SM Icons

SM Icons

Ad Sense

Easter 7 Sunday B


 From the Connections:

THE WORD:
In John’s account of the Last Supper, after his final teachings to his disciples before his passion, Jesus addresses his Father in heaven.  Today’s Gospel is from Chapter 17 of John’s Gospel, the “high priestly prayer” of Jesus in which he prays for his disciples, that they may be united in love, persevere despite the world’s “hatred” of them for the Word that they will proclaim, and be “consecrated” in the “truth.”

HOMILY POINTS:
The Gospel challenges us to recognize the prejudices, biases and ambitions that exist within each one of us and to realize how they affect our perception of the “truth” and the decisions we make based on that perception.  We are called to uphold, regardless of the cost, the holiness of “truth” – truth that is rooted in the reality of God’s love and in the sacredness of every person as created in the image and life of God.
Jesus call to discipleship demands the courage and integrity to be willing to embrace the “light” of truth – to recognize the hand of God in all things, to embrace the life of God “breathing” in every human interaction, to realize the sacredness of every human being as created in the image and life of God.
The empty tomb of Easter speaks to the simple yet profound truth of God's great love for us.  Christ calls us, his Church, to speak the joy of that truth to a world hungry to hear it.

*****
From Fr. Tony Kadavil:
 
Introduction: Christian love resulting in the unity of all Christian denominations is the main theme of today’s Scripture lessons. 
 
Scripture lessons: The first reading, taken from Acts, tells us how the eleven apostles as one unit, relying on the power of God, elected Matthias to replace Judas.  This incorporation was an action done by the whole community under the chairmanship of Peter. They chose Matthias by lot, and the outcome was taken to be the will of the Holy Spirit. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 103) thanks God forgiving our r transgressions as far [from us] as the east is from the west.”
 The second reading, taken from John’s first epistle to the Church, emphasizes the centrality of love in our Christian living.  The apostle deals with disunity in the Church by teaching the members the basis of true Christian love and unity.  For John, love and unity among Christians is the first and most important witness for believers to bear. In today's Gospel passage, taken from Jesus’ high-priestly prayer, Jesus prays in particular, for those disciples who are sharing the meal with him.  The core of Jesus' message is love, a love that is to be manifested not only in nice-sounding words but, more convincingly, in the genuine acts of love that will bind his disciples together into one community. The world cannot be evangelized by competing Churches, and that is why Jesus prayed that his disciples might be as fully one as he and the Father are one.  

Life messages: #1: We need to understand, appreciate, cooperate and pray: The denominations are a reality.  There is no use in our blaming each other for the historical events which caused these divisions in Christ’s Body.  What we can do is to learn sympathetically about the doctrinal similarities and differences to our own beliefs among Christian believers, to shed prejudices and suspicion about each other, and to  learn to love each person we encounter and to cooperate with the members of all denominations in all possible ways.  

# 2: We need to go beyond friendship and cooperation: The unity for which we pray is not merely a “comfortable” notion of friendliness and cooperation. It requires also our willingness to dispense with competition between us. We need to open ourselves to each other, to offer gifts to and receive gifts from one another, so that we may truly enter into our shared new life in Christ, which is the only true victory.

# 3: We need to pray fervently in our own denominations and in interdenominational prayer gatherings that God may show us the right way to proceed in achieving true and lasting Christian unity without sacrificing the basic Christian principles and teachings. We should offer also our personal prayers that the unity for which Our Lord prayed may be brought nearer.

 EASTER VII: Acts 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26; 1Jn 4:11-16; Jn 17:11b-19 

Anecdotes: # 1: “Then I’d Be a Baptist” (By Tony Campolo, the Baptist preacher and writer): A preacher pounding away at the pulpit, yelled at the congregation, “Is everybody here a Baptist?” A man several rows back answered, “No I am a Methodist!”  “Why are you a Methodist?” asked the preacher.  “Well, my mother was a Methodist,” said the man.  “And my father was a Methodist.  So, they raised me as a Methodist.”  “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard,” said the preacher.  “If your mother was an ignoramus and your father was an ignoramus, would you be an ignoramus?”  “No,” said the man.  “If my father was an ignoramus and my mother was an ignoramus, I suppose I’d be a Baptist.” Denominationalism is the curse of Christianity and the greatest stumbling block to evangelization.  In today’s Gospel, we hear how Jesus prayed for unity among his   future followers; ignoring Jesus’ wish and prayer has resulted in more than 30,000 Christian denominations giving counter-witness to the true Christian message of forgiveness, unconditional love, unity, and universality.  

# 2: Origin of Christian denominations: Here is a funny story about the origin of Christian denominations. Jesus came to a village and found a man there who was blind. He laid hands on Him and prayed over the man, and he was healed completely. The townspeople were so appreciative that they built a Church, and they called it The First Church of the Laying on of Hands and Healing.

