Easter 7 Sunday

From the Connections:
In John’s account of the Last Supper, after his final teachings to his disciples before the events of his passion begin, Jesus addresses his Father in heaven. He begins praying for himself, that he may obediently bring to completion the work of redemption entrusted to him by the Father. Next he prays for his disciples, that they may faithfully proclaim the word he has taught them. Finally (today’s Gospel pericope), Jesus prays for the future Church – us – that we may be united in the “complete” love that binds the Father to the Son and the Son to his Church, and that in our love for one another the world may come to know God.

HOMILY POINTS: In his “High Priestly Prayer,” Jesus pleads with the Father that the unique sense of “oneness” that exists between the Father and Son might exist among us, as well. It is a unity of complete love embracing all, from Genesis to the Gospel of the empty tomb to our own parish family. Christ calls us to work for that sense of “oneness,” that sense of “connectedness” and “completeness” within our own Church by recognizing and honoring the essential dignity that every one of us possesses as children of God and in seeking ways to tear down the barriers that divide and alienate us from one another. Christ’s prayer the night before he dies is that we realize his hope for the Church he leaves behind: a Church of welcome and acceptance that refuses to trap one another by labels and categories, a faith that seeks to find and honor what unites and binds us together as the people of God.

A prayer for busy moms, coaches, and grandparents
Remember the mom who taught your second grade religious education class the year you received your First Communion?  Now that you’re a parent yourself, you understand and appreciate the extraordinary sacrifice of time she had made and her generosity of heart to prepare you and your classmates for your First Communion with such patience, understanding and love.  Jesus’ prayer in today’s Gospel is for her.
As you watch your own son or daughter play team sports, you see yourself at their age struggling to make contact with the ball or trying to stop an opposing player who had height and weight — and skill — over you.  But there was that one coach who took you under his or her wing, who worked you hard to show you that you could do it.  No, you didn’t make the pros or get an athletic scholarship to a first-tier school — but you left that team with a confidence and work ethic that you carry to this day.  In his Cenacle prayer the night before he died, Jesus blesses that dedicated coach.
           
Most of us have or had a favorite aunt or uncle or grandparent.  We could talk to them about anything.  Their love was unconditional, their support total — and their advice honest.  They may have taught us to do things we still cherish: tying our own dry flies, baking an old family recipe, playing guitar, painting in water colors.  Our lives have been blessed by the wisdom of their years and the lessons of their experience.  At the Last Supper, Jesus gives thanks for their blessing to us and their families.

On the night before he died, Jesus prayed for and exalted all the family members and friends and teachers and coaches and mentors in our lives who have instilled in us the values of the Gospel.   In John’s account of the Last Supper, after his final teachings to his disciples before the events of his passion begin, Jesus addresses his Father in heaven.  He begins praying for himself, that he may obediently bring to completion the work of redemption entrusted to him by the Father.  Next he prays for his disciples gathered with him in the Cenacle, that they may faithfully proclaim the Word he has taught them.  Finally (today’s Gospel), Jesus prays for the Church of the future — those who teach, reveal, and proclaim God’s love in our midst, and those of us whose lives have been blessed and enriched by their witness.  It is that love of God that binds us together as a Church, that makes us not just an association of good people but a family of faith.  In Jesus’ “high priestly prayer,” we behold our connectedness to the Church of all times and places: from the Risen Christ’s greeting of peace Easter night to our own Alleluias this Easter season.  Christ exalts those who strive to create that sense of unity and calls us to work for that connectedness with one another and with those who follow us by honoring the essential dignity that everyone possesses as a child of God. 




We have a wonderful mystery to contemplate this morning, and it is summarized in a strange formula. It's not really all that complicated, but it is worthy of reflection for it has implications for our lives together. Here is the formula, an equation, really: 1 + 1 + 1 = One.
Rather strange math, isn't it? Well, it's God's math, so let's see how it works.

