a sermon for the 7th Sunday of Easter
Final words have special meaning for us. We want to know who’ll have the “final say” in making a decision. And we’ve all been in conversations with that one guy who wants to have “the last word.” And in law, the final words of a dying person can carry special weight.
If you knew you were going away, and that you would never see your friends and family again, what would you say? What would your final words be, and who would you want to say them to?
In today’s readings , we have two examples of final words.
Several years ago, there was a TV game show called “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” A contestant would sit with the host of the show who would ask a series of questions. Each succeeding question was harder to answer and worth more money. The answers were multiple choice, and often the guest would discuss the different choices before making a decision. At some point, the host would ask, “is that your final answer?”
Final words have special meaning for us. In lots of places, people want to know who’ll have the “final say” in making a decision. Or maybe we’ve been in conversations with people and there’s always one guy who want to have “the last word.” And in law, the final words of a dying person can carry special weight.
Which brings us to today’s question: If you knew you were going away, and that you would never see your friends and family again, what would you say? What would your final words be, and who would you want to say them to?
In today’s lessons, we have two examples of final words.
The first comes from the very end of the very last book of the Bible, Revelation. Now Revelation is not a book that we Episcopalians read very often. It’s filled with all kinds of fantastic images of the end-times. But it also has many beautiful words of comfort as well. This is one of these. Jesus reassures us, “I am coming soon…I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.” In these, the final words of the Bible, we are given a promise that Christ will return, and that we will live forever with God.
The second example of final words come from the Gospel. As we have seen over the past few weeks, Jesus is gathered with his disciples. It is Thursday night, just before the crucifixion, and he has told them that he is about to go someplace where they cannot follow him. So he washed their feet, and gave them his final commandment to love one another, and he has promised them that he will return, and until then, he will send the Holy Spirit to teach them what they need to know.
And then, he prays. Notice that he doesn’t pray with them. Instead, he prays for them. Jesus’ final words with the people he loves the most is a prayer. And he prays for something very specific. He prays that his disciples will be joined together as one.
As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us…so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one
Think about that: “I in you, you in me, they in us.” Jesus is praying for something very specific and mystical. He is praying for a three-way relationship, a trinitarian relationship. In his final prayer with the disciples, he is praying the complete oneness of the disciples with himself and with God. He is weaving them all like a tapestry, or a knot that cannot be untied, into relationship with each other, and with himself, and with God.
We live in a world that doesn’t put much stock in unity. We may talk about being “one nation under God,” but I don’t think we really mean it. Just look at how congress bickers and fights over every single issue. Or closer to home in the Church, we argue about who is in and who will be left standing outside.
But in his final words, Jesus prayed for a special kind of unity: a oneness among his disciples, and himself, and God. And then he prayed for something else:
I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.
Did you hear that? Two thousand years ago, on the night before he would be tortured and die, Jesus prayed for his disciples… and for us. Jesus prayed for all who have come to know the divine love of God through the words and efforts of those disciples, and the disciples that came after them, and those after that… until we come to those of us sitting in this room here today. Jesus prayed for us, that we also might be tied together in that divine knot with himself and with God.
Why does he do this? Why doesn’t he just pray that we all be happy, healthy and faithful and just get on with it?
so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
In the end, in his very final prayer with his disciples, Jesus prays that we all may be tied together into a holy knot of love.
This is an amazing prayer! It is a prayer that transcends time and distance. It is a prayer that transcends all kinds of ideological and theological differences. It is a prayer that is simple and clear and to the point. Jesus’ final prayer was that we all be bound together in love.
To be woven together in love with Christ is to be at one with God. It is not something that we do for ourselves. It is not something that happens only after we are dead. Instead, it is something that God does within and among us, right here and now while we are living. It is part of who we are as children of God. Whether we know it or not, we eat, sleep, live, and ultimately die within the divine love of divine love of God.
At the same time, God is revealed to others by our love for each other. Our unity and love is the best witness to the world we can possibly make because that is how the love of God is made known. And this is the most natural way for this or any church to grow. It’s only human – when someone sees the love we share, they will want to be part of that love. This is why we gather in fellowship, why we take time to get to know each other, and why we share our lives outside of this place with other people, so that they will naturally be drawn into the love of God that holds us here.
Now I’d like to ask you another question. When you were thinking about those final words you want to say to your friends and family, how many of you thought, “Honey, I forgot to take out the garbage?” How many of you thought, “I wish I had spent more time mowing the lawn?” None of you did. I bet each and every one of you want your last words to be something like, “I love you.”
On the night before he died, Jesus said just that. And he prayed that God that would bind us together in complete oneness with himself, and with one another and with God in a divine knot of love.
Thanks be to God.