Weekly Sermon (19)

Sermon – May 12, 2024

Light for the path ahead…

May 12, 2024

Scripture: John 17:6-19

From the very beginning Jesus knew this moment would arrive. Who he was, and all that he had come to do, somehow came together in these last few moments alone with those closest to him…those closest friends who had been chosen to carry his incredible revelation of the true nature of God forward after he was no longer with them. Jesus’ whole ministry had been dedicated to revealing God’s loving nature, and now, as his time drew near, he longed to share with them once more, to try and prepare them for what was coming, to assure them that their relationship with him was real and lasting, and that their mission was so critical, so important.

And though they had been together for only three years, it seemed like a lifetime. Getting to know each other, and forming a tight knit family who could be trusted and counted on had been no easy task. Truly these individuals represented a cross section of humanity at large…from brilliant to slow-to-understand, from impetuous and boastful, to contemplative and quiet, from early-on-whole hearted-believers, to those more reserved even until the very end, from young and energetic, to older and less so…in short, the only common bond they shared, was that they looked, sounded, and behaved so much like the rest of humanity…and so much like the rest of us I suppose.

And now, in these last waning moments before everything would change…before the world they had walked through these past three years would be turned fully upside down, Jesus decided to lay it all down one more time.  He knew that in looking back his disciples would remember this night as the most frightening and critical one of their whole lives. They all would look back on this night as the singular moment when all they knew, all they had hoped for, all they had believed to be true, would be changed in an instant…and their lives would, at least temporarily, be left completely jumbled in confusion and disarray.

Because he knew the events to come shortly, Jesus knew that whatever he shared with them in these last moments would be remembered pretty much word for word. He knew that they would re-gather together after the initial shock of his loss, and tell and retell the stories of their times together. But mostly, he knew that the shock of what was soon to take place would fix this night forever in their memories. And so he waited for the right moment, waited for that quiet time after a meal, when everything calms down, when all the dishes have been cleared from the table and everyone pushes back a bit, resting in the afterglow of a meal shared amongst the closest of friends.

This time however, instead of once again trying to patiently explain the truths he longed for them to know, Jesus decided to talk directly to God his Father. Unlike times in the past when he had gone off on his own to commune with God, this time Jesus put his deep concern, and the anguish of the moment into words his followers could hear. And so he prayed out loud in their hearing, and hopefully, into their understanding.

And surely, just as he knew it would, those words have survived the test of time. That last public prayer of Jesus has been told and retold over and over into the hearts and understanding of all those blessed to know of this itinerant carpenter whose brief walk through the human story changed the course of history for all time.

His prayer, prayed aloud in the disciple’s presence, was meant to say it all…to sum up all that Jesus had come to show and to teach them in just a few short words, and to lay out a pathway for them to follow going forward. And all of it carried an irresistible promise of goodness and love to come, in words that would offer hope to the disciples, as well as to all who would follow.

This morning I would like to share with you those last words Jesus spoke to the Father that night. Words that have been remembered and retold so many times since that iff-fated evening so long ago. Words meant for his disciples then, and for disciples now. Let us hear them again, as though it was all of us here for whom Jesus was praying in those moments before his arrest and trial, for in some very real way, I believe it surely was. Seated there in the afterglow of a warm fellowship meal shared with the closest of friends, Jesus began his prayer as he always did…


‘Father my Father…You know I have worked so long and hard  to share all that you are with these dear friends of mine.  Tirelessly I have sought to teach them of your mercy and love. I have tried to instill in them a confidence that life lived in and through you, is life worthy of your name…a name that fully understood, is truly the essence and fabric of goodness and light, of love, joy, and hope all wrapped up together. For to live and walk in your name, to seek to be all that you call them to be is the greatest of challenges, and yields the greatest of rewards.

Father, I have sought to teach them all that you have asked me too, to reveal your true nature through my words and actions. To make you known to them, really known to them, so that whenever or wherever they turn they will know you really are just as I have shown them. I believe they do know, and have learned that I came from you, and have truthfully revealed your essence as that force of love which underpins all of creation. I have taught them that you truly are the author of the love found in holy relationship…and the source of ‘family’ in the truest and original meaning of the word.