That strange formula really comes from the gospel text for today. For the past several weeks during this Easter season, our gospel readings have come from that section of John's gospel known as the Final Discourse of Jesus. This last speech, if you will, that Jesus makes to his disciples concludes with these verses from the 17th chapter. It is really a prayer of Jesus to his Father in heaven and has often been called the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus. In a sense, it is Jesus' last will and testament, his parting shot, his last effort to teach, to exhort, to encourage, to empower his disciples.

Now for the math part. Listen to Jesus' words: "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." Did you hear it? 1 + 1 + 1 = One. It's not too difficult, once we understand the parts of the equation. Let's unravel the mystery slowly...
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 One of the most meaningful experiences of my life took place in the Philippines. In the remote village of Lubuagan, high in the mountain provinces of northern Luzon, is a small mission school of some 250 students. The school and its sister church are on the main highway to Manila, which at this point is a narrow, treacherous dirt road, built on a mountain ledge. Few outsiders have been in this area, except missionaries, because it is so remote and primitive.

It had begun to rain on that Monday morning when I began my first day of talks at little Kalinga Academy. We had three convocations ... and some classroom presentations. The principal came to me in the afternoon and said many of the townspeople had asked for a worship service in the evening and would I baptize some of the children of the congregation. There had been no resident minister for some time. Of course I said yes, and we made arrangements for the community-wide evening service.

The missionary nurse who had driven us in said, with despair in her voice, "I don't think we had better use the Jeep to try to get back to the church ... we'd have serious problems getting down and it would be practically impossible to get back up the road again, even with four-wheel drive. It looks like you'll have to walk down by yourself in the dark." There is no electricity in the village ... so I took a flashlight, such as it was, and set out.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, I reached the church expecting to find only a handful of people in that awful downpour. Certainly, no one would bring an infant out in weather like this. How wrong could one be! The church was filled to capacity with standing room only. There were candles on the pews and Coleman lanterns on the pulpit. A scene like this was beyond one's wildest imagination. The eerie glow of candles and kerosene lamps, every available space taken, the steady staccato of rain on the sheet metal roof, the foot-pumped organ leading in hymns of praise, an occasional whimper from a child, and beautiful Filipino Christians, silent and earnestly listening to the words of a Galilean Jew as interpreted by a caucasian from America.

What a beautiful scene that was. A congregation rejoicing in common worship of a common Lord, setting apart their children in a centuries-old sacrament and pledging spiritual responsibility to nurture them in Christ. In that moment we were perfectly one. The thing that drew us together....
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Human Porcupines  

The German philosopher Schopenhauer compared the human race to a bunch of porcupines huddling together on a cold winter's night. He said, "The colder it gets outside, the more we huddle together for warmth; but the closer we get to one another, the more we hurt one another with our sharp quills. And in the lonely night of earth's winter eventually we begin to drift apart and wander out on our own and freeze to death in our loneliness."
As humans we have been created with the need for companionship. I am always fascinated how Adam, when He enjoyed sinless fellowship with His Creator, still had a desire for one of his own kind (Gen. 2:20). God has created institutions such as marriage and family and church to meet these needs for human intimacy and belonging....

Jesus was well aware of our need for intimate human companionship, and He was also well aware of the challenges and "sharp quills" we face in the process. So in His final prayer to the Father, just hours before He would be suspended on the cross, Jesus prayed for the unity of His church. Second only to the concern for His glory was this longing that His disciples would be united. He knew how much supernatural help we as sinners need in this area. He also knew how an ununified church would fail to bring Him the glory He so much desires.

Randy Smith, Jesus Prays for His Church
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 Futility 

A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle;...they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; ...those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. It (the release) comes at last--the only un-poisoned gift earth ever had for them--and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence....a world which will lament them a day and forget them forever.

Mark Twain shortly before his death.
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God and Creation Are Always One

There's a story told of respected astronomers at the Vatican Observatory who presented the church with evidence of another planet having the characteristics of our own, possibly to the extent of supporting sentient life. Two schools of thought emerged: the first advised the immediate dispatch of missionaries to bring the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ to those aliens, presumed to be very much like us. The second school advised against an expedition. Jesus came to us at the right time and place, they argued, and he will go to them when the time is appropriate, too. The astronomers allowed the debate to rage for a while before advising that the light from the new planet had taken so long to reach us that our cousin planet had actually ceased to exist several millions of years ago.

