God, you took chaos and created order. You took nothingness and created harmony. You took, darkness and made it light. You took love and created life. You took death and made it life. You created and gave it to us.
Lord, we have taken the order and turned it into anarchy. We have taken the harmony and turned it into conflict. We have taken the light and returned to darkness. We have taken the life and dismissed, devalued, and oppressed it. We have taken this creation for granted it and missed you in the middle of it.
We have taken your gift and thrown it to the swine.
Father, we have lied and slander others, just as we have experienced the same from others. We have experienced hurt and we have caused hurt. We have felt the sting of pain, just as we have created pain We have been led astray and we have led others down the same paths. We have known the agony of disappointment and have felt the guilt of disappointing others. We have been humiliated and we have humiliated. We have chosen evil and ignored good. We have turned from right and destroyed trust.
God, we are in need of forgiveness. God, we need to grant forgiveness. God, we know the pain of unforgiveness. God, we know the uncertainty of withheld forgiveness. God we need forgiveness. God we need to grant forgiveness.
God may we experience the freeing power of giving and receiving forgiveness. May we know the joy of letting go of those things that accompany forgiveness. May we recognize the power in the release of hurt, resentment, and vengeance. May we replace those things with love, may we do so in love.
God, you have defined love as being patient, kind; not envious, not boastful, and not arrogant or rude. You have said that love does not insist on its own way, that it is not irritable or resentful, that it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but instead it rejoices in the truth. You have beautifully painted a portrait of love as bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, and enduring all things.
Lord, it it not our natural tendency to be patient or kind. Often times we are envious, boastful, rude and arrogant. Sadly, we do frequently insist on our own way, and, in all honesty, we can be irritable and rude, not to mention that we occasionally side with lies instead of favoring truth. And, full disclosure, we are not really fluent in hanging in there through all things, expecting the best in all all things, trusting beyond our vision in all things or in persevering through all things.
Father you have said that if we do not have love, we do not have anything. You have assured us that if we have love we have everything, yet, if we do not have love, all that we have it of no value.
Our human nature is to give love out sparingly, giving it only to those, and in those situations, where we are given back more than we give, refusing to give to those we do not agree with, those who follow our expectations, those we understand, those we tolerate, those we approve of, those we cannot see.
Spectacularly, you have promised that Love Never Ends.
Sadly, here on earth, we can allow Hate to have an even more powerful and lasting impact.
We define love in selfish ways. Love is a feeling, love can be withheld as an act of control and abuse, love is without cost or sacrifice, love is free. The truth is, love is given freely, but it fully costs the giver everything. Love requires sacrifice, selflessness, vulnerability, compromise, risk, and honesty.
God, remind us that Love is always a choice. Lord, may our lives be motivated by your call to love. Father, please nudge us in the direction of love in every moment of our lives.
God, may we always hold on to the fact that your Love has already been given freely to each of us.
Lord, we are grateful, that you know our name better than we know it ourself
Father, we are amazed that our name never leaves your mind.
God, you know the names Aubrey Dameron, Ida Beard, Emily Morgan, Selena Not Afraid, Aubrey Dameron, Savanna Greywind, Angela McConnell, and the countless of other native American women and girls who remain missing or have been murdered. Father, while our system has dismissed, or forgotten, far more of these names than it has remembered, we know that you do not forget, nor will you ever forget these names.
Lord, long before we ever heard, or paid attention to, these, you already knew the names of Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Brown, Terence Crutcher, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Freddie Gray, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Bettie Jones, Trayvon Martin, Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, Dominique White. We fail your call to us as we forget our fellow humans beings created by you, these who have died because of color – senselessly and unjustly killed. After our outrage, or sympathy, dissipates and our entitled excuses do their job of removing our guilt and refocusing the blame on these victims, we forget these names. You, O God, never forget these you lovingly created; these you know by name, and even more by heart. You share in the tears of those that loved them and, are now, facing an earthly eternity of grief in their absence.
Father, we ignore the daily barrage of numbers, each representing other loved humans created by you. We hear numbers like the 43,000 persons locked up in across the State of Oklahoma; or the numbers, 1,310 out of every 100,000, numbers statisically bypassing the names that you know of those in our state locked up and imprisoned, numbers surpass the numbers in all other states as well as the numbers in all other NATO nations. We seldom know these names, or remember these numbers.
God, you know the names of each of the 16,289 students in the Norman Public Schools, as well as the names of each of the 1,962 employees that make or public school system. You know the name of each of the 22,152 University of Oklahoma students that have recently returned to our city.