So, Jesus went to the next village, and there He found another blind man. Jesus spit on the ground and made some mud, and applied it to the man’s eyes. He then told the man to go wash in the pool, and the man received his sight. The townspeople were so overjoyed that they decided to start a Church in Jesus’ honor, and they called it The First Church of Here’s Mud in Your Eye and be Healed. Jesus went on to yet a third village, and found a third blind man there. So, Jesus told the man, “If you go and wash in this pool seven times, you will receive your sight back.” So the man did as Jesus said. The townspeople were so appreciative of God’s work that they built a Church in Jesus’ honor too. They named it The First Church of Washing Seven Times and Healing. One day, the Lord called all these groups together for fellowship. But, over the course of time they began to break down over doctrinal discussion as to how healing takes place. One group said, “You can’t heal unless you lay hands on those who are sick.” A second group said, “That’s fine, but if you forget the mud in their eye it doesn’t work.” The third group said, “You guys only have part of the truth; washing seven times is the real key.” The contention became so great among them that they broke the fellowship between them, none of them wanting to associate with heretics any longer. The reality is that their judgments were based on a sliver of insight that God had given them each individually. - Gayle Erwin   

# 3: “There are only Christians here.” Being much concerned about the rise of denominations in the reformed church, John Wesley tells of a dream he had. In the dream, he was ushered to the gates of Hell. There he asked, “Are there any Presbyterians here?” “Yes!” came the answer. Then he asked, “Are there any Baptists? Any Episcopalians? Any Methodists?” Any Catholics? The answer was “Yes!” each time. Much distressed, Wesley was then ushered to the gates of Heaven. There he asked the same question, and the answer was “No!” “No?” To this, Wesley asked, “Who then is inside?” The answer came back, “There are only Christians here.” (Source unknown) 

Introduction: Christian love resulting in Christian unity is the main theme of today’s Scripture lessons.  The first reading, taken from Acts, tells us how the eleven apostles as one unit, relying on the power of God, elected Matthias to replace Judas.  This incorporation was done by the whole community under the chairmanship of Peter, choosing Matthias by lot.  The outcome was taken to be the will of the Holy Spirit.  The second reading, taken from John’s first Letter to the Church, emphasizes the centrality of love in our Christian living.  It shows us how the apostle dealt with disunity in the Church by teaching the members the basis of true Christian love and unity.  For John, love and unity among Christians is the first and most important witness for believers to bear. In today's Gospel passage, Jesus prays in particular for those disciples who are sharing the meal with him.  The core of Jesus' message is love, a love that is to be manifested not only in nice-sounding words but, more convincingly, in the genuine acts of love that bind his disciples together into one community.

First reading, Acts 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26 explained: The paragraphs in Acts 1 immediately preceding today’s reading tell the story of the disciples’ witnessing Jesus' Ascension into Heaven and then returning to Jerusalem to spend their time in prayer, preparing to receive the promised “Power from above.”  Then comes this passage.  The apostles' eagerness to fill their vacant twelfth position might make us ask what's so special about twelve.  Well, twelve is the number of the tribes of ancient Israel, each historically led by a patriarch, then by a judge.  These Jewish followers of Jesus are still thinking in fairly strict Jewish terms.  They have heard Jesus speak about their taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  But the import of that has not sunk in.  They have yet to experience Pentecost, when people from all the ends of the earth are to hear these men preach in the people’s own languages.  So they're still thinking in terms of the fulfillment of ancient promises, not in terms of entirely new promises and prospects.

Second Reading, 1 John 4:11-16 explained: The New American Bible states that the first letter of John was addressed to the early Christian community beset with many problems.  Some members were advocating false doctrines.  Some of them refused to accept the full Divinity and full humanity of Jesus.  Others disregarded the commandment of love of neighbor.  Still others   denied the redemptive value of Jesus' death and refused to accept Faith in Christ as the source of sanctification. These errors are here recognized and rejected.  Here is the Baltimore-style catechism contained in this part of John’s letter.  God loves us and it is God who first loved us.  God doesn't love us because we are good.  God loves us because He is good.  So what should we do?  Love one another. How are we to love each other? We show our love for God by loving one another in action.  What happens when we love one another?  God remains in us.  How do we know God remains in us?  He has given us the Spirit so we can experience His presence within us.  What happens to those who acknowledge Jesus as Son of God?  They remain in God and God remains in them.  Who is God?  God is Love.  What happens to those who remain in Love?  God remains in them and they remain in God.

