John 17: 6-19
The Holy Gospel according to John, the 17th chapter.
Glory to you, O Lord.
"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. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.
The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
The theme for this week is “Wait and pray.” In today’s gospel reading, Jesus is praying for the disciples and for you. Jesus is praying aloud so that we can hear him. He wants us to know what he is talking with God about.
The context of this prayer is important. This is the night of his betrayal. This prayer is the last thing Jesus does before going into the garden of Gethsemane. It’s his farewell address. He has important things to say and he wants the disciples to hear them. But, this time he doesn’t make a speech. He doesn’t teach a class. He doesn’t even preach a sermon. He prays. He is teaching his disciples how to pray by his example.
There are many reasons we pray for other people. We pray for them when they are sick. We pray when they are suffering. We pray for them when they are going through a rough time, or when they are facing some sort of major challenge or difficulty in life.
We pray in times of thanksgiving, too. We thank God for getting us through the trials we have faced. We thank God for both expected and unexpected blessings.
Jesus is praying for you today because you live in this world. We live in the world as it is, not as God wants the world to be. We are not yet in the commonwealth of God. In this world, life can be hard. We wait eagerly for the time when the world will be as God intends.
This past Thursday, we celebrated the feast of the ascension. The stories about our risen Christ ascending into heaven are recorded by Luke, both in his gospel and the Book of Acts, which is really the second volume he wrote. Luke says the ascension happened forty days after Easter, which means it was on a Thursday.
In another week, you will hear the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Pentecost is one of the "big three" celebrations of the church along with Christmas and Easter. Red is the traditional color of Pentecost, because red is the symbolic color of the Holy Spirit who came with tongues of fire. So if you have something red, wear it May. 20th.
That's next week, though. This week is the Sunday after Ascension. Ascension is a season within Easter, the last 10 days of the 50 days of Easter, so the color is still white.
The ten days between Ascension and Pentecost is a time of waiting and praying. That's what Jesus tells the disciples to do when he leaves them and ascends to heaven. Wait and pray.
Waiting can be fun sometimes. It is especially fun if you are a child and and you can enjoy the excitement leading up to a trip to an amusement park, or a birthday party, or Christmas presents. You know the outcome will be good and you can enjoy the time of guessing what great thing is coming next.
Waiting usually isn't fun for us though. I struggle with doing it well and perhaps you do, too.
We wait for many things. We wait for traffic lights. We wait for the trains to cross. We wait until we are old enough to drive. We wait in lines at the store. We wait for a job so we can buy the things we need.
We wait for test results and grades in school. We wait for test results from the doctor and the lab. We wait for the birth of a child, hoping for good health for the mother and child both. We wait to grow up and leave home. We wait for our children to grow up and leave home. We wait for everything, it seems. We even wait for God to call us home at the end.
We Christians are not the only people who have trouble waiting. Our whole society has a hard time with it. We put Christmas decorations in the stores after Halloween, and Easter candy after Valentine's Day.
Waiting is hard, but it is what Jesus tells the disciples to do when he ascends. The second thing he tells them to do is pray. He tells them it is not for them to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. He gives them the mission to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. And he promises the Holy Spirit will come and give them power. They went back to that upper room and devoted themselves to prayer.
When I read this, I wondered what they prayed for. It must have been sad to see Jesus go after the joy of seeing him resurrected and being with him again during those forty days. It must have been glorious to watch, but Jesus was gone again. Although they had the promise of the Holy Spirit, all they could do was wait and pray.
How do we pray when we are waiting? Do we say, "Help me Lord, I have waited long enough?" I know I say that, a lot, but I do not hold myself up as an example here. We have a better example with Jesus.
When he prayed for his disciples and for us, he prayed that we may all be one. He prayed for the safety of his followers. We can also pray for patience and understanding since God's concept of time is not the same as ours. Jesus says it is not for us to know how long we must wait for God's time.
Kathleen Norris, in her book, Amazing Grace, says the most important verse to remember when praying is, "Be still and know that I am God." When we are waiting, we are reminded that God is God and we don't have to be. God cares for us and provides for our every need. We are never left alone.
The ascension was not the end of Jesus' earthly presence. It was only the beginning. It was there that he promised never to abandon us. He promised that his Holy Spirit would come. The Holy Spirit brings us the gift of faith and the power to be witnesses. We are not alone and we will never be alone, no matter what we are facing in life. God is always with us.
When we are waiting, we can pray for our friends as Jesus did. We can pray that they will be protected and live in unity. We can pray for the church as Jesus did. We can pray for the unity of the Church and the power of the Holy Spirit to come upon us.
During this Ascension Season and during any time of change and transition in our lives, Jesus tells us to wait and to pray. We don't have to worry or have any anxiety about it though. The risen and ascended Christ has promised that the Holy Spirit will come to us and we will receive power to be witnesses to the ends of the earth.
We know Christ keeps all his promises. Amen.