Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jesus Prays for his followers

We all, I think, have those moments when the failures, the disappointments, the fears overwhelm --  when life seems almost too much to bear.  I once wrote a poem in such a moment… it started like this

Life's a bitch!
In our fragility we often get broken.
and, like bottles tossed carelessly to the side of the road.
we lie shattered, in pieces,
jagged fragments glistening in the sun
raw edges, sharp and tortured.

There are pieces of us scattered
along the roads we have traveled

In our brokeness we are empty.
Joy comes but cannot be contained.
It seeps through the cracks to disappear.
Love comes only to go,
and hope  --  there is no hope
for one so broken.

I think the disciples were having one of those moments as their time with Jesus was ending
They loved him, he was going to die
They depended on him, he was going to die
They were used to having him so intimately a part of their life, he was going to die
I don’t know if I can even grab hold of how they must have felt

It was a dark moment, and so Jesus did something for them.  He prayed over them

There were a number of things in this prayer (John 17) I would like to talk about.  Some of them jumped out at me when I read this prayer, and some of them jumped out at people I asked to think about this passage.  I had collaborators

The first thing that jumped out at me was the idea that Jesus existed “before the creation of the world”.  That he is somehow God, part of God, part of what we call the Trinity.  Now the whole Jesus, God, Spirit, Trinity thing is pretty confusing.  I like the way Rob Bell puts it…

While there is one God, God is somehow present everywhere.  People began to call this presence, this power of God his “Spirit.”  So there is God, and then there is God’s Spirit.  And then Jesus comes among us, and has this oneness with God that has people saying things like”God has visited us.  (Or as John puts it “the Word,”  who is identified as God, “became Flesh,” which is Jesus)    So God is one, but God has also revealed himself to us as Spirit and then as Jesus.  One and yet three.

The point. God is, Jesus is, the Spirit is from the foundation of the world
So the first assurance here is that Jesus is…  always!
He was, from the beginning
He is now
And he always will be…
and… more importantly, he will always be with us.
Which means that we will never be alone --  Never.

Jesus is not just with us, but He is with us in love

One of the people I had read this text made this comment.  I loved it.  “It is as if Jesus was getting nervous towards the end. Not for himself, but for those he was leaving behind. Would they fall prey to the evil one? He is one with God, and knows his power, and yet has anxiety for us. As I imagine Jesus worrying over my soul, it's rather humbling.”

Jesus is worrying here about the disciples.  He is the one headed to the cross, but he is worried about the disciples.  And not just those disciples, but about all people who would be his disciples, until the end of time.  In other words…. He was also worried about us!

Jesus knew it wouldn’t be easy.  He knew it was going to be hard to live in this world as God’s people
He knew bad things would happen to good people
He knew…..

And he knew that he was going to be asking his people, us, to live in this world
This world is not something we can escape.  We can’t run from it or isolate from it.
We have to be in it (a point another one of my collaborators noted)

So Jesus is saying, I will be with you, in this world….and I will
Protect you, because you are going to need help
And I will fill you with joy, because there are going to be times when it is really hard to find it yourself
And I am going to sanctify you… which I rephrase this way
I am going to rescue you from yourselves
Your mistakes, your errors, your struggles, from all the messes you find yourself in.
When you have failed, I will forgive you
When you have gotten beaten down, I will restore you
When you have lost yourself.  When the person you were created to be is all but gone… I will find that person, and I will bring that person back!!!!

There is a wonderful CS Lewis  quote that pulls it all together for me   Lewis is talking about Jesus and he writes…. “He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, . . . to the very roots and seabed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him.  [He is like a] diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to colour and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover.”

So Christ promises in this prayer to bind us to himself, to bind us to himself in love
And he gives us a glimpse of what that means.

Then he adds one more thing.  He prays, he promises, that we will be bound, through his power and working, to each other in love…..
So the prayer suggests that we don’t just have him, we have each other….