Lord, you know the names of each of the 34 deaths in our city in the past six months due to the Covid 19 illness, you know the name of everyone of the 149 currently active Covid cases in our city, you know the name of every one of the 1,522 city residents the have fully recovered from covid. God, you know the names of those scientists currently working feverishly on a vaccine for the virus, you also know the names of those who have sought to speak false information and outright lies into the minds of our fellow American citizens.
God, we are thankful that you knew the names of every inhabitant in Ninevah crying out for any kind of deliverance, and you knew the name of Noah, Abraham and Sarah, of Isaac and Rebecca, of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel, of the sons of Jacob, including Joseph, and of Shiphrah, Puah, Jochebed, Miriam, and of Bithiah.
God we are thankful that you have told us your name. Father, we are thankful that you know our name.
God, we thank you for ‘seeing good’ moments. When we see the extraordinary in the ordinary. In the midst of quarantine and isolation, in these times of protests and economic fears, in dark times when little seems familiar, we recognize your light in the heart, and actions, of others.
God, we have seen the extraordinary in the ordinary of our healthcare workers. Endangering themself and their families through the ordinary act of going to work. Frequently having to isolate from their families & friends. Enduring conspiracy theories & personal rights proclamations, from many of those to whom they extend mercy.
God, we thank you for our local leaders as they seek to take precautionary measures to protect us from illness and death. They have put their own positions at risk in making the difficult and tough decisions. They have made decisions that others have been afraid to make.
God, we thank your for our public eduction leaders, teachers, and staff. Jumping into action to do their ordinary jobs in an extraordinary fashion. They have strategized how to resume an ordinary when the ordinary is no longer an option. They now face the risks for self, students and all their families, as they report back to jobs that will never be the same.
God, we also thank you for the essential works & businesses quickly developing new systems to serve us even when existing systems were no longer usable. They have continued to work, to serve, and to smile, in the midst of the risks and dangers. They have been underpaid, overworked, and almost always, unnoticed.
God, we thank you, we are seeing noticing of others more than ever before,
Just life Christ did with the bent over woman in the temple, the accused woman in the public square, the weak woman in the crowded streets, the ruler who had everything but could give up nothing, the thief hanging on the cross.
God, thank you as we begin to notice beyond skin color,
We are seeing beyond cultures and actions, beyond nationalities, religions, & practices, we have begun to notice that pain can go deeper than we can comprehend. Pain that reveals itself in ways that distract us from the reality of the devastating impact passed down through generations.
God, thank you that we continue to see the beauty of your creation in the joy of a pet, the smile of a neighbor, the laugh of a child, the opportunity to help and serve, the expressions of concern and empathy, the masks worn even when not mandated, the hands and feet of those who help after a storm, the privileged standing up for the underprivileged, the different colors that are standing up for each other, the realization of things we don’t need, & what we do need.
God, we are tired, we shouldn’t be, but we are.
We are worn out by rising unemployment figures.
We are concerned about surging Covid numbers.
We are already fatigued by political manipulation
We are weary eyed from staring at our screens.
We are increasingly claustrophobic wearing face masks.
We miss seeing peoples’ faces.
We long for handshakes and hugs.
We have forgotten what it is to actually go somewhere.
God we are tired, we shouldn’t be, but we are.
We now know that transformation must take place in each of us.
We are recognizing our need for empathy
We are striving to see others with a greater depth
We are realizing that we have taken antibiotics
and vaccines for granted.
We are beginning to grasp the truth that our health is not just about us.
We understand that rights are a privilege
that must not be abused.
We connect that our privileges
must never be at the expense of others.
We know that Loving God and Loving Others requires sacrifice.
We attempt to fathom that your love for us is why you sacrificed your son.
God we are tired, we shouldn’t be, but we are.
We know that transformation must take place in each of us.
We name our gratitude in order to turn our gaze back to you.
We trust in you even when we don’t see that you are here.
We trust in you even though we fear what is in the distance.
We trust in you as we follow an unknown path.
We trust in you, because you have always carried us before.
God we are tired, we shouldn’t be, but we are.
We know that transformation must take place in each of us.
We name our gratitude in order to turn our gaze back to you.
We trust in you because you are our God, you are our Lord.
O Lord, these times have revealed how little control we have, we have seen how powerless we all truly are. We have grasped for hope, as we often grasp for air.
In this time, we know we are vulnerable targets of lies and deceit.
Our hope is in you, O Lord, our hope is in you. Sometimes it is difficult to remember that, sometimes it is easy to look away. False prophets shout for our attention, they seek to turn us from you. They sound like they are from you, but they are not, they claim to have your truth, but they do not.
