Tension: Now and Not Yet

It is such a blessing to be able to have my dad serving on the altar with me on this Father’s Day, and so, I thought this would be a good time for me to tell you a bit more about my family of origin. Many of you know that I have two brothers who are almost eleven and twelve years older than me. I also have eleven cousins who are also all considerably older than me. And then growing up there was our extended family and network of close friends, and it turned out that almost all their children were also quite a bit older than me. So, throughout my childhood, I was always thought of as “the baby of the family.” Now there were some definite advantages to being the youngest, but one of the major disadvantages was that I was never old enough to do what my brothers and cousins and older friends were able to do, which meant that I had to get used to hearing the same two-word response over and over again – “not yet.” 

For example, when I was about 9 years old, I said, “Hey, can I ride my bike to the other side of town. I promise, I’ll be really careful when I have to cross that busy six-lane highway!” The response was, “not yet.” When I was about 12, I asked to go see an “R-rated” movie with my two older brothers. The response, of course, was, “not yet.” When I was a senior in high school, I said, “ Can I please go out on the town with all my brothers and cousins and their friends (who, of course, were all over the age of 21)?” The response was, “Absolutely, not yet!” The bottom line is being the youngest of the family meant that I experienced the tension between the reality of the present and the promises of the future. I felt the tension between what is now and what is not yet. When you’re the youngest, you learn to enjoy the now, but what you’re really waiting for is the not yet.

If you think about, the tension between now and not yet is something we experience throughout our lives. As we grow and develop in our careers, as we raise our families, as we pursue our dreams, as we seek to live lives of purpose and meaning, we can EXPECT that there will be tension between what is now and what is not yet. Even this past year, as we have navigated through the changes of a global pandemic, we have been continually vacillating between the now and the not yet, between what we were able to do in the moment and what we had to wait for with patience and perseverance. And if we step back even further and look at the state of the world in which we live, we see the exact same pattern. If we think about the progress we have made in the areas of equality and justice and freedom. If we think about the work of healing and reconciliation. There is much that can be celebrated. There is much that has been accomplished. But there is so much more to be done. There are still walls of division. We are still striving for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.  Even though we give thanks for where we are now, we still know that we are not yet where we need to be. In almost every facet of our lives, we live in the now, but we are waiting and preparing for the not yet. And this includes our spiritual lives as followers of Jesus. 

In today’s reading from Second Corinthians, we hear about the spiritual tension between the now and the not yet that the first followers of Jesus experienced in their own life and ministry. Paul says, “Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation!” For Paul and the first followers of Jesus, something is happening now. They firmly believed that they were living in a particular moment in history when this age and the age to come had come crashing together. God’s kingdom and God’s new creation has broken into this world now. Everything is different. The whole world has been changed now. But at the same time, Paul acknowledges the struggles and hardships and persecution that he and his fellow apostles were experiencing. And the reason for the struggle, the reason for the tension, is the fact that the fullness of God’s future has not yet been revealed. There is something more to come. And so, what Paul teaches us is that as followers of Jesus we are living in this “in-between” time. Every single day, we experience the tension between the now and the not yet

(A long rope was placed on a small table in the front of the church and the first six inches of the rope were covered with white masking tape.) 

Now, you’re probably wondering what this rope is doing up here. And I’m going to call upon my trusted assistant, Jo Wood. Now I want you to imagine that this rope represents the timeline of your existence. Imagine that the rope has a beginning, but no end. Imagine that this rope goes out the back doors of the church, through the village of Tequesta, across the ocean to the other side of the globe. Imagine that this rope circles the earth a few times and then goes off into space for eternity. And if you think of this rope as representing the timeline of your existence, this tiny portion of the rope wrapped in duct tape represents your time here on this earth. This small section represents our short, transitory life. The rest of the rope that goes on forever represents our eternal life with God. This is now. Everything else is not yet.

We spend so much of our time and energy focused on now. We get so stressed out about everything that is happening now. We wrestle and struggle with anxiety and fear and disappointment, which is all connected to what is happening now. But the promise of the gospel, the promise of the life of faith, is that now is not all that is. There is an eternity that awaits us. There is the promise of God’s new creation. There is a fullness that has not yet been realized. 

