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Living in the Real World: What Jesus prays for.

Living in the Real World

John 17: 6-23

6 ‘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. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for 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. 9I 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. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11And 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. 12While 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. 13But 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. 14I 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. 15I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

20 ‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

As I was reading our text this week, two things occurred to me.

First, we are approaching commencement season.

I have commenced four times.

I have attended nine others.

One of the highlights of any commencement, other than hearing your name, or the name of a loved one announced, is the commencement address.

Usually, the speech is given by some notable person who the school believes can inspire and motivate the graduates.

If you go on-line and search “famous commencement speeches” you will find dozens, maybe hundreds.

Some are not so inspiring.

Here are a couple of examples:

Conan O’Brien  at Dartmouth College’s 2011 Commencement said this:

Before I begin, I must point out that behind me sits a highly admired president of the United States and decorated war hero while I, a cable television talk show host, has been chosen to stand here and impart wisdom. I pray I never witness a more damning example of what is wrong with America today.

J.K. Rowling  at Harvard University’s 2008 Commencement said this:

…The first thing I would like to say is ‘thank you.’ Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honor, but the weeks of fear and nausea I have endured at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight. A win-win situation! Now all I have to do is take deep breaths, squint at the red banners and convince myself that I am at the world’s largest Gryffindor reunion.

But others are inspiring.

George Saunders at Syracuse University’s 2013 Commencement said this:

So, quick, end-of-speech advice: Since, according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up. Speed it along. Start right now. …

[E]rr in the direction of kindness. … That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — your soul, if you will — is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. … Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.

The second thing I thought of was that today is Mothers’ Day.

A day where we commemorate all the things mothers do.

One of them is to inspire their children the way commencement speakers do.

Some are not so inspirational.

I had a friend who brought out her son’s cake at his graduation party.

I big red letters the message on the cake was “GET A JOB!”

But some are.

Like this one I saw on line:

Volunteer, donate to charity, or set up a food drive. What goes around comes back stronger. Do your part to help others, and you will enjoy the immediate reward that comes with knowing that you improved another person’s life. There are few things which can create greater happiness.

What does all this have to do with today’s text?

A bit of background.

Today’s text is at the end of what is called Jesus’ Farewell Discourse to his disciples.

The Discourse is too long to include today because it basically covers all of John 14 through 17.

If you have a Red Letter Bible, it’s all red in these chapters.

The disciples are graduating and are about to be sent out on their own.

He tells them what their lives are going to be like and how they must live and what they must do.

It is very much like a commencement address.

Then comes our text.

But it is not directed to the disciples.

It is directed to God.

It is a prayer.

It is a prayer that the disciples overhear.

And maybe Jesus wanted it that way.


Like a benediction to their commencement ceremony, it is intended to inspire them and to ask God to be present in their lives.

Some years ago, I read Witness to Hope, the biography of Pope John Paul II.

In it there was a story about a Rabbi who was invited into John Paul’s private chapel during his morning prayers (which sometimes lasted 3 hours as I recall).

The Rabbi said that John Paul was praying so intensely, he felt drawn in to the prayer.

He felt like he was actually observing a spiritual unity between John Paul and God.

He, too, felt the presence of God as if God was in the room with them.

The Rabbi attributed this to the passion of John Paul’s prayer.

Can you imagine what it would be like to be in the presence of someone who can draw you into a prayer and allow you to feel the presence of God?

I don’t think I can do that.

I’m not sure there are many who can.

But I think that is what Jesus was up to.

He wanted his disciples drawn into his relationship with God.

So when we read this passage, we need to read is as a prayer.

Maybe on our knees?

  1. T. Wright suggests we replace the word ‘I’ with ‘Jesus’, and replace ‘they’ and ‘them’ with ‘I’ and ‘me’.

If we do this, it becomes our prayer, and like the Rabbi praying with John Paul, we are drawn into it.

Drawn into the relationship between Jesus and God.

So what does Jesus pray for?

The prayer has three basic parts.

First, Jesus summarizes what his mission was.

He came to allow people to see the real nature of God.

The mind, character and love of God.

He came to deliver the word of God.

And the disciples believe it!

Jesus concedes his mission has come to an end and that he can now return to God.

In the second part of the prayer, Jesus prays for his disciples.

There are only eleven just now, but they are the one’s God gave him.

They belong to Jesus and so also belong to God.

And though there are only eleven, Jesus is glorified in them.

Jesus tells God he is sending the eleven into the world the way God sent him.

They are to proclaim the truth.

But Jesus reminds God that Jesus is leaving them alone.

He will no longer be present to protect them.

And that they, like he, will be rejected by those who live in darkness, and will need someone’s protection.

Jesus enlists God to provide that protection.

And finally Jesus moves on to the future.

He prays for us.

He prays that God will protect and preserve those who come to believe because of the eleven who are sent forth, and those who follow them.


That we, like the disciples, can be one, just as Jesus and God are one.

That we will love one another the way Jesus loves us so the world will know that God so loves the world.

So this prayer is a plea from one who is one with God to protect those who come to believe that the essence of God, the mind, character and nature of God, is the love of the world and who demonstrate that truth for all the world to see.

This is the essence of Jesus’ prayer.

A plea directed to God, to whom Jesus gives his disciples, including us.

It is Jesus asking God to protect us, encourage us, and inspire us.

To draw us into the relationship between Jesus and God.

Which raises this question in my mind.

Why hasn’t it happened?

Why is it that disciples of Jesus have not always been protected, have not always been unified, have not always been all that loving?

Has Jesus prayer not been answered?

The simple answer is that God answers it every day.

God is just not done.

God calls us, all of us, to strive for all of these things.

Not with a divine magic wand might take us all to a heavenly kitchen to bake cookies together.

Rather one by one, disciple by disciple, in any form that is like the love Jesus demonstrates.

That demonstrates the mind, character and love of God.

For us it is a frustratingly slow process, but God’s time is not our time.

We must be patient and know that Jesus is pulling or us, is on our side, and prays to God for us.

So what do we do with this?

How does it look here at JMPC?

Have we been drawn into this prayer?

Have we felt like we are in the presence of God?

Are we part of the continuing work of God here in this place?

I think so.

At a meeting of Stated Clerks for the PCUSA Grayde Parsons, then the Stated Clerk for the denomination, asked this question:

Who does your church minister to?

Most of us thought about the members in or congregations.

Or those who attend Sunday worship.

He said, “No!”

The people we minster to are those who are touched by our ministries.

A church of 20 can impact hundreds.

JMPC has 450 members.

We minister to more people than we can even imagine.

From Malawi to Mexico to South Carolina to Oklahoma to Houston to Bethel Park, South Park, Upper Saint Clair, Canonsburg, McMurray and Peters Township.

Who are these folks?

Bond of Love


A Christmas Affair

World Vision

Produce to People


Family Promise

Sunday worship

Outreach to senior living residents

Christian Education




And I am sure there are those who can think of many other ways.

I bet we reach hundreds of different people every year with a demonstration of loving God and loving each other.

Jesus prayer is answered!

We are living the Jesus way.

This is the message of the benediction I have started to use this year.

The benediction was written by the Rev. Richard Halverson when he served as Chaplain to the United States Senate.

It is a call to do what Jesus charges us to do.

It is what Jesus asked God to inspire us to do.

Go from this place as a people who are sent.

Wherever we go this week, consider that God is sending us there.

And wherever we find ourselves this week, consider that God is placing us there.

That the love of Christ, which dwells within us can reach out and touch others through us.

When we do this, we go in Christ’s love and peace and power.

That is what answers Jesus’ prayer.

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