Sunday, June 5, 2011

Beloved Children of God


A sermon for Easter 7a, June 5, 2011

This is our third week sitting around the table of the Lord’s Supper, no wonder my back is a little stiff. The disciples and Jesus are in Jerusalem and the atmosphere is thick with anticipation. The resurrection of Lazarus has already occurred and the religious authorities have placed a price on his head. But the one they really want is the one who brought him back to life, Jesus. The authorities are trying to keep a revolution from happening and in the meantime those who have followed Jesus are anticipating that the time for one has finally come.

Jesus and a small gathering of his closest followers gather in a room to eat together and Jesus surprises them all by washing and drying their feet.
He washes the feet of Peter, who will deny him.
He washes the feet of Judas, who will betray him.

It is the eve of history’s most tragic hour, the last chance that Jesus has before his death to explain the reason for everything and the purpose for the disciples going forward and he focuses not on revenge, not on judgment and not on repentence. Instead his focus is love. A few excerpts:
  • Do not let your hearts be troubled, Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
  • I will not leave you orphaned, I am coming to you… because I live, you also will live.
  • Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world give. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
  • As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.
  • This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Last week I took the liberty of breaking down three chapters of a repetitive monologue into 3 clichés:
  • Cliché #3 - Do not be afraid, we (the Father, the Son and the Spirit) are still with you.
  • Cliché #2 - Remember my commandment to love.
  • Cliché #1 - Your Father in heaven and I love you and support you no matter what you do.

And now immediately preceeding their departure to a garden where they will be met by Judas and a detachment of soldiers (John 18:1ff), Jesus closes their time together in prayer:

John 17:1-11
….(Jesus) looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
The Word of the Lord…

‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

It’s an interesting word, ‘glory’.

I think of politicians who win their election. On that night they are surrounded by those who support them, streamers and confetti flying, music blaring and hundreds or thousands of supporters shouting their name and flashing signs with their name on them. Power! Glory!

I think of CEO’s who present the shareholders with increased earnings. At that meeting they are surrounded by those who benefitted from their decisions. Hugs are shared and backs are slapped and hundreds or thousands of supporters are willing to do anything they are asked. Power! Glory!

I think of the athletes who win their city a championship. On the day of the parade they are surrounded by those who support them, streamers and confetti flying, music blaring and thousands or hundreds of thousands of supporters shouting their name and flashing jerseys with their name on them. Power! Glory!

The thing about glory is we cannot retain it. It’s not ours to keep. And when we try the fall from it is not far behind.
We’ve seen it.
We’ve seen politicians fall from grace when their quest for power undermined their morals.
We’ve seen CEO’s fall from grace when their quest for wealth undermined their values.
We’ve seen athletes fall from grace when their quest for winning undermined the rules of fair play.

We’ve seen it whether it be in the national headlines or closer to home. It’s easy to get confused and hung up on earthly and material glory. Our culture reminds us every chance it gets in every piece of 30 second interval it can find that we deserve the glory and the power and once we get it, we need to protect it and grow it at all costs.

As if it were ours to begin with. The belief that the glory lies in us is the first mistake.

To God be the glory. From God be the glory.

I think of Jesus when so many thought he was going to be their idea of a savior. He came into Jerusalem surrounded by those who had hope in him, palm branches and hosannas flying, hundreds of people lining the way, shouting his name, “King of Israel!” Those in authority said to one another: You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him! (John 12:19)
Power! Glory!

But Jesus both fully human and fully divine, knew that it was not his glory.
To God be the glory. From God be the glory.

In Chapter 2 of the Gospel of John, the first miracle at the wedding at Cana and Mary the mother of Jesus says to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ (2:4)
And what are the first words of this prayer? Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people…

Authority over all people. Power! Glory!
Jesus has the chance to cling to the power!
The stage is set for him to take the glory!

In the garden when they come to arrest him there are torches and lanterns and weapons. One of his own strikes first – but that is where it stops. God’s glory is not proven in a final act of power and might. God’s glory is revealed in the ultimate act of mercy, grace and love.

It is in this choice of the cross that an invitation is extended to us to participate in the glory of God; not by clinging to power, but by letting it go. Not by hoarding glory for ourselves, but in reflecting God’s glory back into the world,
To God be the glory. From God be the glory.

At the end of the 14th century, mystic Julian of Norwich wrote:
Would you like to know your Lord's meaning?
Okay, then know it well. The Lord's meaning is love. Love is God's only meaning.
Who shows this to you? Love.
What did God show you? Love.
And why did God show it to you? For love.
Stay in God's love, then, and you'll learn more about its unconditional, unending, joyful nature. And you'll see for yourself, all manner of things will be well.

Do not let your hearts be troubled…

Listen to the final petition in this prayer from Jesus on our behalf:
‘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’ (17:25-26).


To God be the glory. From God be the glory.

Power? Glory?

They are nothing without love.

In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit - Amen.

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