She has had a rough day.
Walking to the bus she soaks her shoes in the puddle she didn’t notice while she day dreams about the dance. She then squish, squishes her way to the bus stop, her feet becoming uncomfortably cold and wet.
As she climbs on the bus the driver grumps at her about the mud she is tracking up the steps. Others turn and laugh. It is no fun being the new kid.
Arriving to class she remembers her English paper sitting carefully on the kitchen counter where it will be safe from her little brother’s jelly stained hands…and panics because it is still safe there.
The rest of the morning a blur as she agonizes about the paper, no one answering when she calls home.
Lunch a disaster of warm tuna fish on that stuff her mom calls good for you bread that causes others to move from her table. Her meal ending in embarrassing solitude.
Heading to math she sits down as the bell rings and the teacher announces on pop quiz on last night’s study material. .. That being the material she ignored to get the forgotten paper finished.
The school day ending with the disaster that is gym when one is 13 and awkward with this ever changing body that doesn’t move the way it always did before. After a painstaking ride home in which she waits for “the” one to invite her to the dance she trips getting off the bus and again the others turn and laugh.
She slowly trudges through the door wanting a do over of the day. As she puts her bulging backpack on the table she hears her mom on the phone…not even a welcome home hug to redeem her day.
She heads to the frig as she hears…
“We are so proud of her mama! We have all been praying so hard this would be a good move for her. She is doing so wonderfully in her classes. She is starting to make new friends. She is volunteering at the animal shelter and has a few pieces of art on display at the library. We were so worried about the move, but she is thriving here."
Suddenly the day is a bit brighter…then the clincher…
“There is this boy she has a crush on, his mom called to see if we could all have dinner together before he invites her to the fall dance… Mama you will be so happy at how well she is doing. .. She makes us so proud… We hope she knows how much we love her and delight in all she does…ok I’ll tell her… ”
The power of over hearing a parent speak highly of the you that is a child is powerful. Knowing of their love and concern for you is transforming. Knowing you are prayed for a blessing and that is what we hear this morning in John 17. Now the disciples were not teenagers, at least chronologically, and yet they are unsure of what is to come. They are uncomfortable and awkward about this new role Jesus is calling them to.
This Jesus they had been traveling with, learning from, and trying to be like is talking about leaving them. As they huddle together, they hear him praying for them…
Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one…
These words are not for him, nor are they for God. Jesus need not pray aloud to the father he is so connected to. The words are spoken aloud for the benefit of the disciples. Jesus knows what is to come and he is comforting them as he challenges them…
As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
The time is coming that all they have learned will be put to the test. It will be up to them to carry on Jesus’ ministry in the world. They are unsure of what is to come.
In the church calendar Thursday was the day of ascension. The day in which we remember when Jesus is taken from us in physical form and takes his seat at the right hand of the father…just as we profess in our creeds. We pattern our liturgical year on the life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of our lord Jesus Christ.
This high priestly prayer that we hear today as we wait in that time between the ascension of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit is not just for the disciples. It is for us as well. We, like the disciples, are the ones to continue in the earthly ministry of Christ to reconcile the world to God. We are the “church," the physical body of Christ here on earth.
In a sense the words of this prayer are a prayer of sending. It is a prayer that the disciples and we will remember as we live into being the church. A reminder that we are not alone, we are covered in this beautiful prayer on our behalf by Jesus. Words to return to when life beats us up and we are that awkward new kid in the places we find ourselves. Words that remind us that our father is proud of us, loves us, and knows how vulnerable we are.
The Greek word for church, Ekklesia, means "a calling out." We are called out of this place to enter world and be church. Not stone, bricks and mortar, but hands, feet, and hearts. The body of Christ bringing others into the kingdom of God.
As Teresa of Avila says:
"Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which is to look out
Christ's compassion to the world;
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.”
As the worship ends, the service begins and I wonder what small act of Christ’s love can you, we, perform that will make the difference in the life of just one person today?
This week? This month? This year? This life?
Will you bless others in the name of Christ?
May we be the church when we leave here today.