Our denomination has been in a rather-painful process these last few months, as we seek what it means to be unified–and how that unity can be enhanced and maintained–even as we disagree on such issues as biblical interpretation and the ethics of sexuality.  And then we come to this week’s Gospel lesson.

In light of this, I find the words of Biblical scholar Mary Hinkle Shore especially profound:

How do you feel when someone prays out loud for you?

When I asked a few friends this question, these words surfaced: comforted, vulnerable, grateful, honored, humbled, awkward but appreciative, like someone really cares. Maybe one of the reasons it is so easy to turn John 17 into a “to do” list for the church is that such a list is easier to manage than such an experience as intimate as being the subject of another’s prayer. We are so obviously not in control as we listen to people pray for us. They, not we, are the ones doing the asking, and God, not we, is the one answering the prayer.

If Jesus were exhorting his disciples, and by extension us, we could strive to meet his expectations then. If he were exhorting us, we would have a mission, namely, not to disappoint him. Instead, we overhear a prayer on our behalf and are not called to action in that moment as much as wonder that the Father and the Son spend their time discussing the likes of us and our little community of faith.

She goes on, but we’ll leave it at that.  I am left wondering this:  can humanity strive for unity, or is it more about accepting the unity God has gifted us with?

Praying Jesus, thank you for even the faintest hint of unity with You.  Amen.

One Response

  1. Thank you for this wonderful entry. Dr. Craig Nessan, Academic Dean and Associate Professor of Contextual Theology at Wartburg Theological Seminary writes: (in his book “Many members yet One body”) “The unity of the church is not something we create. To think that the unity of the church depends on our actions is one of the most pervasive fallacies about the ecumenical movement. The unity of the church is a gift…. Unity is not something we can create. God in Jesus Christ has already made us one. All we can do is destroy the gift God has already entrusted to us.”
    I try to walk very cautiously in our current time to honor, respect and protect this gift of unity. It is a gift that we cannot fully understand nor is it a gift I ever wish to give back.

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