Exegesis: The number of Christian denominations: According to World Chris­t­ian Ency­clo­pe­dia (Bar­rett, Kurian, and John­son; Oxford Uni­ver­sity Press) World Chris­tian­ity con­sists of over 33,000 dis­tinct denom­i­na­tions (Vol. I, p. 16).  

 Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.  “Jesus’ last testament represents the longest prayer in the Christian Scriptures and revolves around the shared union between the Father and the Son, between the Son and his disciples and among future generations of believers.” (Sanchez Files). The Holy Spirit, through John, wants us to know that Jesus prayed for his disciples that they would carry on his distinctive witness in the world. 

The context: Following the Passover washing of the Apostles’ feet, Jesus begins to prepare the disciples for his departure.  He foretells his betrayal, gives them the great commandment of love and foretells Peter's denial.  He then tells them that he is going to the Father's house where he will prepare a place for them and that he will come again to take them with him.  He promises them the gift of the Holy Spirit and assures them that the Holy Spirit will teach them everything.  He warns of the world's hatred and explains that the Spirit cannot come unless Jesus goes.  Finally, he promises them joy and peace.  Jesus then prays his "High Priestly Prayer," of which our Gospel lesson is part. 

The content of the prayer: The New Interpreter's Bible distinguishes three parts in Jesus’ prayer.  1) Jesus Prays for His Glorification (17:1-8).  2) Jesus Prays for the Faith Community (17:9-23).  3) Jesus Prays for the Eschatological Union of Father, Son, and Believers (17:24-26).  The main elements of the prayer are a) the founding of the community (17:6-8), b) the petition for the preservation and sanctification of the community (17:9-19), c) the petition for the oneness of the community (17:20-23), and d) the petition for the perfecting of the believers (17:24-26). 

Analysis of Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. (A) Jesus’ relationship:  This prayer tells us something about Jesus’ relationship with his disciples.  (i) The disciples are given to Jesus by God.  It is the Holy Spirit, God, Who prompts us to become Jesus’ disciples.   (ii) Through the disciples, glory has come to Jesus because the men whom Jesus has redeemed bring honor to him.  (iii) A disciple is a man who is commissioned to a task.  As the Father has sent Jesus to redeem the world, Jesus sends out his disciples into the world, in order to lead it back to God and to make it aware of God.  He prays for his men in order that they may be such as to win the world for him. 

(B) Jesus’ warning and promise: Further, this passage tells us that Jesus offered his men two things.  (i) He offered them a warning.  He told them that they were different from the world, and that they could not expect anything but hatred from it because their values and standards were different from those of the world.  ii) He offered them his joy.  All Jesus was saying to them was designed to bring them joy.  It is by facing the hostility of the world that they will enter into the Christian joy.

  (C) Jesus’ unique claim:  In this prayer Jesus makes the greatest claim he ever made: "All that I have is Yours, and all that You have is mine"(John 17:10).  Never did Jesus so vividly set forth his oneness with God, He is so much one with God his Father that Jesus exercises the Father’s very power and prerogatives.

The content of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples: Jesus prayed for the victory, unity, protection and consecration of his disciples.  (i) Jesus prayed that they might find victory by living out their Christianity in the rough-and-tumble of life, instead of spending full time in prayer and meditation in convents and monasteries or in a life withdrawn from the world.  Of course, there is a need for prayer, meditation and quiet times for this equipping process.  The disciples must win the world for Christ by living out their Christianity within the world. They must bear witness to Christ through their transparent Christian lives, reflecting Christ’s love, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of humble service.  (ii) Jesus prayed for the unity of his disciples.  The world cannot be evangelized by competing Churches, and that is why Jesus prayed that his disciples might be as fully one as he and the Father are one. But Christian unity is not determined by whether we agree with each other about every interpretation of Scripture or doctrine or form of Church government. Rather, Christian unity is determined by whether and how well we love one another, and whether we reflect the love of God in Christ for the world. (Eph­esians 4:4–6: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; d5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; e6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all). (iii) Jesus prayed for His Father’s protection for his disciples from the attacks of the Evil One.  If the disciples of Christ fall, it is because they try to meet life on their own strength and do not remember the presence of their protecting God and seek His help.  (iv) Jesus prayed that his disciples might be consecrated by the truth.  (a) ‘Consecrate’ means to set apart for a special task (Jer 1:5; Ex 28:41).  (b) It also means to equip a man with the qualities of mind, heart and character which are necessary for that task.  God has chosen us and dedicated us for His special service of loving and obeying Him and bringing others to do the same.  He has not left us to carry out that great task with only our own strength, but by his grace He fits us for our task, if we place our lives in His hands.

