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"From the Pulpit" - May 21, 2023

"From the Pulpit" - Reflections on the weekly texts, from Pastor Greg at Living Lord Lutheran Church Vero Beach, FL

John 17:1-11

1After Jesus had spoken these words [to his disciples], he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. 6“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. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for 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. 9I 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. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11And 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.”

gospel lesson for Sunday

"The Color Purple"

"...the hour has come", Jesus says to his disciples. Finality. End. Fine. He's about to be reunited with the Father in heaven, and is praying over/for them. He knows they have a rough road ahead of them as they take the gospel message out to a hostile world. (Sound familiar?)

" that they may be one, as we are one", Jesus says. Unity. One body, one spirit. Unity is a precious commodity in the world today, isn't it? We can't even agree on what day it is, it seems like, let alone on the bigger things, like the environment, politics, and such. Aren't you tired of hearing politicians on both sides blaming the other side for not getting anything done? Have they ever contemplated unity? Just think of what could be done together, forging a road ahead if we found unity of purpose.

Sadly, even the church itself can't agree on much. The debates over who's eligible to be ordained in the church, same sex marriages and unions; the role of politics in religion, who can and who can't receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and more. The list goes on, doesn't it? At last count, I heard that there are some tens of thousands...that's right...tens of thousands, of Christian denominations. Can you imagine that!? All, thinking they have the "goods" when it comes to faith, the Christian witness, and more. I mean, how could there be this many denominations in a single faith? I don't understand it. And so, we disagree on much. Church polity...who can receive Holy Communion...when to baptize your kids...the right candidate for elected office.

Of all the things Jesus could have prayed for as he's about to leave his buddies behind (long life - not for them; health; prosperity; other), he chooses unity. Unity of purpose as the world is about to drive them apart, or at least try to. Unity. One body, Jesus says. God, dwelling in us, and us in God. Can't get much more "united" than that, I guess.

For my message on Sunday, I'm going to share a story of when I was first getting started in ministry, when I had just started in the seminary, and the church's "hoops" they create to see if you're a legitimate candidate for ordination. Meetings, retreats, luncheons, seminars, and such, all designed to get new seminarians, local clergy, and seminary professors together to see who among the new group had "the right stuff", if you will. The church would never admit to it, but these things were sort of a "weeding out" part of one's training for ordination.

The event was one of these gatherings, an ecumenical gathering, where more than one bishop was present. I was in a buffet line ahead of one of the bishops, who was wearing what many bishops wear when they're "on duty" - a purple clerical shirt and collar. It was this exchange in the buffet line, and the division I sensed, that is the starting point for my message on Sunday. There wasn't much "unity", as I saw it in that brief encounter, although I may not have seen this bishop at his best, and I may have been expecting something else. Anyhow, my message will focus on unity, and sometimes the lack of it in our world, its causes (it may be us!), and more. Hope you can join us.

Remember, next Sunday is Pentecost - the day the Holy Spirit gathers people from all regions around 1st century Palestine, and guess what happens...UNITY! They all speak one language despite there being many nations present. The language of the Holy Spirit, as it goes forth through them. I pray that we as a people, and specifically we as a church, can find unity again. Unity to bring the body of Christ closer to one another. Amen.

"Baptized in Water"

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