causes a stir at some religious functions. But I believe, and theologians agree, that God is not a man, nor is God a woman as we often hear in feminist theology. The Bible says God is a spirit (John 4:24)—without physical form (not in a human body as we are). And, contrary to all the pictures we see of God, He is not a white man! God has no color, He is a spirit, formless – we normally see pictures of God as a white man because people needed something they could see. The picture we often see of God is an old man with a long white beard sitting on a cloud in the sky; the most famous of these depictions is on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican – most everyone has seen this fresco and associated God with that depiction.

And in love (1 John 4:16), God created us in His image as we read in Genesis 1:27:

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

What we do hear repeatedly in Scripture, and need to remember, is that we are all children of God, the same God, no matter what God is called. And we are all beloved children of God (1 John 3:2).

But that still doesn’t answer “Who is God?”

Let’s look at what the Bible says:

When Moses asked God who he was, God answered:

“I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14)

And later in Revelation 22:13:

“I am the Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end”

In most faith traditions, God is the ultimate, the Supreme Being, the creator and sustainer of all living things, one to be worshipped.

Some of the things that we hear in the Bible about God is that he is:

just (Acts 17:31),

loving (Ephesians 2:4-5),

truthful (John 14:6), and

holy (1 John 1:5).

God shows compassion (2 Corinthians 1:3), mercy (Romans 9:15), and grace (Romans 5:17) to all his people. And although God may judge our behavior (Psalm 5:5), He always offers forgiveness (Psalm 130:4) – again and again as we stray from the right path.

God is a loving God. He cares about us; and always loves us, no matter what. And He sent Jesus down to help us learn how to live right. And by grace, even when we make mistakes, we are always forgiven. We know from the scriptures, that Jesus brought us eternal life, through his crucifixion and resurrection.

God is the ultimate Being in existence, perfect in power, love, and character. Since God wanted to share His love with others, He created people – us – spiritual creatures who can relate to Him. Because God is love, He wants us to love Him and love other people (Matthew 22:37-40).

That is the God that we know, who knows us and loves us, and the one we worship.

Let us pray:

Dear God, creator of our world and all that is in it, please grant us forgiveness when we don’t follow Jesus’ teachings, help us to remember that you created all people and we are commanded to love them as Jesus loved us. Help us to preserve your creation and live in love with all our brothers and sisters. Amen.
 
 

     Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 18 June 2017

ALL Religions Are Paths to God

In a taped interview in early April, Pope Francis II stated his belief that ALL religions are a path to God. This is a revolutionary concept from the standpoint of the Roman Catholic church, who previously espoused that Catholicism was the only way to God.

The Pope’s statement, at last, opens the door for all the world’s religions to become more interactive, interreligious and ecumenical. Given the many problems and conflicts facing the world today, all people of faith need to work, live and pray together to reduce injustice and forge cooperative relationships to address the world’s problems.

Of course, there was immediate resistance from some of the more conservative, evangelical denominations speaking doom and gloom that this was the beginning of the ‘one world religion’, which would bring about the downfall of the world. Their contention is that there is only one religion, Christianity, and that all others are heretical. They use the John 14:6 Scripture:

    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Many of the other world religions see the use of this particular scripture (and others like it), to denigrate their beliefs and justify alienation and violence against them. We need to be reminded that

    So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them (Genesis 1:27)

This Genesis text (or a slight variation of it) exists in all religions. All faiths recognize that we are all created in the image of a supreme being, no matter what the creator is called (God, YHWH, Father, Almighty, Creator, Great Spirit, Supreme All-Powerful Gigantic One, perfect being, All Merciful One).

The world’s religions may think of the creator differently, feel differently about his position in their lives, and seek the creator in different ways. But it is universal that we are all related to each other and are brothers and sisters, loving and loved by the Creator.

It is our responsibility, as children of God, to work together to alleviate the suffering in the world, and to love each other. All of us, regardless of our professed religion (or non-faith tradition), are children of our Creator. If we acknowledge foundation of love for one another as creations of God, we can then begin to actively seek dialogue to create peace and restore justice for all people.

It is time for all of us to step beyond our safety zone and get to know people of other religious and faith backgrounds. We need to participate in interreligious activities what will introduce us to the beauty and inspiration of other faith traditions, just as we share our own with others.

It is time to get out of the pews and into the streets to spread the wonderful news that we are all God’s children, and that we are all loved by God, no matter what we call him, and that only together can we being harmony to our earthly home.

I challenge each and every one of you to meet and talk to someone who has different religious and cultural beliefs and seek the common ground we all share.

We are all children of the same Creator – brothers and sisters of the world!
 
 
Written for The Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 17 April 2016