Life messages: #1: We need to understand, appreciate, cooperate with and pray with and for each other: The denominations are a reality.  There is no use in our blaming each other for the historical events which caused these divisions in Christ’s Body.  What we can do is to learn sympathetically about the doctrinal similarities and differences of the members of our Christian community and learn to love each one and cooperate with the members of all denominations in all possible ways. 2)  Let us pray fervently that God may show us how to proceed in building true and lasting Christian unity without sacrificing the basic Christian principles and teachings.

JOKE OF THE WEEK

# 1: “What’s the difference between a Baptist and a terrorist?”  The answer is, “You can negotiate with a terrorist!” (Rev. Tony Campolo, the Baptist preacher)


# 2: A sense of humor in church leaders is essential for Christian unity.  Pope John XXIII had it.  When asked by a reporter how many people worked in the Vatican, pope answered, “About half of them!”  On another occasion, when he was being interviewed by the media, the Pope was asked what he would tell the Church to do today if he knew that Christ’s return was to occur tomorrow.  He smiled and answered, “Look busy.” 

# 3: At times we probably feel it would be so much easier if we could be like Lucy in the old Peanuts cartoon: Lucy says to Charlie Brown, "I would have made a great evangelist." Charlie Brown answers, "Is that so?" She says, "Yes, I convinced that boy in front of me in school that my religion is better than his religion." Charlie Brown asked, "Well, how did you do that?" And Lucy answers, "I hit him over the head with my lunch box."

 # 4: Q: How do you know that Lutherans (or your favorite denomination) will be the first ones to rise on the day of resurrection? A: Because Scripture says that the “dead in Christ will rise first.” 

 # 5: You know the joke about the woman crossing a high bridge? There on the parapet is a man preparing to jump off and she rushes to save him. “Don’t jump” she cries, “you are young and have so much to live for.” And before long she is comforting him and asking him about his background. “Are you a Christian?” she asks, and he says yes. “Are you a Baptist by any chance?” and again he says yes. “Are you Strict or Particular?” “Particular” he says and she is radiant. “So am I!” “Are you Particular and vegetarian or Particular and vegan?” “Particular and vegan” he says and she is ecstatic; “so am I! And are you Particular and Vegan of the 2001 Confession or the 2006 confession?” “2001” he says wearily but she is back on her feet. “Then jump, you vile heretic” and she pushes him off…

 # 6: "To dwell above with saints we love,
That will be grace and glory.
To live below with saints, we know;
Well, that's another story!"

19- Additional anecdotes:

1) “If you want to complain about the rabbi, press 4, 5, or 6”: Rabbi Robert Alpers says he once phoned a synagogue and was greeted with this message. "Welcome to Temple Beth Shalom. If you want information about our programs and events, please press 1. For information on our service hours, please press 2. If you would like to complain to the rabbi, please press 3. If you want to complain about the rabbi, press 4, 5, or 6.” It seems that, apparently, more than a few people were upset with the rabbi. Too many things can disrupt the unity of a Church. People get upset with the decisions of a board. Or people get upset with the pastor. Jesus knew that it would not be not easy to maintain unity among a talented, yet sometimes cantankerous group of people. He also knew, however, that we can never accomplish the things that he has called us to accomplish if we do not ask His help to pull together. That is why we have this prayer for unity in today’s Gospel.

 2) "Hmm, he is an atheist."  Jesus Christ said he had never been to a football match. So we took him to one, my friends and I. It was a ferocious battle between the Protestant Punchers and the Catholic Crusaders. The Crusaders scored first. Jesus cheered wildly and threw his hat high up in the air. Then the Punchers scored. And Jesus cheered again wildly and threw his hat high up in the air. This seemed to puzzle the man behind us. He tapped Jesus on the shoulder and asked, "Which side are you rooting for, my good man?" "Me?" replied Jesus, visibly excited by the game. "Oh, I'm not rooting for either side. I'm just enjoying the game." The questioner turned to his neighbor and sneered, "Hmm, an atheist."   

3)  People get upset at some of the silliest things in Church, causing division. There is an old story about two men who were talking, and one of them said, "Did you hear that lightning struck the community Church?" "No," the other man answered. "I haven't been to that Church since they installed that fancy new pulpit. I guess this shows that the Lord was unhappy about such an extravagant waste of money, too." The first man said incredulously, "But the pulpit was at the opposite end of the Church from the place the lightning struck." "Well," said the second man, "I guess God hadn't been in that Church for so long, that He didn't know where the pulpit was." 

