Getting Ready for Sunday: By the Rev. Leslie Stewart

“I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:26

Do you hear him? He prays for us? We’re listening to Jesus’ final prayer for his disciples, and for us, just before he is betrayed and arrested. It is his prayer before he leaves them, and in it he spreads and extends the circle of belonging like concentric circles to include those who will believe through their word (us), and to the world. Verse 23 states, “so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

John’s Gospel is clear in its purpose that these things are written so that those who contemplate these stories will believe, and that belief will lead to life. What kind of life? Life in his name. Our passage points to what it means to have life in his name.

The key themes are unity, glory, a place with Jesus, and a mysterious gravity around a name. That name is the very nature of God. In the Old Testament, to know someone’s name was to have some kind of power over them or to share intimacy in relationship with that person. When Moses first asked God’s name at the theophany of the burning bush, the reply was, “I am who I am” or “I am who I will be.” The unpronounceable Jewish name for God (YHWH) implies God is beyond our knowing or control.

However, our passage is in conversation with Exodus 33 and 34, a section of the Old Testament sharing the same themes: unity with God - the renewed covenant takes place after Moses’ encounter with God from the cleft of the rock; glory – implying God’s presence, a place with God – where Moses will lead them, and the revelation of the name which brings intimate knowledge of God’s nature.

Moses prayed, “…show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight (vs 13).” And then even bolder, “Show me your glory” (vs 18). And the LORD told Moses he would pass by and declare his name, “The LORD.” But when the LORD passed before him he proclaimed his name and nature: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation” (34:6-7).

To know the name of God is to know his nature and his ways. Now we can understand the significance of Jesus praying “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” God himself has passed by, and as John put it in the prologue, “Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (1:14).

Jesus’ final prayer reveals this name that does more than just make the Father known. Living life in his name means we are drawn into the orbit of divine love and union between the Father and Son, which extends to us through the Holy Spirit. Knowing the name leads to mystical union, an intimate and life-giving relationship drawing all creation into Trinitarian love at the heart of all things. It is God’s very life – Love.

Getting Ready for Sunday: By the Rev. Catherine Thompson

Getting Ready for Sunday

Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 1, 2016

“I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.” John 14:29

The Gospel text this morning (John 14:23-29) is preparing us for Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Jesus is with his disciples, telling them what to expect after he is no longer with them. That’s why it is called the Farewell Discourse.

In chapter 14, verse 22, just before our passage begins, we read, “Judas (not Iscariot) said to Jesus, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’” In other words, “If you leave us, how will we still feel, or know, your presence? The world will not be able to see you any longer. How will we?”

As human beings, we confront this issue all of the time. In this complex age of telecommunications, we have come to expect that we can reach anyone, anywhere, at any time. We receive phone calls, text messages, e-mails and social media updates. It seems impossible that we might not be able to reach someone instantly. It reflects a reality in which we feel the need to stay connected to the world around us, but what happens when we lose that connection?

The disciples were seeking the answer to this question as they faced the coming loss of a direct connection to Jesus. They had been following Jesus for years, and now, Jesus was telling them he was going to be with the Father. Jesus says to them, “If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father” (v. 28). I am sure their reactions were mixed. Yes, they loved Jesus, but it was difficult to rejoice at the thought of losing him.

In our gospel passage, Jesus was addressing that concern. He commits to staying connected to them in three ways. He promises to make a home with them, to send an Advocate, and to leave his peace with them.

I love the idea of God making a home within us. I am reminded of the historical precedent of God dwelling in the midst of God’s people, even on the move. While wandering in the desert, God led them with a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. Eventually, the tabernacle was created so that God could dwell among them. The word “tabernacle” means “tent.” God literally pitched a tent among the people. God then came and dwelt among us in the incarnation of Jesus. And, now, Jesus was promising that God would come and make a home within us.

Jesus also promised to leave the disciples with the gift of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. “Advocate” can also be translated as “Comforter.” There is a danger, however, in embracing this notion of a Comforter. We can be lulled into the notion that Jesus is only about providing warmth, safety or security. The earthly ministry of Jesus was defined by being on the move, preaching, teaching, healing, performing miracles and changing lives - the opposite of safety and warmth. The Advocate is sent to remind us of the blessing and the challenge of being followers of Christ. We are pushed out of our comfort zones, in order to grow our faith, so we can impact the world for the One who dares to dwell within us.

Finally, Jesus promised a third gift: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you” (v. 27). We hear the word so often, we may not hear it anymore. When Jesus speaks of the peace of God, he is not talking about the end of conflict, or the absence of suffering. Jesus is granting the disciples nothing less than the gift of salvation. It is that gift, not a false ideal of a perfect world, that will get us through the toughest trials and tribulations of our life.

These gifts - the indwelling of God, the Advocate, and peace - are the same gifts we now have to offer the world. Imagine a world where being connected is not defined by technology or accessibility, but by a life-giving relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, imagine how God might be calling you to help build that world. These gifts are not ours to keep. They are meant to share. How can you share them with others?

The Rev. Catherine Thompson is rector of Annunciation in Lewsiville

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This is a blog of essays meant to prepare parishioners for an upcoming Sunday reading.