Sunday Morning Worship Services are Available Online!

Worship with Us

John 17: 6-19

Meg Peery McLaughlin
May 16, 2021
John 17: 6-19

Scripture:
“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that[a] you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost,[b] so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.[c] 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.[d] 16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

This is the Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Sermon:
Pre-pandemic I told you a story about
when a time when Jarrett and I were newly ordained,
learning the ropes of ministry,
burning the candle at both ends,
our primary conversations were about who had meetings when.

And on a rare Saturday without a funeral or wedding, I was home,
calling what I thought was a mail-order pharmacy to figure out a bill,
and before getting connected to the accounting department,
a voice popped on the phone saying I’d won a three-day-get-away.

And if you remember,
I let my longing to get away get the best of me
and I let some child of God named “Joe” talk to me for 10 minutes
about a cruise that I’d won and how amazing it was going to be—
I got so sucked in that I ran downstairs with “Joe” still on the phone
to grab my wallet to pay the one time $70 fee
and tell Jarrett of our good fortune.

I wish you could have seen his face. It looked something like this:

(Jarrett’s face)

A mix of pity and disbelief. Who was I to get suckered by this scheme?
I came to my senses and hung up on Joe.

But the truth was:
I wanted to get out of the world I was in.

But y’all, heaven help me if Joe called again this year.

The world a dozen years later.
The candle burnt down to a nub,
and my primary conversations with Jarrett not about who is where when,
but about who we even are, and if we are doing this ministry thing right? faithfully?

Yes, heaven help me if Joe called me this year
when we learned the names George Floyd, Breonna Taylor
when we watched in what-we-wish-was-disbelief as our nation’s capitol was stormed,
when vaccines and public health has been so politicized.

Yes, if Joe called me this past year, I may have given him every last cent.

But try as I might to get the fourth evangelist on board my cruise to escape this world,
the truth is, I will inevitability fail.

John has a lot to say about this place–
the disciples were chosen from the world,[1]
are in the world,[2]
are hated by the world[3],
and are not of the world.[4]

Whew.

But the clincher is
that whatever John’s complicated relationship with the world,
he makes it crystal clear that Christ’s disciples are decidedly sent into the world.
Jesus may be headed back to the Father,
but our place
and thus our priority
is the here and now,
not the sweet by and by.

For this is where we are sent.

(globe)

Not just here

(sanctuary)

but here, and here, and here, and here.

(ASP, Haiti, Climate Strike)

If I understand the text, we are to be in the world, but not of it.
Shaped by the commonwealth of God, not the values of empire.

It is a tricky tightrope to walk,
which must be why John seems to fall all over himself to say it,
I am not asking you to take them out of the world, he prays;
because he better believe we’ll ask.

And he surely knows that children of God named Joe
will come out of the woodwork and tempt us to get the heck out.

And it’s not just the Joes.
It’s our fellow disciples,
gracious sometimes it’s even our very selves.
. . . . . .

This past year has been, well, something.

Most us have been quarantined from the world,
the only sending into it were for grocery pickups and take out.
While others, like our front line workers didn’t have that “luxury”
and still others, far too many, were leave this world
and the grief of that is still not something we have fully been able to process.

Most of us, holed up in our homes,
grieved from a distance, and
watched from our screens,
as images of the world
broke in,
and broke our hearts open,
many times, in ways that were wholly necessary.

I found myself asking:
Is the church too invested in systems that keep the world as it is,
rather than as God would have it be? Am I?

Barth may have said to preach with the newspaper in one hand
and the Bible in the other,
but he sure didn’t tell us which newspaper to read,
and that makes a big difference.

The world shows up here,
in worship,
and I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t always see things rightly,
and goodness me there is a great variety of opinion about how it all plays together.
Some will say: attagirl preacher say more! keep connecting the world to your sermons….
some will say the church shouldn’t be involved in politics;
I come to church to have a break from the news

At our installation here as your pastors last January,
the preacher said
“for some reason, while everybody loves good news,
THE good news makes a whole lot of people mad.”

Now, ain’t that the truth?

Being in and not of the world is messy.
It requires renunciation on one hand, solidarity on the other.

And as the church seeks to teach and preach this tightrope,
sometimes we get tongue tied,
or worse, stunned into silence.

Which has got to be why John penned this prayer.
He knew we needed it.

