Easter 7C - John 17:20-26

John 17:20–26 (NIV)

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as You 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. 22 I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one—23 I in them and You in Me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.

24 “Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory, the glory You have given Me because You loved Me before the creation of the world.

25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know You, I know You, and they know that You have sent Me. 26 I have made You known to them, and will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for Me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

          How many things am I holding? (Hold the container in one hand, the lid in the other.) It's easy to see that I have two things. But (put the lid on the container) I still have the exact same things in my hands; but now I’m holding only one thing - a food container. When the lid and the container are separated, they’re two. When the lid’s on the container, they’re one.

          In John 10:30 Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” We Christians know God the Father, and God the Son (hold the objects apart). But we also know there’s only one God (put the lid on). The two are one. 

          But there’s more to this than that.  Jesus says that everyone who believes in Him, are also one with Him. There are lots of biscuits in this packet. (Pour the biscuits into the container, and put the lid on.)

          Now all the biscuits, the lid, and the container are one. This is one container of biscuits. Jesus also wants us to be a single body with Him and the Father. Jesus request to God the Father was, that all of them, including you, me and Joe and Jodie Bloggs are one.

Jesus said, 22 I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one—23 I in them and You in Me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. That is, we may all be one, ..., just as the Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father.” 

          When Jesus died for you, He took away what separates you from God. He overcame the wall of sin in your life so you have been restored to unity with God - to be one with Him. This is a mystical union you won’t fully understand until you reach heaven.  But the Apostles do teach us something about this union.

          Jesus is the Saviour who brought you back into a living relationship with God. Everyone who believes and trusts in Jesus as the One who brings them back to God is united with Him. Just as all the biscuits in the container become one container of biscuits, all of you in Christ become one people.

          There’s still more to being united with God. I Have here another packet of biscuits - but they’re not yet in the biscuit container.  And as you all know, there are many people who don’t know or have a relationship with and believe in Jesus. 

We can put still more biscuits in with those already in the container (do it), and more people can believe in Jesus when they hear about Him.

          St John tells us that Jesus prays for all of His disciples – you who already believe the message of Jesus, the message which was first delivered by the Apostles, and for  those who will believe because they hear the message from you, who already believe.

          Of course, this container will hold only so many biscuits, but Jesus has no limit on how many can believe in Him. He loves everyone and gave His life for everyone - both you and me who believe already, and those who are yet to believe through our sharing the Gospel message.

          Jesus went on to pray, May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. Unless those of us who believe in Jesus show that we are united not only with God but also with one another, the world will not believe that Jesus is the Saviour.       

          When we love one another, we show our family, our church community, and our friends and neighbours what Jesus has done for us. 

          When we realise God’s love for you and me in making us one with Himself, we then have to ask what does it mean to be united and one with God?  Robin Mann sums this union up in the Words of the song “May We Be One.” Which we’ll sing following this sermon.

          Union with God is about being together and growing together in the love of Jesus.  This is the love He shared, a love which gives to others and in which we can help fill each other’s lives with the good things of God. 

The good things of God include sharing faith in Christ, talking to each other about the hope in eternal life we have or can have together.  Sharing love which reaches out to others, embraces and makes welcome, fills the stomachs of the hungry and being with the emotionally distraught neighbour.  Sharing love by welcoming the stranger with the odd clothes, lifestyle and or socio-economic background.

          This union with God is something God planned.  It’s not some random meeting in the chaos of the universe.  Your union with Jesus and with each other as Christians is the deliberate re-establishment of God’s plan for all people to freely come together as part of His Kingdom. 

          God planned that together as His people you would be strong, protected and able to live in peace.  The plain and ordinary, the hot and spicy people of the world united together as one in the Church.  God will have us united in purpose.

          Our united purpose is founded and built on the truth of Jesus and His life-giving power which you share as you come together to receive the sacred food of His body and blood in the bread and wine.  His gift to repentant sinners.

          Jesus’ death on the cross is your death to all that is wrong in your lives, all that is painful and hurtful to yourselves and to others.  He sets you free from the burden of bearing grudges and being judgemental, so that instead of being less than you were meant to be, you become more Christ-like as God intended you to be. 

          You’re set free so that your lives are put right and you can get on with those people you had problems coping with, so with Jesus’ help you can heal the family rift, help resolve the hurt and anger of your community’s youth, and so that you can help restore the battered and broken people you see and hear about you each day.

          You should be able to come together and encourage each other, lift each other up and welcome the new person in the pew beside you without complaining, whinging or begrudging them what you already have a take for granted.

          God wants you to share your life together - with each other and with Him, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit who enables all this to happen.  God has begun this in you through Jesus and He desires that you continue His work in reaching out to make every person feel welcome and united with the only hope humanity has - Jesus Christ.

          God wants you and me to be united in purpose.  We can reach out in different ways to different people with the same purpose to fulfil the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” 

          Jesus’ purpose is to bring all people into the Kingdom of God.  Together - to praise and worship God and experience the good things of God.  You and I are to reach out to invite others to join us in union with Christ.  Doing this we’ll be challenged to go outside our comfort zones. 

          The promised Holy Spirit has equipped you with the gifts and power to do what Jesus desires in His prayer for His disciples.  As an example, I share with you a story about an old hunchback I remember from my youth.

          About mid-way through my Seminary studies in Adelaide I came home to holiday with family in Marton.  At that time St Martin’s congregation was very traditional in its worship and practice.  Once a month though they had a youth service in the evening.

          I went along and was surprised to see this old man, his name was Heine, at the service.  I remembered him being very conservative and wondered what he was doing at a youth service where the music was provided by a band, was loud and new choruses were being sung. 

          After the service I spoke with Heine and he said to me, “I don’t like the band in the church, I don’t know the songs but I come every month to this youth service.”  I asked him why he came if he didn’t like it.  He replied, “I want to support and encourage the young people and their friends to come and worship God in the church.”

          I believe Heine understood what it was to be united with Jesus, He loved the Lord and he loved the people in his congregation and he wanted to support their faith - the faith he shared.  Heine saw that there is room in the biscuit container that is God’s Kingdom for the plain and traditional Christian biscuits to be united with the hot and spicy Christian biscuits. 

          You have all come to Christ directly or indirectly through the Apostles’ witness.  You were taught and are hopefully still learning about Jesus now and what He requires of you.

          Jesus knew His mission would succeed. He would die and be raised, He would send His Holy Spirit, the apostles would preach, people would be converted, and the church would be formed.

          As each high priest of Israel bore the names of the tribes of Israel before the presence of God in the tabernacle and the temple so now Jesus, the great High Priest, carried future believers, that is you and me and other people yet to believe, into the holy presence of His heavenly Father.

          Jesus wasn’t praying for the unity of a single, world-wide, ecumenical church in which Anglican, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal and Methodist church doctrine would be maintained along with traditional Lutheranism. Instead, He was praying for a unity of love, a unity of obedience to God and His Word, and a united commitment to His will.

          All believers belong to the one body of Christ, the Church, and our spiritual unity is to be made obvious in the way we live. The unity Christ desires for His church is the same kind of unity the Son has with the Father: just as You are in Me and I am in You.

          The Father did His works through the Son and the Son always did what pleased the Father.  This spiritual unity is to be copied by us in the church. Without union with Jesus and the Father, we can do nothing. The goal of our lives is to do the Father’s will as taught and modelled by Jesus.

          Let’s continue learning and doing His will together.

          Amen.