7th Sunday after Easter
We are all looking forward to the lazy days of Summer. One more week of school here and countless graduations have already been celebrated. Even when we work hard all through the summer there is just something about summer and everything we think we will get to enjoy that makes it so appealing. Vacations, naps, reading by the pool or at the beach. Peach cobblers. Kite flying. Homemade ice cream. Watermelon. Lots of swimming, fishing and other water sports. Time for family, friends and fellowship or as I call it SABBATH Time. And…above all… a less hectic schedule of activities.
This past Thursday was Ascension Day. The risen Christ has been taken up into the inner life of the Trinity. Jesus left his disciples. Luke’s gospel said: “While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.”
In today’s reading the writer of the gospel of John, captures the closing days of Jesus’ life and ministry here on earth. In this chapter, Jesus prays for himself and for his disciples. Basically he prays for three things: he prays for their protection, their preservation and their perseverance.
Let’s begin with Christ’s prayer for his disciples’ protection. After Christ’s resurrection and ascension his disciples lived in a world in which it was dangerous to be one of his followers. You and I are so fortunate. We face no such persecution. Jesus knew that, when he was no longer with them, the hostility which fell on him was going to fall on his disciples. And it did. Almost without exception they were imprisoned, tortured and killed in terrible ways.
I want you to notice this. When Jesus prays for their protection, he doesn’t pray for their safety. When we pray for protection, we pray that nothing painful or harmful will happen to us. Jesus knew better than that. He knew that we live in a world of pain. Some pain is unavoidable. Christ’s disciples would experience pain because of their devotion to Him. So rather than pray that they will avoid pain, he prays for their UNITY.
There is strength in unity. When you have friends and family and fellow church members to whom you can turn in times of trouble you can bear almost any pain, any turmoil in your life. The church at it best provides that kind of support, that kind of oneness.
Parker Palmer, in his book, A Hidden Wholenes, reminds us that ‘the journey we are on is too tough to be made solo, the path is too deeply hidden to be traveled without company, and the destination is too daunting to be achieved alone.” He reminds us that all of us need places where we can be safe enough and courageous enough to face our brokenness and discover our wholeness. He calls them “circles of trust.” He says, “We need more and more circles so that we can return to the world less divided and more connected to or own souls.”
This is the protection that the church has always provided for the threatened souls – the knowledge that we are not alone. The knowledge that people are praying in our behalf.
Because of the love and fellowship, because of the brokenness we encounter in this world----there is a definite obligation for us …as followers of Christ… to uphold, to pull-together, to encourage, to comfort, to be there for another member of the community with comfort, cheer and love as we bind ourselves together in this community of Christ, known as the church. This morning we are celebrating those senior members of the church who are 65 or older. It is a tough time for the sandwich generation who are caught between the demands of raising their own children and taking care of their aging parents.
Maybe this idea of unity, togetherness, caring, upholding will be made clearer by the following story entitled: "Who Flew the Kite??
"Who Flew the Kite?"......"I did," said the sticks, "I did," said the cloth. "I did," said the boy. "No, I did," said the wind. "
But they all flew the kite together. If the sticks had broken, the tail caught in a tree, the fabric torn or the wind had lulled, the kite would have come down. Each had a part to play. The application is inescapable, each have a work to do. If the work of the Lord is to be a success, then all parts must be played by every member of the church, every member of the community. We have to work as a community in visiting, giving, preaching and countless other jobs to make the church and its work successful. We must all work together and each do what he or she can to help. It is a matter of teamwork. We need to synergize!
Secondly, he prayed for our preservation. That is, he prayed that none of us will be lost from the fellowship of believers. He prayed that none of us would ever slip away from our faith in God. The Psalmist put it this way: “For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you I all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91)
As the Good Shepherd, Jesus took care of the flock entrusted to him. He allowed none to be lost (except Judas who had to be in fulfillment of scripture). Shepherds know that sheep are prone to stray. Good shepherds leave those sheep that are safe in the fold and go in search of the one that has gone astray. He doesn’t let it perish. God will always be there for us, no matter how far we may stray.
Finally he prays for our perseverance. He prays that we will be steadfast in the faith. You can see why he prayed for those early believer’s perseverance – the whole world depended on them. If they had not done their duty to witness to Christ and his resurrection, we would not have the faith we have today. This would be an entirely different world.
It is impossible to overstate the difference that the coming of Christ made in the world. Look at the barbaric behavior in so much of the non-Christian world today. Jesus taught us compassion and understanding and acceptance. He taught us mercy and forgiveness. He taught us to love our neighbor as he first loved us.
The future of the faith today depends on us just as surely as it depended on them.
Kites were first invented for the Chinese army, and they were used to send messages. The color of the kite – its shape, the patterns painted on the kite – were all secret coded messages. Someone would paint a secret message on the kite and then fly the kite up in the air so that solders in faraway camps would be able to see it and read the messages. This was how they sent out very important messages. NO RADIOS OR CELL PHONES BACK THEN.
The Bible say that we have the most important message on earth. It is the message that God loves us. We don’t have to be afraid or sad. He wants our joy to be complete. How do we share this message with other people. We don’t use kites. Instead we all work in different ministries throughout the week and come together every Sunday to celebrate and worship together. We tell others about God and our God journey. That is how we share the most important message in the world.
In other words we are being taken up into the very life of God through Christ righ now. Through baptism. Through the Eucharist. Through Confirmation and though our church activities. Through Him everyone and everything is being made new by being brought into a radically new relationship with God.
What will you do this week to spread God’s love?
· Perhaps join us for Senior Citizen Sunday for lunch after the service.
· Perhaps work at or bring food for our Food Pantry.
· Perhaps start a new tradition – Sabbath Time – spending time with family, friends or church members talking about your God Journey.
Whatever it is we need to fly high and spread the gospel – even in an unusual way. As for me, I am going to fly this kite. Amen