An act of worship at home
Reading John 17:6-19
‘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. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.
In today’s gospel reading Jesus is praying. The disciples had always wanted to know more about Jesus’ prayer life: they couldn’t miss his passionate intimacy with God, and they had said probably more than once, “Lord, teach us to pray.” But in the shadows, on that last night after supper, Jesus wasn’t teaching them to pray, but he was praying for them. Aware that these are his final hours, Jesus says to God, “I am no longer in this world, but they are.” Jesus’ words underline a huge problem for us: Jesus is no longer in the world, but we are.
Teresa of Avila said “Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ looks out on a hurting world, yours are the feet with which he goes about doing good; yours are the hands with which he is to bless now.” Goodness! That’s a tall order.
Perhaps Jesus should have left the world in more capable hands than ours!
Jesus was praying for his disciples, and he was praying for those who would follow, for us.
And what we learn from Jesus is that we are in the world, not to condemn it, but to love it. And how do we
so that? We don’t wag fingers, we don’t pronounce judgment; we don’t take over, we don’t brush crumbs off the table to hungry dogs. We love — perhaps the way Jean Vanier described love: “to love someone is not first of all to do things for them, but to reveal to them their beauty and value, to say to them through our attitude,
‘You are beautiful. You are important. I trust you. You can trust yourself.’
Maybe we all know people who do things for others and in the process crush them, making them feel that they are incapable of doing things by themselves. To love someone is to reveal to them their capacities for life, the light that is shining in them.”
Paul says, “Love does not insist on its own way.” God could have made us like puppets, so God could manipulate us and everything to suit God. But instead God yearns for our love, and cuts the strings,
risking the suffering Jesus was about to experience when he prayed for us. Understandably, we want everything to go smoothly for us and others, and we associate God with all that is good. But God is the Lord of everything,
and in the shadows of that very dark room where Jesus prayed by flickering candlelight for his disciples, we realize he was about to suffer, and the ones he prayed for would suffer too, as all of us face difficulties,
some are manageable, some are overwhelming. But Jesus did not promise or even pray for a bubble of safety to envelop us but through Christ we can know that we are God’s, that God is with us and holds us, always.
We are not holy, but we can love, and wherever we find ourselves as individuals, and as the Church, the body of Christ, we can say, “In this place, Christ is loved, and you are loved.”
We rather feebly reach out to your wounds, and we get it, for we are wounded ourselves, and we touch, and we pray, although our prayers may avail little, we know that Jesus prayed so the disciples could see him pray,
and he still prays for us now, right now, in heaven, and that is the truth that sanctifies, that is our vocation in the world.
In this moment, in this place, at this time, here and now, Lord: We worship you.
Your word lifts us beyond ourselves to new heights and depths, Lord: We praise you.
For the words of the Bible that speak new truths and heighten our awareness of the truth,
Lord: We praise you.
For the moments of silence that feel filled to overflowing with your presence,
Lord: We praise you, we worship and adore you.
And we come to you in prayer with all the burdens of the people we know and love;
all the burdens of the people we hear of and see;
all the burdens of the people we laugh with and cry with.
All-powerful God, who understands our needs before we think and speak, we unload our pains and joys, our sorrows and our celebrations, and bring our prayers before you: for the hurting and the hurt; for the loved and the loveless; for the young and old; for believers and non-believers; for those certain of their faith and those who waver; for those of different faiths and identities from us; for the ill and those in pain and distress; for the dying and for the grieving whose minds are bewildered and burdened by grief.
All-powerful God, surround each and every one with your love.
God of all, help us all, whoever we are, to hold together our worship of you, our faith in you, along with our daily lives, so that our living becomes a witness to your truth. Amen.
Christ, from whom all blessings flow,
Perfecting the saints below,
Hear us who Thy nature share,
Who Thy mystic body are.
Join us, in one spirit join;
Let us still receive of Thine;
Still for more on Thee we call,
Thou who fillest all in all.
Sweetly may we all agree,
Touched with loving sympathy,
Kindly for each other care;
Every member feel its share.
Love, like death, hath all destroyed,
Rendered all distinctions void;
Names, and sects, and parties fall:
Thou, O Christ, art all in all.
As we leave this time of worship and take ourselves and your truth, O God, into the secular, messy, mixed-up world: be our strength and our guide. And so may we know your blessing, this day and forever more. Amen.