4) “This is All Y’all’s Christian Church.” That’s why I think we should all subscribe to the Southerner’s version of the Gospel. You see, there’s no such thing as a singular pronoun in the South. They don’t say you. They say y’all. Even if they’re talking to one person. “Y’all think Wal-Mart’s still open?” “Y’all going to the pig roast tonight?” “Hey Bubba, y’all want some sweet tea?” So in Southern theology, there’s no such thing as an individual. Everyone is a stone built into a spiritual house; everyone is an individual in the midst of a community. But they don’t use the word community in the south; they just use the plural of “y’all,” which is “all y’all.” So what Peter is really saying is “Come to Jesus Christ, the living stone, and because y’all are living stones, too, all y’all will be built into a spiritual house.” This is All Y’all’s Christian Church.

5) Then he put in a Baptist, Presbyterian, and Catholic: A book that has changed my life is What’s So Amazing About Grace? In it the author, Philip Yancey quotes Mark Twain. Apparently Twain used to say he put a dog and a cat in a cage together as an experiment, to see if they could get along. They did, so he put in a bird, pig and goat. They, too, got along fine after a few adjustments. Then he put in a Baptist, Presbyterian, and Catholic; soon there was not a living thing left.

In this area it might be Baptist, Pentecostal and Catholic. But you know, it’s hard enough sometimes for a Wesleyan, a Wesleyan and a Wesleyan to get along.  

6)  Finding a solution to Christian disunity is more difficult! A man's car was held up by a broken down car in front of him. He just sat there and sounded the horn while the woman driver in front was desperately trying to start her car. He sounded the horn even more impatiently and the lady walked round to his car and said sweetly, "Why don’t we change places? I’ll sound the horn and you can start the car!" It’s easy to grumble - finding a solution is more difficult!

7) “What is required that the world may believe?” One of the most memorable sections in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ prize-winning novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude concerns a strange disease that invaded the old village of Macondo from somewhere in the surrounding swamp. It was a lethal form of insomnia that attacked the whole town. The initial effect was the inability of people to sleep, although the villagers did not feel any bodily fatigue at all. A more critical effect than that slowly manifested itself: loss of memory. Gradually the victims realized they could no longer remember or recall the past. Soon they found that they could not remember the name or the meaning of the simplest things used everyday. You’ve heard of the fellow who said two things happen to you when you grow old — “one is the loss of memory, and I can’t remember the other.” Christians are to be reminders, living reminders of Christ’s presence in the world. The world’s lethal disease is amnesia, the loss of memory. The Christian is God’s secret potion that cures this malady. The original source for, “The Church is never more than one generation away from oblivion” seems to have been Ronald Regan’s identical comment about Freedom. But the real question is, “What is required that the world may believe?” 

8) “Real" Lord's Prayer : Here's a good story for football fans. Many of you may know the name Reggie White. Reggie is a defensive end for the Green Bay Packers. But he is also an ordained minister. Before signing a 17 million dollar deal with the Packers, White had said that he would look to God to tell him where to play. Later, Green Bay Coach Mike Holmgren confessed that he had left a message on White's answering machine that said, "Reggie, this is God. Go to Green Bay." (1) Today we want to focus for a few moments on prayer. But not just any prayer -- we are focusing on a prayer from the lips of Jesus. Our lesson from John's Gospel is often referred to as the "real" Lord's Prayer for Christian unity. 

9)"Lunatics never unite." A man went to an asylum for the criminally insane. He was a bit surprised to find that there were only three guards to take care of a hundred inmates. He said to one of the guards, "Aren’t you afraid that the inmates will unite, overcome you, and escape?" The guard said, "Lunatics never unite." Locusts do. Christians should. If we don’t, we don’t know where our power is. [Haddon Robinson, "The Wisdom of Small Creatures”] 

10) Peg Baptist church and Anti-Peg Baptist church: Church conflicts happen for pretty unusual reasons. In the 1890s there was a small Baptist church in Mayfield County, Kentucky. The church had just two deacons, and those two men seemed to be constantly arguing and bickering with each other. On a particular Sunday, one deacon put up a small wooden peg in the back wall so the pastor could hang up his hat. When the other deacon discovered the peg, he was outraged. "How dare someone put a peg in the wall without first consulting me!" The people in the church took sides and the congregation eventually split. Over a hundred years later, residents of Mayfield County still refer to the two churches as Peg Baptist and Anti-Peg Baptist. 

11) General church memberships: In 1989, the director of Ecumenical Affairs for the National Council of Churches wrote that the Roman Catholic Church and the major Protestant Churches—as a start—should recognize the existence of “general church memberships.” This would hasten the unification of all churches into one super body. He said: “This means that, if you become a Christian, other Christians will acknowledge that you are fully a Christian... anyone who belongs to one church belongs to all! Thus if you should become a member of the Methodist Church, you would become simultaneously a full member of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church.” 

