By The Rev. Sherry Deets
7 Easter – May 12, 2013
It is often said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Life in all of its intricacies is a journey. From our beginning, our birth, we are pilgrim travelers seeking our place of self-worth.
A story is often told of life’s travels when it is said, “One cannot control when you are born, where you are born, or to what family you are born.” Likewise, “One cannot control when you die, where you may die, or even the circumstances of one’s death.” Yet, the one controlling element of life is the “dash” between birth and our time of death. What contributions will we make to the society in which we live and what will be said about our existence? Did we make a difference? Will our communities lament our absence when we are no longer on the scene? To make it plain, our lives are more than the possessions we accumulate or even the knowledge we acquire. Our existence is more than the status we often crave or the positions of power that we seek. We are spiritual beings as well-pilgrim travelers to say the least. There is a revival hymn that says as much; namely-“I want Jesus to walk with me; all along my pilgrim journey; I want Jesus to walk with me.”
John shares with us Jesus’ walk. John shares with us Jesus’ journey. Between the Last Supper, his final discourse, and walking across the Kidron Valley near the Mount of Olives being met by a platoon of soldiers, priests, Pharisees bent on arresting him, as his betrayer, Judas, stood within the crowd, Jesus takes a moment to be in conversation with the Father. John records the words: “After Jesus said this, he looked towards heaven and prayed.”
In Eugene Peterson’s “The Message,” he paraphrases the passage in saying, “In this godless world, you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I have conquered the world!” Jesus raises his eyes in prayer. He shares a meal, states the conflict, addresses the moment, gives significance to the journey, and he prays! Jesus is between human existence and the resurrection, and he enters a time of prayer on behalf of his disciples and the community, us. John invites us to hear Jesus’ words offered to God in prayer to come to an understanding that “we are persons who are part of a larger community for whom Jesus prays.”
You and I are on this journey through life-this pilgrim journey-traveling a road that the Lord has set in his purpose. What will we do? Scripture provides for us some direction; namely, Jesus prays for us that we may believe, and we are invited to receive the gift of prayer that we may be one.
Now Jesus prays for us that we might believe. In a world of perplexity, complexity, and confusion, we feel the need of guidance. Questions abound, such as– What shall we do? Where shall we go? What decision do we make? Are we doing the right and wise thing? People are looking for guidance in many places.
Recently I visited a bookstore just to browse and noticed how large the self-help section has grown. There are how-to books for every subject from belief to baking, from finding friends to developing faith, romance to every diet ever created, from exercise of all shapes and forms to creating a new you! We learn how to dress for success, influence people, and learn to become wealthy. Yet John shares with us the ultimate concern of a Savior who prays that we might believe that God loves us and is seeking a relationship with us. The belief that Jesus seeks in us is not a self-centered trust of our own knowledge and skills but a true understanding of the Father’s love for us, that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and through believing we may have life in his name.
I just finished reading a book entitled Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife. It is Dr. Eben Alexander’s story of his experience, his journey, as he lay in a coma, his brain attacked by a rare illness. Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence. His experience reminds me of Jesus’ prayer that we hear today from John’s gospel. Alexander experienced an interconnectedness between all people and he experienced God’s unconditional love. He says, “Not only was my journey about love, but it was also about who we are and how connected we all are—the very meaning of all existence. I learned who I was up there, and when I came back, I realized that the last broken strands of who I am down here were sewn up. You are loved. Those words are what I needed to hear as on orphan, as a child who’d been given away. But it’s also what every one of us in this materialistic age needs to hear as well, because in terms of who we really are, where we really came from, and where we’re really going, we all feel (wrongly) like orphans. Without recovering that memory of our larger connectedness, and of the unconditional love of our Creator, we will always feel lost here on earth. So here I am. I am still a scientist, I’m still a doctor, and as such I have two essential duties: to honor truth and to help heal. That means telling my story. A story that as time passes I feel certain happened for a reason. Not because I’m anyone special. It’s just that with me, two events occurred in union and concurrence, and together they break the back of the last efforts of reductive science to tell the world that the material realm is all that exists, and that consciousness, or spirit—yours and mine—is not the great and central mystery of the universe. I’m living proof, says Dr. Alexander.
Jesus’ last words to the disciples before he began his prayer were, “I have said [these things] to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33) Let us now trust that Christ has indeed already conquered the world, so we don’t have to fight to conquer it ourselves anymore. Trust the Father, trust the Son, trust the Holy Spirit. Understand that God loves you for who you are, not for what you do. Even when we face the trials that Jesus spoke of, we will never be forsaken. Trust that God will see you through, even if it’s through a door you never saw coming or would have chosen for yourselves. God is still working to bring life to the world today. So let us add our prayers to the prayer of Jesus. Lord God, let us be one, so that the world may know you and know that you love them, as you love your very own Son. Amen.
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