If God is immutable, however, can nothing ever change? We know that to be patently untrue. Theologians have a lot to say on these subjects and I suppose the most straightforward answer is that God and creation are always "one" no matter what part of creation we are looking at, or the era we are considering.

Anthony Jewiss

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 A Prayer for the Future


If we assume that Jesus did envision some kind of future for his followers and if he really did have hope that the Father would glorify him despite the dark events soon to descend upon him, then it makes sense that Jesus would pray for the future wellbeing of his disciples and any latter-day people who became associated with them on account of the witness of those same disciples. In this sense, Jesus in the upper room on that particular night was not unlike a father praying to God for the future safety and flourishing of his own children and grandchildren. Far from an unlikely thing to do, it's actually a very natural thing for a person of love to do regarding those whom he held dear. What parent, upon first laying eyes on a newborn child, does not immediately feel welling up within him or her far-reaching desires for this child to grow and be well and to flourish far into the future, including into the years beyond the life of the parent?

Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations
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Humor: Church Unity

The wrong way to achieve unity in the church is to try and appeal to everyone. The church humor magazine "The Door" facetiously announced these newly formed churches seeking to do just that:

Potluck Assembly
Little Bit O'Bible Church
Church of the Big P.A.
The Short-Term Pastor Center
Theology-Free Church
The Inaccurate Heart of Mary Catholic Church

Seldom United Church
Bill Gates' Memorial Geek Orthodox

New Wife Fellowship
Church of the Perpetual Building Program

Comfortable Pew Family Center
Clean Bathroom Bible Temple

Better Than the Rest Believer's Fellowship

Legalist Bondage Assembly

The Church Where the Pastor's Family Runs Everything

The Two-Or-More-But-Sometimes-Less-Depending-On-Who-Shows-Up Bible Church
Feelgood Fellowship
Twist-and-Shout Revival Center

John Green, "Newly Formed Churches"

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 Reaping a Whirlwind

We have sown a wind of secularism, modernism, and shifting moral values. As a direct result, we are now reaping a whirlwind of immorality, sexually transmitted disease, corruption, and violent crime. The only hope that exists for our individual, national, spiritual and institutional recovery is to return to the spiritual values that originally formed the foundation of North American national life--the teaching of Jesus Christ, as found in the Word of God.

Grant R. Jeffrey, Jesus - The Great Debate, p. 267.
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The Universality of the Golden Rule

Despairing of the possibility of ever bringing about religious unity through doctrinal, philosophical or theological dialogue, a great many people have latched onto the Golden Rule as the ultimate expression of their faith. It is provocative and inspiring to discover the remarkable universality of this ethical principle. In Hinduism it is stated like this: "Those gifted with intelligence should always treat others as they themselves wish to be treated." The Shinto version is: "The suffering of others is my suffering; the good of others is my good." In Buddhism it is: "A person can minister to friends and familiars by ... treating them as he treats himself." Taoists say: "Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain and regard your neighbor's loss as your own loss." In Islam: "None of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." For Sikhs it is: "As thou deemest thyself so deem others. Then shalt thou become a partner in heaven." In Confucianism and Zoroastrianism the rule is stated in the same way as in the New Testament except that it is couched in negative terms: "Do not unto others what you would not they should do unto you." The Jewish equivalent in Leviticus 19:18 is "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Carl L. Jech, Channeling Grace, CSS Publishing Company
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Humor: Are You a Believer?

Max Lucado, tells the following story with wit and style,

Some time ago I came upon a fellow on a trip who was carrying a Bible.

"Are you a believer?" I asked him.
"Yes," he said excitedly.
I've learned you can't be too careful.
"Virgin birth?" I asked.
"I accept it."
"Deity of Jesus?"
"No doubt."
"Death of Christ on the cross?"
"He died for all people."
Could it be that I was face to face with a Christian? Perhaps. Nonetheless, I continued my checklist...