This profound experience of listening to Jesus speak,
not to us,
but to God,
on our behalf.

And Jesus lays it bare.

I love how one scholar put it:
Though we often undertake prayer in search of peace, Jesus here models quite the opposite. The sense of struggle–almost of thrashing around–within the text is not a Johannine lapse in style. John cannot lay it out neatly, because Jesus is struggling with his very incarnational identity. Nothing is orderly as Jesus articulates both his unity with God and his solidarity with us.

And isn’t that the heart of prayer?
The place to work-it-out-as-we-say-it-out-loud,
not neatly, but honestly?
not decently or in any good order, but wholeheartedly and boldly?
Thank God Jesus offers us a model.

A liturgy junkie myself,
I both find my soul both at home and completely discombobulated in prayers
that, like the Psalms, use no holds-barred language,
employ trip-over-the-holy kind of speech.

So here you are friends
a prayer modeled after Jesus’ own,
for you,
the church in but not of the world
in hopes that through it or despite it
you may find the path from you to God and God to you
a bit more easily trod.

So, let us pray:

Lord, you send us into the world,
but we’re not to be of it.
What are you trying to do?  confuse us with prepositions?

We’re not sure we even want to be sent into this world
with all its guns and grief and greed
all its pain and perversion of power.

Enter: Joe.

Maybe there is something actually holy about our desire to get up on out of here.
Don’t you want us to be weary of how it is? Surely you do.

For we’re not to be like this place.

And perhaps that’s what scares us,
because, if we’re really honest,
we’ll tell you that we resemble this world’s ways,
not so much its nastiness, but more its laziness;
we’ve grown accustomed to our privilege, and don’t know how to repent, turn in a new direction.

So help us to see the only way we can love this world,
is to do so in the way you did, in your name.

And all along you have been telling us who you are, you say:
I AM BREAD, so may we feed the world with something other than that vapid wonder bread
I AM LIGHT, so may we illumine the parts of our history we’d rather hide.
I AM THE RESURRECTION, so may that which seems like a worthless effort never be set aside,
I AM GOOD SHEPHERD, so may we not get distracted by fat flock munching on green grass,
and go do the job of seeking out the lost and hurt.
I AM DOOR, so may we keep it kicked wide open
I AM TRUE VINE, so we may never let our egos outpace our discipleship
I AM WAY TRUTH LIFE, so may yield always to you, humbly, fully.

You could have said,
I am a wrecking ball, to smash up all the hate
I am a hobby high horse, to tell you where to get. it. together
but you get what you get and you don’t get upset, I guess.

So to be sent in your actual name, we’ll need
a heap-ton of courage for starters,
some thick skin, and thin spaces.

Lord, you once prayed for our protection; said you’d be our guard.
Can we ask you to double down on that now?
Protect us from the easy outs and comfortable cliches
And guard us from our own apathy and lack of imagination.

Sanctity us.
Which is not what we think it could be,
as in set us apart
lofty and comfortable
but sanctify us as you said, in your truth,
which is of course
not a static thing, not a set of ideas,
not a what, but a who.

Sanctify us, hallow us,
in your truth,
which means of course, in your very person,
in your resurrected undying love
that keeps on
showing wounds
breathing peace
feeding sheep
out there,
in world,
where we are called to follow.

Whew.
Okay, here we go.

May it be so, Amen.

[1] verse 6

[2] verse 11

[3] verse 14

[4] verse 14 & 16

Meg Peery McLaughlin , Pastor

Email: meg@upcch.org

Phone: 919.929.2102 ext 111

Bio:

Meg feels called to share good Gospel news–in word, in deed, in silence, in all things–to all of God’s beloved children. She is a native of North Carolina, graduated with a Bachelor’s in English Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and with a Master’s in Divinity and in Christian Education from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA. Meg was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in 2006, at Village Presbyterian Church near Kansas City, MO, where she served for seven years in the role of Pastoral Care. She and Jarrett accepted a call to serve as co-pastor Heads-of-Staff at Burke Presbyterian Church in June of 2013 where they served for 6 years before coming to UPC. Meg and Jarrett have three young daughters: big sister Naomi and, twins, Caroline and Zanna. She has hitched her life to the promise that Jesus Christ is the light that overcomes darkness, is the love that is stronger than all fear, and is the sure and certain assurance that new life is possible, even when it seems otherwise.