top of page

The Prayer

Rev. harry Currie

May 12, 2024

Acts 1:1-11, John 17:6-19

Lead us to a place. Guide with your grace. To a place where we’ll be safe.

Some words from the song “the Prayer” music by David Foster and lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager.

Sager in her memoir talked about “The Prayer” saying that it embodied everything she looked for in her life. A place of safety and love.

And in this world today “the prayer” is very meaningful. One can think of Palestine and Israel. One can think of the Ukraine. One can think of some 40 million refugees looking for a place to call home. A place of safety and love.

       One can think of the unhoused in Edmonton. Thousands… with Mayor Sohi stated that over 300 people died in Edmonton last year as a result of being unhoused.

 

One can think of so many people who are in bad or abusive relationships.

All of us long to be led to a place of safety and love.

Lead us to a place. Guide us with your grace. To a place where we’ll be safe.

Maybe that is your prayer too. Or maybe that is your prayer for someone you love.

 

Jesus had a prayer like that too. The night before he died, he prayed: Keep them safe Father. Make them one as we are one.

It is very similar to lead them to a place. Guide them with your grace. To a place where they’ll be safe.

 

Well, what is that place?

 

It is a place of oneness. It is a place where we are one with each other and one with Christ and one with the Spirit and one with God.

That is the ultimate place everyone wants to be. It isn’t Hawaii or Mexico, or Palm Springs.

It is a place where we are safe, a place where we are loved, a place of connection where we accepted, listened to, appreciated, loved, heard, touched, even caressed, healed, cared for, and able to be ourselves.

And that is not a geographic place.

 

When Yuri Gagarin flew into space in 1961, as the first human to officially fly in space, the Russian government according to a Khrushchev speech tried to make a big deal about the fact that Gagarin didn’t see God.

This comes from a spatial understanding of heaven that was held by the ancients that God in his heavens was geographically located above the sky.

       But the place God leads us to is not about geography.

       The kingdom of God, or the reign of Christ, or the dominion of love is not about geography but relationships.

The place is not a physical place. It is relational place where you are loved.

Heaven is not a physical geographical place

       Eternal life is not a physical geographical place.

 

As Jesus says in his prayer. This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

 

The safe place is Jesus. It is God. It is Spirit. It is love. It is unity. It is relationship.

It isn’t geography.

 

Today on Ascension Sunday, it is easy to get caught up in the geography. Jesus ascends up. And in Jesus’ day it was believed that the firmament, another word for sky, was like a tent. And above the firmament physically was where God lived in the heavens.

And so, for some, Jesus’ Ascension is about going up into that place in the sky called heaven to be with God.

And granted we don’t think of the Ascension as nearly important say, as Easter or Christmas, or even Pentecost.

Not nearly the celebration. We probably can’t find any Ascension Day cards at Hallmark. We don’t exchange presents or have a turkey.

       There is some confusion about the Ascension. The end of the gospel of Luke indicates that the Ascension happened on Easter Sunday. But Luke who also wrote the Acts of the apostles talks about Jesus appearing to the apostles over 40 days, which is why the church celebrates Ascension 40 days after Easter. In practice since we don’t have a Thursday service for Ascension we usually celebrate, if we celebrate it, the Sunday after the fourty days. So, did Jesus ascend on Easter and then still appear to the disciples like he appeared to Paul on the Damascus Road? Or did the Ascension happen fourty days later? And is that fourty days, fourty literal days or symbolic days? I don’t know for sure.

I, at one time didn’t think that much of the Ascension. Not that I didn’t think it happened, but I didn’t understand the significance, or thought that it paled in significance to Christmas and Easter and Pentecost.

But I would like to argue that Ascension is much more important than what many think, and what I used to think.

I think it kind of completes the package of Good Friday and Easter.

Many ministers and scholars would probably argue that Good Friday and Easter are a package and even though we celebrate them on different days, one without the other would not give us the true picture of Jesus.

 

I think we need to add in Ascension to the package.

Jesus dies on the cross and rises. We talk about atonement theories and how Jesus’ death and resurrection brings us to God and overcomes our sin and the world’s sin, and there is forgiveness and reconciliation.