What would it look like if we allowed God’s future to shape our present? What if we really believed that everything we do in this life is preparing us for the life to come?  What if we allowed the promise of not yet to shape what we do now? Because the day will come when every wall of division will be torn down. The day will come when a great multitude from every nation, tribe, language, and people will worship around the throne of God. The day will come when God’s justice and peace will be fully realized. The day will come when all things will be healed and restored and reconciled to their Creator.

My friends, what I want you to hear this morning is that God’s not yet has already been revealed to us in Jesus Christ. We have already been given a glimpse of God’s future. And now, our job is to allow God’s future to transform our present. Our job is to live fully in the now but at the same time to allow our hearts and minds and souls to be transformed by the not yet. Thanks be to God. 

Tension: Old and New

Last Sunday we began a three-week series entitled “The Tension of Faith.” We are exploring the tension we often experience in the life of faith as followers of Jesus. We began last week by looking at the tension between what is seen and what is unseen. As followers of Jesus, we are called to walked by faith, which means over and over again we have to make a decision to place our trust in what we can’t see, because ultimately we believe that the things we can’t see, things like grace and hope and love and the presence of the Holy Spirit, are actually more true, more real, more permanent, more powerful than the things we can see. 

This morning, we’re going to continue to explore this theme of spiritual tension, but today we’re going to look at the tension between old and new. In our reading from Second Corinthians, we hear one of the most powerful descriptions of spiritual transformation in the entire New Testament. Paul says, “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away, see, everything has become new!” The old has passed away; the new has come. Now this language of old and new is found all over of the place in the Bible. We refer to the two main sections of the Bible as the Old Testament and the New Testament. When we talk about the life and ministry of Jesus, we speak about the movement from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. The early Christians talked about taking off the old self and putting on the new self, just as you might take off an old garment and put on a new one. 

All of this language of old and new tells us something significant about what the first followers of Jesus were thinking. It tells us that for the first followers of Jesus, they believed that the whole world was different because of what God had accomplished through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Nothing was the same. Everything had changed. This is the promise of new and abundant life we have been given in Christ. This is the promise of new creation. But here is the thing I want us to recognize this morning. There are different ways of interpreting and understanding what this promise of new creation is all about. 

There was a time in my spiritual journey when I thought about this promise of new creation in terms of a transaction. For me, the movement from old to new as simply an exchange. “Out with the old; in with the new!” You might think of this transactional model as sort of being like a big spiritual rummage sale. We bring all of our junk, all of our baggage, all of our spiritual clutter, and we want to simply get rid of it. We exchange it for something better. Out with the old; in with the new! At one level, that is exactly what has happened. As Christians we believe that in Christ something definitive has happened. The old has gone and the new has come. But at another level, it’s much more complicated than that. And it’s more complicated because if we look at the world around us, we still see the old handing around. We thought we could just bundle up all our injustices, all our addictions, all our pain and hurt, and just get rid of it at this big spiritual rummage sale. But guess what? There’s still injustice. There’s still addition. There’s still pain and hurt. There is still senseless violence and hatred in our world. The old way of life keeps hanging around. And so, there must be something more than this transactional model. It can’t be quite as simple as out with the old; in with the new. 

And so, this morning, instead of this transactional model, let’s talk about a transformational model. Instead of “out with the old; in with the new,” let’s try this: Out of the old emerges the new. Do you hear the difference? Out of the old emerges the new. 

When I was a student at Virginia Theological Seminary, I would often take walks around the campus. Oddly enough one of my favorite places to go was the historic cemetery. It was a quiet, secluded place where I could think and pray. One day I noticed that just outside the gates of the cemetery was the stump of an old tree. It was at least two or three feet in diameter and represented a majestic old tree that had stood at the entrance of that cemetery for decades. But now all that remained was this old stump. Dry. Dead. Decaying. The vibrancy and fruitfulness that had once characterized that tree was long gone. Time and again I would revisit the cemetery and take notice of the old stump. And then one day after several years had gone, I was back on the seminary campus for a continuing education event, and I decided to take a walk following the same path that I had during my years as a student. Much to my surprise, when I came upon the old stump, there was a green shoot emerging from the middle. Life had sprung forth from death. Hope had been born from despair. The new had emerged from the old. And after just a few more years, when I returned, the new shoot had grown to the point that it had overtaken most of the old stump. Out of the old emerges the new. It’s not about a transaction. It’s about transformation. 

