John Chapter 17, verses 20 – 26

Today is one of those rather strange Sundays –  last Thursday was Ascension Day and next Sunday is Pentecost, but this is the one in between. There is a passage in the Book of Acts which tells how the eleven apostles decided to appoint a 12th person to fill the gap left by Judas, but after that we don’t hear of the “12” again as a group. Sometimes what we plan for doesn’t seem to be necessary, or doesn’t turn out as we thought it would – maybe that is ok. We don’t always get things right.

And that takes us nicely to the gospel passage set for today – the end of Jesus’ teaching in John’s Gospel, before he goes to Gethsemane, arrest and trial. Obviously this is therefore before the Ascension, but Jesus is looking forward to when he has gone, which is why the passage is selected.

As humans we struggle to make sense, to do what we should, to hold firm to God’s promises; we need reminding what we are really about.

There are some key themes in this reading – our relationship with the “world”, glory, unity, love, and implicitly, mission, as we think about the ones who will believe because of the word of the disciples. The world in John’s gospel is deliberately used with two meanings. God so loved the world, what he had made, all whom he has created.. , and the world is also that place, those people who reject or deny God. The love of God comes up against the opposition and apathy. And there is something about deliberate choice from humans, as they choose to go against God, and something about darkness and an inability to see, meaning we cannot grasp what God says, we need to have eyes opened. While we can’t put this into clear words, I suspect we can get the tension, even see it in us too. In our confession we acknowledge we sin, through ignorance (what we don’t know), weakness (where we feel unable to do resist or change) and our own deliberate fault, where we know and choose to continue in our course..

Jesus says however, that he is passing on “glory”, but not so we can appear wonderful, but that we will have a visible unity, and a love for one another. We are called to be a community of mercy, love, grace and peace, not closed in to exclude, but always open to welcome others and to include. That is our task – to be Jesus in the world together, in a unity of heart and mind; though he is ascended, we continue to be light in the darkness / dark world, even when there is opposition, whether nasty or just apathetic, so that the world may know that the Father sent Jesus. 

And in fulfilling that mission we are connected to God; we are commissioned to be the light and love of God in what we say, how we live, who we are. And in that we will sense something of God’s glory. Whatever we plan and however we organise, this must be at the heart of who we are.

Revd Peter Reiss