12) We forget that we have a common enemy outside the walls of the Church. We can see in our national headlines the power of unity to fulfill a common goal. None of us will forget what happened September 11, 2001. Out of that terrible day we saw our nation join together in unity. President George W. Bush had the support of the nation as he led the nation into the war against the terrorist who murdered so many innocent Americans. Let’s go get ’em! But nearly 9 months later we started pointing fingers. What did our president know before the attacks? What could the government have done to prevent the terrorist attacks? The unity that was born through terror   unraveled. We forgot who our enemy is. The same happens within the Church. We can so easily begin to point fingers at other "sheep;" we become critical of the "shepherd." All the while we forget that we have a common enemy outside the walls of the Church. Satan seeks to "steal kill and destroy". Let’s not forget who the enemy is.   

13) Primary condition for world’s belief in the Divinity of Christ: A couple of years ago there was a national spelling contest in Washington, D. C. In the fourth round of the contest, Rosalie Elliott, then an eleven-year-old from South Carolina, drew the word “avowal.” In her soft, Southern accent, she spelled it. But did the seventh grader use an “a” or an “e” as the next to the last letter? The judges couldn’t decide. For several minutes they listened to tape recording playbacks, but the critical letter was accent—blurred. Chief Judge John Lloyd finally put the question to the only person who knew the answer. “Was the letter an “a” or was it an “e”?” he asked Rosalie. Surrounded by whispering young spellers, she knew by now the correct spelling of the word. But without hesitating, she replied that she had misspelled it. She walked from the stage. The entire audience stood and applauded, including fifty newspaper reporters, one of whom was heard to remark that Judge Lloyd had put quite a burden on an eleven-year-old. Rosalie rated a hand, and it must have been a heart-warming and proud moment for her parents. [quoted by Don Shelby, “Who’s in Charge Here?” September 16, 1984).] But there were in that incident feelings that raised a big question, “the apparent feeling on the part of so many that the issue might have been in doubt and that honesty might have bowed to temptation!” since even children will be dishonest if it serves their purpose. Have we in our age stopped taking honesty for granted even from our children, and especially from ourselves? It was a spelling bee, and eleven and twelve year olds were the actors, but it’s a forceful parable. The world will believe when our performance is in harmony with our profession. Integrity is the word —- performance and profession in harmony that the world may believe. 

14) "United they pulled the plough”:  Back in 1957 the First Brethren Church of Sarasota, Florida, had a ground-breaking service. But instead of bringing a few shovels for a few special people to use in the ceremony, they brought an old one-horse plow. Recalling the words of Jesus, "Take my yoke upon you," they borrowed an old yoke and two stalwart laymen were hitched up. But the two were unable to pull the plow. Then the members of the Building Committee were put on the rope, but even they could not move the plow. Other church officers were added, including the Sunday school officers and teachers, but still the plow did not move. Finally, every member of the congregation present took hold of the rope, and with every member pulling together, the plow moved, the ground was broken (Sermons Illustrated). I don't think that I need to elaborate too much on how this represents our need to work together for Christ's Church. Jesus is praying for us. He is asking God two things on our behalf. First of all He is asking that we may be strong.  And you know what? In the same way that Jesus prayed for the apostles, he prays for us. In times of confusion, when we are unsure of what to do next, it is a great comfort to know that Jesus is praying for us. Jesus prayed for the apostles. And Jesus prays for us. But how did he pray? What did he ask for? JESUS PRAYED THAT GOD WOULD HELP HIS FRIENDS REMAIN STRONG! 

12) “If you mention God or Jesus, it's taboo." The great soul singer, Smokey Robinson, was a scheduled speaker for a two-day Youth Anti-Drug rally for the public schools of Sarasota, Florida. On the first day, he testified how God had rescued him from drug abuse. As a result, his speech for the second day was canceled. Smokey Robinson said, "The awful thing is that you can go into many public schools and talk about the Charles Manson murders, describe sexual promiscuity, and even pass out condoms, but if you mention God or Jesus, it's taboo." Something is out of kilter. Smokey discovered that we Christians are always caught in tension between the prevailing standards of our culture and the standards of Jesus Christ. We are called to live in that tension. We must neither cave in nor bailout. The more we are molded by Christ, the more tension we will have with the culture. The sparks ought to fly. Through that friction and tension, Jesus Christ can change our culture. Note our two Scriptural passages for today. The passage from John 17 is part of Jesus' high priestly prayer. Jesus is on the eve of his crucifixion. He has nurtured this little band of disciples for about three years. Now he is going to leave them. He prays to God for them. "They're going to be hated by the world," says Jesus, "just as I was hated." Jesus asks two specific requests for the infant Church. "Protect them from the evil one" and "sanctify and consecrate them in the truth." 

