A Lectionary Reflection on John 17:20-26, for 7th Sunday of Easter Yr C

This pericope is often referred to as Jesus’ high priestly prayer. It is, for the most part, an intercessory prayer for others, and also the conclusion of Jesus’ farewell discourse with his disciples, preparing them for his imminent suffering, death and resurrection (John 13:1-17:26).

Image credit: Jesus prayed for me at LivingLutheran.org

In verse 20, Jesus is praying for all of his would-be followers beyond the first generation of disciples, right up to the present day and into the future: “I ask not only on behalf of these (i.e. his first disciples), but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word.” Here Jesus suggests the power not only of his intercessory prayer for all of his followers throughout history; as well as the process by which people will come to believe—“through their word,” (i.e. the preaching and teaching of God’s word, which, combined with the activity of the Holy Spirit works faith within the hearts and minds of people).

Another significant theme in this prayer is an emphasis on the unity of Christians with one another; which Jesus prays for in verse 21 and develops this particular intercession further by saying that such a unity is rooted in God’s own Self: “As you, Father are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us.” Again such an emphasis highlights that unity is a gift of God’s grace, it always originates from God through Jesus to us. However, this unity is not unity for its own sake. No! Jesus states the ultimate purpose of Christian unity: “that the world (not merely a few privileged folks) may know that you (i.e. God the Parent-Creator) have sent me.” Jesus repeats this emphasis on unity in slightly different words, and then repeats the purpose of unity as well with an important addition: “that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” This addition, of course, is consistent with the larger schema of the Fourth Gospel, which emphasises God’s all-inclusive love for the world made incarnate through Jesus. After Jesus is raised from the dead and ascends into heaven, the incarnation—albeit imperfect because we are all sinners—is present in the world through loving servanthood of Jesus’ followers who have been given the in-dwelling Holy Spirit.

Jesus also prays that his followers would be with him “where I am,” which may refer to either his imminent suffering and death on the cross or his resurrected and ascended state in heaven or perhaps both. He asks for his followers to be with him where he is “to see my glory,” and again “my glory” may refer to at least two or more meanings—his suffering and death on the cross and/or his resurrected and ascended state in heaven.

The concluding intercession focusses on knowing God the Parent-Creator and Jesus as well as knowing God’s name, which is closely connected to the gift of God’s love dwelling in all of Jesus’ followers.

There are many homiletic possibilities based on this pericope. One may be to explore what it means to pray today in the life and faith journey of Jesus-followers. How does Jesus’ high priestly prayer inspire and influence our prayers today? Are there visible signs of Jesus’ prayer for Christian unity among Christians of various denominations today? If so, where are they, and how do we rejoice in Jesus’ prayer becoming a reality for us today?

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Prayer of the Day/Collect for 4th Sunday of Easter Year A-Good Shepherd Sunday

Shepherding God: You lead us, provide for our daily needs, and promise to give us abundant life. May we listen to your voice and faithfully follow you, so that all people shall live the abundant life of justice, peace, mercy and love; through Jesus our Good Shepherd, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Book Review: Healing Of Soul, Healing Of Body

Healing Of Soul, Healing Of Body: Spiritual Leaders Unfold the Strength & Solace in Psalms

Author: Edited By Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub, CSW A Project of the Jewish Healing Center

Publisher: Woodstock, Vermont: Jewish Lights Publishing

115 pages, ISBN 1-879045-31-1, Paperback

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

In the “How To Use This Book” section, the purpose of this little volume is stated: “This book is intended to help you—struggling with illness or helping someone who is—derive spiritual healing from Psalms” (p. 11). Accordingly, the focus then is on what the late 18th century, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov referred to as the ten “healing psalms,” they are: Psalms 16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137, and 150. Readers will find helpful, practical suggestions on how to use these psalms.

In the “Introduction” chapter, Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub provides an overview of who Rabbi Nachman was, and the ten different kinds of songs found in these ten “healing psalms.” Each song has a corresponding Sefirot… “of the Kabbalah, the mystical attributes through which the Creator brought the universe into being. These Ten Sefirot are called “Direct Light,” shining from the Creator to the world” (p. 19). For example, one type of song is called a Niggun, “Melody,” and its corresponding Sefir is Hessed, “Lovingkindness.” In “Notes To Introduction,” there is a list of all ten Songs and corresponding Sefir.

Ten rabbis from four denominations—Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstruction—each write one of the chapters; providing a wide range of insights and approaches to these psalms.

The structure of each chapter is as follows: A Hebrew and English translation of the psalm, along with a commentary on it.

For this reader, the most helpful chapter was by Rabbi Maurice Lamm, commenting on Psalm 105. Rabbi Lamm offers several insights regarding the importance of songs and singing to facilitate communion with God and healing if not of the body, then of the mind and soul. For example: “The word shir, meaning song, also derives from shur, meaning insight. When we sing we raise our souls to God, and we gain insight into Him” (p. 83). I think this emphasis on singing songs regardless of our situation is most timely in our day and age, since very few people seem to sing anymore—one wonders if they are the poorer in health as a consequence.

