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05.12.05 Christ’s Graduation Prayer, John 17.6, 9, 11, 15-21, 24-26 Sermon Summary

by on May 13, 2013

As the closing prayer of his farewell discourse, this passage gives us a glimpse of what is most important to Jesus.

Summary Points

  • Milestone Moments and Their Value in our Spiritual Journey
  • Three Assumptions Jesus has About Us
  • What Jesus Prays for for Us
  • Questions for Discussion and Reflection

It’s graduation season. Commencement, of course, means “beginning,” but it feels like an ending. Really it’s a threshold, a transition, a milestone on a journey. John gives us Jesus’ “farewell discourse” closing with the “priestly prayer,” as something of a commencement address. The disciples of Jesus’ day and the readers/hearers of John’s gospel are crossing a threshold. They are commencing their faith journey without Jesus present.

These milestone moments pause our lives and give us time to rejoice in our achievements, thanks for God’s deliverance, and to think about the future. Like worship each week, these milestone moments ask us the question: What is our future going to be, based on our past? It allows us to recognize that every future is unique, because every past is unique. What these milestone moments do is help ensure we live into God’s future.

For Jesus, there are some base assumptions. First, we are God’s gift to Jesus. Twice in this passage Jesus prays to God for, “those whom you gave them to me from the world.” It’s quite remarkable that we celebrate Christmas as God’s gift of Jesus to us, and here Jesus refers to us as a gift from God to him.

Second, we are God’s gift to the world. Jesus prays, “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” Jesus received us as a gift from the world, and then regifts us back into the world.

What is the gift we are to be to the world? Earlier in John’s gospel we find one of the most famous verses in the entire Bible: “God so loved the world he gave his son.” (John 3:16) The gift we are to be is the same as Jesus—a demonstration of God’s love.

When Jesus talks about the love he experienced with God, he talks about it in terms of unity and oneness. It is this oneness with God that Jesus hopes for the whole world: “As you Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

Given these assumptions that (1) we are a gift to Christ and (2) to the world, and that (3) the gift we are is a demonstration of God’s unifying love, we can now appreciate the nature of Jesus’ prayer in John 17. He doesn’t pray for separation from the world or for his disciples to be evacuated. Instead he prays for protection. He does this because this is a commissioning, it is a commencement prayer.

And we need Jesus’ commencement prayer in the milestone moments in our lives so we don’t forget what God has done, so we don’t forget what God has called us to do, and so that at the end of our lives we welcome Jesus’ return.

Our weekly gathering around the baptismal font and communion table also serve to remind us of what God has done, is calling us to, and to hope for Jesus’ return. Especially at the Table, we receive God’s love in order to offer that love to others in realizing Jesus prayer that the whole world may believe.

The lectionary this Sunday includes the closing passages of the Bible from the Revelation of John. There Jesus says, “I am coming soon, and my reward is with me.” Let us commence from this and every worship service rededicated to living from this day forward for that reward.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  • Think about your last graduation, from school, a certification program, etc. What accomplishments did you celebrate? What difference has it made in your life since? Identify some “graduations” or milestone moments in your spiritual journey. Share with someone some of these moments.
  • Have you ever thought about yourself as a gift from God to Jesus and the world? What impact does such a perspective have on your self-image and your behavior? Think about who you are, the things that uniquely make you you. What can you offer of yourself to Christ and the world?
  • In what was can you actively show God’s unifying love? Is there someone with whom you need to pursue reconciliation? Someone you need to forgive? Someone who needs your assistance?
  • What if you envisioned worship as a commencement ceremony? What achievements should you celebrate? What acts of God should you remember? What difference is it going to make this week?
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