Jesus’ Prayer of Hope

May 16, 2021

Series: May 2021

Category: So-called Christian Values

Speaker: Brook Scott

Today's Scripture: John 17:6-19

Today's Sermon


"Jesus’ Prayer of Hope"


What is this Scripture passage all about? It may have seemed confusing. It was for me, and went to seminary! One of the main reasons that it is hard to understand this Scripture passage is that, at the time it was written down around 90 CE or Current Era, it was addressed to a diverse audience. The listeners would have comprised of Romans, Greeks, Jews, early Christians and Gentiles. Also, the passage uses language that is reflects Hellenistic thought about the cosmos, or the world and logos, or the word of God. Layered on top of that are distinctions between the mystical world where God and Jesus will be together versus the world here on earth where the disciples will remain.

So now…what is the passage all about? It is about God offering loving protection to the ancient disciples who are left behind in the world after Jesus died. The same loving protection is also offered to us as future believers.

In the prayer we just heard, which is sometimes referred to as the High Priestly prayer because Jesus is speaking directly to God, Jesus asks God to protect the disciples from evil that might befall them.

Jesus spoke these words to God just before he was to head to the Garden of Geth Semony.  There, Jesus would be betrayed by Judas and arrested by soldiers and officers of the chief priests and the Pharisees.

Jesus certainly knew of what was about to happen to him after his arrest. He was going to be crucified and would no longer be with the disciples in the flesh.

Jesus also knew that the disciples would be at risk of persecution after he was killed. In fact, early followers of Jesus in Jerusalem were being persecuted and thrown out of the synagogue for spreading the word of Jesus.

SO, the disciples were at risk of becoming outcasts in society or worse. You see, the followers of Jesus challenged the authority of the Temple Pharisees and the other high priests. What Jesu sand his disciples were proclaiming was a change in how power is personified, perceived and put forth in the world.

Point 1

So Jesus prayed to God. His benevolent prayer for the disciples and for us is like the loving care of a parent or guardian for a child. Similar to the way that Jesus kept the disciples on safe path, God offers us guidance in how to stay on a healthy or non-destructive spiritual path.

God acts to shepherd us to keep us safe. And like a good shepherd, it can also feel like a little nudge or course correction when we know that we are on the wrong path.

How do we experience God’s loving care? Sometimes we can get a glimpse of feeling like one with the Divine, like when experiencing a radiant spring day. Some times it can feel like joy when singing of the glory of the resurrection on easter . Sometimes,God’s goodness can feel like companionship, just like a friend who is always thereby your side.

God offered loving protection to the ancient disciples who were left behind in the world after Jesus died. The same loving protection is also offered to us.

Point 2

Howard Thurmond, one of the country’s great preachers, author and philosopher, wrote a book called Jesus and the Disinherited in 1949. He used the words of Jesus to propose a Christian approach to issues of discrimination and injustice against African-Americans, Jews and other minorities. He recognized that the fundamental idea of being a child of Godin his own life as a grands on of slaves could begin the process of healing because it establishes, as he called it,“a ground of personal dignity.” He wrote that “this aloneis not enough, but withoutit, nothingelse is of value.”

Knowing that God loves us like a child of God is like complete acceptance of who we are.

God offered loving protection to the ancient disciples who were left behind in the world after Jesus died. The same loving protection is also offered to us.

Point 3

God’s loving protection and care can show up in the world when you least expect it.

I heard a woman named Rubi tell her story recently at an online event for the Center for Domestic Peace in San Rafael. She is a Hispanic woman who has two young children. Her husband was abusive to her verbally, emotionally and physically. He was also a heavy drinker, which made her life even more unpredictable and probably exacerbated the abuse. She wanted to leave her husband but she felt trapped. She hoped to make a better life for her children and for herself but she depended on her husband financially. Finally, the abuse was just too much. She knew that she had to do something, so that the cycle of violence would not repeat itself in the life of her children.

In her desperation, she called the hotline for abused women at the Center of Domestic Peace in San Rafael. She was told the words she needed to hear: “Don’t worry, you’re not alone.”

Beloved community was there for her when she probably least expected it.

Rubi is also an example of someone who needed to dig deep inside of herself as an individual to see her own dignity and self worth as a child of God. Maybe it was God who guided her and helped her to turn away from the evil ways of her abusive husband.

God offered loving protection to the ancient disciples who were left behind in the world after Jesus died. The same loving protection is also offered to us.

I want to share a good samaritan story with you that isn’t from the Bible. It’s from a true story on that I saw on PBS. A black man was raised in segregated Daytona, Florida in the early 1900s. Schools there went only to the seventh grade, so the family of the young, black adolescent scraped together funds to send him to high school in Jacksonville. However, at the train station, the boy was told that he had to pay extra to send his baggage. Buying the ticket had left him destitute; he had no more money to ship his trunk. Penniless, the boy sat down on the steps and began to cry. Then a stranger- a black man dressed in overalls- walked by and paid the charges. He didn’t introduce himself, and the boy never learned his name.

God’s loving protection and care can show up in the world when you least expect it.

God’s loving protection can also look like us reaching out to help others when we least expect it of ourselves.

Valeria Kaur, who is a Sikh American, became an activist after 9/11 because of violence against the Sikh community. It totally changed her life. Now she is an author and speaker.

In her book, “See no Stranger”she reminds us that the stranger is “that part of me that I do not yet know.” She invites us to be able to “see the migrant child at the border as our own daughter.”

Howard Thurmanreminds us of how wecan be part of God’s Beloved Community:
Do not be silent; there is no limit to the power that may be released through you.”

God offered loving protectionto the ancient discipleswho were left behindin the world after Jesus died. The same loving protectionis also offered to us, sometimes in wayswhen we least expect it.

Sometimes we can be the one to bring love and hope to the stranger among us.

So, where is Jesus’ hope in the prayer that He spoke to God?

There is hope where we can convert our fear of the other into solidarity with the other.

We are partof God’s planin the world. Let us go out and do God’s work with God’s loving care and hope in our hearts.

Oh and by the way, …the young, black boy with no money to ship his bags with him on the train at the railroad station…was Howard Thurman. When he wrote his autobiography, he dedicated it:
“to the stranger in the railroad station in Daytona Beach who restored my broken dream sixty-five years ago.”