Monday, January 7, 2013

Pilgrimage Sermon Series - Jesus Prayed for You - John 17:1-5-13-26

John 17:1-5, 13-26
Jesus Prayed for You

Today we start this Pilgrimage to God’s Promised Land.  Like I have stated in the newsletter, a pilgrimage is a journey or search for some sort of spiritual significance or sacred place.  In the first six weeks of 2013, Indian Trail UMC will be taking a pilgrimage to discover how and where God is calling us.  I hope this happens on two levels.  On a personal level I hope you will be asking God to give you personal direction, a personal Promised Land.  I hope you will pray and ask God to shed light on where God is calling you.  We are not all called to professional ministry, although some of you may be, but we are all called to be ministers of Jesus Christ’s love in this world.  We are all called, as followers of Jesus, as Christians, to go out into the world and be the love of Christ.  But how that is to be lived out is as individual as each of us.  But we all are called and I hope you will take time to pray and listen for God to answer.

The other level is on a congregational level.  I want to help us, Indian Trail UMC, figure out where God is calling us.  I know God is calling this congregation to do something for this community.  I know there is a Promised Land for us as a congregation but I don’t know what it looks like.  I have some ideas of how God is asking me to lead and directions to go, but I have learned that I’m not the only one that receives ideas from God about.  Some of the best things I have done in ministry was hearing God’s calling through other people and taking that and running with it.  That is how a renovation happened at one church and a third floor mostly used for storage was turned into a quality space for youth and young adults.  That is how a congregation came together to make meals for hungry children in Kenya and then two people actually traveled over there themselves.  Those ideas were not mine.  They weren’t the pastor’s.  They came from the laity who were simply shared, “I think God is calling us to do this.” 

Through the weekly sermons and the Bible Study I pray that God will reveal what he has in store for us as a congregation, through you and me.  The only way we can get to the Promise Land is if we share a common vision and mission.  If it only comes from one person, it won’t get far at all.  We will need to work together, pray together, listen together.  That is what this Pilgrimage is all about.  So with that said, who is ready for the journey?

When I was a youth I went through this 36 hour spiritual retreat called Chrysalis.  It is the youth version of Walk to Emmaus.  If you have never heard of these Spiritual Retreats, let me tell you they can be life changing.  They are deep, emotional, and fulfilling weekends.  There is a Walk to Emmaus and Chrysalis community in our area so if you are interested I would encourage you to go on a walk or flight and I would be happy to make that happen for you.  In Chrysalis each table gets to make up their own name.  I sat the table of the Out-of-tuned Mashed Potatoes. (Remember we are youth)  There are many memories that come to mind when I think about that weekend but on in particular is receiving letters from all over about people praying for us while we were on this spiritual journey.  For some reason one that sticks out the most is an Emmaus group from Alaska that sent us a letter and a drawing to hang in our room that said, we are praying for you.  I think it stuck out in my head because I remembered thinking, Alaska?  There are people praying for me, by name, in Alaska?

Prayer is a powerful tool and what is amazing is that it can be felt.  When we were doing the 5 Practices of Fruitful Congregations series I remember reading about a church who had prayer pagers.  I know PAGERS.  But what they would do would be to give out these pagers to people in their congregation who needed prayer.  They would publish the who had what pager number and people in the congregation would pray for that person.  When they would pray for them they would then call the pager.  The pager would go off and all the person knew was that at that moment someone was praying for them.  How amazing would that feel to know you were being prayed for?

Did you know that Jesus prayed for you, and for me and for this congregation?  It is right there in the scripture I read.  Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane.  This is a time of prayer that is enshrined in many stain glass windows.  Usually we think of the other gospels though.  We think of the Jesus’ prayer from Matthew, ““My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.”  But in John we get another side of Jesus.  In John Jesus is thinking about his disciples, those that will come after him that believe in what he is doing.  He is praying for his disciples, his followers.  Jesus is praying for us.  In his last prayer before his crucifixion he is praying for you and he is praying for me.  He has us on his mind in the moments before he is taken to be killed for our sins.  WOW!

When we think of it that way we start to feel the weight of prayer on our shoulders.  What does it feel like to think of Jesus praying for you and your faith journey?  Jesus wants his followers, his disciples to understand the vision and mission of what he is doing in his crucifixion and resurrection.  He is praying that the twelve that are following him and all those that follow, even us gathered here this morning, will ‘get it.’

But what should we get?  Let’s break down a little bit of this prayer.  But let me define for you a little bit more what the difference between a mission and a vision is.  In leadership and church circles this can get very confusing about which is which.  Is the vision that drives the mission or the mission that drives the vision?  Which one stays the same and which ones changes? 

