First Reading: Acts 1:6-14
6When [the apostles] had come together, they asked [Jesus], “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
12Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. 13When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
Psalm: Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35
1Let God arise, and let God’s enemies be scattered;
let those who hate God flee.
2As smoke is driven away, so you should drive them away;
as the wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.
3But let the righteous be glad and rejoice before God;
let them also be merry and joyful.
4Sing to God, sing praises to God’s name; exalt the one who rides the clouds; I Am is that name, rejoice before God!
5In your holy habitation, O God,
you are a father to orphans, defender of widows;
6you give the solitary a home and bring forth prisoners into freedom; but the rebels shall live in desert places.
7O God, when you went forth before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness,
8the earth quaked, and the skies poured down rain, at the presence of God, the God of Sinai, at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
9You sent a bountiful rain, O God;
you restored your inheritance when it languished.
10Your people found their home in it;
in your goodness, O God, you have made provision for the poor.
32Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth;
sing praises to the Lord.
33You ride in the heavens, O God, in the ancient heavens;
you send forth your voice, your mighty voice.
34Ascribe power to God,
whose majesty is over Israel; whose strength is in the skies.
35How wonderful you are in your holy places, O God of Israel,
giving strength and power to your people! Blessed be God!
Second Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. 14If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.
5:6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 8Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. 10And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 11To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.
Gospel: John 17:1-11
1After Jesus had spoken these words [to his disciples], he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
6“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”
One of my favorite unwind movies is “Ever After”. It retells the story of Cinderella. In France the Brothers Grimm visit an old lady in a castle who holds up a glass slipper and puts the story into context. As she concludes, she says this classic line, “It does not matter that they lived happily-ever-after. It matters that they lived!” I love it. It does not matter that we live happily-ever-after but that we live. Turn to your neighbor and share for a moment just one thought on what “living well” means to you.
Let us pray. Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.
“The hour has come,” prays Jesus after he has walked to Gethsemane with his followers, after the Last Supper and after he has imparted his last words of wisdom. “The hour has come.” We have come to the end of the Easter Season. Thursday is Ascension and next Sunday we celebrate Pentecost. It reminds me of Lion King near the end, as Simba looks over Prideland that he is about to rule and Rafiki, the prophetic bird, says, “It is time.” Perhaps you felt that way before the wedding as you prepared to enter or as you waited to enter the operating room or as you entered the procession for graduation. “The hour has come” signifies a change, a transition to a new phase. It is a feeling mixed with the excitement of anticipation and perhaps fears of the unknown future.
“Glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you”
Easter Sunday is not the end of the God story that the Bible tells. Christ died for our sins. Sometimes we stop there and leave off the Old Testament and all that build up to the Gospels and act as if my salvation is the whole point of Christianity. But the story is not over. The Bible is not a Jesus story but God speaking to us about himself and his walk with us. The hour has come for the next phase. Jesus prays to be glorified so that God is glorified. Jesus names glorification as the next phase. Glory is a hard word to get our minds around. Let’s see if we can unpack it a little. Our text starts with glory invoking the reality of authority.
“glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you,
2since you have given him authority over all people,
to give eternal life to all whom you have given him”
The father gave the son authority over people, the authority to give them eternal life. Authority is delegated from the Father to the Son. We did not elect Jesus “savior” because we believe. President Biden has authority because he is the elected president of the United States and we are bound to live under his influence whether we voted for him or not. The majority of people chose him. Jesus does not have authority that we respect, generated by winning an election. He does not rule a democracy. God declared him the “savior”. The kingdom of this world may be a democracy but the kingdom of God is a theocracy, a realm ruled by God and Jesus has lived that example through out the Gospels. He healed. He walked on water by his own authority. He cast out demons. He lived showing us what heavenly authority looks like.
Jesus has the power to give us eternal life in the heavenly kingdom. When Jesus says that he is “the way, the truth, and the life” he is referring to life now and eternal life. As we submit to his authority we find life. This side of eternity that may mean small glimpses like finding hope when we are discouraged by turning to him in prayer. It may mean we find love when we offer forgiveness to an enemy as Jesus told us to and the renewed relationship surprises us with love. It may mean we find the strength to run the race as Eric Liddell testified in “Chariots of Fire,” “Where does the strength come to run the race? It comes from within.” These are glimpses of the eternal life we find in Christ. He has authority to give us eternal life as a gift, not as a paycheck for good deeds or reward for faith. We praise him when we see his way working. We glorify him as we rejoice.
