Easter 7A, 2020: John 17:1-11. St. Timothy’s, Lake Jackson, Texas.
Do you remember being dropped off at sleep-away camp for the first time? Or how about moving off to college for your freshman year and watching your loved ones drive away?
Many years ago, my mother made the long drive north on I-45 with me to Denton, and helped me move into my freshman dorm room.
“Please don’t leave until my bed is made” I told her. I still had boxes to unpack, neighbors to meet, and a campus to learn and navigate. But there was something essential about having my bed made first.
Bed. It is a place of rest, comfort, refuge … and sheets that smell like home. I needed that in place before I could let her depart.
So together, we made my bed. My mom fluffed my pillow. And then gave me a big hug. “Wow, this is it” I remember saying.
Our gospel passage today evokes the same feeling for me. Perhaps it does for you, too. This is it. Everything changes after this moment. But first Jesus will put the sheets from home on our bed, fluff our pillow, and give us a big hug in the form of this prayer we hear in John. We need this — we need this prayer — before a whole new world and experience opens up for us … as he departs and is with us in a different way.
This passage in John is called the Priestly Prayer. In it Jesus prays to God for his disciples, and we get to overhear his prayer for us.
This prayer is less Jesus pleading on our behalf, and more revealing what God desires for us: protection, unity, joy, holy purpose. And as we listen in, Christ’s revelation is complete: Jesus and the Father are One. Jesus has total confidence in what the Father will do; he is less certain about us. Hence, the fervency of the prayer.
Jesus’ concern for us is fair and well-founded. His disciples are about to fail badly in what comes next: Judas will betray him, Peter will deny him. And as we carry Christ’s light in the world, the darkness will threaten to overcome it.
The darkness will not prevail, but it will present challenges and struggles for us, just as it did for the disciples.
Only a month or two into my freshman year, I overheard another student talking on the telephone and reflecting on her struggles. Unfortunately, this young woman had yet to learn that because the phone with the coiled wire was next to the door, and the door had a large air vent at the bottom, that if you sat on the floor to talk on the phone, anybody walking down the hall can hear your private conversation.
Walking down the hall with friends, we overheard her speak of the struggle, being in this world but not of this world. While she expressed herself differently than I would, I recognized what she was saying. I understood it.
“I am God’s tool” she said emphatically. “I am God’s tool in this world, and there are just some things I will not do. I am God’s tool.”
My companions and I winced in pain at the awkwardness of this private conversation made public. Again, while this wasn’t the way I would have said it, I understood what she meant. And, all these years later, I still remember it because I recognized the tensions. I recognized her desire for faithfulness. For I too wanted to be an instrument of peace, love, and Christ’s light in the world.
And it is for this that Jesus prays for our holy purpose and sanctification. That we may be made holy — set apart — in order to be sent out. Sent into the lives of others, carrying the light of Christ, difficult as it may be sometimes.
But we go with God’s grace. And we go secure in our identity and belonging in the heart of God: “All mine are yours, and yours our mine” (John 17:10). And we go with Jesus’ fervent prayer for us to be unified, protected, and ultimately knowing joy… all in his name.
His name. In the face of challenge and struggle, fear and so much uncertainty, the Name of Jesus creates a space in real time for rest, comfort, refuge and that is our home … wherever we may be. It is here in Jesus where God longs for us to abide — that is, to live and live abundantly! Abide in Christ’s love. For God is love. God loves you.
And in the end, that’s it.
Wow – this is it.
It’s all you need to know. Love. It’s all you need to do. Love.
On this 7th Sunday in Easter, take to heart the words of Br. David Vryhof of the Society of St. John the Evangelist:
“As you carry out your particular mission in the world today, remember that you are surrounded and upheld by a great love, a love greater even than the love of a parent for a child. Trust in that love. Abide in that love. Be that love.”
All these things we pray in Christ’s name.
 Shae, John. Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels: Year B, p. 142.