The major difference between the transactional model and the transformational model is that the transformational model is entirely dependent on grace. The old stump did nothing to produce new life. The old stump had no power within itself. New life emerged out what had been dead. New life emerged out what was dry and lifeless. And it was all because of grace. It was all pure gift, unearned and undeserved.

My friends, in the life of faith, we will experience tension between the old and the new. We will experience the joy and the hope of the abundant life that Jesus offers us, while at the same time feeling the weight of sin and the pain of unhealed hurts and unresolved issues. And in the midst of the tension, we will be tempted to pursue the transactional model. Out with the old; in the with the new. But God desires to do something more wonderful, more beautiful, more amazing, more mysterious. And that is for something new to emerge out of the old. Those places of hurt and loss in your life. The places of disappointment. The places of addiction. The places of grief. Those are the very places where God is going to do a new thing. Those are the very places where God’s mercy and grace and healing presence are going to show up. Out of the old emerges the new. Because if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation!

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look  favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were being cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tension: Seen and Unseen

Tension. The state of being stretched tight. The experience of being pulled in opposite directions.  The feelings of anxiety or nervousness in the midst of stress. All of us experience tension in our lives. In fact, I’m sure for most of you just hearing the word tension immediately conjures up a situation or circumstance in your life that is particularly stressful. Now in our fast paced, consumer based, twenty-first century culture we have come to expect a certain amount of tension. It might be at work. It might be at home. It might be financial. Whatever it is, I think we can all agree that we have been experiencing significantly high levels of tension in our culture and the world around us. But we expect that! We have sadly grown more and more accustom to the reality that there will be tension, anxiety, and fear when it comes to our life in the world around us. 

But what about the life of faith? What about our journey as followers of Jesus? Is that part of our life somehow immune to the ‘stress and strain’ and ‘push and pull’ of the world around us? The short answer is “no!” In fact, the reality is that when we choose to follow Jesus there is often even more tension, because we are trying to live a life that is different from the world around us. And the very fact that we are trying to live a different kind of life stretches us and often pulls us in opposite directions. Peter and Paul; John and James, and so many other leaders in the early days of church experienced hardship and persecution. They were stretched. They experienced the stress and strain and push and pull of trying live a different kind of life. My friends, if you and I choose to follow Jesus, if we choose to live the life of faith, we can expect tension. Yet, in spite of and in the midst of the tension, the first followers of Jesus walked in peace and contentment and freedom. How does that happen? Hopefully, over the next three Sundays we are going to find out.

We begin this morning by turning to the reading from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. In this particular letter, Paul shares extensively about his own struggles. He shares about the disappointments and obstacles in his life and ministry. He shares about his own experience of tension.  In the midst of this tension, Paul says the most remarkable thing. He says, “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”

We look not at what can be seen, but at what cannot be seen. Now, Paul is not advocating that we ignore reality. Paul is not telling us to reject the rational world in which we live. There are facts and certainties about the world and about how we live our lives that simply are true. But at the same time, the good news of the gospel tells us there is something even more true. Something more real. Something more permanent. Something more than what meets the eye. And so, for you and I to walk in peace and freedom and contentment in the midst of the tension means that we have to put our trust in what we do not see.

Now I want to stop here and remind us that in the physical realm we put our trust in what we do not see every single day of our lives. For example, when you walk out of your house in the morning or drive around in your car or throw a baseball across the field, you do those things completely trusting in this unseen force called gravity. You believe that your feet are going to stay on the ground, your car will stay on the road, and that the baseball will not float off into space. Or how about when my sons were younger and we went to Busch Gardens to ride the Scorpion, one of the first roller coasters to have a complete 360-degree loop with no shoulder harness. We had confidence that we could ride that roller coaster and not fall out because we trust in this invisible power called centripetal force. Or think of the fact that we consistently board airplanes that can weigh up to a million pounds and travel at hundreds of miles an hour at altitudes of over 35,000 feet, because we trust in the unseen forces of lift and gravity and thrust and drag, all of which all have to be perfectly balanced to keep the plane in the air.In the physical realm, you and I place our trust in what we cannot see all the time. 

