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Easter 7B

The Lord’s Prayer – the other one.
(John 17:6-21)

by The Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones

Does it seem like six weeks already since Easter Sunday morning,
with our daffodil cross gracing the sanctuary?
For these past six weeks we’ve been exploring,
through the varied Biblical buffet set before us by the Revised Common Lectionary, just what ‘resurrection’ looks like. Back on Easter Sunday, I said that resurrection is
“the action of God to bring forth life from death. It bursts out of the tombs of our own failures,
our own terrors, our own fears, our own questions,
our own deaths, beginning silent at first,
diffident, until finally we sense and see it, golden, filled with futures yet to be lived.”i

Resurrection, new life, revealed itself in the strangest of places:
Earth Day, we saw resurrection in the innate liveliness and resilience of the planet’s ecosystem.
Good Shepherd Sunday we discovered resurrection  in the story of a blind man, shepherded into
healed life, abundant life by Jesus.
Then resurrection leapt like wild-fire beyond the confines of one religion, across race and gender barriers to bring a promise of wholeness to one whose abundance of wealth and privilege still left him bereft of his heart’s desire: belonging and welcome.
Last week, underneath the apparent joyfulness of an exuberant psalm, we saw the power of resurrection in the lives and faith and hopes of a refugee, landless people, ‘singing resurrection anyway.’

Seven weeks ago when I mapped out this Easter Season, I thought that today I would be able to come to
Psalm 1, with its picture of blessedness, as the culmination of our exploration of Easter.  I planned the service, and Douglas and I chose the music with that in mind. So imagine my surprise this week,
when as I kept reading the texts, Psalm 1 sat firmly rooted  like a tree, on its page. What started to tug my soul was the John passage, which is odd, because you’ve already heard me grumble about wordy John, with his soft spot for adding theological voiceovers, and circular repetitions, and mystical flights of fancy that leave most of us in the dark.

But John’s Blessing is what left the page,
in the form of strange blessing,
the right blessing for this last day of the Easter Season.
For God knows,
despite all our best attempts to see resurrection
all around us, within us, and through us,
for some of us, it’s not that easy.
I know some of your stories,
and I know there are many more in our midst,
of people crying out for some hope of life,
of resurrection, or reconciliation,
some good word from a doctor, or a family member,
some sign of peace returning,
of forgiveness being given so that new life
can take the place of a broken one.

And of all texts, John’s is the one that speaks
most clearly to this yearning, longing,
with a prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer.
Not the “Our Father who art in Heaven” prayer,
but the other one.ii

We’re used to Jesus praying;
Luke is forever showing Jesus going off to a quiet place to pray
in the still of the early morning.
We’ve seen Jesus praying while healing,
we’ve  seen him bless bread as he breaks it.
We rightly deduce that Jesus is a man of prayer.
But this time, with John’s Gospel, it’s different.

John’s Jesus is not the very human one that Mark shows us,
John shows us the soul, and the eternal spirit of Jesus,
right from his opening words “In the beginning was the Word.”
John’s Jesus speaks always from the other side of resurrection.
John writes from within the context of a community
at least 60 years after the crucifixion,
who are experiencing the living presence of a risen Christ.

Even when John puts Jesus into the human circumstances
of his life before his death, John’s voiceover keeps reminding us that death won’t end the story.
Unlike Mark’s Jesus, who on the night before his death,
was out in Gethsemane, praying fervently to be able to endure the coming torment, John’s Jesus is Wise, Sage-like. Calm.

The last supper is ended.
Judas has already left,
but Jesus remains.
A lifetime shrinks down to an eternal now.
The healing is done, the teaching,
and even the talking, all of it, complete.

The eyes meet across the room,
maybe filled with an unshed tear,
overflowing with love, and longing, and endings.
A holy moment, one when the only thing left to do is hug or pray
(and what is prayer if it’s not a hug of one soul for another?).

So he prays.
And this is the blessing, my dear, dear people;
Jesus was, is praying for us.
He says so;
“Not just for the ones in the room with me,
but for all those who will come to know
about you, God, and about me, because of these disciples.”

That gives me goose-bumps.
I know how much it has meant to me,
in times of trouble and trial,
in times of illness, or uncertainty,
and even in times of great joy,
that people close by and far away were praying for me.

I also know I’m speaking to people in this space now,
who can testify to the
‘I don’t know what it is but’
sense of energy, or support, of surrounding light, of comfort in aloneness
that they’ve experienced KNOWING that people are praying.
Some of you speak, with awe and mystery,
of sensing that when they pray, or hug their child,
or participate in healing pathway,
they are aligning their deepest intentions
with the holy energy of the universe,
that force for reconciliation, connection, healing, joy, resurrection, new life,
belonging and abundance,
that lies in the heart of God.

So how much more then, does it mean to me
to know that this Jesus, whom I try to follow,
whose life and message and ongoing presence
I seek to make real and relevant in our complex world,
was praying for us, and is still praying for us?

Jesus, the crucified and Risen One praying for what matters to you right now,
what burdens you right now,
what hurts you, what causes you fear.
Praying with hallelujahs for what delights you,
for what has given you joy, or healing or hope.
Praying for those you love
and those you don’t know how to love.
Praying for your protection against all the guises of evil,
protection in tough times, wandering times, empty times, unloving times.
Jesus is praying for you.

I’m going to end our sermon time today a little differently.
As I read once more this other Lord’s Prayer,
this resurrection blessing from the Gospel of John,
I’m inviting you to close your eyes, and  imagine, not me,
but Jesus, risen, and as close to both us and to the heart of God
as it’s possible to be,
praying for you, personally, these words,
and more importantly, praying as only God in Christ can,
for the deepest need or joy for your truest self.

Jesus’ Prayer.

Holy Abba, Source of life and love,
Guard and protect these your beloved children.
Set a night watch over them so they will be safe.
Safe to grow in heart and mind.
Grant them joy, fullness of life.
Where there is brokenness, mend and heal.
Where there is emptiness and loss,
renew and refill.
As you, God, are truth itself,
Keep them true to their truest selves.

So be it.

©Elisabeth R. Jones, May 2012.


i Easter Sermon, April 8, 2012. The End is where we start from.


ii The title, and some of the content of this sermon, is inspired by a webpost of David Lose, The Other Lord’s Prayer, at http://www.workingpreacher.org/dear_wp.aspx?article_id=587 (May 15, 2012).

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