Acts 1:15-17, 21-26 Psalm 1 1 John 5:9-13 John 17:6-19
We walk up the steps into an adequate room: walls of stone, a courtyard below. It is warm in settling heat of early evening; the night-time’s cooling air has not yet reached this place. The room is filled our friends, the ones we’ve been travelling with. Our feet are dusty, our souls a bit weary; we’re not exactly sure what’s going on around us. Jesus is here, too. It’s festival time and the streets are crowded; we’re thankful for a few minutes away from the chaos and the noise, heard faintly now from this upper room. Our supper is on the table: bread, wine, and seasonal food. We smell, then taste and share what is given us as we recline . Something is not quite right …
Foot washing (tell about it)
Judas received a piece of dipped bread and then he leaves. The nighttime’s darkness now surrounds us, settling into the darkening room.
Jesus tells us to love one another “as I have loved you.”
Jesus says that Peter will deny him three times before the cock crows.
What are we to do about this meal? About this evening?
Jesus talks to us, says he’s going away, and then he looks away from us; he looks toward the nighttime sky.
We are privileged, you and I, to be witnesses to Jesus’ prayer to God. Have you ever listened to a child say his/her bedtime prayers? That is the closest thing that I can envision to the way in which we are witnesses to Jesus’ nighttime prayer. We have had our feet washed, shared bread that was broken and wine that was poured … heard words of leaving and not knowing, of being given gifts that we do not understand, and now this. Listen (can you hear him?):
Jesus is praying for us:
God, I have made your name known to my friends in this room; you gave them to me, God, and they have kept your word. (Can you imagine such devotion to one’s friends – to us? Oh, how Jesus loves us, how he loves what God entrusted to him!) I am asking on their behalf, because you gave them to me:
Protect them in your name that you have given me, that they may be one as we (God and Jesus) are one. Protect them.
Give them my joy, the joy of Jesus, in themselves. Let them be complete in their joy. Give them that Father, for I have guarded them, and we lost only one in fulfillment of the scripture. He, too, is yours; you love him even when the world could not.
The world has hated my friends, God, because we do not belong to the world but to you. How precious is the gift of life from you, created for your pleasure, responding in service to you, in joy that the world does not understand. You understand, God. Protect my friends. Protect my friends from the evil one; make them holy in you.
We know this prayer: our Father, who art in heaven, holy/hallowed be your name. … Deliver us from evil.
This is Jesus’ prayer for us as we go out into the night with him and desert him. Imagine that amount of love. Let go of the guilt of our involvement, of our lack of understanding, of our betrayals, of our abandonment. Jesus prays this for us.
We might imagine that God responds to our prayer. God speaks to us, blesses us, as described by Margaret Silf (“God’s blessing,” with my adaptations):
I bless the poverty in your heart,
That knows its own emptiness,
Because that gives me space to grow my kingdom there.
I bless that in you that touches others gently,
Because everyone responds to gentleness,
And gentleness can capture even hardened hearts.
I bless that in you which grieves and aches
For all that is lost or can never be,
Because that is my opportunity
To comfort you with my much greater love.
I bless that in you which longs and strives
After your own deepest truth
And after truth for the world,
Because even as you pray I am constantly satisfying
These deep unspoken longings.
I bless you every time you show mercy and forgiveness,
Because that is like a little window in your heart,
Setting you free from resentment
And opening up a space for met o enter and heal.
I bless the purity of your heart,
Because that is the elusive center
Where your deepest desire meets mine.
That is where we meet face to face.
I bless the peacemaker in you –
That in your soul which seeks
The peace that passes understanding
Even at great cost.
I bless even those things in your experience
Of journeying with me
That feel like persecution and misunderstanding
Because they are the proof that your faith is no illusion.
How does it feel to be blessed by God?
We might have a response.
We have heard Jesus’ prayer for us to God;
We have participated in the ways that God blesses us;
We are called to respond in thanksgiving, joy, humility, and obedience for these abundant gifts.
From Hymn 655:
O Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end; be thou forever near me, my Master and my friend; I shall not fear the battle, if thou art by my side, nor wander from the pathway, if though wilt be my guide.
O let me hear thee speaking in accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion, the murmurs of self-will; O speak to reassure me, to hasten or control; O speak, and make me listen, thou guardian of my soul.
O Jesus, thou has promised to all who follow thee, that where thou art in glory there shall thy servant be; and, Jesus I have promised to serve thee to the end; O give me grace to follow, my Master and my friend.