In a similar way, Paul is telling us that in the spiritual realm, there are realities that we cannot see. There are forces and powers that we cannot see. And yet they are work in our lives every single day. For Paul and his fellow Christians in the city of Corinth, they experienced the stress and strain and push and pull of everyday life. They encountered resistance. The experienced rejection. They witnessed injustice. They didn’t ignore those realities. They didn’t put their heads in the sand and just try to be good spiritual people. No, they worked for change. They proclaimed good news. They transformed the world. But what brought them peace and contentment and freedom was not the things they could see, but the things that were unseen. 

Think about this. We can’t see gravity, but witness its effects. In the same way, we can’t see grace, but we see what grace can do. We can’t see hope. We can’t see mercy. We can’t see forgiveness. We can’t see new creation. We can’t see the transformational presence and power of God’s Holy Spirit, but we believe and trust and put our hope in the fact that God is at work all the time healing, restoring, and making all things new. Over and over again, we choose to look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

Now all of this has been rather ethereal so far. I’ve been speaking in fairly broad terms about the unseen spiritual realm. But I want to bring us down from the spiritual to the relational. Because right now we are living in a world characterized by broken relationships, divided families, and disconnected communities. Just turn on television or scroll through your social media newsfeed and you will see the levels of anger and mistrust that have become normalized in our world today. That’s what we see. That’s what we witness and observe every day. 

But just turn and look at your neighbor for a moment. What if I told you that right now in the midst of the tension and stress and strain of this world, there is something that is a part of each of you that defines who you are, but you can’t see it. And yet, even though it is unseen, it is more real than anything else around us. I’m talking about the fact that every one of us has been sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever. We carry that seal, we bear that mark at all times and in all places. We simply are God’s beloved no matter what. No matter what we see. No matter how much tension we experience. No matter what how stretched we might feel. No matter how divided we might be. We are marked as belonging to Jesus Christ.  

Can you imagine a world, a home, a family, a community, a neighborhood, in which we intentionally chose to see what we can’t see? The power and purpose and presence of Jesus that binds us together as one and that calls us to share together in God’s abundant life. My friends, this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

The Spirit, Our Helper

Two thousand years ago a movement began that changed the trajectory of human history. The movement began with a small group of uneducated fishermen and merchants who came from an obscure outpost of the Roman Empire. They had no political influence. They had no military authority. They had no economic infrastructure. And yet, within a single generation the message of this movement had been proclaimed in almost every major city of the ancient world including the city of Rome, the very heart and capital of the Empire. I’m speaking, of course, about the first followers of Jesus, who went forth in mission, empowered by the Spirit of God, and who quite literally, changed the world. So, this Feast of Pentecost that we celebrate today is all about this world changing, history making, kingdom building, justice serving, creation renewing work of the Holy Spirit. No wonder today is a day filled with images of wind and fire and power. 

But this morning, on this Pentecost Sunday, I want to bring us down from that global, even cosmic perspective and focus our attention on the very personal work of the Holy Spirit in each one of our lives. In other words, this morning, instead of focusing on the wind and fire and power, I want to invite us to consider the ways in which the Spirit of God comes to us in the midst of the challenges and realities we face every single day. Because the transformation of the world is only possible if we are first open to the transformation of our lives. So, what does this look like? 

In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus is preparing his disciples for the time when he will no longer be with them. He knows that this own death imminent. So, Jesus is preparing his followers to face the challenges and realities of everyday life on their own. And in that moment, he gives them a promise, and the promise is that the Holy Spirit will come as our Advocate. Now in the old King James Version the Bible, instead of the word Advocate, it says the Holy Spirit will come as our Comforter. Other translations use the word Helper or Counselor. The word in Greek literally means “someone who comes along side another.” So, Jesus is saying to his disciples, “When you face the challenges and realities of life, don’t be alarmed, don’t be anxious, don’t be discouraged, because the Holy Spirit will be by your side as your Advocate, your Comforter, your Helper, your Counselor. And more than just being by your side, the Holy Spirit will come and dwell in you. He will come and take up residence in your life.” As Jesus was preparing to send his disciples into the world, he encouraged them with the promise  that God’s Spirit would be with them and in them. 

