John 17:22 “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one.”
This passage comes from the only Biblical account of what Jesus actually prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Except that John doesn’t put Jesus praying it in the Garden…we don’t know where he actually is in John. Maybe he is still in the Upper Room, maybe in the Garden, maybe under a tree by the side of the road. It doesn’t matter. Jesus goes from praying this very long prayer to being arrested, which means it is the last recorded prayer of Jesus, aside from his final gasps from the Cross. That makes it a will and testament of sorts…the final wishes of Jesus for the future of his mission…a future to be carried forward by his ragtag bunch of disciples, who the other Gospels tell us didn’t hear this prayer at all because they had too much wine and fell asleep.
In three days I am leaving for a ten-day trip to Israel. [So, note…no SpiritWalkers next Saturday] It is the usual tourists-to-the-Holy-Land sort of junket with a company that hopefully knows how to keep us out of the (very literal) line of fire. We will hear lectures at various points, which they assure us will be balanced, with both the Israeli and Palestinian viewpoints considered equally. Those of us on the trip who are clergy will be giving meditations at different locations. I’ll be doing three of those, along with the final sermon at the Garden Tomb.
Many of those sites now have churches built on them, but the director of the trip indicated that we would be having our devotional times outside of those churches. We are not allowed to pray inside because we are not Greek Orthodox or Roman Catholic. Not allowed to pray? In a church? In a church founded by the guy whose final wishes were “that they may be one, as we are one?” It’s no wonder Christians can’t get along with other faiths. We can’t even recognize the Christ in other Christians. Maybe we, too, fell asleep during that part.
And so I go to the land where Jesus walked. Where he healed, where he lived and died and prayed that his followers could get over their differences and concentrate on the main thing. And when I arrive there, there will be guns and bomb threats, tensions, and hatreds and even those who should call me “sister” will not let me do so much as pray under their roof. It makes me feel better when I think of the times that my prayers have not worked out as they should. Jesus’ prayer for unity seems to have had the exact opposite effect.
But it’s too easy to blame it on “them,” and to think that “they” are nasty and violent and intolerant while “we” here in the West are somehow different. Jesus’ prayer has yet to take hold in the hearts of American Christians as well. While children die from hunger, neglect and abuse in our own cities and towns; the church focuses all its energies on trying to exclude those who love people of the same gender. Huh? Suppose we were that focused on eliminating greed. Imagine what we could accomplish. But perhaps that would implicate too many of us. Maybe we had better not go there. And while we sneer at exclusion in our churches, our nation debates whether we are “ready” to accept a woman or a black man as our President. Huh? Forgive me. I thought it was about qualifications.
Jesus prayed this prayer not just for the disciples snoring around him then, but very specifically for all who would come after them…that is, us. “That they may be one, as we are one.” What will it take to get there?
We are splintered, Jesus. Like Humpty Dumpty we are in many broken pieces. Heal our divisions. Make us one. Amen.
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