Jesus not only gives us himself, he  gives us each other.  His presence, his spirit, his love, allows us to be bound together, to be connected,   in a unique way……In love

Juan Carols Ortiz, the South American Pentecostal talks about this unity this way in his book Discipleship.
“God is doing more than regrouping his people.  He is uniting them.  I can illustrate this with potatoes.  Each potato plant in the garden as 3, 4 or 5 potatoes under it.  Each individual potato belongs to one plant or the other.  But when the harvest comes, all the potatoes are dug up and put into a sack.  So they are regrouped.  But they are no yet united.  They may say, “Oh praise the Lord, now we are all in the same sack.”  But they are not yet one.  They must be washed and peeled.  They think they are closer yet.  “How nice is this love among us.”  But that is not all.  They must be cut into pieces and mixed.  They really think they have it made now.  But what God wants is mashed potatoes.  Not many potatoes, but one mashed potato.

There are a couple of things I want to say here.  This unity, this binding is not about being all the same.  Remember Paul’s image of the body. There are different parts.  Unique parts.  We are very different.  And I don’t believe this unity is about all believing exactly the same thing … about social issues, or even doctrine.  I did my doctoral thesis on diversity in the church.  There was only one affirmation that was common to all the churches in the earliest of days.  “Jesus is Lord”.  That was it.

Second, I don’t think this unity is natural, or normal.  It is supernatural.  It is a unity created, nurtured and maintained by the Spirit.  It is amazing.  Unique.

So what is it about ?  I would think it is about how we connect with each other.  It is about being real.  It is about loving and forgiving.  It is about listening deeply to each other.  It is about compassion.  It is about taking care of each other.  One of my favorite saying these days is this.  “God loves you, and there is nothing he can do about that, that is his nature.  And there is nothing you can do about it either.”  God just loves you.  No strings attached.  We are to do the best we can to just love each other.  To be bound together as Christ’s people.  To be open and honest and caring with each other.  To be passionately for each other.

Christ wanted this for us…because…..
It is when we live this kind of love, that the world looks at us, and knows that we are God’s.  It is not when we pontificate.  It’s not when we perform rituals.  It’s not because we wear cross or come to this place.  It is when, it is because we love.

And when we are God’s, and when we love each other that way… we will begin to touch the world around us with that love.  Our way of being in the world is the most powerful tool we have for transforming the world.  I mentioned a poem that I had written, and shared part of it.  Here is the rest of it….
In our brokenness we are empty.
Joy comes but cannot be contained.
It seeps through the cracks to disappear.
Love comes only to go,
and hope  --  there is no hope
for one so broken.
And yet,
and yet sometimes, hope comes.

In a smile, in a touch,
in conversations lasting long into the night,
Piece by piece the metamorphosis begins,
and out of the jagged jumble the first faint glimmerings of wholeness grow.
a thing of beauty....
how can such battered creation be beautiful?'
And yet it is!
For all its seams and cracks,
the wonder of what it was, and is, and still might be,
shines through.
and deep in the murky depths love comes
and stays


  1. Greetings Stephen Kliewer

    On the subject of the Trinity,
    I recommend this video:
    The Human Jesus

    Take a couple of hours to watch it; and prayerfully it will aid you to reconsider "The Trinity"

    Yours In Messiah
    Adam Pastor

    1. If you think I somehow don't believe in the trinity or don't have an orthodox view of Jesus you are mistaken. But I don't think we can really wrap our heads around the trinity. That was all I was saying. God is a mystery, bigger than my intellect can totally figure out. I am good with that.

  2. I know you believe in the trinity and have an "orthodox" view of Jesus; hence the reason, why I sent you the link.

    Please watch the video and let me know your thoughts.
    Yours In Messiah
    Adam Pastor
    The Human Jesus

  3. Romans 8 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,
    Romans 8 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
    As Human we are the broken vessels you spoke of He is Stainless steel willing to carry what we can't contain.How can we not desire to please Him when he so willingly gave us his gift of eternal life just because we are.