+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Opening sentences – Cuthbert of Northumbria (635-87)
O King of Kings, O King of the universe, King who will be, who is, may You forgive us each and every one. Accept my prayer, O King of grace.
Lord, let my memory provide no shelter for grievance against another.
Lord, let my heart provide no harbor for hatred against another.
Lord, let my tongue be no accomplice in the judgement of a brother.
John 17:20-24 ESV:
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world….”
unity of believers
Jesus speaks of the oneness of all believers and then links this with the mutual indwelling of the Father and the Son. The NIV has this indwelling as the model for the relationship among believers: just as you are in me and I am in you. The word translated just as can signal not only comparison but cause. Both of these two meanings are appropriate here, for the mutual indwelling of the Father and the Son is both the reason that all may be one and the pattern for such oneness. This becomes clearer when Jesus adds “that they themselves also may be in us”. The oneness of believers is to be found in us, in their relation to the Father and the Son. The same twofold thought occurs when Jesus repeats that they may be one as we are one. The oneness of the Father and the Son is both the cause of and the model for the believers’ unity.
community of believers
The Father and the Son’s oneness includes both a unity of being and a distinctness of person, and it has been seen especially as a oneness of will and love. These are also the characteristics of the oneness that Jesus desires for his disciples to have in their relationship with one another in God. The believers have a mutual indwelling with the Father, but only by the Son, for no one comes to the Father except through the Son. So the oneness of the Son with the Father is unique, for Jesus shares in the deity of the Father. But in the Son believers have access to the Father and share in his very life, the eternal life.
Jesus seems to suggest that the actual outworking of the believers’ oneness with one another in the Father through the Son is a process that will take some time, for he adds, may they be brought to complete unity – more literally, “may they have been perfected into one.” He is speaking, in part, about the oneness that is further perfected as the “other sheep” and the “scattered children of God” are gathered in. But this oneness must also refer to the oneness that is present throughout the life of the community as the community makes “every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3), for it is something that the world can notice. So this is a spiritual oneness that comes from God, but it has to do with how the community of believers lives in the world.
Jesus says the purpose of this oneness is that the world may believe that you have sent me. Such belief is the key response Jesus has received from his disciples, so this is a reference to those who are still in the world yet are becoming believers. The disciples are sent on mission just as Jesus was sent, and the very purpose of their life together is to bear witness to the Father and the Son. This oneness flows from a common life that is characterized chiefly by love, and thus the world will see that the Father has loved the disciples as he has loved the Son.
The amazing transcendent love evident between the Father and the Son is not an exclusive glory that humans must be content only to admire from afar. The love the Father has for Jesus is the same love he has for believers, indeed for the whole world. The believers are to embody this love and thereby provide living proof of God’s gracious character, which is his mercy, love and truth. They will be an advertisement, inviting people to join in this union with God.
The love of God evident in the church is a revelation that there is a welcome awaiting those who will quit the rebellion and return home. Here is the missionary strategy of this Gospel — the community of disciples, indwelt with God’s life and light and love, witnessing to the Father in the Son by the Spirit by word and deed, continuing to bear witness as the Son has done.
Jesus’ request that they be with him… suggests strongly he is referring to heaven. This being the case, his prayer takes in the whole span of the believers’ life, from then on into eternity. Specifically, he wants them to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. We have already seen his glory, but there is a yet more complete vision of his glory awaiting believers. John later says that at his coming “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn 3:2; cf. Col 3:4).
What begins at his second coming will continue on, for Jesus is talking not about his coming itself but about that which takes place afterwards. He has promised Peter, and, through him, his other disciples that they will follow him later, and here is what they will meet, the glory of the Lord — the glory that comes from the Father, who is the source of all, and that is a gift of love. That which Jesus has revealed in his earthly ministry is a mere glimpse of an eternal reality that existed before creation.
In his prayer, Jesus has been speaking of the future from an eternal perspective. Here in his final petition he looks on ahead to the ultimate future.
Christ, as a light… illumine and guide me. Christ, as a shield… overshadow me. Christ under me; Christ over me; Christ beside me on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful. Be in the heart of each to whom I speak; in the mouth of each who speaks unto me. This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light; Christ as a shield; Christ beside me on my left and my right.
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Peanut Gallery: A brief word of explanation – the general format for Morning Prayer is adapted from the Northumbrian Community‘s Daily Office, as found in Celtic Daily Prayer (see online resources here.) The Scripture readings are primarily from the Gospel of John, with the intent to complete the reading by Easter. Other Scriptures which illuminate the Gospel of John will be included along the way.
Reflections from various saints will be included as their memorial days occur during the calendar year.
Photo illustrations and music videos, available online, are included as they illustrate or illuminate the readings. I will try to give credit and link to sources as best I can.
Categories: Life in Christ