Sunday, June 5, 2011

Homily for Easter VII

This sermon was delivered from the aisle without notes, but this is the mental outline that I both worked from and strayed from! I was at St John's in Centralia, and the text was John 17:1-11.

The story of Jesus where we pick it up today in John 17:
·       the Last Supper, the eve of the crucifixion
·       John (the Evangelist) is teeing up the ball for the way he wants us to understand the narrative of the crucifixion and resurrection (Jesus “lays down” his life as part of God’s grand plan; it is not taken from him)
·       “liturgical time” sees it poetically rather than literally—we stand with the disciples (weeks later) who have seen Jesus disappear from their midst, but the Holy Spirit has not yet been poured out
The disciples whom Jesus left behind were confused about …
·       who they were (identity)
·       what they were supposed to do (mission)
It is easy enough for us (“liturgical” disciples?) to empathize with them—
·       especially in small-town central Illinois (talk about “left behind”!)
·       in a rapidly-evolving post-Christian culture
Jesus prays
·       first he has some of his own “baggage” to take care (regarding his identity and his mission)
·       then he gets down to serious intercession, but not, interestingly, first on behalf of the world, but for “those whom you have given me.”
·       for his Galilean 1st century disciples about both the identity and the mission of the community of his disciples (who have also been “given” to him)
·       …implicitly he also intercedes for his rural southern Illinois 21st century disciples: We are to be a sign and herald to the world of all that God is doing to redeem us from the power of sin and death (recount a bit of the devastation that such power produces)
·       Our vocation to be a SIGN says something about identity: We are “God’s own people” (as we heard from St Peter two weeks ago), a prefigurement and a model of how things are in the Kingdom of God < a sobering and awesome responsibility
·       Our vocation to be a HERALD says something about mission: Helping people connect with their own brokenness and the brokenness of society, and then introducing them to the One who stands ready to heal that brokenness (“the only true God and Jesus Christ whom [he has] sent”)
And the place where that sign shines most brightly, and the heraldic proclamation is heard most clearly … is in our unity [keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one]
·       the unity that we have in Christ is the foundation of our identity and our mission
·       this means unity at all levels (parish, diocese, province, communion, ecumenical)
The clarity of our identity (sign) and mission (herald) rises and falls on the strength of our unity

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