This morning, we also heard from the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans, where is he says that the Spirit is the One who helps us in our weakness. When we don’t know what to pray. When we don’t know what to do next. When we are weighed down by the challenges and realities of life, the Spirit is our Helper, our Comforter. There are certainly times when we need wind and fire, but there are other times when what we need is wisdom and faith to walk through whatever it is we are walking through in that moment. In moments of confusion, the Spirit brings clarity. In times of grief, the Spirit brings healing. In the midst of the craziness of this world, the Spirit brings peace. The Holy Spirit is the One who comes along side of us.

Now this morning, I proclaim this to you not simply as a theological concept or a spiritual truth, but as a reality that has profoundly shaped my own life and ministry. 

When I was a senior in high school, I was active in the church, a leader in youth ministry, and discerning call to ordained ministry. But had no real understanding of the working of the Holy Spirit in my life. Then one day, I was invited to a conference on healing and renewal in the church. The conference was being held at my church and my dad was the priest, so, I was expected to be there. The only problem was that the conference started on a Friday night and as a high school student I really didn’t want to give up a Friday night, especially since I was dating this amazing girl named Shannon.

We ultimately decided to go together, but we were only going to stay for the music and then at the coffee break we would slip out and enjoy our Friday night. We ended up staying for the music, the coffee break, the announcements, the teaching, and the altar call that followed. Like good Episcopalians, we were sitting near the back of the church, and I felt no obligation to go to the front for prayer. The Holy Spirit could find me in the back of church just well as he could at the front of the church.  

At one point the preacher said, “If you don’t want to come up alone, grab your neighbor and come together.” Shannon, who was sitting next to me locked her arm in mine and I thought “Oh no.” We made our way to the front of the church, but I stood behind the crowd of people, hoping no one would notice me. To this day, I’m not sure what happened next, but before I knew it, a team of people, many of whom were members of our small Episcopal Church, began to lay hands on me and pray for me. And all I can say is that I had an encounter with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit the changed the course and trajectory of my life.

But here’s the thing! The encounter I had that Friday night could be described as the moment I came face to face with the wind and fire and power of God. But a few weeks later, I was running some errands and dealing with the challenges and realities of everyday life. And there were some significant challenges in my life at that time. I distinctly remembering pulling into the parking lot of our church, I turned off the car, and I just sat there for several minutes. And I remember feeling for the first time in my life what I can only describe as the tangible presence of God’s peace. 

I was reminded of the moment when Jesus walked into the locked room where the disciples were hiding on the night after his resurrection. He said to them, “Peace be with you,” and he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Receive your Advocate, your Helper, your Comforter, the One who will come along side of you, the One who will take up residence in your life.” And so, this morning we give thanks for the wind and the fire and the power. We give thanks for the Spirit-empowered mission of the early Church that quite literally changed the world. But we especially give thanks for the personal presence of God’s Spirit in each one of our lives. No matter what we’re going through. No matter where we are or where we’re going. No matter what’s happening in our lives or in the world, we can be assured that God’s Spirit is the One who comes along side of us. The One who dwells in us. The One who gives us peace. Thanks be to God. 

Jesus Prays For Us

Hymn 460 – Alleluia! Sing to Jesus
Intercessor, friend of sinners,
Earth’s redeemer, plead for me,
Where the songs of all the sinless
Sweep across the crystal sea.

One of the things that most Christians do on a regular basis is pray. We might pray using formal written liturgical prayers. Or we might pray extemporaneously. We might pray with words or through silence, on our knees or in our cars. But, however we do it, we believe as Christians that prayer is an essential part of the spiritual life. In fact, here at Good Shepherd, almost every Sunday we ask that God would “make us a community of prayer and belonging.” Which means that our commitment to pray for one another is at the very heart of who we are. This is true even in the way we talk to one another. If you are going through a hard time, you might say to a friend, “Please keep me in your prayers.” 

And if someone shares something difficult that is going on in their lives, we often respond by saying, “I will be praying for you.” Every week, people call and email the church office to be added to our Prayer Chain, because it is encouraging and comforting to know that people are praying for you and what’s going on in your life. So, I think we can all agree that an essential part of the life we share together as a Christian community is our commitment to pray for one another. But how often do we think about the fact that Jesus is praying for us? 

