Sermon June 2, 2019
A few years ago, Jan and I traveled to Russia. As happens on all tours, we were taken to stores and kiosks offering local goods to purchase. Every store had a large display of matryoshka dolls. I call them nested dolls. You have seen them, haven’t you. You see one large doll and if you open it you will see the same doll in a slightly smaller size. The process can continue until you get to the smallest of dolls on the inside. I have seen seven dolls in a set of netted dolls. There is only one way to put them back together. You must start with the smallest and put it in the next larger doll until you once again have a complete set. I didn’t purchase a nested doll but our friends got one that looked like a member of the rock band KISS. I did purchase a replica of a Faberge egg. Faberge eggs were created for the czars of Russia to give to their wives and children. My knock off is an egg shaped case with a tiny egg inside.
We describe the smaller egg as being in the larger egg. We would never say that the larger egg is in the smaller egg. But that is exactly what we find in Scripture. It is another example of Jesus turning our world upside down. Jesus said that each of us is in Christ and he also told us that he (Jesus) is in us. The amazing thing is that we are both in Christ and also have Christ in us. How is it possible for both to happen at the same time?
Perhaps today you can imagine yourself as the egg enveloped by Jesus. Jesus is protecting you from harm. Or you may imagine that you are the outer covering and that Jesus is the glorious tiny egg inside of you. Jesus is like a beating heart inside of you carrying you along, inspiring you.
The gospel for today is the final portion of a prayer that Jesus offered called the high priestly prayer. The prayer takes up an entire chapter in John’s gospel. I encourage you to take a few minutes this week to read chapter 17 to let that prayer wash over you. The first portion is Jesus’ prayer to the Father before he was crucified. The second portion is a prayer for his immediate disciples. I think it is like a prayer a mother might offer for her children. It is a prayer that asks for protection when his disciples go out into the world. Interestingly, Jesus prayed for the disciples to go out into the world to convert people to be his followers and at the same time he prayed for their protection. Today’s portion of the prayer is offered for the far-flung ministries of the early church and a prayer for all of the believers and followers. It is the prayer that Jesus offered for you and me.
For us to be in Jesus is an individual and a communal designation. We describe the community of the church as the Body of Christ. We live together as Christ’s Body in the world. Jesus is the head of the church. As members of the Body of Christ we are offered the opportunity for salvation. We are given protection from evil and we are brought together to support one another.
We are also individually in Christ. We have committed ourselves to Jesus in our baptism and we renewed that commitment when we were confirmed. We stay in Christ when we confess our sins each week and are forgiven. We stay in Christ when we take communion. We stay in Christ when we take time to offer prayers and ask for God’s guidance. We remain in Christ as we try to live our lives as his followers. Jesus is in us as well. Jesus brings us into one with God. Jesus gives us strength to continue on the way. Jesus gives us guidance and is there to encourage us when we fall.
On Thursday, we celebrated the feast of the Ascension. We remember that Jesus was taken up to heaven bodily. The apostles witnessed the time when Jesus was lifted up to heaven bodily. The apostles were used to being with Jesus. They thought he was gone when he was crucified and they were amazed and excited when he rose from the dead. At the Ascension, they had to go through their loss one more time. I am sure they wondered what they would do without him.
I hope the message from our readings helps you to connect with the apostles. We are one with them and we are one with Jesus. We can imagine the pain that they must have experienced at this second loss of Jesus just as we have experienced pain at the loss of a trust friend.
We wish that Jesus was still with us in body. But if we listen to this prayer of Jesus, we know that he was still with the apostles and he is still with us. We are thankful that he is with us in spirit.
When we live in Jesus and Jesus lives in us then our lives are different. In the first lesson from Acts, Paul encountered a woman who was possessed with a demon and the demon gave her the power to tell fortunes. Sadly, she was being used by greedy men to make money and we know that still happens to people today. Paul commanded the demon to come out of the woman. Paul and his partner Silas are placed in prison for allowing the woman to live a life freed of demons and freed of her captors. During the night, an earthquake freed the prisoners from their bondage. But Paul and Silas did not leave. Their actions become an example for the jailer who becomes a Christian and is immediately baptized. Paul freed the jailer from his imprisonment to sin and brought him to the joy of Christ Jesus.
We may not be able to exorcise demons as Paul did and we may not experience an earthquake that frees us from prison. So, let’s focus on the fact that we are connected to Jesus just as Paul was. By our example, we are able to show others to Jesus. Just as Paul and Silas did not run to escape their captors, we too live our lives as examples of Christ in the world. Many of you have shared the blessings of God in your lives with others and in so doing, you have brought others to a life in Christ. Our example helps others to be changed by God.
We are also encouraged to pray for others just as Jesus did. There is a quote from an unknown author that suggests “There is nothing that makes us love other people so much as praying for them. Let’s keep praying then.” Gerard Manley Hopkins, a famous poet, wrote that when we lift our hands in prayer, we give God glory. But he also reminded us that when we do even the dirtiest of work in his name, we give glory to God. Hopkins wanted us to remember that prayer is important but so is living a life of grace.
Jesus prayed that the whole church may be one. This past week, I once again encountered divisions within the large community of Christ’s church. We find ways to argue with each other about exactly what Scripture teaches us. Some believe that their way is the only way that you can interpret Scripture. I find it sad that the wider church struggles to find unity in our beliefs and I ask for your prayers that Jesus may find ways to unite the church once more.
In the reading from Revelation, there is an invitation. Let us pray that God will “Let everyone who hears say, "Come.
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.”
I hope that you will consider what it means for you that Jesus is in you and that you are in Jesus. I imagine the relationship between the three members of the Trinity is one of total unity. Jesus described his relationship with the Father as if they were one. May we also seek that same unity in Jesus. May we be totally connected to Jesus so that we are one with him and he is one with us, so that we are one with each other. Amen.
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