13) We are united by the One we serve as our Lord and Savior: : Somewhere I read about a magazine advertisement for a humane society in which there is a photograph of a dog and a cat sitting side by side in uncustomary harmony. The caption over their heads is, "A Couple of VIP's - Very Important Pets." And in the fine print underneath, the next line adds, "What makes them important is who owns them." If you and I are VIP's, it's only for one reason – the One Who  owns us. We are His. It is in His steps that we walk.

14) A Church where someone is running in the wrong direction: You may notice during the autumn of the year that many of our men around the country are glued to the football games on television. College football is a great part of American tradition. It all builds up to the bowl games at the end. That is what people are waiting for, to win the big bowl game. There may not be another bowl game more prestigious than the Rose Bowl. College players will dream of making it to the Rose Bowl to play under this great college football tradition. One man who actually lived out that college dream was named Roy Regal. He made it to the Rose Bowl and was able to play in this great game. He did more than just play. He got his hands on the football and he ran. He ran all the way down the field almost the full one hundred yards, making it almost all the way across the goal line before he was finally tackled. He lived out the dream. Yet this dream was not the dream he thought it was. There were two problems with the run that Roy Regal made. One is he was going the wrong direction, and secondly he was tackled by his own teammate. This is a picture of disunity. The team normally goes one way together across the goal line. Can you imagine if in a Church there is this kind of disunity? A Church where someone is running in the wrong direction and being tackled by his own teammate? Church unity is so important. 

15) We are united by what we believe: On Lakemba, one of the Fiji Islands, if you visit the Centenary Church, you will find a white chapel with a thatched roof, built in the shape of a cross. Several hundred people worship there at all services. All the furniture is white wood, except for the baptismal font. It is a light gray coral stone about three feet high, with a place hollowed out for the water. When the first missionary arrived in 1835, the islanders worshipped a god of harvest, to whom an annual sacrifice had to be offered to insure good crops. Usually a small young boy was chosen. On a killing stone, the little head was crushed with a rock, so that the victim's blood would flow down and cover the whole stone. Then the god would give a good and plentiful harvest. The old killing stone where life was taken has now become the baptismal font, where new life begins for those who are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. [Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive (New York: Harper and Row, (1967), p.57]. How absurd to say that it doesn't matter what you believe! Of course it matters. Sometimes it matters so much that Churches divide. That's sad. But when the dust settles, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us, there is a common bond that unites everyone who takes upon himself or herself the name Christian. That bond is this: We believe that God so loved the world that He gave His own Son so that whoever believes in him shall have life everlasting. We believe that, and that unites us with millions of believers around this planet. 

16) "The silver trailer down the road a mile.": Tony Campolo tells an intriguing story about being in a worship service where a man prayed a very pointed prayer for a friend. "Dear Lord," the man prayed, "you know Charlie Stoltzfus. He lives in that silver trailer down the road a mile. He's leaving his wife and kids. Please do something to bring the family together." Amazingly, as the man prayed, he repeated the location "the silver trailer down the road a mile." Tony wanted to say, "KNOCK IT OFF, FELLA. Do you think God's asking, ‘What's that address again?'" After the prayer, Tony preached, and then left to drive home. On the turnpike he noticed a hitchhiker and decided to give him a lift. "My name's Tony," Campolo said, "What's your name?" "Charlie Stoltzfus," the hitchhiker said. Campolo was dumbfounded. It was the young man for whom the prayer had been offered. Campolo got off at the next exit. "Hey, where are you taking me?" asked the hitchhiker. "Home," Campolo said. The hitchhiker stared in amazement as Tony drove right to the young fellow's silver trailer. That afternoon that young man and his wife surrendered their lives to Christ. And today that hitchhiker is a preacher of the gospel. ["You Can Make a Difference," Today’s Christian Woman (Nov/Dec. 1988).] We sometimes forget how powerful a simple prayer can be. Do you pray for your friends? Jesus did. Jesus’ High Priestly prayer in today’s Gospel is about our Christian unity, remembering each future denomination by name. 

17)  Prayer for unity of the rich and the poor  in the slum: I was reading recently about a lawyer named Ned from Australia. He had once visited Kenya, and while there he walked through one of the worst slums in the world, to a hut where three brothers lived. When he entered the hut he immediately found himself in the center of a dozen or so children leaping into the air with joy at his presence. There was a contagious spirit in that rundown little hut, and soon Ned was jumping up and down with them. Then the kids started a sing-along, and they had a wonderful time together. When it came time for Ned to leave, something happened that he says he will always remember. From the far side of the room he heard a quiet but clear voice. And what Ned heard was something like this: "We pray for the people of Australia, for Ned and his family." The group of children suddenly became very quiet. Then they responded: "Jesus, remember them when You come into Your Kingdom." Ned couldn't believe it. In the middle of Africa, in the middle of the worst slum in the world, a group of slum kids, with reverence and earnestness, were holding up before God the people of Australia. The prayer hit him hard, and he thought to himself, "God, if Australia has any hope at all, it will be because of kids like this." [Bruce Larsen. My Creator, My Friend (Dallas: Word Books 1986), pp. 142-143).] 

