Praying for the disciples
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
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.”
There is a print up in the social room of a fairly famous painting by John Henry Lorimer which resides in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. The painting is entitled: “Ordination of elders in a Scottish Kirk.”
When you look at the painting you see a bald minister wearing a robe and with preaching tabs, with his hands raised in prayer. He is standing next to a little communion table with a bible in front of him and 6 elder ordinands gathered round the table, bowed in prayer.
In the background is an old wooden raised pulpit.
It is a fairly famous painting if not the most famous painting by Lorimer.
It reminds me of the time when I was ordained and the moderator of presbytery and all the ordained ministers came forth and put their hands on my head and I was prayed for.
The moderator prayed that I received the Holy Spirit and it certainly felt like I did. It was a moving, awesome, holy moment.
I think it is always a holy moment when someone prays for you, and you are right there and you hear the prayer and feel the prayer and quite possibly feel the Holy Spirit.
I know what it is like to prayer for people who profess their faith in Christ at Confirmation, or children who are being baptized, or church members who are ordained as elders and I touch them. I as the minister of grace touch them as a way symbolically and sacramentally to pass on the grace that I received. To pass on that same Holy Spirit I received to others.
I don’t know what others feel, but when I do I feel something deep within me. To touch others with grace is a “wow “that sometimes is hard to explain.
And so when we have the service in January to do with the Baptism of Jesus and sometimes I ask you to come forward and I anoint you with water or oil…. I cry just about the whole time because I am so moved.
I feel that God is flowing between us.
And so I wonder what it must have been like for the disciples at the Last Supper to hear Jesus praying for them.
“protect them” Jesus says
“make them one” Jesus says.
Jesus we know was a man of prayer who often went alone to pray. And there are a few of his prayers recorded in scripture although most of them are not. Most of the time he was alone.
But this time he prays for his disciples. It is the night he is to be arrested. The next day he will be crucified and he prays for them.
And he says that he has been glorified in them. It means that he has already started to live in them and they in him and that people will and can experience Christ through them.
It is not called an ordination prayer, but it is very much like an ordination prayer where he will say “Sanctify them.” And “As you have sent me Father, so I have sent them.”
In other words he is praying for the Spirit and the Spirit’s power to be on them, so that they can do his work in the world.
We don’t know exactly how they felt, what they realized, how much they were moved or touched. They probably didn’t realize the full impact of the Jesus words because they didn’t know that less than 24 hours later Jesus would die on a cross.
But at the same time, the fact that this speech is recorded in scripture probably means it was a special time. In fact in John’s gospel, the last supper is 5 chapters out of 21. The arrest, trial, crucifixion, resurrection and appearances of Jesus all together only get 4 chapters.
So it seems as if they or at least John was very moved and touched by that last supper together when Jesus prayed for the disciples.
I cannot help but think how special it must have been. I know how special it is when someone prays for me, or when I prayer for another.
I am sure it was very special for them, very sacred, very Holy.
Because I believe that when you pray for someone power is released.
I believe when you pray eternal life happens.
I believe when you pray, God flows between you and the one you pray for.
I believe that prayer is one of the best ways to deepen your relationship with God, with Jesus, with the Holy Spirit.
I believe prayer is how best we are transformed into the image of Christ…
Because the more time we spend in the presence of God, in the presence of Christ, the more we become like Christ.
That’s why I need a whole lot of prayer…because I still have a long way to go.
It is no accident that Jesus defines eternal life during a prayer.
And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”
Contrary to much popular belief Jesus does not define eternal life as going to heaven after you die…
But defines it as a relationship with God and with him, and it begins here and now.
And what better way to have a relationship with Christ than by talking to him, communicating with him… noticing him…
And prayer is bigger than just the words we say in a formal prayer.
Prayer is to sing the hymns with meaning, to notice the power and content of the words we sing. Prayer is to feel Christ in the music and let our Spirits be open to him.
Prayer is when we care for another and our Spirits our touched and we feel Christ.
Any moment can be a moment of prayer where Christ is moving and living in us and we are aware of Christ’s touch in our life.
At the movies, holding a grandchild, at the pub with friends, during worship, at the community dinner.
Our lives can be a prayer, always open and connected and aware of love, of sharing, of communion and community, of giving, or sacrifice, of joy, of peace, of trust..
And as we connect with those feelings, emotions and experiences Christ moves in us…
And that is eternal life. Someone I was talking to the other day said that he was really happy.