The mission always stays the same.  A mission statement is the driving force behind the purpose of a group.  It is what we rely on to push us forward.  A vision is what the future can look like if we follow through with the mission.  A vision changes to adapt to the current realities we face.  A mission stays the same. 

So what is the mission that Jesus lays out in this prayer for us.  There are three major foundations to this mission.  Verse 18 says, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”  The first foundation is that we are sent into the world.  Our mission is not confined to this sanctuary but out there.  Jesus sends us out into the world just as he was sent out.  There was something in our church culture, something in the past that has trained generations of people to think that the church is here for them.  The Church is like a gym membership where you hope to get the most out of what you pay in.  But Jesus doesn’t pray that we will get our needs filled or the use of the fellowship hall at a decent price.  No he says, “so I have sent them into the world.”

The second foundations comes out of verses 22-23; “I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one.  I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me.”  “The second foundation is Jesus’s disciples living as witnesses of God’s love so that the world may believe that God sent Jesus through the lives of Jesus’ disciples.”[1]  We represent God’s love to the world.  That is huge to think about.  When people think about or experience God’s love it comes from us.  You are a representative of God’s love to the world.  The way we love the world is the way people will know why God sent Jesus.  Think about the way you live out your daily life and think that everything you do demonstrates God’s love.  When you shower an elementary school with angel tree gifts that shows God’s love.  When you are cut off on 74 and you demonstrate your appreciation with the one finger salute that shows God’s love.  Because you are a follower of Jesus, everything you do represents God’s love for the world.

The third foundation is found in verse 25 and 26.  “Righteous Father, even the world didn’t know you, but I’ve known you, and these believers know that you sent me.  I’ve made your name known to them and will continue to make it known so that your love for me will be in them, and I myself will be in them.”  This foundation states that we are people “sent in the same sending love that led Jesus to the cross.”[2]  You are sent out into the world with the same love that sent Jesus down to earth and to the cross. 

Those are the foundations of Jesus’ mission for his followers.  We are sent out into the world, representatives of God’s love, and in the love of God.  This never changes, is always the same, and is always constant. 

Jesus’ vision for us is laid out in the earlier parts of the prayer.  Once again it has three foundations.  The first foundation is found in verse 17 and 19; “Make them holy in the truth; your word is truth.  19 I made myself holy on their behalf so that they also would be made holy in the truth.”  Jesus’ vision is us to growing and being formed in the truth of God.  This truth is found and revealed in Jesus Christ.  It is through Jesus that we know the truth, experience the truth, and understand the truth.

“The second foundation is a vision of joy as Jesus’ disciples focus their lives on the love that guided Jesus to the cross.”[3]  It is found in verse 13;  “Now I’m coming to you and I say these things while I’m in the world so that they can share completely in my joy.”  Jesus wants us to be joyful as we bask in God’s love.  Joy moves beyond happy.  Joy moves us from this place to a sacred place.  It moves us outside just feeling good to a place where we have inner peace and understanding of God’s love being ever present in our lives.  That is what Jesus wishes and envisions for all of us.

Verses 20-21; “I’m not praying only for them but also for those who believe in me because of their word.  I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me.”  This is the third and final foundation of Jesus’ vision for his disciples, that we are united in God’s love revealed through Jesus.  Jesus wants us to all be one, the body of Christ, the Church.  United together and united in God’s heart.  He wants all of our hearts to be one with his own.  If we are one with God we will have joy and we can grow and be formed by the truth.  This is Jesus’ vision for us, his followers.

It is in the mission and vision of Jesus that we start this pilgrimage.  We start this journey towards the promise land by reminding ourselves what Jesus’ prayer is for us.  He wants us to be united with his heart, have joy which is found in his love, and grow and be formed by the truth.  We can achieve that vision if we follow his mission. The mission is to go out into the world as representatives of God’s love and sent by that same love.  This is empowering, moving and a great reminder that no matter where we are on this journey, this pilgrimage, God is with us, sends us, and sustains us.

We find that in the meal we are about to receive.  We feel it as we partake in the body and blood of Christ.  As you feast at this heavenly meal may you be reminded of the vision Jesus has for us and the mission we are put on.  May this meal sustain you as the Holy Spirit works through you to spread, share, and be God’s love for the world. 

And all God’s people said…Amen.

[1] Brown, Marc, Merry, Kathy, & Briggs, John. Does Your Church Have a Prayer? Discipleship Resources, Nashville, 2009, p.110.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid, p.109.

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