Jesus prayed, “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.” (John 17:20)
This week we are diverging from our planned summer series. The reason is simple. We had an incredible team of people take an incredible trip to Spirit Lake Reservation in North Dakota. They saw, learned and experienced some amazing things during their week there. Perhaps most important is Jesus’ desire and commitment to bringing people together. God’s dream is that all people will be united in the same way that the Son and the Father are truly one.
In the verse from the prayer that Jesus is praying above, he is nearing the end. Judas has already departed to betray him. The soldiers are coming to arrest him. Unless he simply flees for his own safety, something contrary to his identity as the Messiah, it will not be long before Jesus is in jail and probably dead. This is his last one-to-one time in prayer before the arrest. Anything after this is going to be on the fly. What should he pray about?
Jesus chooses to pray for those of us who will remain. He isn’t dying just to get us into heaven. No, his arrest and death are really about changing the world in which we live into the world God is dreaming and committed to finishing. Jesus’ death will be about our lives. Jesus wants all the factions in the world who are so easily swayed to be against each other and at each other’s throats to find unity. Real unity. That kind of unity can only come from God.
Because the world we live in is getting smaller every day, the experiences we have grow bigger at the same time. It used to be a long way to meet someone from an Indian reservation in Illinois. It used to be a long way to meet a Muslim from Egypt. It used to be a long way to meet a Hindu from India. It used to be a long way to lots of people and places. But now the world has gotten small.
Pastor Ray Bakke, a noted missional thinker said we used to bring Christ to the nations and we messed it up, doing more to colonialize others than to bring Jesus to them. So God is doing a new thing. In this global world, God is bringing the nations to us.
Whether in Indian lands in North Dakota or the new neighbors that God has given us from all sorts of places right next door, we are constantly in contact with fellow people who God has made. Jesus’ desire is for us to learn to be one. This week is a little chance for us to reflect, learn and practice as a congregation. But what we practice when we are together on Sundays is also what we live out each day throughout the week. It is both the reality of our new world and a chance to be the answer to Jesus’ final prayer.