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John 17:1-11 NRSV
After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in 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.
Luke 24: 50-53 NRSV
Then Jesus led them out of the city as far as Bethany, where he raised his hands and blessed them. As he was blessing them, he departed from them and was taken up into heaven. They worshiped him and went back into Jerusalem, filled with great joy, and spent all their time in the Temple giving thanks to God.
What we heard in Jesus’s farewell discourse in John, was a prayer. An intimate prayer offered publicly. I am careful in my use of gender specific language to describe God. As all humanity, male and female are made in God’s image. I do not wish to limit God to any one gender. Here though, in Jesus prayer, Father is a term of intimacy rather than maleness. In John’s gospel this prayer comes immediately before Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. This prayer focuses on unity, on holding up the church, and for the disciples to be blessed in their work. For John, who was writing for the early believers, the point now is “how do we move forward?” At the core of the prayer is Jesus’ request that God will protect the disciples (the church) and keep them (it) unified. While we cannot know what will happen to the early believers at this point in John’s gospel, the impassioned hope and prayerful expectation is that they may not be divided in vision or purpose.
This emphasis on unity does not mean that all Christians are expected to agree but rather the hope is that we will recognize that what unites us is far greater than what divides us.
Luke then gives us a short account of Jesus departure. Luke then goes on to fill another book. The book of Acts, with an unfolding narrative about how the early believers come together as church and become the body of Christ continuing Jesus’ mission and ministry.
What does it mean for us? Put simply, we together are the Body of Christ and need to see Christ in each other. We have been living with COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. One of the joys evolving in this difficult time, is how much we, as God’s people, are being church, rather than going to church. We are the people of God and the Body of Christ. As these restrictions are now lessening, we find ourselves on a threshold. How will we continue to express the Way of Christ in this new era? How will the difference that we have lived in, develop the difference in how we will become? Great questions, needing prayerful consideration.
Go from here, full of the tenderness of Jesus’ care for each and every one of us. Go from here, carrying with you the abundance of God’s grace and love, and letting it overflow as blessings to all. Go; for Christ is out in the world, still calling us to life and love. Amen