Lord give me a Mercedes Benz — John 17 — May 17 2015

Sunday, May 17, 2015

John 17

When or how do you experience communion with God?  Could it be on a dark, clear, and starry night?  Could it be in a spectacular dawn or sunset?  Could it be through some vista of nature?  Could it be through some fine art – a painting, or sculpture?  Or could it be through some inspiring music, or through literature?

In John’s Gospel, in the communion between Jesus and God is reflected consummately not in any of the above, but rather this:  The communion between Jesus and God appears in Jesus’ prayer in chapter 17.  That prayer sums up many things in this Gospel of John, and especially, this:  That Jesus’ obedience to God reveals the glory of God.

Celebrities seek glory.  But glory in this Gospel passage means Jesus’ crucifixion for us.  In John’s Gospel, Jesus’ crucifixion is the goal and the triumph and the glory.  Celebrities have little interest in knowing us, and would surely avoid crucifixion for us.  But Jesus “Prays that his approaching death (‘the hour’) may prove to be the means by which Father and Son are mutually glorified (in the completion of the work of redemption)… giving eternal life to all … eternal life arising out of and consisting in the knowledge of God” (Peake p. 863).

Many prayers relate to the benefit of the believer.  Janis Joplin prayed for a Mercedes because her friends had Porsches.

In the AARP magazine (of Feb/Mar 2015) I read an article by Bill Newcott about prayer.  The title was, “The Paradox of Prayer”.  I was puzzled that the emphasis was on prayers that were not answered… and yet noting that people continued to pray and engage with God.  If Bill Newcott understood John chapter 17, then there would be no paradox of prayer.

In our Gospel reading today we have the prayer of Jesus.  There could have been one prayer of Jesus which was not answered.  Can you think of what that unanswered prayer may have been?  The unanswered prayer could have been the prayer “that this cup would pass from me”.  Yet Jesus withdrew that prayer, and prayed, rather, “thy will be done”.

That short prayer to God, “Thy will be done” is in the Lord’s Prayer too – the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray at every service, pray every day, and the prayer that is the last thing most believers are able to say with their last breath.  God may not remove the cup from us.  Yet we may pray, “Thy will be done.”

When we pray in the name of Jesus, it means that we seek to pray as Jesus prayed.  Jesus’ prayer was always that he would be obedient to the will of God, and that God’s purposes, God’s mission would be accomplished.

If we are dealing with, relating to or engaging the political authorities, local or national, we need to have a political representative or senator.   If we are dealing with or engaging the law, the courts, and judges we need to have a legal representative.  We may have to sacrifice money and work hard and wait a long time for all those kinds of access to power.

In engaging with the supreme authority of God, however, it is much more direct:  the Holy Spirit speaks in our hearts, and addresses the Father through the Son.  In this way, we have direct and immediate communication with God in prayer.  The Holy Spirit gives us the Holy Scriptures to know and to pray.  The Psalms made up the prayer book of Jesus, as Dietrich Bonheoffer wrote in his book, Life Together.

When we pray in the name of Jesus, it means that we seek to pray as Jesus prayed.  Jesus’ prayer was always that he would be obedient to the will of God, and that God’s purposes, God’s mission would be accomplished.

I may (and I do) pray for the welfare of the body of Christ and the people of God, especially in this State of Massachusetts in which 80 percent of the population attend no religious gathering at all.  I do many things, all those many things that I can or feel led to do, but I always have that submission to God when I pray, “Thy will be done.  This is your church.”There is always a kind of submission, release, and even joy in saying, “thy will be done”, and relying on God to do that.

I pray for the healing of a loved one.  There is always a kind of release in saying, “thy will be done”, in saying, “your mission be accomplished in me”, and relying on God to do that.  I do what I can or feel led to do.  I arrange for health care.  I visit. But I always have that submission to God – “Thy will be done.  May your mission be accomplished through me.”

Communion with God in prayer:  Don’t pray that the cup may be removed from you, because that is not a prayer ‘in Jesus name’.  It is unlikely to be answered.  Pray rather that you may glorify God, and that the Holy Spirit would glorify God in you.  This is the prayer that is always answered “Yes”.

When we are all concerned primarily that God accomplish the divine mission in us, then there is a mutual humility and respect.  There is a mutual forgiveness.  Then there is a natural unity which flows from that attitude – that God would accomplish the divine mission in and through us.  That unity overcomes all human divisions.

Amen.

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