7th Sunday of Easter
May 8, 2016
John 17: 20-26 Click on this link to open the reading in Oremus Bible Browser
“Make us love what you command and desire what you promise, that, among all the changes of this world, our hearts may be fixed where true joy is found.” So says the Prayer of the Day. I can’t even remember when it was that this sentence caught my attention, but it says so neatly what a Christian’s compass would be. This is the way to True North, the orientation to life that keeps us on the path of God’s Plans and puts everything that distracts us in it’s proper place.
In the fragment of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in the Gospel reading, he says much the same thing. Jesus wants the disciples he is leaving behind to be connected to the God who sent him and who is one with him. “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.” In the reading of the last few weeks, he’s told them that they are to love each other, and that the world will know God’s love by seeing their love for each other and for the world. It’s a big ask, and often more than humans can do. But now we hear Jesus’ prayer for them. He knows how hard it will be to be so loving and accepting of each other’s foibles and failures, and he wants them to know that forgiveness is part of the blessing of the community he is creating among them. He promised the Holy Spirit to teach and guide them, as we heard last week, because Jesus knows that they cannot sustain such love without God’s power.
“Make us love what you command and desire what you promise…” God’s commands are so different than what our culture expects of us. Caring about the welfare of people we know is hard enough, but we can generally do it; but caring about people who are far from us, and different than we are, is really hard. But that is what Jesus commands. We are besieged by advertising that wants us to want more – more stuff, more position, more money. We don’t usually hear the world exhorting us to spend more time helping others, supporting a church ministry, growing a ministry by sharing our leadership abilities. We want people to see how hard we’ve worked by showing off our stuff. But the reality is that money comes and goes, no matter how thrifty we are. Our health comes and goes even when we take care of ourselves. Jobs come and go, no matter diligent we are. So much of our lives are out of our control. “That amid all the changes of this world, our hearts may be fixed where true joy is found.”
Jesus prays not only for the disciples gathered around him on that Passover night that will end with his arrest and crucifixion, he prays for those who will come to believe through their words and their work. Jesus prays for us. From 2000 years ago, Jesus has prayed for your heart to be fixed on the true joys of being a child of God, with all the blessings of confidence, care, and compassion that are included in that position. Have you ever been in a place where you couldn’t imagine how God was at work to bless you, and other people’s prayers have held you up? I have.
When my mother was felled by a spinal cord accident, she insisted that we notify everyone in her computer address book about what had happened and ask them to pray for her and for us. We maintained a prayer chain of 75 people during the months of her limited recovery and eventual death. With every notice I sent out, we got prayers from dozens of people. Knowing that all those people were praying for us all was like a lifejacket when I was sure I was about to go under. All those prayers were what saved us from despair and carried the light of God’s love to us when we needed it most. I’ve never experienced anything like it before or since. But now I know what it feels like to have prayer as the power to protect you and bring you life.
So when you feel as if the world is too crazy a place for you to live the life you want, remember that Jesus prays for you. When everything you counted on falls apart, remember that Jesus prays for you. When the world is dark and you think you’ll never find the light, remember that Jesus prays for you. Even when you are feeling the most blessed and joyful, remember that Jesus prays for you. Jesus prays that you will love what he commands, and desire what he has promised, so that even when everything in the world is feels like it’s up for grabs, your heart will be fixed in him, where true joy is found. Amen.