       And we are supposed to die with Jesus and die to sin and selfishness, and then be raised with Jesus, or born again with Jesus to live a new life.

But it is not done.

 

       We need to ascend with Jesus. This is what the late spiritual writer Thomas Merton wrote:

[The Ascension] is the feast of silence and interior solitude when we go up to live in heaven with Jesus: for he takes us there, after he has lived a little while on earth among us.  This is the grace of Ascension Day: to be taken up into the heaven of our own souls, the point of immediate contact with God.  To rest on this quiet peak, in the darkness that surrounds God.  To live there through all trials and all business with the “tranquil God who makes all things tranquil.”

 

The grace of Ascension Day is to be taken up to the heaven of our own souls, the point of immediate contact with God.

As Jesus prayed: Make them one, as we are one.

 

We not only need to die with Jesus. Die to sin and selfishness. Die to the World Domination System. Die to hate and violence.

We need to rise with Jesus to a new life. A life of love. A life or care and compassion. A life of bringing God’s Dominion of love on earth as it is in heaven.

 

But we also need to ascend with Jesus to that place. That place of oneness and love, where we are one with God, one with each other, one in love. Connected with all creation in oneness.

 

Make us one, Lord as you and God are one.

 

Listen to the words of Caryll Houselander an English mystic from her autobiography, A Rocking Horse Catholic published in 1955.

 

       I was in an underground train, a crowded train in which all sorts of people jostled together, sitting and strap-hanging—workers of every description going home at the end of the day. Quite suddenly I saw with my mind, but as vividly as a wonderful picture, Christ in them all. But I saw more than that; not only was Christ in every one of them, living in them, dying in them, rejoicing in them, sorrowing in them—but because He was in them, and because they were here, the whole world was here too . . . all those people who had lived in the past, and all those yet to come.

       I came out into the street and walked for a long time in the crowds. It was the same here, on every side, in every passer-by, everywhere—Christ.

       I had long been haunted by the Russian conception of the humiliated Christ, the lame Christ limping through Russia, begging His bread; the Christ who, all through the ages, might return to the earth and come even to sinners to win their compassion by His need. Now, in the flash of a second, I knew that this dream is a fact . . . Christ in [humankind]. . . .

       I saw too the reverence that everyone must have for a sinner; instead of condoning his [or her] sin, which is in reality [their] utmost sorrow, one must comfort Christ who is suffering in [them]. And this reverence must be paid even to those sinners whose souls seem to be dead, because it is Christ, who is the life of the soul, who is dead in them; they are His tombs, and Christ in the tomb is potentially the risen Christ. . . .

       Christ is everywhere; in Him every kind of life has a meaning and has an influence on every other kind of life. . .  Realization of our oneness in Christ is the only cure for human loneliness. For me, too, it is the only ultimate meaning of life, the only thing that gives meaning and purpose to every life.

After a few days the “vision” faded. People looked the same again, there was no longer the same shock of insight for me each time I was face to face with another human being. Christ was hidden again; indeed, through the years to come I would have to seek for Him, and usually I would find Him in others—and still more in myself—only through a deliberate and blind act of faith.

 

This is what Jesus is praying for. Not that you and I together would be one…not that Presbyterians would be one… not that all Christians would be one…

…but that all Creation would be one, joined together with the divine in a unity of love.

 

Think of it.

Christ is everywhere.

       Christ is in everyone.

              Christ is for everyone.

                      Christ is one with us.

Every life has meaning.

       Every life is connected to every other life.

And reverence for one another and all of creation is the way to approach life, because Christ is all in all.

 

As Paul would write:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

 

Paul has three very powerful images to add to Jesus’ prayer that all would be one as God and Jesus are one.

The first image that Paul uses is that of family.

From Romans: It is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God…

 

From Ephesians: So, then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

 

Paul understands that we are one family children of God, brothers and sisters with everyone and brothers and sisters of Christ.

 

The second image of unity that Paul uses is that of a body. From Corinthians.

12 Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts. 13 In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink.

14 For the body itself is not made up of only one part, but of many parts. 15 If the foot were to say, “Because I am not a hand, I don't belong to the body,” that would not keep it from being a part of the body.

