Jesus prays for us to be united through God’s unconditional love. What does that mean for us now?
Vicar Andrea Bonneville
Seventh Sunday of Easter, year C
Texts: Acts 16:16-34; John 17:20-16
Beloved in Christ, grace and peace to you in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Jesus offers us his thoughts and prayers today:
“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will trust in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me.”
“The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Imagine if Jesus was sitting in this space saying this prayer.
Imagine if Jesus was down the street at George Floyd Square.
Imagine if he was at the vigils in Texas, New York, and California.
Imagine if he was at the N.R.A gathering and protest.
Imagine if he was on the senate floor.
What does a prayer for unity mean when we see and experience so much division? What does a prayer for love mean with all the pain, violence, and hatred?
Would Jesus’ prayer be heard today? or would it be mocked and disregarded as false hope joining with all the other thoughts and prayers that lack action and accountability?
But the thing is that Jesus’ prayer today doesn’t lack action and accountability. Jesus’ prayer is the first action he takes as he begins to journey to the cross. A journey that displays what Jesus means when he speaks about unity and unconditional love. A journey that is going to lead him to the depths of sin, suffering, violence, and pain.
Our liturgical calendar says it is the Seventh Sunday after Easter, but the violent and heartbreaking tragedies of the last few weeks; the slaughtering of the innocents in an elementary school, grocery store, and church bring us right back to the pain and grief of Good Friday when Jesus said to the world “It is finished” and bowed his head and gave up his Spirit.
An act of self-giving sacrificial love. An act that breaks the bonds of injustice, that turns swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks. An act that transforms us and brings about forgiveness, healing, justice, and unity.
Jesus goes to the depths of the brokenness of our world, showing us that even unimaginable violence and death cannot and will not overcome God’s unconditional love for all of creation. And then Jesus resurrects into the pain and grief of community bringing peace and love reminding us that God comes to us again and again and again.
Jesus’ prayer for us today doesn’t really mean much without Jesus’ death and resurrection because Jesus’ actions are what open a way to unity and unconditional love.
Jesus doesn’t just pray for us to live in unity and love, but the Triune God forges a path for us to follow that will lead us to community where we can lament and pray, where we can serve each other, where we can call out injustices and examine our privileges, where we can receive forgiveness and nourishment, where we can share love and joy.
Jesus transforms us and calls us to be people who continue to embody this unconditional love so when find ourselves in the depths of sin and suffering, death and destruction, we can be people who call out injustices, hold people of power accountable, and dare to hope that the God of all creation is going to bring hope and love in times and places that feel deserted.
But the question about what it means to be one, to live in unity, is something that we need wrestle with. As individuals and as a community, we have to confront the powers that divide and separate us while also not being afraid to advocate for social justice and policy change.
We have to mend and restore relationships in our communities and build a new foundation of trust and love. And we can’t assume we know what is right or act only in familiar ways, we have to open our ears and listen to our neighbors who call out for justice and follow their lead.
And we, like Paul and Silas, have to notice the evil powers that oppress our siblings and call out the injustices. We have to speak truth to power. Even if it causes us to step away from our comfortable lives or out of our comfort zones.
We have to carry our prayers, our laments, our cries for justice and peace into the places where the world tries to convince us the Triune God won’t be. We have to be the voices and witnesses of God’s earthshaking unconditional love and justice.
Believing and hoping and trusting that the Triune God is living and breathing through us and this community. And that the Triune God is present in this place, in this community, in our world, in you; uniting us together through love.