21 May 2023

21 May 2023


We’re now six weeks after Easter.  Next Sunday is Pentecost.  It will be a Together@10 Service. I believe we will have a wonderful celebration of the day that the church was born.

If you can, wear something that has the colour red in it.

Let us pray…

Our text for this morning is John 17:1-11.

Now John Chapters 14-17 are known as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse.

In it, he takes his disciples aside and prepares them for his departure, instructing them, warning them, and equipping them.

The Discourse ends with his Farewell Prayer in which he directs his speech not to the disciples, but to God. One thing that strikes me in this text is while Jesus is praying for the disciples they were present.

It is after a long conversation and a meal together. Jesus has shared a meal with his disciples, washed their feet, given them a new commandment to love as he loves, and told them of his leaving.

Now he prays.

Jesus’ final prayer is for unity – that we may be one, as God in Christ is one. That is the prayer the disciples heard said for them.

“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.”

Notice that Jesus has already stated that those who believe in him are one with him and with the Father. Here, he is asking for something else. He is asking God to protect those who believe so that they may be one with each other, as Father and Son are one.

Let’s be clear.

Jesus wasn’t asking for unanimity, but unity.

He wasn’t asking the disciples to agree with one another.

Unity is not about agreement. Unity is not about uniformity. Unity is not about sameness. Too often agreement is about the patron calling the shots. Do you know how the Nicene Creed came into being? The Nicene Creed was hastened to a “unity” because of Constantine’s political needs and some not too subtle threats.


Unity where agreement is paramount will forever be at risk

of manipulation and scapegoating. Just get rid of the difficult ones, the ones who don’t think like us, the ones who ask too many questions, the ones who are blocking my plans and we will have agreement.

Does it sound familiar? Unity is about loving each other as Christ has loved us. (John 13:34-35)

We need to remember that the love of Christ does not kill the ones who disagree; it dies for the ones who disagree!

Truth be told, the Church past and present is never good in handling differences.

Let’s not pretend! We are well into the 21st century, the church has too often allowed the culture around us to dictate our response to questions of justice and morality, and the church has often drawn the net too tightly, refusing to accept those who are different and love and grace to those who need it most. Jesus was well aware of the influence of the world on his followers, and his prayer addresses the tension of being “in the world but not of the world.”

Throughout John’s Gospel, kosmos refers to a world that is hostile toward God.

A few verses beyond those we heard earlier, Jesus prays, 

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. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world” (14-16).

Now what do you think?

If Jesus is praying for our oneness then he is also recognizing and rejecting the boundaries and differences that divide us.

There are divisions within ourselves, our families, our churches, our country.  We live in a world full of divisions.

Male or female; rich or poor; Gay or straight; Whites or coloured;

Fellowship@10 or Family@10; Christian or Muslim; Conservative or liberal; Educated or uneducated; Young or old; Hymns or songs;

evangelical or progressive; orthodox or heretic. We could go on and on listing the boundaries that we encounter and all too often establish or promoted by us. They are not just divisions they have become oppositions. And some become enemies.

These divisions exist not only out there in the world but primarily and first in the human heart. We project onto the world our fragmented lives. Remember for every boundary we establish there is a human being.

Pause and reflect. Boundaries and differences are not about issues.

They are about real people, with names, lives, joys, sorrows,

concerns, and needs just like us. I think we sometimes forget or ignore this. They are also created in the image of God. They are also loved by God.

I guess it’s easier to deal with an issue than a real person.

Whether or not we admit it the boundaries we establish and enforce are usually done in such a way as to favour us; to make us feel ok, to reassure us that we are right and in control, chosen and desired, seen and recognized, approved of and accepted.

For me to win someone must lose, in order for me to be included someone must be excluded otherwise winning and being included mean nothing.

The divisions of our lives in some way become self-perpetuating.

We often deal with the boundaries and differences that divide us by writing agreements, covenants, treaties, and legislation that govern

how we will get along with each other and behave in the midst of our differences.

These are not bad things of themselves.

But they don’t bring about unity. That is not Jesus’ prayer.

Jesus does not pray for our tolerance, our getting along,

or just being nice to each other.  He does not even pray that

our differences would be eliminated.

Instead, he prays for our oneness. He prays that we would be one as he and the Father are one so that our oneness would be the revelation of God’s presence to the world.

Oneness in the midst of difference becomes a sacramental presence

of God’s life in the world. X2

That does not mean, however, that we lose our identity or individuality. Jesus does not stop being Jesus and the Father stop being the Father because they are one. Oneness is less about numbers and quantity and more qualitative. Jesus and the Father are one because they love and give themselves to each other.

Oneness is a quality of life – God’s life.

Jesus’ prayer for oneness is ultimately that we would be and live like God. Once again oneness is not about eliminating differences.

That’s why it’s difficult. It is about love. Love is the only thing that can ever overcome division.

Over and over Jesus tells us to:

  • Love God.
  • Love your neighbour.
  • Love yourself.
  • Love your enemy.

Our love for God, neighbour, self, and enemy reveals our oneness,

and the measure of our oneness, our God-likeness, is love.

In love there may be differences but there is no division.

God’s love knows no boundaries. God us loves all.

All are loved fully, completely, and uniquely as each needs.

God does not even draw boundaries between Jews or Gentiles.

If we think God loves Christians more than anyone else we have missed the good news of the Gospel. 

God loves your neighbour the same as God loves you.

God loves your enemy the same as God loves you.

If that is how God loves how can we do anything less and still call ourselves Christians?

For far too long we have dealt with each other through our boundaries, differences, and divisions.

I wonder how many of you have read my latest article in our MUC magazine on Embracing diversity?

I strongly encourage you if you have not.

The question for each of us this morning: Are you willing to be part of the answer for Jesus’ prayer of unity?

Though Jesus is praying to the Father you and I will in large part be

the ones to answer Jesus’ prayer. We answer his prayer every time

we choose how to love, who to love, where to love. It is time we answer Jesus’ prayer and deal with one another in love.

Love is essential for the body of Christ to be unified and for members to work together. Members of the body that are very different, with little in common, are able to appreciate and even enjoy others because of love.

And you and I know it’s not easy.

It’s easier talking about loving the world than loving your irritating neighbour, or loving those who disagree with, or loving those who disagree with you.

Allow me to wax some poetic licence.

If I do all my exegesis perfectly, put together a challenging sermon but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have God all figured out and understand all mysteries and if I have all faith so as to remove all my doubts

but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions and give my time to serving in committees or portfolios but do not have love, I gain nothing.

“That they may be one” remains Jesus’s cherished prayer and desire. 

May it become ours as well.


7 May 2023