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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Praying for You

Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, prays for all of us; and God holds us in strong, loving hands.  God will never let us go, and God's love frees our hands so we can serve our neighbors.

Vicar Erik Doughty, Seventh Sunday of Easter, year B; texts: John 17:6-19

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Jesus is praying for us.  God is holding you in loving hands.  Alleluia?  Alleluia!

Could you follow Jesus’ prayer?  I confess my mind always wanders. This prayer, called Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer” goes on and on, and then it goes on some more.  It doesn’t have the rich images and metaphors of a hymn, or a Psalm.  It uses compound sentences that are tough to follow – the Book of Common Prayer (or even ELW!) is much more clear.

But what Jesus is doing is saying goodbye to his disciples, to the ones he loves.  Jesus is asking God to care for us!  Jesus is praying for us.  And God is holding you in loving hands.

Living through the last quarter of my vicarage here has got me thinking of goodbyes.  I have four more sermons – four more Sundays – to preach after this one you’re listening to.  Having been here a while, there are things I want to continue after I leave, but I will not be there to do it.

Have you had that experience?  Of leaving something behind and leaving a list about how it should be cared for?  You should see the list I leave for the person who takes care of our pets when my partner Scott and I are gone for a while.  The guidelines are almost as long as this sermon!  And then there are the guidelines for the plants in the sunroom.  That’s another list, because I know each one, I care for each one, and I do not intend to lose any of them even if I am away.

It is in this sense that Jesus is praying for us – about care for the people he loves, when he is not able to physically be there and heal, physically be there to forgive, physically be there to protect, physically be there and give us joy.  Jesus is making sure that when he cannot be with us as a physical man, our Good Shepherd in person, that we still are taken care of, protected, heard.  So he prays for the disciples, for you and me.  He prays so that we can hear he’s praying for us.  And more importantly, God our Father in heaven hears, and acts for your sake.

Did you hear that?  Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, prays for us – prays for you!  And God, the Creator of the entire universe, cares about you.  You, and you, and you.  You are prayed for by Jesus Christ and watched over by none other than Almighty God: The one who has loved humanity since its very beginnings loves YOU, watches over YOU.  We may struggle in life.  We will fail with our own lists.  But we are never, ever, left on our own, abandoned to the jaws of sin and evil.  We are under the care of God who is love, God who is gracious and merciful, God who gathers us like baby chicks under the protective hen’s wing.   It’s God’s mighty hand, God the fortress, God like a mother bear, God whose robe’s hem filled the temple; that is who holds you safe in loving hands.  And it’s the effective prayer of Christ our crucified, risen and ascended Lord which places us there in God’s strong hands.  Child of God, you will not fall out of that embrace.  Held in eternal love, you may serve, and forgive, and – what in the world will limit you?  Reach out your own hand – can you help or forgive another?  Reach out and take the bread of life; it is for you, Christ held in your own hand, for you, strength for the days ahead.

Beloved, your hands are now free to love and to serve, to heal, to help; because Jesus Christ is praying for you.  God will forever hold you in loving hands.  Alleluia?  Alleluia!  Amen.

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