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"That We May be One": John 17:1-11

"That We May be One": John 17:1-11

By David F. Sellery
June 9, 2017

Some call this Sunday: "Waiting Sunday." That's because... sandwiched as it is between The Ascension and Pentecost... it might easily be overlooked as a sleepy intermission between two awesome acts. But that would be a sad loss. We would miss one of the truly great gospels. We would lose the opportunity to hear Christ's final report to the Father... and hear him explain how all the pieces of the divine plan fit together. So, let's pause and give this gospel the reverent attention it deserves. It's worth the "Waiting."

On the rare chance that you missed the message in the other twenty chapters of his gospel, once again John is making the case for Christ's divinity. The text opens with Jesus calling on the Father... revealing himself as the manifestation of God's love made flesh for our redemption. Clearly, he's more than a heavenly goodwill ambassador. He's more than the prince of the prophets. Jesus speaks reverently to the Father. But he speaks as God the Son to God the Father.

John's gospel began by establishing the fact that: In the beginning was the Word. Lest we miss or forget the point, Jesus repeats that he was with the Father before the world began and not as an honored guest. He was, is and always will be one with the Father.

While Jesus makes his report, his Passion and Resurrection still lie ahead. But he is confident his mission will be fulfilled and he shares that confidence with us: In human form, Jesus has made God more accessible to his people. By example, he has established love of God and neighbor as the paradigm of the New Covenant. For our redemption, he is ready to take our sins to the cross.

In giving Christ his mission and sharing his power, the Father has glorified Jesus. In his humble obedience, Jesus has glorified the Father. In the gift of eternal life, God has glorified his people. And we in turn worship God with a new fervor born of this revelation. All the loose ends are tied up. God's plan is a closed-loop of love... Father-to-Son-to-people... all flowing reciprocally with the ease of alternating current. And as St. Augustine has explained, that current is the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.

Buried deep in the cosmic sweep of this gospel is another message that should not be overlooked. Jesus asks the Father: That they be made one, as you and I are one. As I considered this unifying message, I looked up from my keyboard to see the latest news of the massacre in Manchester flash across my muted TV screen... among the victims: a five-year-old, an eight-year-old, a fourteen-year-old... innocent little girls out for a night of giggling and squealing at the latest teen idol... torn to pieces by hatred. And in an instant, across the globe, people of good- will were being figuratively torn to pieces by revulsion, by anger, by crushing sorrow and stunning disbelief. How do we put the pieces together again? How do we move forward in the face of rampant evil?

While I tried to focus on Christ's call for unity, I listened to my own boys jumping around in the next room and another image from the evening news came to mind. A traumatized Nigerian boy was recounting how his father was murdered by terrorists. This back-country subsistence farmer was confronted by gunmen. They made one demand: Renounce Jesus. Fighting back his fear, the man explained that he could never do that... because if he renounced Jesus, then Jesus could not commend him to the Father. His declaration of faith was cut short by gunfire.

Watching the boy's moving, matter-of-fact presentation I was overcome by a too familiar spectrum of emotions... horror, sorrow, pity... but then inspiration and humble exaltation. There I was, TV-remote in hand, sitting comfortably in my American suburban security. This boy and his martyred father were a world away. We had neither nationality, nor race, language, culture or circumstances in common. And yet I felt profoundly that their loss was my loss. I prayed that their declaration would be my declaration.

In the glory that these humble people gave to God, in the witness that they gave to me, I rejoiced that Christ's prayer for unity is being answered. In that moment, I knew that we are one Body in Christ. Today, I pray... that by the grace of God... the faith of our Nigerian brothers and sisters... the courage of the Coptic Christians... the strength of the Syrian and Iraqi martyrs... the youthful innocence of Manchester... will all be ours: That we may be one.

Alleluia. He is risen.

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