This morning we are fortunate to eavesdrop in on a prayer that Jesus is praying to God the Father. We get to hear what was important to Jesus and what was on his mind and in his heart.
With what he knew that was coming up, His torture, his suffering and his death, you would think he would have been praying that God helps him with strength. But Jesus thinks of others first, his followers before thinking of himself.
In the face of death, He prays for others – intercedes for others, on their behalf.
This prayer is not a “set up, teach me to pray” prayer, like the Lord’s Prayer, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray.
This is an actual prayer. A prayer that took up all of chapter 17 in John’s gospel.
These are the thoughts and the words that were most important to Jesus, and like us are most important to us, his followers. So, we have a bit in common with Jesus.
Praying for others.
Think about that for a moment. We get to hear Jesus speak to God the Father!
Most of us pray silently, and usually alone. We speak to God from our hearts. We pray to God for ourselves, those we love and care about. We pray for the sick, the poor, those in need. We pray for our country, for peace and we pray for our own selfish needs
Let’s see what we can learn from the words Jesus uses in this prayer.
First, early in this reading we hear Jesus say “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed”.
Interesting – before the world existed.
Remember in the first book of the Bible, Genesis it says, “let US make man in OUR image”.
Maybe we have a connection here?
The conclusion seems to be. Jesus always was!
Jesus existed before the world did, just like God the Father. So, those of us who may have thought that Jesus came on the scene at a point in history, may want to re think. He always existed, and he was manifested to the world at a point in time. This is an important point in understanding that God and Jesus, along with the Holy Spirit have always existed and are one.
Not to fear - On June 4th, just a few weeks from now is Trinity Sunday, and I am sure Fr. Harvey will explain the Trinity and the God/Father in one thing to us, unless he pawns that off on me again this year!
Back to the Gospel.
Jesus said “I have made you known to the people who, you gave me and they have kept your word”. In this prayer, Jesus is speaking to God the Father about his followers. These disciples of Jesus believed and acted upon the words of Jesus. He is also speaking on behalf of all those whom the Father gave him. That would be us. His followers.
And what did Jesus say? What words were his followers keeping?
Earlier in his ministry he said:
#1 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
#2 Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
#3 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
#4 Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
#5 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
#6 Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
#7 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
#8 Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven...
Together, these Blessings, these Beatitudes presented Jesus’ followers with a new set of ideals that focus on love and humility rather than force and mastery that up to that point the disciples and people of that time were so accustomed to; they echo the highest ideals of Jesus' teachings on spirituality and compassion.
He came to tell them and us, there is a new way of worship. He is not requiring sacrifice and following 613 Jewish laws.
I’d like to read these blessings again and ask us three questions
One – how do these Blessings make you feel?
Two – which one or ones speak of you
Three - which one or ones are we falling a little short on?
Is it door #
#1 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Be satisfied with what you have. Share the good things, the blessings we have with others.)
#2 Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Comfort those who are suffering. Help others feel better about themselves, after a loss.)
#3 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. (Humility-a true sense of who you are, your inner self, Get the ego out of the way.)
#4 Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. (Seeking God, a hunger for God in all you do, doing what is fair for everyone.)
#5 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (We forgive those who are unkind to us. Look for ways to show kindness and compassion to others.)
#6 Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. (We do what is right just because we know it is right.)
#7 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (We try to bring God’s peace to the world. We control our behavior so people can see Jesus in us.)
#8 Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (We are willing to stand up for God even if we are teased or insulted.)
As I reflect on these blessings, these beatitudes, I feel “comfortable with most of them, but feel I have some prayerful work to do. Mainly door # 7. The peace maker one. I do try to be peaceful, honest and kind to everyone. But, truth be told, I really do fall short.
I can quickly go off the reservation when someone cuts me off on the road, my actions are not so peaceful, or when someone has a quick sly remark. I may not be that great peacemaker I claim to be. So, I pray God to help me with that.
I reflect on door # 3 – Blessed are the meek. If I’m honest with myself, my ego is a real problem and I fall short
And I’m sure that if I really look deep at the others, I can find room for improvement – to be more God like.
These 8 blessings taken from taken from the Sermon on the Mount are what Jesus spoke to his followers about and what he is saying to the Father that his followers were living into.
Then Jesus said “I am asking on their behalf”. WOW – Jesus is asking God the Father to bless his followers! How cool is that?
Again, in case we forget, we, too are his followers! Does that mean that Jesus is praying to God the Father for us too?
I am humbled to think, that as I reflect on these blessings, these beatitudes and how short I come up on most, if not all of them that Jesus prays for me, us.
This type of prayer is called intercessory prayer.
Here’s what the Episcopal Church says about intercessory prayer:
Prayer for another or others. Intercession “brings before God the needs of others” (BCP, p. 857). Intercession is one of the seven principal kinds of prayer (BCP, p. 856). An intercessor is one who prays an intercessory prayer.
Jesus here, intercession for his followers.
And us, as we gather here this morning as a community of believers, intersessing for those on our prayer lists and for the concerns and conditions of our world. A place where we can express our concerns and love for others, a place where we can find strength together.
We get a chance to pray as a group following Jesus’ example of intercessory prayer.
And, perhaps like each of us, when we get up each morning or before going to sleep each night, intersessing for others.
Do we realize that we were imitating Jesus?
Then Jesus said:
Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
What awesome words he prays.
Holy Father – he doesn’t sayt Father - but, HOLY Father
Protect them Protect them.
What greater thing can we hear from Jesus than that?
My suspicion is that most of us use that phrase quite frequently when praying. And we know how important that is to us, when we pray God to protect our children, grandchildren, our loved ones, those in danger, etc.
He then says:
So they will be one, as we are one – oh ya, that’s what Fr. Harvey will explain on Trinity Sunday!
Again – another point that God and Jesus are one! I know, it’s hard to understand.
But what does he mean by “that they maybe one”?
When people get married the two become one, but how does that connect with all of us in our common life?
When we are baptized, we are welcomed into the household of God and become part of that.
We, here are now all one. Each of us united together in Christ, forming this church, this place, St. David’s.
These beatitudes, these blessings, and this prayer we eavesdropped in on
Challenge our egos
Challenges how we value money
How we deal with the proud and much more
God’s way of living sometimes contradicts the ways of the world. Sometimes, we need to say no to what the world is saying to us.
We need to reflect on the beatitudes – the blessings.
By following Jesus’ example of prayer, interceding for others, we can be God’s hands and feet in this world.
Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill
Third Order Franciscan