In addition to this volume’s chapters, there is information about each of the contributors, suggested resources for further reading, helpful organizations, information about the Jewish Healing Center, and Jewish Light Publishing and several of their publications.

 

 

Today the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins

Today, January 18, marks the beginning of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In North America, it always begins on this date, when we celebrate the Confession of Peter, and the week ends on January 25 when we celebrate the Conversion of Paul. In between, on January 20, we remember the twentieth century martyr, Martin Luther King Jr.

This year’s theme is titled: “Is Christ divided?” It is based on 1 Corinthians 1:1-17, the apostle Paul’s appeal to the church at Corinth struggling with divisions. In his appeal, Paul urges the church to live in koinonia-translated into English as fellowship, but also can mean community/communion, and refer to a sense of unity. Of course for Paul, and for all Christians, unity is God’s gift of faithfulness vis-a-vis baptism and the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Our response and calling is to make visible unity a reality in the church and world; which is an ever and ongoing process under the leading of the Holy Spirit until such time as Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John chapter seventeen becomes a reality.

In the meantime, we take small steps of faith on the journey towards full unity. This year’s materials for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity have been prepared by a Canadian team comprised of participants from various denominations-sad to say, I don’t see any mention of Lutherans, and I wonder why? At any rate, if you follow this link to one of the pages on the World Council of Churches website, you will see a link there to a PDF document, click on it, and you can download it for either personal, parish or ecumenical services, prayers and devotions: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/wcc-commissions/faith-and-order-commission/xi-week-of-prayer-for-christian-unity/2014

ON ANOTHER MATTER, PLEASE NOTE: I am continuing to evaluate whether or not I am going to keep this blog active or shut it down, which means, as I stated in the previous post, I shall likely be posting only sporadically.

Tomorrow is Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day

Here is an intercession for Yom Hashoah, from Eugene J. Fisher & Leon Klenicki, An Interreligious Holocaust Memorial Service: From Desolation to Hope (New York & Chicago: Stimulus Foundation and Liturgy Training Publications, 1990), p. 23:
Exalted, compassionate God, grant perfect peace in your sheltering Presence, among the holy and the pure, to the soul of all the men, women and children of the house of Israel, to the Righteous Gentiles, to the millions who died defending the right to be different, at a time of madness and terror.
May their memory endure, may it inspire truth and loyalty in our lives, in our religious commitment and tasks. May their memory be a blessing and sign of peace for all humanity. And let us say all together: Amen.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2011

Today, January 18, marks the beginning of Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year the theme is based on Acts 2:42f.: “One in the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer.”  The initial work leading to the publication of this booklet was done by a group of Christian leaders from Jerusalem. They gathered at the invitation of the World Council of Churches. Their work was facilitated by the Jerusalem Inter-Church Centre. Unfortunately the city in which I live is not officially celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, but in previous years, I have enjoyed organising ecumenical services with other clergy. You can read more about this year’s background, theme, and a daily devotion, order of service, etc., here.

Prayers & Benediction Palm/Passion Sunday Yr C

Prayer of the Church, Palm/Passion Sunday, Year C

God our help in times of trouble and suffering: We praise and thank you for vindicating your Son, Jesus our Suffering Servant as he suffered and died on the cross. God of mercy: C: Hear our prayer.

Crucified Saviour: When the world had poured out all of its scorn and hatred and cruel punishment against you, and the powers of evil sought your ultimate destruction; you put all of your trust in the LORD your God for your deliverance. In the face of evil, may we also place all of our trust in the LORD our deliverer: God of creation: C: Your mercy is great.

Cross-bearing Christ: Grant us your attitude, mind-set, and spirit to learn that it is not in power but in weakness; not in pride but in humility; not in doing our own thing but in obedience to you that we discover the real meaning and purpose of our lives. We repent of our lust for power; our deceitful pride and selfishness which motivate us. Forgive us Jesus, that we may be more willing disciples; boldly confessing your Lordship over our lives and all of creation. God of creation: C: Your mercy is great.

God of all the suffering: You led your Son every step of the way through his suffering and crucifixion. Today we remember all who suffer in our community, province, nation and world—especially the people of Haiti, Chile, and Sudan; be their Source of comfort and strength by leading them through their suffering and forms of crucifixion. God of creation: C: Your mercy is great.

(Additional intercessions and thanksgivings may be offered here, ending with: God of creation: C: Your mercy is great.)

Saviour of the world: this day and Holy Week please guide and direct our hearts, souls, minds and lives to focus more clearly on your entry into Jerusalem and the events which unfolded during the last week of your life in the flesh here on earth. May your Holy Spirit enlighten, inspire and empower us concerning your Passion; giving us the will and courage to spread this wonderful message near and far. God of creation: C: Your mercy is great.

We pray all of these things in the name of our crucified Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. C: Amen.

Benediction

Now may God the mighty Creator; Christ the cross-bearing Saviour+; & the Holy Spirit who leads you into all truth bless & keep you now & forever.