Sermon from the Seventh Sunday of Easter

The Oneness Prayer: God within for a world without
Rev. Rodriguez. 7th Easter. 5.29.2022

“I in them and you in me, that they be become completely one, so that the world may know (Jn 17:23a)…”

Grace to you and peace from God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Though our Easter Season this year ends in tragedy, our Alleluias will never cease to proclaim, “the hope to which God has called us (Eph 1:18).” The tragedies of Uvalde and Buffalo intone a familiar tune of heartache, thoughtless prayers, and broken promises. And yet we know that “resurrection is possible in this world (Rev. Derr, Easter 2022).” Yes, pundits pair people off into their partisan positions and social media wars abound. It is when we are siloed off behind in our pain, fear, and hopelessness that, “Jesus appears precisely in the closed doors of our lives…and sends us forth to breath the Spirit of peace (Rev. Rodriguez, 2nd Easter).” But I’m not naïve. The grand transformation of our Easter morn seldom occurs in a grandiose way. And yet I know that “Jesus shows up [in these] failures, as we function, in our future (Rev. Derr, Easter 3, paraphrased).” The words of Amanda Gorman express that thin line today we know that exists between hopelessness and a living hope: “Schools scared to death. The truth is, one education under desks, stooped low from bullets; that plunge when we ask where our children shall live and how and if (May 24, 2022).” This world burdens our children and youth with almost a herculean task. Let us not forget, “this calling of love….that we do together (Dn. Remmert, Confirmation 2022).”

We are called to a living hope in a world fed up with mere sentimentality and prayer. I can not help but remember Pope Francis’ admonition that, “prayer that doesn’t lead to concrete action toward our brothers is a fruitless and incomplete prayer (Jul 21, 2013).” Above the signs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears, Jesus prays that our witness, our word be one just as the Father and he are one. How then does this unity appear during times of tragedy and loss as a living prayer on behalf of this world? Today’s sermon, “The Oneness Prayer: God within for a world without,” reveals a way for us to see oneness as a healing unity for this broken and divided world. Jesus imparts the glory of God’s name to us setting us apart to be a witness of such conditional love. Oneness may seem impossible. But oneness is ultimately the life-giving gift of Christ; a living prayer that builds us up when tragedy tears us down.

Jesus imparts the glory of God’s name

Jesus faced the hour of his own death in supplication, imploring God to manifest his glory in the most unexpected way. The disciples, and yes even us, were challenged to see in the work and person of Jesus the very glory of God drawing near to frail and failing human beings. From the lack of wine at the wedding in Cana to the stench of death at Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus revealed glimpses of the God who makes his name known among humans. And Judas betrayed him, and Peter bespoke his broken promise, Jesus prayed the Father would, “glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed (Jn 17:5).” Jesus wanted to assure his disciples that his death would not be meaningless but be the means through which even death itself would be hallowed with God’s presence. Here is my first point: Jesus imparts the glory of God’s name to us. Jesus bespeaks to us in this prayer God’s glory that hallows the very tragedy of this present time. God does not shy away from such horrendous deaths but rather hallows the very presence of death. In so doing, God transforms the sting of death into the word of resurrection hope. Jesus asks to be glorified so he himself may embrace our collective pain through the cross. This is the depth of what it means for us to confess that Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human. For Jesus to dwell among us is for Jesus to make our human condition the place where God’s name may set us apart for healing. This healing comes about because of God’s conditional love for us through the cross. To this end, Jesus prays that we are one; that we are one community that shows the world the glory of God which is love made manifest in the crosses of our collective tragedies.

Oneness: Our Living Prayer

But course, the issue of our present time is not the incarnation per se but it is this idea of oneness. How can one proclaim the oneness of God’s people as the place where God’s name dwells when this place is divided? The church struggles with this reality especially when we have to engage with folks within our community. How then do we understand Jesus’ prayer for oneness today? Rather than speak in abstraction, I want to bear witness to the oneness as God’s life-giving gift as I experienced it during my time in rural Texas as a student-pastor. I was inconsolable days after the 2019 El Paso shooting that claimed the lives of twenty-three, mostly Mexican people. They reminded me of my own family, and I could not help but wonder then: are they not a part of my own family? Do we not all suffer when tragedy strikes another? So many what-if thoughts ran in my head. I was in a predominately White rural congregation, and I thought: would I be able to share my pain with them and would they be able to be one with me at this time? So, I took the risk that following Sunday and preached about the tragedy of this racially motivated attack. I spoke of our common witness as giving life to a world torn down by tragedy. They knew I had a different political perspective. They knew that I did not tolerate homophobia, racism, misogyny, and other similar sins. But they knew a hurting heart when they saw one. Rather than reject me and I them, we embraced each other by having earnest and difficult conversations. We understood that oneness is not about belief. It is about God’s love; a love that makes people of different ideologies into one single home. Not where voices are silenced but they are encouraged to speak. Oneness looked for me more like a dinner table rather than a shouting match. Here at this eucharist, every Sunday, I am taken back to that moment because it was the eucharist for me. It was a gift of pure love; of oneness with God and each other; not as a reward for right belief but as a living prayer for peace.

As we look to Pentecost, we anticipate the kindling Spirit to fall upon us once more so that we may be knit together in love with all the saints. This love is the ever-unfolding gift of peace wherein our hurting world is made whole. Jesus announces this peace to us behind the walls which divide us. The Father fulfills makes true Jesus’ prayer that through us, the world may know the God who dwells richly within each of our hearts. The Spirit makes known to us the truth of Jesus’ words. Let everyone who is hungry and thirsting for this gift of love, “Come and take it as a gift!” The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Holy Spirit!