The Seventh Sunday of Easter (5/20/2012)
Lessons:Acts 1:15-17, 21-26 Psalm 1 1 John 5:9-13 St. John 17:6-19
Prayer of the Day Gracious and glorious God, you have chosen us as your own, and by the powerful name of Christ you protect us from evil. By your Spirit transform us and your beloved world, that we may find our joy in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
17:6 “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. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 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. 9 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. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 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. 12 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. 13 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.14 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. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 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.
St. John 17:6-19 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
It’s a Wild World
You know I've seen a lot of what the world can do, And it's breaking my heart in two, ‘Cause I never want to see you sad girl, don't be a bad girl. But if you want to leave take good care; Hope you make a lot of nice friends out there, But just remember there's a lot of bad and beware.
Oh, baby, baby it's a wild world; It's hard to get by just upon a smile. Oh, baby, baby it's a wild world; And I'll always remember you like a child, girl.
[Cat Stevens, from “Tea for the Tillerman” (1970)]
Cat Stevens was right: it is a wild world. By many measures, even wilder now than in 1970. There are dangers galore, especially for someone who is childlike, and accustomed to getting by on a smile. It’s no wonder this song rang true for so many when it was released, and still echoes in our minds some forty years later.
Our Gospel lesson this week is a continuation of what we’ve been reading the past couple of weeks. Jesus is sitting at table with his disciples during the last week of his life. The wildness of this world — at least of the first century religious world — is about to come crashing down on him, but he’s not worried about himself. In John’s Gospel there are no tears in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32). No angst about his calling or his future. Jesus knows who he is, he knows what is coming, and he is resolved to be faithful, no matter what.
His worry is for his followers: those God gave to him. He knows that the road ahead for them will not be easy. They will be tempted to renounce their faith. They will be opposed and beaten and ostracized and accused of heresy. They too will feel the brunt of this wild world. Yet Jesus doesn’t ask God to “take them out of the world” (v. 15). He asks one thing: keep them holy, in the truth of God’s word (v. 17).
Keep them holy, in the truth of God’s word. This is the gift that Jesus gives to his followers: the gift of God’s word. As they live lives that are rooted in this word, they will experience life rooted in God’s truth. They will experience the radical embrace of God’s insistent love. They will experience the clear call to give of themselves to the world that surounds them. They will experience the overwhelming power of God’s presence, that helps them to stay faithful no matter what opposition the world might throw their way.
This is the joy that Jesus describes in verse 13. Not a joy that comes from an easy, pleasure-filled life, but a joy that comes, despite the pain and brokenness we experience. A joy that comes when our hearts are fixed on the promise we have in Christ.
Oh, baby, baby, this is a wild world. But ours is a powerful God, and in this week’s lesson Jesus reminds us that the power of God’s word can keep us grounded in the good news, called into the wildness of the world, and strengthened for the mission that has been entrusted to us. There is no amount of wildness that can take away the joy of this.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- Why did Jesus pray for his followers, instead of himself, during the last week of his life?
- How does John’s Gospel contrast God’s word with God’s world?
- What is Jesus’ greatest hope for his followers?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- What seems wild (and uncontrollable, and frightening…) about the world to me?
- How might God’s word be a source of comfort and joy for me, amidst all this wildness?
- What does it mean to affirm that the wildness of the world is less powerful than the joy of God?