“On Behalf of Those Who Will Believe”

John 17:20-26

Easter 7, June 2, 2019

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches

 

John 17:20-26

 

”I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 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.

 

Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Prayer.

 

(Note: Finn Cavney and Kailynn Goodness are two infants who are being baptized prior to this sermon at West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Church.)

It can be a powerful experience to be prayed over.

 

Thirty-nine years ago

During the first week of June

I attended the Central New York Conference

Local Pastor Licensure School at Casowasco.

Think of this as boot camp for pastors.

 

At age 19,

I was, by a country mile,

The youngest and least experienced member of the class.

 

I don’t know if it was my youth, enthusiasm, or my natural good looks (hah!)

But by the end of the week I was chosen:

I was centered in a living room,

Surrounded by about 25 pastor-teachers of the school and fellow students.

Everyone reached out and place their hands on me.

People took turns praying out loud for me

Until everyone was all prayed out.

 

It was an extraordinarily powerful event.

It brought me to tears.

This event became one of many milestones in my call to ordained ministry

And has been branded forever into my memory.

 

It can be a powerful experience to be prayed over.

Fight the temptation to allow prayer to become superficial or shallow.

 

….

The closing passage from the 17th chapter of the Gospel of John

Is the conclusion of a five chapter section

Scholars have titled “The Farewell Discourse.”

Jesus is preparing his followers,

His disciples,

His soon-to-be apostles,

For his ascension into heaven

And his physical absence.

 

As we heard last Sunday,

Jesus tells us that he is ascending to the Father,

To prepare a place for us

Where we will dwell forever,

One with Jesus and the Father.

 

The Farewell Discourse concludes with Jesus praying.

His prayer, in its entirety, is encompassed in John, chapter 17.

Jesus prays, not in the Garden of Gethsemane,

As is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke,

But in the same location

Where he washed the filthy feet of his disciples;

In the Upper Room.

 

It is important to note

That Jesus prayed aloud,

With intention that all his disciples should hear his every word.

 

It is important to note

That Jesus first prays

To the Father

For himself;

That his forthcoming Passion, suffering, and death

Would give glory to the Father. (17:1-9)

 

It is important to note

That Jesus prays secondly

For his disciples;

That they be protected from the evil one,

That they may have the joy of Jesus completed in themselves,

That they may be sent into the world sanctified in truth. (17:10-19)

It can be a powerful experience to be prayed over,

Especially when the one doing the praying is Jesus.

Imagine how the disciples felt

When Jesus prayed aloud

Just for them.

 

It is important to note

That Jesus concludes his prayer,

Immediately before the beginning of his Passion

With his betrayal and arrest,

By praying for those

Who will come to believe in Jesus

At some point in the future

Based on the testimony of the disciple’s word. (17:20-26)

In other words,

Jesus is praying for you and me

(for Finn and Kailynn).

 

It can be a powerful experience to be prayed over,

Especially when the one doing the praying is Jesus.

 

Instead of being swept away with anxiety, humiliation, or impending betrayal

Jesus turns his prayerful mind and heart towards future disciples,

In his generation, and in generations to come.

He prays aloud

So that his prayer

Might be recorded for the benefit of his eternal, universal Church.

 

Jesus petitions his heavenly Father,

Calling him “Righteous.” (17:25)

He asks him for two things:

One, unity, and

Two, intimacy.

 

Unity and intimacy.

 

….

Let’s talk about unity.

Jesus desires us to be united,

That all may be one,

For the purpose of …

For the purpose that ...

All the world may believe.

 

Our unity is to become

The perfect means

By which the Holy Spirit can empower

The Church to make disciples of all the world.

 

Unity is not conformity.

Christian unity expects that we will not all agree

On issues of dogma, theology, or social principles.

 

Christian unity does expect us to be united

Just as Jesus and our Righteous Father are united.

The substance of Christian unity is God’s love.

The purpose of unity is belief in Jesus Christ.

 

Love brings about the transformation of the world

From our temporary and transitory kingdoms

Into the eternal kingdom of God.

 

….

Let’s talk about intimacy.

 

Jesus prays that his current and future disciples

Might share in the same intimate love that he and the Father have shared

Since before the foundation of the world.

The love that was the sole agency of God,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Is extended to all disciples of Jesus.

God’s love is given as a gift of grace

To you and me.

 

“God loves you, and so do I,” I am often known to say.

When speaking about members and friends of the parish

I often use the word “beloved.”

This is entirely intentional!

And I’d encourage you to do the same.

 

Sharing in the intimate love of our Heavenly Father

Unifies us with God and

With one another.

This gift of sharing in the intimate love of God

Is truly, amazing grace.

 

….

 

Dearly beloved,

(Beloved Finn and Kailynn),

Know that

 

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Jesus had you in mind.

 

Jesus prayed for you aloud

Right before his betrayal, arrest, Passion, and death.

Jesus looked upon your face.

Jesus traced your fingerprints and

Counted the hairs on your head.

 

If Jesus prayed so personally,

So intimately for you,

Shouldn’t we also pray for one another?

 

Know this to be true:

Jesus prayed that you and I might be unified

That all the world might believe.

Pray with Jesus,

That it might be so.

 

Jesus prayed that you and I,

And all the world who comes to believe,

Now and hereafter,

May enjoy the same loving intimacy that

Our Heavenly, Righteous Father shares with His only Begotten Son.

Pray with Jesus,

That it might be so.

 

Glorify God!

The source of our unity.

The source of all love.

Amen.