John’s Gospel is generally considered to be written in multiple parts. The first part, chapters 1-13 consist of the Prologue and the signs and dialogs. Then chapters 13-17 are the Farewell Discourse, leading to the Passion narrative. Chapter 17 is the Farewell Prayer – Jesus’ last prayer for his disciples, and our Gospel reading today if the first half of that prayer. So, given that very brief context…
I’d like you to take just a moment to remember a time when you received a precious gift. Perhaps an heirloom from an older relative. Perhaps a priceless work of art from a young grandchild. Perhaps a visit from your grown child. Reflect on how the gift made you feel; then consider the gift itself.
For me, although there are several to choose from, I reflect on this. When our daughter and son-in-law were pregnant with their first child, and Hector and I shared our desire to move up here from California to be closer, that they gave us the gift of welcoming us into their lives. I consider this to be their gift to us, but Dani (our daughter) has said how we are a gift to them: helping out when needed, offering advice when asked (only when asked!), and providing extended family to our now 2 grandchildren. What? We are the gift?
Think on that. You are a gift to someone. By being present, by being helpful, sometimes by being quiet.
Jesus says that also. Three times in this short prayer.
- in v2: (speaking of himself in the third person): “to give eternal life to all whom you have given him”
- v6: “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours and you gave them to me”
- vv 9-10: “I am asking on behalf of those whom you gave me”
Consider that for a moment: we are God’s gift to Jesus.
Then, Jesus says this: “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.”
Protect us? For what? I beg permission to look forward a bit. Next week is Pentecost. The disciples learn that Jesus is sending them into the world to complete the work that he started. He also tells them they are not alone – he sends the Paraclete to be on their hearts always. And this is meant for us also.
Here, Jesus is praying for his Father to protect his disciples, and us, as we go out to do what we are called to do in his name. Note that this is an intercession prayer – Jesus is praying for us. As we pray for others every Sunday, and should be doing in our daily prayers. And realize that others are praying for us.
What are we to do, such that we need God’s protection? Lots! We look to Jesus’ acts as a model. Jesus ALWAYS was on the side of the poor, the disenfranchised, women, children, the disabled. On the cross, he was even on the side of the penitent criminal.
So this is our call also. At Christ Church, we are already doing much. Through our food pantry and the Veterans Village meals, we provide nourishment to homeless folk. Through participating in the Hunger Walk, we also provide for those who are food-insecure. Our Sunday liturgy provides spiritual fulfillment to those who come to us to worship. Our music program provides relaxation and hospitality to those in our community.
And soon we will be adding one more outreach. You may have read in the most recent Weekly about a program called One Parish One Prisoner. This is a program run by an inter-faith group Underground Ministries to provide support for those being released from state prison. They noted that in Washington, there are approximately the same number of prisoners being released as there are churches. So they asked, what if each church provided support for one releasing prisoner? And they created One Parish One Prisoner. Starting this summer, Christ Church will be a participating parish in this program. We will join St. Paul’s Episcopal in Mount Vernon, and Trinity Presbyterian right up the street. I am so excited to live into Christ’s call to us in this way. On June 4, representatives from OPOP will be here to do a presentation and to answer our questions. We are already building a core team. Please plan to join us to learn more.
So here we are. On this last Sunday of Easter, celebrating resurrection; on the eve of Pentecost when we receive the Holy Spirit and get our commission. We rejoice in doing the work we are called to do, both ongoing and new. We accept Jesus’ prayer for us: “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me” We pray for each other, and for those we serve.