Sermon by Haydon Wilcox 29.05.2022

Sermon by Haydon Wilcox

29.05.2022

 

In John’s Gospel we have this intimate record of Jesus’ prayer before he is arrested in the garden of Gethsemane.  The gospel reading, we have heard this morning is just part of that prayer he offered in the presence of his disciples.  In the first part of the full prayer, he prayed for himself as the cross faced him.  In the second part of the prayer, he prayed for his disciples. Now in the third part of the prayer we heard read this morning he considers the future, praying for those who will enter the Christian Faith.

 

Jesus knew that his disciples would abandon him.  He knew they didn’t really understand what his purpose was and though they had heard him preach and witnessed his miracles it didn’t all make sense, because only he could do that, as they were just his followers.  However, Jesus has more faith in them, than they have in themselves, for he is confident that they will spread his name and message throughout the world.  They are Jesus’ hope.

 

The simplest thing Jesus prayed for was unity and oneness between his followers – not an ecclesiastical unity but a unity of personal relationship. Because they would love Him, so they would love one another.

 

At the heart of our membership in Christ it’s disunity that grieves the most.   Yes, we might worship differently, hold truth in various forms, interpret belief in different ways and come from culturally different backgrounds but to personally love each other – amid all these differences is what we are called to.  Why?  Because the greatest witness to those who do not and will not believe is to witness the followers of Christ divided and hating each other.  Unity in love will be the thing that will convince the world of the truth of Christianity.

 

When we think of the early church that gathered in prayer, shared their possessions, worshipped together, supported each other, and suffered together we know this was far greater witness to non-believers as teaching.  The world is so divided, to find a community, like the Church, united in their diversity, is amazing.

 

It is so easy to fall into the way of the world being critical, condemning, judgemental, grumbling, focusing on differences, being intolerant and dividing into factions.  The world lives that way all the time, but we have something unique to celebrate and a saviour who calls us to be united.

 

A woman was walking across a bridge one day and she saw a man standing on a ledge, about to jump off.  So, she ran over and said, "Stop! Don't do it!" "Why shouldn't I?" he said. 

"Well, there's so much to live for." "Like what?" "Well, are you religious?" He said yes. I said, "Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?" "Christian." "Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?" 

"Protestant." "Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?" 

"Baptist." Wow, me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?" 

"Reformed Baptist Church of God." "Me too!  Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1789 or Reformed Baptist Church of God, 1915" 

He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915." She said, "You’re a heretic!!" And she pushed him off the bridge. 

 

That’s why reconciliation is so important as it is the process that enacts the desire of Jesus to be one.  Jesus feels totally one with his Heavenly Father and today’s Gospel reading explains how.  Jesus speaks of the cross as His glory.  He didn’t speak of being crucified but of being glorified.  The harder a task once given to a knight the greater the honour. The harder the task we give to a student, or a surgeon or a craftsman – the greater the honour.  Being a Christian is hard but to try and live a life of unity glorifies God and is an honour to do. 

 

Jesus’s obedience to the will of God was also an action of glory, for obedience honours God.  The greatest glory of life is to be obedient in living Christ’s life. The other thing was that when Jesus performed miracles, showed compassion, spoke forgiveness he glorified God.  Our glory is when others see in us the reflection of God, that in our actions and works of faith, Jesus is proclaimed.

 

There is nothing worse than disunity in the church or when a person or persons glorify themselves, as they competitively take power to dominate others.  In unity and obedient service, we reveal Jesus as the Lord of our lives.

 

I ran this week a retreat for 18 people from various churches – we had an amazing spiritual experience.  However, in the last session I asked people that before they left,

if they felt they had offended someone to apologise now, in the group, to each other.  I then asked if anyone felt offended by anyone, to state it now, before we separated to return home.  It was and is an amazing experience when the desire for unity is greater than disunity.  To hear people get out into the open, the issues that bring about division and hurt.

 

At St. Mark’s your welcome, hospitality, generosity, and acceptance is wonderful.  Your sincerity of worship and desire to help others is also applaudable.  Keep united though.  Admit your differences. Talk about them.  Explain why you hold such differences.  Respect one another. But above all remain united for through our unity in diversity we witness to the world that Christ is greater than all the things corrupt this world and that our desire is to become one with God, as we remain one with each other in Christ.