May 24, 2017
By Susan Izard.
Scripture: John 17:1-11 (NRSV)
After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
‘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. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for 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. I 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. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And 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.
In the Gospel reading for this week, Jesus offers a beautiful prayer on behalf of his followers. The words convey Jesus’ yearning for his people – that they may be one as Jesus and God are one. Our scripture passage ends with Jesus’ petition: “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”
To be one as God and Jesus are one is a remarkable image. It does not suggest division, separation or exclusiveness. Instead, it implies completeness, wholeness and unity. It invites us to set aside our differences, our prejudices and our arrogance so that we might become one with our brothers and sisters of the faith and in the world.
We live in an era where we have been blessed by an image of oneness – the image of the earth suspended in the universe photographed by astronauts circling the earth. This image does not show borders or walls marking the separation of nations. It does not show different skin colors that separate us because of climate and prejudice. It does not show divisions due to politics, government or economic status. Instead, it shows wholeness, beauty and wonder. It invites us to open our eyes to see the Creator’s image of who we are. It invites us to hear Jesus’ petition of oneness.
Some years ago, I led a pilgrimage to Iona, Scotland where we worshipped morning and evening with the Iona Community in the Abbey. On Sunday evening, after the traditional Sunday evening worship of quiet reflection, we were invited to participate in an additional service of Taize worship. About 40 of us, sitting on kneeling cushions on the stone floor, gathered around the huge, marble communion table at the front of the Abbey. The Taize chants, sung in harmony, sounded particularly sacred as the music reverberated off the ancient stone walls of the Abbey. At one point, the Gospel was read in English by a Scottish pilgrim with a beautiful, lilting accent. Then, unexpectedly, the same Gospel reading was read in Dutch. Then, it was read in French, German and an African dialect I had never heard before. We listened to the Gospel reading in every primary language of every pilgrim who was worshipping at the service. While we didn’t understand every word spoken, we understood every word of the Gospel reading. We were united, understood and made whole by our faith.
As I sat on the floor and listened, the stones called out: “May they be one, as we are one.”
Oh Holy One, as we seek to know and follow the ways of your Son, Jesus the Christ, open our hearts to know your gift of oneness. Help us to see and to celebrate that we are all your children. Amen.
Rev. Susan Izard is the Minister of Spiritual Life at First Church in West Hartford where she assists in the ministry of the church and offers individual spiritual direction to clergy and laity throughout Connecticut.
May 24, 2017