May gratitude steady our focus. May thanksgiving bring us back. May we always remember your works, May we always remember your love.
So, today, in the midst of a world consumed with fear. A world that refuses to see. A world that still cannot fathom our weaknesses.
On this day, we give thanks. On this day, we give you, O Lord, our thanks. On this particular day, we thank you for fathers, which reminds us also of our gratitude for mothers. For their perfections and their imperfections – for we have learned from them both. For their sacrifices – most of which we never saw. For their concerns – few of which we ever appreciated. For Fathers and Mothers we thank you.
We thank you for the scientists, the health care professionals, the essential workers. We are grateful for their expertise, their sacrifices, their perseverance through uncertain times. They have analyzed data, they have have studied pathogens, they have guarded the vulnerable, they have cared for the ailing. They have delivered food to our homes, met us at curbside when we are hungry, worn masks to keep us safe, They have taken care of us as if their own lives didn’t matter.
O Lord, we also thank you for technology. We thank you for the useful applications which have permitted us to be together even though we have needed to stay apart. We give thanks that the frustrations experienced with technology have been countered by the access provided to each other. God, we recognize that you, using technology, have pierced the darkness of our isolation, you have let us see the light of your presence in each other.
O Lord, may gratitude be our path in these strange times. O Lord, may gratitude point us back to you. O Lord, may gratitude guide our emotions, actions, and reactions. O Lord, may gratitude carry us through our fear.
As Jesus completes his final words to his disciples, he begins to pray. Intentionally, Jesus prayed within hearing distance, for the disciples to eavesdrop. It wasn’t that Jesus’ prayer was just an extension of the talk he had just given his disciples, because, it was probably the most sincere and passionate prayer that Jesus had ever said to God. Like so much of the responses, reactions, and even actions that the disciples had witnessed while watching Jesus for the past three years, this prayer was real, and, it was a lesson.
Jesus was praying for his disciples, as well as praying for himself, and even for us. The enormity of this teaching moment, however, is that they were witnessing a intimate moment between the father and son, an intense moment of a human with God. It was truly an existential moment for everyone able to eavesdrop (this includes those that were there as well as us over 2,000 years later.
Our passage and the entirety of John chapter 17, often referred to as The High Priestly Prayer, is introduced by John in the first verse with the words:
‘After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven’
‘These Words’, the words we see in the dialogue detailed in chapter 16, in the midst of a tragically heavy moment, are actually a bit humorous. In many ways it reminds me of our Tuesday Bible Project as we ask questions and often end up with even more frustrating and continuing questions.
Listen to a few of ‘These Words’ of Jesus and his followers:
‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.’
‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’
‘When a woman is in labor, she has pain’
And his disciples honestly asking each other,
‘What does he mean?’
To which Jesus replied,
‘Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant?’
And then, as we get closer to the prayer, Jesus begins to speak in a clear manner,
‘I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.’
The disciples said,
Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.”
Jesus answered them,
‘Do you now believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”
In words we have questions, In words we find answers.
Now we know – The disciples were ready to eavesdrop on the existential prayer..
And….Jesus prays, ‘Father, the hour has come…..’
It had been almost three years since Jesus told his mother that ‘it is not yet my time’ and now, almost three years time, it is time. It was time to return to the place and position he had held since before creation, it was time for Jesus to complete his mission and purpose on earth, it was time for Jesus to glorify God.
It is time
Jesus prays for himself, for all that is about to happen on earth and in heaven.
Jesus prays for those who have walked with him as they face the coming hours and days of horror and confusion, but even more for the remainder of their earthly lives as they approach the world with the unacceptable truth.
Jesus prays for us, followers who did not experience first hand moments with the Jesus, God in the flesh, but nonetheless, have stepped onto, and into, the Way that is Jesus.
This morning we focus on two words that are prominent features or this intense prayer uttered by Jesus, and overheard by his followers.
Glory and Unity
‘This is Eternal Life’
Let’s begin with the word Glory, or as a verb glorify or glorified
Praying for himself, Jesus said, ‘glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you’
Praying for those who had a first hand experience with Jesus and would become the leaders of the followers, he said, ‘I have been glorified in them’
Praying for us, he said, ‘The glory that you have given me I have given them’
As the apostle Paul sought to explain Jesus to the Hebrews he used the word Glory this way:
Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being
Glory is on of those words that we are free to use but not so easy to define.
