Easter 7, Year B

Preacher: 
Rachel Bauer Eskite
Sermon Text: 

13 May 2018
Easter 7, Year B
Acts 1: 15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19

 

Jesus gets some bad PR.

In his time. And in our time, too.

Jesus was pretty radical, life-changing, even. His ministry showed God’s grace to the world by embodying the love of God.

I imagine the Gospel writers to be sort of like PR managers—each one showing Jesus in a specific way that relates to a different group of people. I would say that some of the greatest power in the Gospels is that they let Jesus’ ministry speak for itself. This requires the readers and hearers (that’s us!) to interpret what these words could mean. When we interpret, we are always looking for how the words show what is beyond them. How do these words speak to us now? What do we notice? What reaches out and grabs us? How do they make us feel?

In today’s reading, we are dropped right in the middle of Jesus praying.

It’s a pretty dense prayer, in which Jesus prays for himself, prays for his disciples and their mission, and prays for God’s loving action in the world. It’s not the content of the prayer that speaks to me as much as the loving action of the prayer itself. It is the way in which Jesus prays that grabs my attention: he prays for his disciples as we would a friend or a loved one: intimately, and with his whole heart.

In a world that is filled with chaos, with dissenting opinions, with a lot of bad PR about Jesus, it is hard to remember our call to live into God’s loving action in the world. The writer of John knew this all too well. His world was filled with uncertainty and chaos. People were dying. An empire was being shaken.

Jesus’ world was also chaotic. It was filled with suffering and uncertainty. It was filled with human-problems just as the world is now. That’s what’s so incredible about Jesus, though: God sent his deep and vulnerable self to love the world as it was and as it is right now. That means even with the chaos and suffering, God is at work.

Wow.

What I also noticed through Jesus praying is the sense of community. The disciples were a community and they created other communities. Our church right here is a community. Community is essential to this work.

Throughout the Gospels, we encounter the love of God forging connections and building relationships with unlikely people. We encounter a new way of looking at things, of breaking down old barriers and skirting around boundaries to draw people together.

The ministry of Jesus brought people together who wouldn’t normally be together. The ministry of Jesus changed how we think about relationship with God, with each other, and with our neighbors. Through this ministry, God shows us an alternative definition of community through love. Shows us that even when everything looks like it stands against us, we are not alone in our vulnerability. Jesus stands for us, by us, with us.

This good news, this Gospel joy, is not what people were used to. We’re still not used it. Joy Is sometimes scary to live into, but it is also the truest expression of who we are.

Joy is radical. Joy is life-changing. Joy feels counter-cultural in a world of chaos and suffering. Joy is expansive. It is not contained within usual boundaries. Joy is connected with those times of deep loss and suffering. Joy is a dance partner of vulnerability.

Joy is a wellspring. Joy is what feeds us, gives us life. It is what allows us to go on caring for a broken and hurting world.

And the thing about joy: it is not always this big and flashy thing. Joy is often a small and steady seed of hope that lives deep within us.

Jesus understands this because God wrote that kind of joy into being when God sent Love into the world.

It is the love of God that dwells in us that makes it known, because God loves not just us, but the WHOLE world. We are of love: this is how God made us, to love one another.

Community reminds us that love is connected to life. Community reminds us that this work is not about us, but about God and God’s love in the world. That is us: people gathered in God’s love to give of God’s love to the world.

We can do that scary thing of being love in the world because we always know that God is with us. Jesus prayed for his disciples. Jesus prays for us.

Prayer, or that honest sharing with God about our hopes, our fears and pain, our reflections on life. That loving, tender thing of stopping, even for a moment, and offering our hearts to God. Jesus stops and prays ‘so that we may have his joy made complete in us.’ That is what Jesus does. That is how Jesus shows us who we are.

That’s what we do for each other in community. We pray for each other. Together we practice loving God, loving one another, loving the world.

When you are joyous, there is a community who will celebrate with you.

When you are in transition, there is a community who embraces the newness of adventure, who will pray with you.

When you are grieving or hurting and your heart is in pieces, there is a community that will let you sit in the pews and just be.

When you feel energized and want to do all the things, this community is here for that, too.

When you need to rest, this community will open its heart to you.

When you hunger for the Word of God, this community will feed you.

When you encounter in the world that challenging PR Jesus gets, you have been built up and nourished by a community so that you can carry on in the truth of God’s loving work in the world, no matter what their words say.

So, be here in this community to be fed, to be nourished, to rest, to be heard and seen, to be loved without reservation, to be awakened by the truth, but then go boldly into the world, into that larger sense of community carrying what we have been given into the world. That is what the Church is tasked with, after all, showing forth this Gospel joy into the world.

Carry love into the world because that is where God is calling us to be.

That’s what Jesus’ prayer says to me: It’s not easy—in fact it may be one of the harder things you ever do to follow the Lord—but it is a path of deepest joy.

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