So now Father, at this moment in which all is set to change for them, I sincerely ask that you would hold them close in your embrace. I am asking on their behalf, for though they are now of us and of life eternally being renewed, they still live and walk through a world, and amongst a people not aware of you, or of your love for them. They need you to walk with them through the hardship and trials that are sure to come, as well as through the disappointments which sometimes seem to be the whole of life. And especially in this moment, I ask that you comfort them when they are visited by fear, that fear which stalks them in the quiet of the night, fear that can threaten to lure them off of the pathway of truth and holiness. I ask you to keep them safe and secure, for they are the first to know of your deep and abiding grace, the first to have been asked to proclaim the truth of your all-encompassing love to a starving and desperate world.

Father, everything you gave me I have given to them…all I am and all you are can be seen in who they are. They walk, talk, listen, and live carefully in the love they have been shown.

Help them to remain strong in seeking to reflect and reveal your love, for I am coming back to you and they are remaining behind to continue and complete the work we began among them. I place them back into your care, every one of those you gave me to teach, and to care for. Not a single one has fallen away save for the one who fulfilled the prophecy through his betrayal. May the temptation that snatched Judas away from further service, serve as a stark reminder of just how much the world stands in opposition to love lived out in the fullness of your truth.

Father, I pray these words tonight in their hearing, so that they may hear and understand every word…so that they might fully grasp the fullness of joy and love which has been offered to them.

I know that they will encounter hard times and difficulty as they walk through life, but I know just as surely that you will hold them even tighter whenever the road is rough, and in those times when understanding seems such a stranger. Father, love them right through all of the world’s criticism and condemnation, keep them safe and secure as they remain defiant of everything that refuses to acknowledge that your love is the truest path to follow, and in truth the only path out of the wilderness of separation from your love and your grace.

Father they are ours and will ever remain so. They look, act, and sound like us, for truly we are one…one in thought, one in passion, and one in pursuit of love in all its richness and glory. As we are fully one in the holiest of relationships, as we live out and reveal that love has no meaning or reality apart from  relationship, so too have you invited them in to share with us, to be fully a part of all we are and all we have ever been.

Help them Father both to find and to live out this unity of purpose and life together, to feel and to know the grace of friendship blessed by your grace, friendship sufficient to overcome any obstacle placed before them on their journey. Through your grace and by your love they will walk together in a peace that is far beyond understanding of life’s circumstances, and with a joy that runs deeper than the deepest river, welling up from sources unknown, and spilling over on to all who come to know your promise, and your call to blessed unity.

They now know the truth, and it has made them holy. Keep them holy as they seek to share your grace, for they are the light posts of your love, and the messengers of hope to a world in need…bless them Father as you have so blessed me…so be it…amen’


Isn’t it amazing to hear Jesus pray this way? To hear of the confidence he had in all those he had worked so long to teach? To hear him clearly state that this unlikely, and very human bunch of misfits and very ordinary individuals had been first chosen, and then equipped to carry forward the greatest story ever told? To hear him state confidently that they could and would do so, even knowing their weakness and humanness…even knowing our own weakness and tendency to waver in our commitment to follow wherever the path of holy service might lead us.

And isn’t it so interesting to hear again that it all is based on relationship…to hear that our God is relationship…that the Trinity we call ‘God’, is three in one perfect relationship, and the model for us to follow as we seek to reflect that love.

For true and lasting relationship, grounded in and dependent upon the grace of God, provides both the balance, mercy, and the forgiveness necessary to remain committed to one another.  

Jesus was praying that we might all be in close, trusting, and loving relationship with each other in order to enable us to do the work placed before us. In essence, Jesus was asking the Father to enable true unity…calling us specifically to Christian community…but what exactly does that look like

It looks like people in touch with each other, people caring enough to know another’s needs, people reaching out a hand to help without a moment’s hesitation, people pooling their resources for the good of all, making sure all are a part of and entitled to the care and concern of everybody else. It is people sharing a cup of coffee after worship right here on Sunday morning.

Jesus prayed so deeply that night for each one of us. In particular, he prayed for deep and continued unity. He knew well in advance what we each would be up against, he knew what the world would throw into each of our paths, and how much we would be tested and tempted to stray from the call to love. We need unity for it alone gives us the ability to carry on each and every day…a walk not possible save for the heart of the God’s Spirit as our guide and friend.

The covenant community we have here is real…it is at the very core of meaningful human life. It is the cutting edge between living joyfully in relationship with the Lord and with each other…and mere existence. Come let us celebrate the wonder of Christian love lived out in blessed community. Come, let us give thanks that we have a Lord and Savior who thought it was important enough in his hour of greatest need and deepest trial to pray not for himself, but for us…to pray that we might be willing to pick up his cross, and carry his story forward into the brightness of a new day in the fullness of time…let us ever hasten to this our solemn task…


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