Easter7 C 2022 Prayer for Unity
Context. Context. Context. Yes, the context of Christ’s High Priestly Prayer which we just heard is very significant to understanding the text? Jesus prayed this prayer immediately before He and His disciples left for the garden of Gethsemane, where He would be betrayed, and the final stage of His journey to the Cross would begin.
On that night, Jesus could have prayed for many things before His arrest. He could have prayed for His own strength. He could have prayed that his disciples would support Him and not flee. He could have prayed that He might be spared from the task that was before Him.
But Jesus did not pray for any of these things. Instead, His prayer was dominated by a single, great thought – the unity of His disciples. Jesus begins His prayer by asking that His disciples be unified so that the whole world might know that He was sent by God to complete God’s Redeeming Activity in this world.
Why did Jesus make this request? Jesus knew that “unity” between His disciples would not be an easy thing to accomplish. Jesus Himself witnessed the tension among the twelve when James and John approached Him and asked Him if they could sit one at His right hand and one at His left hand in God’s Kingdom.
And earlier that very day, there had been an argument amongst the disciples concerning who among them was the greatest. There was even tension among the disciples concerning their former vocations. Remember that Mathew had been a tax collector and Simon the Zealot had pledged in his former career to kill people like Matthew. No wonder then that Jesus prayed for unity among the original disciples.
But Jesus did not just pray for His disciples, Jesus prayed for all the generations to come that God’s people would be unified. And His prayer includes us today, that we would be unified in our mission and in our proclamation of the Gospel.
And so the question for us then, as we read this text, is what does the unity that Christ prayed for look like in our world today?
And to start off, I do not think that the unity Jesus prayed for was a unity of sameness, or a unity of like-mindedness. No. Jesus meant a unity that focused on Him as Lord. Jesus is the head, and we first connected to Him and then to one another.
Like all the faithful generations that have come before us, we need to be one. We need to support one another. We need to love one another. We need to encourage one another. For the fact of the matter is we need each other to live healthy lives as we live out the ministry God has in store for us.
But our unity must not be just based upon the care and concern that we have for one another. If it is, then in our sinfulness we would tend to focus only on those who look like us, or talk like us, or have the same world view as we do. No… the unity that Christ speaks about is meant to incorporate His love for all humanity.
According to Matthew’s Gospel, after his resurrection Jesus said to His disciples (and to us also) “All authority in heaven and on earth has been give tome. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commended you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew28:18-20
God’s Will then is for us to baptize and proclaim to the whole world all that Christ has taught us. And God’s Will for the world is salvation. Jesus brought that salvation to the world. Jesus states in John 5:36 “For the works which the Father has granted me to accomplish, these very works which I am doing, bear me witness that the Father has sent me.” Jesus and God are one. And the one mission they share is to save and redeem this fallen world.
Our text today informs us that because we are one with Him and the Father, there is a unity, a bond, a link that brings us into His presence. And that presence can, should, and does affect our lives, so that we might then become like Christ, so that we might become His presence in this world to live out His love, and His mercy, and His compassion.
Love, mercy compassion. Yes. That is our mission. Even so, there are some who believe if we had a united theology, the world would believe – but a unified theology was never promised to compel the world to believe.
There are some who believe that if we could just present the Gospel to the world more effectively, all would believe - but a better presentation will not bring people to the foot of the cross.
There is not a program, a slogan, or a curriculum that will compel people to come to the Gospel. We only have the oneness of the family of God, which reflects the love and joy and peace of Christ Himself,that will bear true witness to the Good News of God’s Redeeming Activity in this world.
For the reality is, the unity that Jesus prays for is a gift that God has given to us. Jesus prayed to God and said: “Let them be one, as you and I are one.”
May we who have heard the Good News and been welcomed into the body of Christ to share His Good News never neglect the gift of unity that has been given to us. May we take care of this gift and may we joyfully share it with others.
Let us pray: God grant us the patience to work together. Bring us all together as a family. Let us work together with understanding and compassion in our hearts. Let us not be rude or arrogant towards one another, as we light the way to your heavenly kingdom. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.