a Homily for Easter 7A
Text: John 17:1-11
Being Left Behind
It needs to be stated for the record that in our liturgical calendar, Jesus has already ascended. We celebrated the Ascension on Thursday night. So having Jesus talking about going away this morning is kind of weird. Especially since this is Jesus talking about going away the first time: as in Holy Week. We’re used to this by now as the last two weeks had Jesus teaching about His going away during the Last Supper. In Easter. After we have already spent several weeks celebrating how He has died and risen. It is a bit disorienting.
It is clear, however, that this text is here to speak to the Ascension and the completion of Jesus’s earthly mission. It is about being done and preparing to move on. This certainly would make more sense before the Ascension, but we can still deal with it this morning.
It should also be noted that the book we call Acts begins with its own version of the Ascension, which we also read this morning. These ten days we are in the midst of, the ones between the Ascension and Pentecost next week, seems to naturally stoke our sense of departure and separation. Now Jesus has gone and soon the Spirit will come. Until then, we are here.
The Parting Assignment
In today’s story, Jesus says that He is done. He has glorified GOD by doing GOD’s work and is seeking to share in that glory. It is time to call it.
The glory is GOD’s. Jesus audaciously asks to be so glorified. To receive what GOD receives through Him. To share in glory. Glory that He shares in, not only for doing GOD’s work and revealing GOD in Himself, but through His disciples and through their work. He is glorified in them, and they get to share in that glory! God – Jesus – disciples: all.
The Jesus revealed in the Gospel according to John is wordy. And more than a little confusing. But it is nearly time for Jesus to stop talking and let the doing reveal GOD from here on out. It seems that He has already checked out. “And now I am no longer in the world” He says. Time to bug out.
“But they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them…”
Our eyes are on Jesus, who is leaving and He’s praying to GOD about the people–His followers–who are still here.
Remember, over the last three weeks, Jesus tells His followers…
- that their work is greater than His,
- that they know GOD because they have seen Jesus,
- that the Paraclete/Advocate/Friend will support them on earth.
Jesus has gone, but the disciples still have work to do. This is all building to something really big.
First Step: Prayer
In the book of Acts, we get a telling moment for this in-between time. Jesus tells them that they don’t get to know the timing, but they know they will receive the Holy Spirit. Then Jesus disappears behind a cloud.
But they’re still standing there, watching. They need reminding from these two guys in white to get moving. They’re staring at the sky when there is work to be done. They are not supposed to sit and wait. They are to go!
So they go to Jerusalem and collect their friends, then they go to the Temple to pray. Praying isn’t waiting. It isn’t watching. It is active and deliberate. It is its own thing. They pray.
I love the first image of the disciples watching Jesus ascend because it is so very us: they stand there, watching the sky. Waiting for something else to happen, I suppose. Maybe whispering to one another “so…is this really it?” Perhaps they are watching to see if Jesus will reappear: to come back and tell them what to do next. But Jesus has told them. That He is going and the Holy Spirit will come. For now, they are to love GOD, love one another, and do what Jesus has taught them: feed His sheep, protect the widowed and orphaned; seek GOD’s justice; proclaim the Good News to the ends of the earth.
There is too much to be done to stare at the sky, hoping for different work to arrive.
For these short 10 days we live as students who have lost a teacher, but are promised a mentor. This is a time in which we recognize the challenge like a graduate: trained for work and wondering where to start. GOD has gone. GOD will come. In between is us and our instructions.
Keep His commandments,
Become one as Jesus and GOD are one,
Love GOD and love one another.
We have what we need. Jesus has prepared us; fed us, raised us, taught us. He continues to love us.
Now it is time to move. To stop staring at the sky, expecting things to be different, or expecting all of this to be the same tomorrow without working on it today. Without cleaning, repairing, building our ministry; nurturing and keeping it alive, feeding and loving and providing for it.
All that staring, analyzing, examining, tinkering, suggesting is avoiding what Jesus intended to leave behind. A commandment of love. An assurance of reinforcement. A direction to be Jesus’s witness to not only our hometowns, but to the ends of the earth. And we receive the apostles’ example: lots and lots of praying.
This work, given less like a blueprint and more like holy story is pretty good summer reading: a Sabbath preparation for what is to come in a few short days. Inspired, thankful, and for us to do together.