26 If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness.

27 All of you are Christ's body, and each one is a part of it.

 

And the other image or phrase the Paul uses is this; “in Christ” Paul uses this phrase “in Christ” 146 times.

       We don’t just think about Christ, or believe things about Christ, or talk about Christ, or talk to Christ, or are saved by Christ, as if Christ is somehow completely a separate and different thing, God or person from us.

Christ is a part of us and we are a part of Christ.

 

       We are in Christ. Christ is in all things. Everyone and all creation.

       In fact, if you are a careful reader you will note in Mark’s gospel in Chapter 16 in that the disciples are asked to take the gospel to the whole creation, not just humans.

       And Paul reiterates the same thing in Colossians chapter one, where Paul talks about the gospel being proclaimed to every creature, and Christ reconciling all things to himself.

 

For far too long we have been tempted to think in the church that Jesus is about saving certain people, that Jesus is for Christians, that faith is about my relationship with Jesus. We have been so individualistic, we forget that Jesus is saving the whole Cosmos, the whole world, everyone and everything…

       And that is what Jesus is praying for. That they may be one as we are one.

 

       Colossians 3:11 says that Christ is in everything and is everything.

 

Last week I mentioned the Jesuit scientist Teilhard de Chardin and his believed that love held the world, the cosmos, the universe together. That there is an underlying force of attraction and Teilhard called it love.

 

       But since God is love and wherever love is God is…

And…since God and Christ are one…

Then wherever love is Christ is…

       The Christ is also the unifying force that holds the world together.

 

       And so, we are, today, not trying to believe the ascension, but actually letting God raise us into that unifying force of love, into Christ.

       We are ascending into that unity of love, that unity of Christ, the oneness with all things.

 

And it is from a place of unity with all of creation, a place of being in the force of uniting love we learn.

 

Brian McLaren in his book The Great Spiritual Migration wrote:

“You can’t learn to love people without being around actual people—including people who infuriate, exasperate, annoy, offend, frustrate, encroach upon, resist, reject, and hurt you, thus tempting you not to love them.

You can’t learn the patience that love requires without experiencing delay and disappointment.  

You can’t learn the kindness that love requires without rendering yourself vulnerable to unkindness.

You can’t learn the generosity that love requires outside the presence of heartbreaking and unquenchable need.

You can’t learn the peacableness that love requires without being enmeshed in seemingly unresolvable conflict.

You can’t learn the humility that love requires without moments of acute humiliation. You can’t learn the determination that love requires without opposition and frustration.

You can’t learn the endurance that love requires without experiencing unrelenting seduction to give up.

 

Our unity with the creation and the world is not just about happy times and celebrations and banquets and singing praises.

       It is connecting with the whole body, the whole family, with the suffering as well as the joyful….

 and loving them all.

This connection, this unity is how we become more like Christ, how we learn, and how we participate in redeeming the cosmos.

Being in Christ and a part of Christ is also being in his suffering and in every one who suffers.

 

It is pretty heady stuff.

 

It is even dangerous stuff.

To be in Christ is to also be in his suffering and since Christ is all in all, he is in everyone’s suffering. And therefore, if we are in Christ, we are in everyone’s suffering.

 

And so, while Jesus prayed for God to keep us safe, to lead us to a place of safety, which we know is not a physical place, but the place of being in Christ…

…Jesus also acknowledged that we are in the world, the world of domination, power, control, tribalism, empire and opposition to the universal force of love. The world does not have love for everyone.

 

Make them one Lord.

I have prayed that prayer. Make us one, Lord.

But most of the time I never thought completely about the implications of being one with Christ and all creation.

 

So, if you have the guts to pray that prayer….that you and I and us all be one with Christ, it isn’t just oneness with all the loving….,

but oneness with all of life’s problems, with all of life’s suffering, all of life’s hateful and all of life’s sinners too.

 

 

Taking up a cross and dying with Jesus…

 Being born again or resurrected to love everyone.

Ascending with Christ to be in Christ and in unity with all creation.

 

       Nobody ever said it would be easy. Amen.

 

bottom of page