Easter 7 Year B
May 13, 2018
Driving to work this week, I had the classical music station on. It helped me enter my day, quite wonderfully. But when the program host announced the name of the piece that was playing as Schubert’s Symphony no. 8 in B minor, he also noted that this symphony is most commonly known as The Unfinished Symphony. Admittedly, I don’t know much of anything about classical music, but it struck me as odd to hear something so beautiful called “unfinished.”
Well, today as we listen in to Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in our Gospel reading, John is presenting us with Jesus’ unfinished symphony.
It is an intimate, earnest, and longing prayer by Jesus. A prayer uttered just hours before his betrayal and arrest. Just a day before his brutal death on the cross. And yet he still stops everything to pray for his disciples.
Throughout history, this prayer has moved Jesus’ faithful. Philip Melanchton, a leader of the Protestant reformation knew that these were the words he wanted to hear just before his own death. He said, “There is no voice which has ever been heard, neither in heaven nor on earth, more exalted, more holy, more fruitful, more sublime than the prayer offered by the Lord himself.” John Knox, reformer of Scotland, was converted by these words and returned to them as well, throughout his life.
This is the REAL Lord’s Prayer – Jesus praying to his Father on behalf of his disciples whom he loves, that God would keep them, sanctify them, unify them.
And with this prayer, Jesus is marking the end of his earthly ministry, pleading with God that they might finish his work – finish his symphony of healing, of reaching out to those on the margins, of perfecting love on earth - which he began just 3 years earlier. From now on, that work will be left to the disciples, and to all those who dare to follow in his life of love.
But there were no guarantees.
Have you ever had to leave something – to walk away from a job or a project – something you built using your own creative energies, your blood, sweat and tears, knowing that as soon as you walked out the door, the future of that something rested in those you’d left behind? Jesus is doing the same with his disciples. Leaving it to them.
Leaving it to us. Truth be told, I’m not so sure that Jesus should have ever put his trust in the likes of people like me. But that’s why we’re here. It’s why we come to church each week to touch base with a community of faith and to commune with the very God who is interceding on our behalf.
And that’s where Jesus’ prayer offers hope. Thanks be to God, Jesus’ disciples were not ever left alone. He vowed to continue interceding for his disciples, even at the right hand of the Father, and he sends his Spirit to move, inspire, and ignite their love in the world.
He is doing the same for us, right now.
Each time I walk into this building, I’m reminded of that. Have you ever paid attention to the fact that the doors here are painted red – and asked yourself why that is? It’s actually a thing! I even remember a colleague who moved to a new church, but refused to begin until the doors of the church were painted red! Because red is the color of the Holy Spirit. Red tells the world that we’re safe place inside – a peaceful place – a place of refuge and sanctuary. A place where God’s Spirit is present. Where peace and forgiveness are alive, where healing and restoration are possible.
Yes, indeed, we are in the world. We are right here on Main Street, the busiest road in Morris County! But we are also not of the world – because peace, forgiveness, healing and restoration seem to be in short supply in the world these days.
So when you see and enter these red doors of ours, I hope that they will remind you that just as Jesus prayed for his disciples, he prays for us as well. Just think about that for a moment. What’s it like for you to know that Jesus is praying for us? For me, it fills me with awe. Connects me to God in a powerful way. Gives me something to cling to when people ask me to pray for them – which I do all the time. I can be faithful in that, not because of my own strength or will or dedication or devotion – far from it - . . . but because Jesus is interceding on our behalf . . . because Jesus’ prayers are as close to us as our very next breath.
Jesus’ prayer from John 17 is a prayer for Peter – bold and impulsive, yet still filled with fear. Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is a prayer for James –ambitious and committed, but also judgmental. His prayer is for Philip who longs to bring others to Jesus . . . for Andrew in his eagerness, and Thomas, in both his doubt and great faith.
Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is also for you and me. For me, in my deep desire to bring love into this world, but also in the places where I fall far short. And it’s for you – in your faithfulness, and in your challenges.
Ultimately, truth be told, Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is that the symphony of God’s kingdom on earth will be finished - complete. But until that time, God’s Spirit of energy continues to create. God’s Spirit of love continues to nourish. God’s Spirit of wisdom continues to guide. And God’s Spirit of joy continues to transform. The final notes of that symphony, Jesus prays, is that we may be one, even as he and his Father are one. “I in them and you in me, completely one, so that the world may know that you have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:22-23) May it be so. Amen.