He had a good job, he got married to a beautiful and wonderful woman, he enjoys his music and play in a band, he bought a house… he has faith in God…. He has a good relationships with his parents and his brother. He said that he had never been happier….
He doesn’t have to die to enjoy eternal life, he already has it…
Today is Ascension Sunday, the day we remember Jesus leaving the earth to go to be with God.
And what Jesus promises is power. That we will be clothed with power by the Holy Spirit.
Most of us would love a little power.
Some of us would like a lot of power, I suppose.
But what kind of power.
National Geographic did a thing online and asked 10 National Geographic Explorers if they could choose one Superpower what would it be.
Some of the answers: reading minds, flying, making people understand instantly, to turn anything into any food you want, teleporting and Invisibility.
I don’t know about you, what you would want for a superpower.
In the movie Miss Congeniality the character Sandra Bullock has to go undercover as a beauty pageant contestant. She says: “I’m not going to parade around in a swimsuit like some airhead bimbo… and all she wants is world peace.”
But at the end of the movie when the crime is solved and she is given the title of Miss Congeniality she says:
“The thing is…I really do want world peace.”
And so do I.. That might be the superpower I would want. To be able to grant world peace.
But I do know that Jesus offers us powers. I might call them super powers because they are powers that are pretty super.
One of the powers is to be happy and content in life… to find and inner peace and joy, because you have connected to love so much that you are continually loving others and loving God.
Jesus calls that eternal life. Not so much life that lasts for ever, but life that has an eternal or heavenly quality.
And another power is love. Not just love for those who love you, but love for others, love for humanity, love for enemies, love for strangers, love for plants and animals and the earth.
Universal and Unconditional love for all
And some other powers
Peace, non-violence and forgiveness.
I think today we really need to think about those powers.
Last Monday a man strapped a bomb to himself and at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, he blew himself up killing twenty-two people and wounding over 100 others. A number of those killed were children, the youngest was an eight-year old girl.
The so called Islamic State claims responsibility.
I think it needs to be said from the pulpit that Islamic terrorists no more represent Islam than Jonestown or David Koresh or Timothy McVeigh represent Christianity.
But if you are like me, maybe you wonder: “Why don’t all the major powers or NATO or something just go and wipe out the Islamic State. End of problem.”
But upon a little further reflection there is a problem with that solution.
The first is that is wouldn’t work. Killing a whole bunch of radical Islamic terrorists, would just mean that a new crop would grow up somewhere else. Invading and defeating Iraq and Afghanistan who harboured terrorists didn’t get rid of terrorism. You could probably argue that it increased terrorism.
And the reason why is the second reason. When you go about exterminating people as a solution to a problem, you are basically validating violence as a way to solve violence.
The problem in this world is that there is too much violence. Another problem is that the people who think they are right feel that violence is legitimized when they do it.
The problem with the Manchester bombing is that it is more than just one madman with his own personal issues.
It is probably a madman with his own personal issues, but it is more than that.
This is a product of a theology of violence that is prevalent in many places in the world and prevalent in some Christian theology as well.
The idea that if you are not one of the chosen then you are going to hell and therefore expendable.
Sometimes you hear it said that if people reject God, then he will reject them, and you should fear this God who will punish and destroy you if you don’t love him and follow him.
Can you imagine a mother telling a little child that if the child doesn’t love her she will burn him for all eternity.
But Jesus’ way is a different way. Jesus who is both fully human and fully divine shows us that the way is not to be violent.
To be fully human is not to hold power over others and destroy them if they don’t follow you, but to live a life of service to other.
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. And Jesus says that if you have seen him, you have seen that Father.
From the cross Jesus yells: Exterminate them.
No he cries Father forgive them.
To the ones who rejected and tortured and killed he forgives…
And by extension he forgive us all and shows us a new way to be… a way of love….
What kind of power can we be clothed with? The same power of Jesus to love, to care, and to forgive.
Our hearts go our to the families of those killed at Manchester, and with Muslims and Buddhists and Christians and Atheists and those of other religions or of no religion we denounce violence and acts of terror as contrary to God’s will and way or to the way of being fully human.
And so we pray. Not only pray for those in pain, and those in grief, and pray for peace and pray for an end of violence…
But pray so that the divine would flow between us…
Pray so that people might come to know divine love…
Pray so that people could experience unconditional love here and know…
Pray so that the transformative process of becoming like Christ would happen a little more every day..
Pray so that God’s kingdom would come, here and now.
Pray and in praying experience eternal life this very instant…
Pray… and this Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
He will come into your life. Amen.