Christ’s authority comes from relationship to the Father, not from popularity with people. Christ’s authority comes from finishing the task that was laid before him. He has achieved eternal life that he gives and we have looked at this truth through the Easter season. He is not giving us campaign promises that he hopes to fulfill when he gets in office if the other political party cooperates. We don’t follow his leadership because it makes sense and accomplishes the task we chose him for. We follow because he and the Father are one and he has finished the task he incarnated to do and he now returns to his original glory and eternal authority.
This may be the moment when I take my faith temperature and ask myself if my faith looks like a democracy or is it based on a relationship where I bow to the authority and wisdom of the Christ?
“name” and “words”
Christ came with a goal. He came to make God’s name known. Yes, he accomplished our redemption but in doing so he glorifies God. Most people alive acknowledge the probability of the existence of a god but the nature of that god is up for discussion. We have tales of super heroes and gods that intermarry and may even mate with humans. We have tales of “forces” that guide our actions and are sources of power and fight with the “dark side.” Perhaps we even like to think of Jesus as Dumbledore of Harry Potter and Satan as Voldemort. Some would say we worship materialism, wealth, and talent. We have all different ways we can access “power’ from whatever “god” today. Perhaps in Biblical times the Baals were sources of fertility but it seems like our Baals are sources of power. Jesus says he has made God’s name known and glorified. God is not like other gods of this world.
Secondly Jesus has made God’s “words” known to us. God speaks! God speaks in every language. God speaks over millennium. We know about God’s character and about his wishes for us. We can read Scripture and we can look at the life of Jesus, God incarnate. God came to us and revealed himself. I know no other god that comes to walk with its creation, to create relationship that carries into eternity. Jesus has made the nature of God known to us by coming to us and has made his words real to us in the actions of his life. Jesus did not demand that Rome become Jews or live by the laws of Moses but lived a life that invited all to follow. God’s word glorifies God.
The words Jesus taught us were to reveal God. We love our neighbor as ourselves, we love our enemy as ourselves, and we love the foreigner as ourselves because they are God’s creation. Our love glorifies God and Christ came to all people.
“…protect them in your name that you have given me,
so that they may be one, as we are one…”
Jesus ends this High Priestly Prayer with a very touching note. He prays for our protection and our unity. Please allow me to repeat that. He prays for our protection and our unity. Jesus walked with the poor, the sick, the demon possessed, in halls of power, through stormy seas, during times of popularity when all yelled “hallelujah” and during times of distain when the crowds yelled “crucify him. He walked through birth and he walked through death. This God we worship today is three dimensional and real. He is not sitting far off in a cloud or on a different planet. Jesus prays that this God who is present in our world, will protect us from evil. No matter how bad the situation may seem, the God of the universe is protecting us.
This is not a universal prayer for the masses but a prayer of relationship for “friends.” Interestingly Jesus connects this protection with unity. In times of trouble, it is possible to try and be a lone ranger but I suspect that it is during hard times we not only have God’s protection but we also have the buffer zone of the body of Christ. We have each other. Hard times draw us together. In my humanity, I tend to not want others to see me when I am ugly, weak, or needy for fear of their criticism and rejection. Jesus knows the pain of hard times and I suspect he knows how important were those women gathered at the foot of the cross, those three sleepy friends who didn’t stay awake in the Garden of Gethsemane but were present, and maybe even his God heart was touched by the wisemen traveling to experience his birth. It is the end of the Easter season and we know “the Lord is risen” because we experience him in community. May our differences not drive us apart.
“…the hour has come…”
The hour has come. God’s story is not over. God now entrusts his story into our hands as he has our back. We are not abandoned. Jesus did not “social distance” to heaven until he returns to judge. He completed his work on earth and empowered us to continue the story. The Holy Spirit is with us. Our lives and our faith, which may feel small and invisible, are involved in bringing glory, honor and praise to God for eternity. May we not give in to that which divides and may we nurture those habits that keep us in relationship with others and with God, our source of strength, life and protection. May we not seek to live happily ever after but may we seek to live a life that glorifies God.
Let the people of God say “AMEN!”