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Sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Easter Year B May 12, 2024
Jesus Prays for Us (John 17)

In today’s passage we’re dropped into the upper room with Jesus and his disciples—

The evening has been full of activity:

Jesus has washed their feet,
  called them friends not servants,
   he has warned them that one of them will hand him over to the authorities,

Finally, Jesus has warned them that he will die. 

Jesus has promised to send his Spirit, Advocate, and Comforter, to be with them, to guide them and help them as they go out into the world without him.

They’ve eaten their last supper together:
 – a meal where Jesus has given them a new sacrament, 

Jesus has given them bread- his broken body to eat, 
  he has poured out wine- his blood for them to drink…

Jesus has given them a new commandment to love one another as he has loved them…

And now, as the activity winds down, as the disciples try to absorb all that Jesus has said and what it means,

Jesus begins to pray-- in… their… hearing…

Suddenly Jesus is praying for them and their well- being. 

Wait! What just happened?

In today’s pericope 

Jesus doesn’t pray for himself and his upcoming death-

Here Jesus prays for his friends, his disciples!

Jesus prays for their protection in a world that will hate them because of him, 
he prays that they become one, as Jesus and the God are one, 

Jesus prays for the Spirit to lead them, as they go out into the world continuing his work. 

Jesus reminds his Father that he has revealed the Father to his disciples.

Jesus prays that the disciples will be sanctified, 
 made holy in God’s name,
  just as Jesus and God are holy, 
  made holy in the Truth and the Spirit.

Jesus prays that the disciples will have eternal life…an eternity with God and all the saints who have gone before and all those who will come after

Yet even more amazing than all that… Jesus prays this not only for his current disciples but for all the disciples who will follow. 

Jesus prays for us! He prays for our faith, our following and proclaiming God to the world. He prays for our well-being.

Let’s take a moment and step into the disciples’ shoes for a moment…

Can we even begin to comprehend the sheer fear and anxiety of the disciples?

Their anxiety and fear has to be off the chart! 

Think about it--
-A sense of impending hopelessness, 
perhaps even the sense that they backed the wrong teacher …
 maybe Jesus wasn’t the Son of God, 
  maybe he was just another itinerant rabbi, 
   charismatic but not the promised Messiah.
-fear for their own lives, for even though they don’t understand why Jesus will die,
 they know change is happening,
  life as they know it is about to be turned upside down…
-a change they have no control over…
 and when Jesus is arrested and crucified, 
  their loss will threaten to destroy them…
hopelessness threatens to lead them from the light of Jesus and hope into the darkness of despair
they are entering a time of transition, overwhelmed by feelings of loss, anxiety and fear,
simply, put they are terrified, even paralyzed, by the unknown. 

Think of a time when your world collapsed around you…when you went from safe and secure to frightened and terrified. 

For me this happened in January 1981. I had just arrived home from a very hard shift at the hospital. It was almost midnight. I was tired, and my phone began to ring. Reluctantly I answered it…it was my sister Barbara who never called. I immediately knew something was terribly wrong as she said, “Joyce, dad went to the hospital today for treatment for his rheumatoid arthritis, he had a heart attack and is in a coma, you have to come home.” And just like that my life turned upside down, my dad was my hero, my biggest cheerleader, we were making plans for him to come visit me in Tennessee…

Dad lived in Arizona almost 2000 miles away and I had no money to go home…

I was terrified, I was afraid that I would never see my dad alive again.

I was hopeless, surrounded by darkness and fear. 

Into the middle of that darkness came a shining light of hope.

My ex-husband and 2 of my closest friends came to be with me.

My friend Macon paid for my ticket to go home…my ex flew with me to Arizona so I wouldn’t be alone… and my dad was still alive when I arrived home- only for a few more days, but it was a gift that I will always cherish

So to the disciples, in their night of despair and fear experience Jesus as a shining light of hope as he gives his friends a gift of pure grace

Jesus prays for them in their presence, 

Here they hear Jesus sharing the good news of the gospel as he prays for them:
   God is with and for the disciples and us. 
    God calls and chooses the disciples and us, 
     God walks with us- present in times of hope and hopelessness, 
      setting us apart to be holy, to carry on the work of Jesus, 
        the work of revealing God and his love to the world. 

Jesus’ prayer is powerful—it comforts them giving them hope, peace and the strength to continue their journey.

Prayer is a gift Jesus gives his disciples before he leaves them,

  before he is arrested, 

   before their world falls into chaos- 

      before his disciples go out into the world without him

Friends, this is our gift and sending too. 

Jesus prays for us saying “these ones here and those who will follow.”

Here at Grace, we’re in a situation very similar to that of Jesus’ disciples—all of them. For all of Jesus’ followers will be thrown into chaos with his arrest and death. 

Here at Grace, we’re in a time of transition, not just the lay leaders but all the people of Grace are in a time of change and transition, a time of anxiety and fear. 

With the retirement of Pastor Pam, your world has been turned upside down.

Questions abound: who will lead us? how long before we call another pastor? how long until things once again seem comforting, safe, and familiar? 

I am a new and unfamiliar face– You may wonder will I care for you; will I love you, support, comfort, and celebrate with you?

Will I understand that you grieve the loss of your pastor even as you celebrate Pastor Pam’s retirement?

Will I bring peace, comfort and safety during this time of change and transition? 

The simple answer is Yes, with the help of God!

I know that it will take time for us to develop a relationship, and so I would like you to know the following things about me as we begin our walk together:

My life is defined by relationships and love.

First and foremost is my relationship with Christ who has been a constant presence throughout my life, who brings me strength, love, peace, and grace.

Second is my family, my friends, my faith community- which now includes Grace Lakeland.

Third is the greater world.  

I look forward with joy to this season during which I will be your pastor. I feel blessed and honored to be chosen to share this part of your faith journey with you.

I look forward to getting to know you, 
as you to get to know me. 

I long to hear your stories, to share my stories, and to share God’s Word and Sacraments together as we move forward in ministry together.

I encourage you to reach out to me with any concerns or cares. 

I will be in the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays, please drop by and say “hi”

Finally, I want you to know that I am not perfect, 

       I do not know everything, 
        and I have NOT mastered the art of reading minds …

However, I am faithful, and I will faithfully serve you,
   because I believe it is in God’s love and wisdom that I have been called to lead you during this time.

Together we will move forward,
   we will shed tears and laughter, 
     we will study God’s Word and pray together with and for one another.
       We will be God’s presence not only in the world and community, 
         but we will be God’s presence to one another.

With God’s help this time that we share will be faithful and fruitful to God, to Grace and to the greater community.  

And remember, every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we take Jesus and his love into ourselves, and Jesus’ prayer for us continues.

We are the current generation of God’s disciples gifted and sent

Gifted in Jesus’ prayer for us…sent into the world to reveal God and his love. 

Christ is risen, He is risen indeed! Alleluia