In Medieval times artists would depict the holy glory of biblical character, especially Jesus, with a halo around the head immersed in light, or sometimes there would be a light over the person.
As we look at this prayer of Jesus, we see that this word glory is used most often as a verb, an action word….something was done.
So, What are these glory actions?
Jesus explains the glory that he has already given the father by saying,
‘I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do’ and ‘I have made your name known’
Also, in the context of this moment, in the shadow of the cross, we hear him say to the Father, ‘glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you’
In making these three ‘glory’ comments, Jesus defines what it is to glorify God, it is to show God, it is to point to God, it is to speak the truth of God. As we see in the apostle Paul’s statement, Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being – everything Jesus did, every embrace he gave, every acceptance that he offered, every truth he shared, every concern he addressed, every time he brought peace in the midst of chaos, in everything, he gave glory to God by revealing and showing, and living out, the truth of God. In his very presence there was glory, not because of a light over his head or a voice coming down from heaven, but in the life he lived. In life he gave glory.
Now, as he prays, he asks God to continue to show and reveal God’s glory in Jesus through the cross and the return to his holy seat.
His disciples glorified Jesus, by seeking, and striving, to live as he lived. To accept the challenge to show Jesus to the world. In how they lived amongst people as well as how they lived when they were apart from people, the hospitality and love by which they encountered people, the compassion and mercy they showed in the moments with people, the truth they sought and shared with all people.
And us, the people that came after the prayer, those who were not with Jesus in the flesh but, nevertheless, have been blessed, thousands of years later by those who were with him. To us, Jesus says that he has already given us his glory.
Jesus’ glory is that he has revealed God to us through the glory that he gave to God, the glory of living and showing God. Through his life in the flesh, giving a exact portrayal of God, Jesus has now given that same glory to us. He has shown us God and shown us how to reflect God in our life.
This understanding of glory, and therefore our mission, is of such importance that it is part of his final prayer prior to his arrest and death.
Our mission is to glorify Jesus, our mission is therefore to glorify God. This is not usually done due to an emotional moment, it is not usually done with our hands lifted in the air, it is not even necessarily done when we are on our knees – Our glorification of God most usually happens when our hands are reaching out, when we cease to see the labels that keep us from embracing others, when we have spent the time seeking truth so living it flows naturally from our life.
It is of immense importance, also, in this prayer we see one other element that gabbed Jesus attention at this existential moment between Jesus and the Father. That element is….
We see the correlation of glory and unity as we look at Jesus’ words after he said he had given us his glory…
The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Our oneness, our unity, comes from our oneness and unity, with God.
Faith living and Faith practice are an individual journey and a community journey. When the followers returned to Jerusalem we see that ‘All the followers, men and women, were constantly devoting themselves to prayer,’
Oneness and unity, are not a passive, opinionless existence. Disagreement, disputes, and alternative views among any group of people who have free choice will always call for hard and difficult work, as well as personal humility, grace, mercy, sacrifice, and love.
Unity and oneness cannot coexist together with selfishness and personal agendas.
If we look closely at Christ life, we see two surprises to Jesus, God in the flesh. The first was the depth of the experience of the grief that comes with the loss of a loved one, or probably any type of loss. This revelation was a pivotal moment in the life of Jesus.
The second surprise was the experience of anger that at the eye witness of abuse, especially spiritual abuse. The human response of Jesus at witnessing individuals using the sincere faith of others in order for personal gain and advancement revealed the passionate perspective, and protectiveness of God for us (as a father). God was not a stranger to dealing with abusive people, or groups, but to see abuse from a human perspective was shocking.
Jesus, however, was not surprised by the human response to disagreement, division, arguments, and even contention – they were all met with Love by Christ – multi sided love was always the answer and always the path to the solution – or at least the way to co-exist admit disagreement.
Disagreement was always an opportunity for love.
Finally, the stated purpose for this prayer and the purpose of Jesus’ life, as he said…..
This is Eternal Life
In verse 3, even as Jesus had just begun the prayer that had the disciples’ ear, he interrupts his prayer for himself to speak for his current followers and us. He states his reason for the plea to the Father, he states his mission of his relationships with humans. He says,….
And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent
As he closes the prayer he completes this thought as he adds,
‘I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves’
This is eternal life, now, Zoe. Glory and Unity, Life lived and Oneness pursued, individuals who live lives reflecting God as taught through the life of Jesus and as community – seen through a true collective human oneness.
Glory • Unity • Life
It is a purposeful and passionate prayer, a prayer that we are meant to eavesdrop on, a prayer that is an instruction for the lasting pursuit of life.