18) The Wheel of Fortune: Any casual breakdown of television programs anywhere in the world would reveal a sizeable proportion of them devoted to games of chance. One of the more popular ones in France and in the United States and perhaps elsewhere, is a word game called The Wheel of Fortune. There is almost no country now without its national lottery with its regular draws on television nationwide. Their astronomical prizes are only dwarfed by their astronomical returns. This enormous expenditure on lottery tickets, particularly in times of recession, would be obscene, were it not in most cases a disguised form of taxation. Faith in God the Father may well be on the wane in the first decade of the twenty-first century but belief in Mother Luck was never more widespread. The wife of President Reagan of the United States revealed that her husband never made any important decision without consulting his stars. The star-gazing public was not greatly perturbed by that revelation. From the account given in today's reading of the election of a replacement for Judas, it might seem that there is a certain Scriptural precedence for such behavior. (Biblical IE).

19) “I am drawing a picture of God. “Chicken Soup for the Soul [Jack Cornfield and Mark V. Hansen, (Deerfield Beach FL: Health Communications Inc., 1993).] is a delightful anthology of stories poems and anecdotes about the extraordinary moments of our ordinary lives. Included among its varied collection is a story about a little girl. She and her mother had just returned home from Church and the child went immediately to her desk and began to draw. After watching her work intently for a while, the mother asked, “What are you drawing, dear?” “A picture of God,” came the reply. “But,” said the mother, “no one has ever seen God. No one knows what God really looks like.” Undeterred and still at work, the girl answered, “They will when I’m finished!” The charming naiveté of this little girl provides believers with a key for understanding one of the most profound aspects of Johannine theology. Like the mother in this story, the Johannine author told his readers, “No one has ever seen God. . . yet if we love one another as God has loved us, then God’s love is brought to perfection in us” (v. 12). In all we say and in all we do in the course of our life, we are, as it were, a living, breathing, drawing or illustration of who God is. Inasmuch as our life and love are an authentic facsimile of the life and love of God, then when our life’s portrait is given its final stroke, people will know what God looks like. (Sanchez Files)  

20) Spread love wherever you go.” Adding some strokes and finishing touches to the picture of God which was her life, St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) reminded us, “Spread love wherever you go: first of all, in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next-door neighbor. . . Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s love, love in your face, love in your eyes, love in your smile, love in your warm greeting.”

21) Do you have any idea when your religion or denomination was founded and by whom?

If you are a Hindu, your religion developed in India around 6000 B.C.
If you are a member of the Jewish faith, your religion began with God’s choice of Abraham about 4,000 years ago.
If you are a Buddhist, your religion split from Hinduism, and was founded by Buddha, Prince Siddhartha Gautama of India, about 500 B.C.
If you are Roman Catholic, Jesus Christ began your religion in the year 33 A.D.
If you are Islamic, Mohammed started your religion in what is now Saudi Arabia around 600 A.D.
If you are Eastern Orthodox, your sect separated from Catholicism around the year 1,000.
If you are Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex-monk of the Catholic Church, in 1517.
If you belong to the Church of England (Anglican), your church split off from the Roman Catholic Church in the rebellion of  King Henry VIII in the year 1534 because the Pope would not grant him a divorce with the right to remarry.
If you are a Calvinist, your religion was founded when former-Catholic-turned- reformer John Calvin published his Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536.
If you are Presbyterian, your religion was founded when John Knox brought the teachings of John Calvin to Scotland in the year 1560.
If you are Unitarian, your religious group developed in Europe in the 1500's.
If you are a Congregationalist, your religion branched off from Puritanism in the early 1600's in England.
If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your religion to John Smyth, who launched it in Amsterdam in 1607.
If you are a Methodist, your religion was founded by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1744.
If you are an Episcopalian, your religion was brought over from England to the American Colonies and formed a separate religion founded by Samuel Seabury in 1789.
If you are a Mormon (Latter-day Saints), Joseph Smith started your church in Palmyra, N.Y. The year was 1830.
If you worship with the Salvation Army (it is a religious group), your sect began with William Booth in London in 1865.
If you are a Christian Scientist, you look to 1879 as the year your religion was founded by Mary Baker Eddy.
If you are a Jehovah's Witness, your religion was founded by Charles Taze Russell in Pennsylvania in 1870's .
If you are Pentecostal, your religion was started in the U.S. in 1901.
If you are agnostic, you profess an uncertainty about the existence of God.
If you are an atheist, you do not believe God exists.