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Worship Theme: Victorious Joy

Sermon Theme: That We May Be One

What could be so important that Jesus on the night before his death, would pray for you and have it recorded for us to read and to hear so many years later? John 17:20-26 tell us it was this… “that we may be one.” May 22, 2022.

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I’m guessing that you have probably heard it said that you ought to pray for others. Often, you might make such a sentiment when you hear of someone’s problems – “I’ll pray for you,” or, “I’m praying for you.” I hope that is something that you really actually do, not just say that you will. Like, even take a moment right then and there to pray for and maybe even with that person.

The reason I bring this up is because, did you know this? Jesus prayed for you! No joke! Jesus had you personally in his heart and mind when he prayed the prayer that we have before us in today’s gospel reading. He prayed for those who would believe in him, for future believers like you and me. His prayer was one that he prayed on the night that he was betrayed by his own disciple, Judas, and was arrested by his enemies before he was crucified the next day. What could be so important that Jesus on the night before his death, would pray for you and have it recorded for us to read and to hear so many years later? It was this… that we may be one.

It’s almost like Jesus was true God or something, that he would know that of all the issues that he could see and pray about for us, that being one, having unity, would be such an important thing for him to pray about. But therein lies the beauty. Jesus was true God and as true God knows our deepest and greatest needs. In this prayer he identifies that your greatest need is to have unity.

There is a lot of divisiveness around us. Should we list a few of the issues that cause division? Politics (easy one), racial and cultural differences, moral issues like abortion and human sexuality. Here’s another easy one – Covid. That topic always brings out the best in people. What about in your own life? There are often dividing issues in families too like who you should date or not date, or marry, whether you need to eat all the peas on your plate or not, grades, school choices, careers, how you’re raising your kids the wrong way, who’s going to take care of mom and dad in their old age, and so on. What divisive issues would you add to that from your own life and experiences?

Your sinful nature loves to make an appearance during these issues and show just how selfish and self-centered you can be. It shows itself in arguments, in shouting, in shutting down and shutting out others, in the way you mistreat or disregard someone. You pick sides and pit yourself against others. We’re not often one, but divided. It causes a lot hurt, frustration, and resentment. It divides people and that’s a problem. It’s way bigger than just a social problem, it’s a heart and faith problem. That’s why Jesus not only came to be your Savior, but also prayed for unity.

He didn’t pray that you would be united with the world, especially the sinful world. In fact, God says to separate yourself from the wickedness of this world. Instead, Jesus prayed that you would have a unity with God and with other believers so that the world would know the Lord too.

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

 To understand this unity and oneness that Jesus desires and prays for, you have to see the oneness that you enjoy with God. Our sinful actions are the greatest dividing factor of them all, and far more serious than even destroying any unity between each other, it decimates unity with God. You are naturally so hostile to God. You don’t politely disagree with God; you blatantly say, “No way! I don’t believe you! I’m doing it my way! I don’t want to or want you!” God created you to have and enjoy a relationship with him, but sin destroys that, it separates you from God. Jesus prayed that this would not be. He did more than pray. Because of the unique oneness, the complete and perfect oneness that he has with the heavenly Father, Jesus perfectly fulfilled the plan and the requirements to rescue you and me from our sin and to unite you to God, in a relationship where God’s perfect love for you washes away your sins and his forgiveness brings you near to him. You are one with God through faith in Jesus who rescued you from the sin that separated.

The faith that unites you with God, unites you with other believers. Jesus prayed that all believers would be one. Jesus points us to a beautiful truth. You are all different people. We have some similarities, but there are a lot of differences out among you – different backgrounds, priorities, experiences, cultures, races. But there is something that unites. It’s why you are here. It’s Jesus. Jesus brings us together to see each other as fellow rescued sinners. He joins us together around his holy Word in what is called the Church, the body of Christ. The gathering of believers who are one together expand beyond time and race and language and nation to include all who believe in Jesus as the Savior from sin. We have prayed and continue to pray for the people of Ukraine, especially our brothers and sisters in faith there. There is growing gospel work in Africa and Latin America and footholds for the gospel being found in Asian countries. There we find believers in Christ with whom, even though we live thousands of miles apart and cultures apart, we are one in Christ.

The only way we can have that oneness is being one with and in Jesus. The Apostle Paul understood this and shares this when he wrote in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Being one with God not only means having your sin forgiven and removed, but also having a heart and attitude that lines up with God. The more you get to know God and grow in oneness with him, you see the attitude that prevails – love others by putting them before yourself that we may be one.

What if we set our differences aside in order to better love and encourage each other? What if you took time to get to know your church family better, not making quick judgments, not rushing out of church but introducing yourself to someone sitting next to you or catching up with someone you haven’t connected with in a while? What if you studied the Bible together and listened to each other’s stories and were able to better relate to each other and support and encourage one another, to be one? What would that look like to the people of our community?

I think that this is what it would look like. It’s a super simple picture. Kids, you’d get this too! A bunch of five-year-olds are playing on the playground at recess. A little boy comes up to his teacher and says, “Teacher, those boys are being mean.” “What’s the problem?” “They said my shoes are ugly so I can’t play with them.” “Well, are there any other kids that you’d like to play with?” “Yeah, I’m going to play with those kids over there because they are nice to each other and let me play with them.”

What if we as the Church of God, not just the church on the corner of Broadway and Juneau, but the Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, what if we showed such a oneness with one another that comes from knowing Jesus Christ that others would want to come and live life, eternal life with us? “Lord, make us one!” That’s the point. When we are one with God and one with each other as a family of Christ, the world will see Jesus. Let’s show them Jesus! “Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Jesus prayed that we would be one each other and with God so that we can be with him eternally and see his glory. So often you can be consumed with pursuing worldly glory. But the reality is that often the pursuit of worldly glory comes at the expense of destroying unity. It’s the thing of wars and harmful competition and of tearing down others. But Jesus shows us his glory. A unique and different glory. Jesus calls on you to see victory in death, to see victory in a sacrifice, to find victory in the empty tomb. Eternal glory is found in Jesus who set aside himself for your eternal good. That is the foundation of being one with God and with one another.

This week on Thursday is our annual celebration of Jesus’ ascension into heaven. You’re welcome to join us for a special meal and celebration of the Lord’s continued reign over all things. One of the things that Jesus does as the risen and ascended Savior is to intercede for you, just like he did in the gospel reading. He continues to pray that you would be one with God through faith in him and that would lead you to be one with each other in the way you grow in love. My friends, that’s my prayer for you too that we may be one. Amen.

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