I want to start with a bit of a dialogue – maybe like a children’s message, but for adults. When you pray, what do you ask for? Healing, safe travel, jobs, peace in the Holy Lands, strength, comfort, church growth(?), rain/no rain, food for the hungry, assistance for those in Haiti & Tennessee, an end to the oil leak in the Gulf, to be able to forgive someone who has hurt us, a win for the Rays (Cubs and White Sox), no homework, A’s on exams
Thanks for your input. We’ll return to this later.
I haven’t spoken much about the nature of John’s Gospel. Each story of Jesus’ life was written by a particular author, to tell the story to a particular community of believers. Matthew was written for a Jewish audience, Luke for a Gentile or non-Jewish audience. John was written in the 90’s, about 60 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, to what is called the Johanine Community.
At first, Jewish believers would worship in the synagogue on Saturdays, for the Sabbath, and gather on Sundays to worship and remember Jesus. By the 90’s, the Jewish believers in Jesus had been evicted from the synagogues. People grieved the losses in every direction.
The Jews missed their Christ-following family members and friends, were angry at what they considered heresy, and yet refused to believe in Jesus.
The Christ-followers missed people and their place of worship, were hurt that their family and friends rejected Jesus, and felt the need to isolate themselves from those who could hurt them.
There was anger, sadness, resentment, grief on both sides. John expressed these emotions in his frequent remarks about the Jews in general, rather than referring more correctly to the Jewish leaders who rejected Jesus. However, the Christ-followers did not let the rejection by the Jews stop them from telling others about Jesus.
Instead, they shaped the message of the gospel to give people in similar circumstances hope and reassurance. During these 21 chapters, John’s story of Jesus reveals more and more about how Jesus is God-with-skin-on, God the Father revealed on earth in the Son. Jesus makes it clear that the Father and Son are not separate beings, but inseparable.
During these 21 chapters, John makes it clear that there is welcome and forgiveness and healing and grace for all people, Jew and non-Jew, male and female, able and disabled. John makes it clear that as Jesus loved all people, this love will fill the believers, and be passed on through them to all people.
Looking through the lens of the Johanine Community, John’s Jesus spends a lot of time preparing the community for the time when Jesus is not physically present. They are to love others enough to wash their feet as servants; they are to love enough to think of themselves as one with each other; they are to give glory to God by loving as Jesus loves.
As they share this love, they are not to feel alone or abandoned, but to know that Jesus prays for them. And as Jesus prays for us. Jesus will be present with them, through the Holy Spirit, whom he will – and indeed has – sent into the world to be with them – and us.
So, when Jesus prays for us, his prayer is that we will love one another and those to whom he sends us. He prays that we will be united with each other in our love for one another. He does not pray that we always agree with each other, but that our purpose will be in loving Jesus and each other so much that the differences and disagreements are less important than the love we have for each other.
Let’s go back now to that list we made at the beginning of the sermon. When we pray, most of what we ask for is an expression of our love for others. We want them to be healed, fed, comforted, given meaningful work, and so forth. When we pray for a Rays or Cubs win, we are praying more in jest than in all seriousness – although the Cubs do need all the help they can get! J
When we pray for anything that expresses God’s will, we give glory to God.
When we invite the prayers of our neighbors at the Dunnellon First Saturday Village Market, we give glory to God by letting them know God hears their prayers.
When we pray for good grades on tests, we acknowledge that God is part of our lives. God’s response may be to prompt us to study more. Sorry, kids!
When we pray for those suffering from natural disasters, we join with millions of people praying for help and relief for those who suffer.
Whatever we pray for, and whenever we pray, we give glory to God by remembering that God has the power to do something about our situations.
Your challenge for this week is to think about why you are praying.
Does your prayer give glory to God?
Does it show your love for others?
Does it acknowledge that God actually CAN do something about the situation for which you are praying?
For now, please pray with me. Loving God, we try in our daily lives to give you glory and love the way you love. Forgive us when we fail, and show us the ways to be more loving. Help us when we pray to seek your will and your ways. In Jesus’ name, Amen