Our gospel reading this morning begins with the words, “Jesus prayed for his disciples.” Now we know that Jesus prayed often. In all four gospels, we are given a glimpse into the prayer life of Jesus. He was known to go off to a deserted and solitary place to pray. On the night before he died, he prayed that somehow the events of his passion and death might yet be avoided. But today’s gospel reading is different, because Jesus is praying for his followers, and his followers are listening to his prayer. The disciples are listening to Jesus intercede for them! Can you imagine being that room? Sharing a meal with Jesus. Being the presence of Jesus. And then overhearing Jesus praying for you. 

I don’t think many Christians think very often about the role of Jesus as our mediator, our advocate, the One who intercedes on our behalf. And yet, throughout the New Testament, we are told time and again that Jesus is praying for us. In Paul’s Letter to the Romans, it says, “Christ Jesus who died—and who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is interceding for us.” In the First Letter of John, which we have been hearing during the season of Easter, it says, “if anyone sins, we have an Advocate, a Mediator, an Intercessor with the Father, who is Jesus Christ, the Righteous.” And in the Letter to the Hebrews it says, “Jesus, who lives forever, is continually interceding on our behalf.” Over and over again, the earliest Christians found strength and hope in the fact that Jesus was praying for them.

So, what would that mean for us if we began to think of Jesus not only as the One to whom we pray, but, also as the One who prays for us? And if Jesus is praying for us, what exactly is he praying for? I think our gospel reading can help us any these questions. Because, in this pray that Jesus prays for his disciples, he is very specific about the things he is praying for. 

First of all, Jesus prays for our PROTECTION. He knows that the disciples will face hardship and persecution. He knows that the disciples will face temptation and doubt and discouragement and all the things that we face as we seek to live out our faith. And so, Jesus prays for our protection. The word here literally means to guard, preserve, and keep. It’s the same we use in the traditionally blessing at the end the service when the priest prays that the peace of God that surpasses all understanding would “keep” our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God. Jesus prays for our protection.

Then he prays for our UNITY. He prays that we might be one just as he and the Father are one. He prays that we might be united as brothers and sisters. Because he knows the disciples will face the pain of division and schism. He knows that “loving one another as he has loved us” is often easier said than done. So, he prays for our oneness. He prays for interconnectedness. He prays for our unity. 

Then Jesus prays for our JOY. And not only does Jesus pray for joy, but he specifically prays that his joy might be made complete in us. The word here literally means to fill up, to abound, and to overflow. And so, in the midst of a world full of sorrow and hurt. In the midst of a world broken by sin. In the face of this own impending death. Jesus prays for our joy.

Finally, Jesus prays for our HOLINESS. He prays that we might be sanctified in the truth. That we might be made holy. That we might be set apart. That our whole being might be transformed by the power of God’s love. And so, my friends, Jesus prayed and is praying for our protection. Jesus prayed and is praying for our unity. Jesus prayed and is praying for our joy. Jesus prayed and is praying for our holiness

But these prayers are not for our sake only. Because the purpose of this prayer is to prepare the disciples to be sent into the world. Jesus is making it very clear that the mission he came to inaugurate will now be continued by his disciples in the world. He has already told them, “You will do greater things than I have done.” He has already told them that they have been chosen and anointed and appointed to go forth and bear fruit. Now, on this final night before his own death, as Jesus prepares the disciples to be sent into the world, he prays for protection, unity, joy, and holiness. 

Here at Good Shepherd, we are asking that God would make us a community of prayer and belonging. But what if in the midst of praying for one another, we paused just long enough to hear Jesus praying for us?

What if in those moments when we face hardship and temptation, we could hear Jesus praying for our protection? 

What if in the midst of our deep divisions and polarization, we actually listened to Jesus praying for our unity?

What if in times of depression and discouragement, we could discern the voice of Jesus praying for our joy?

And what if when we fall short of God’s vision for our lives, we could hear Jesus praying for our holiness and our wholeness?

My friends, we are gathered in this space for about one hour a week, which means we are out there in the world for the other 167 hours. And when we are out there in the world, I pledge to pray for you. And I ask that you would pray for me. But let us remember that at all times and in all places, Jesus is praying for us!