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  • Writer's pictureRev. Drew Stockstill

That They May All Be One

May 29, 2022 Rev. Dr. Darlis Swan

John 17:20-26

"I ask not only on behalf of these but also on behalf of those who believe 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 have 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. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them and I in them.”

Grace and peace to you from god our father and the lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

In today’s gospel lesson Jesus prays that his disciples might be one. He is praying to the Lord to make sure those chosen to follow him will be together in his name. And he is praying for all of us to be one in Christ – so that the world may believe. As tragedy and terror come close to us, what difference does it make that we Christians are one? Simply this: in a world ripped apart by senseless violent acts, Jesus’ prayer is our source of hope. Jesus asks us today to make this claim: We are the community for whom Jesus prays. Jesus prays for us to succeed in our witness in the world – especially in times of fear.

When I consider all of this, several thoughts about this prayer of Jesus come to mind. First of all, when Jesus is sitting at the table with his disciples, he is praying like a parent who has adopted these children. They belonged to God, but God gave them to Jesus to care for, to teach, to nurture. You see, soon Jesus will go away, and he prays for these children with the love of a parent’s heart. Of course, this reminds me of the farewells that my own mother gave me when she sent me out to pursue a faith journey that she wasn’t sure about but she trusted to God. I remember her insisting that I eat a good breakfast that she had prepared the day I moved to Washington, D.C. - a day I thought I had no time to eat.

What keeps us on the journey is Christ’s love and forgiveness. As Pastor Drew pointed out last Sunday, by naming each one of us, we are the saints. We remember the saints who have gone before us. On May 8, the church commemorates Julian of Norwich, a renewer of the church, who died around 1416. Here was a woman open to god’s surprises. Julian or Juliana was most likely a Benedictine nun living in an isolated cell attached to a priory in Norwich, England. Very little is known about her. However, when she was about 30 years old, she reported having visions that she compiled into a book. It was called Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love. These visions declared that love was the meaning of religious experience, provided by Christ who is love, for the purpose of love.

You, the people of Christ Lutheran, are living out this love…in so many visible ways. You are the gospel message! You have Health Ministries and clinics that provide healing to a community with many needs. And, you called a pastor from one of our full communion partners. And he was willing to live out this agreement by honoring and respecting your Lutheran beliefs/traditions while preserving his own identity as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA. What an example of the power of Christian unity!

1. Christian unity is both a gift and a task. Some say that we are already one in Christ because we believe in him. That is true in a spiritual way, but when Jesus prayed to God for the unity of his disciples it was “so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” The task part of being one in Christ is to live into that unity given to us. It we take this passage seriously, it is hard to say “I am in Christ.” It is more accurate to say we are in Christ. The task is for us together to make Christ known. We live and work in a diverse society. There is a good chance that as we go about daily life we will encounter those who are not Christian. In those situations we may have to explain what it means to be together in Christ to those of another faith tradition - or no faith at all. We may not even discuss beliefs, but we reveal who we are by how we greet or treat others and respect their traditions – especially if they are different from ours. It can be difficult to talk to others about our faith when we know that their basic beliefs are not ours. But that is why Jesus has prayed for us to be united so that we can tell and show how Christ’s love has touched us. Not only do we publicly confess our faith when we worship, but we express Christ’s love in the way we treat each other. .

2. Jesus asks for visible unity – so that the world may believe that Jesus is Lord. We are called to make Christ known in as many ways as possible.

There are many ways to live out the mission of the church. It’s at the heart of who we are as Lutheran Christians. What is your vision of Christian unity? Here at Christ Lutheran? In Harrisburg? Among all Christians? I envision all Christians sharing baptism and the Lord’s Supper in an appropriate and “official” way. I imagine many celebrations in different parts of the world where Christians, believing God is present, come together to share the Lord’s Supper and hear the word of God through sermons, scriptures, and song.

Is it important for us to pursue the kind of unity for which Christ prayed. This unity can take as many forms as we can imagine and spread to the ends of the earth. We don’t need to be selective or limit the number of Christians with whom we want a closer relationship. Christian unity doesn’t know any geographical boundaries.

But where all these initiatives make a difference really is where you and I are now! Here in a congregation of the ELCA that is part of a body of believers numbering nearly 3.3 million members and through the Lutheran world federation 77 million. Our outreach to others will succeed by our strong witness to each other. See how they love each other! If that is true, we will have a spirit and energy that nobody can miss.

All the formal agreements for Christian unity in world will not make a difference unless you and I work together to make Christ known. We aren’t much different from Jesus’ first disciples – doubting, misunderstanding, and trusting in our own strength too much. And just as he did for those disciples, Jesus continues, through the Holy Spirit, to desire and pray that we, together we will succeed in being Christ to each other – so that our oneness will radiate and touch the rest of the world. In times of grief and sorrow as well as joy, we can experience and celebrate that Christ has made us one. Along with other Christians throughout the world we rejoice that Jesus has given himself to us in baptism and the Lord’s Supper and that he continues to find ways to draw us closer to him and to each other. Isn’t it wonderful to know that God is creating and perfecting our unity so that we can be faithful witnesses to the world? We are the community for whom Christ prays. Thanks be to God!


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