Pastor Michael Frye:
The villagers of a seacoast town watched daily as the village blacksmith labored forging a giant chain, link by link.
They scoffed at the amount of time that it was taking as he painstakingly attached each link securely to the other.
Eventually the great chain was attached to the anchor of a passenger ship.
One day the ship’s steering mechanism was disabled in a terrible storm close to the shoreline.
It would have most certainly been torn apart If it hit the rocks along the shore, but the great anchor was dropped into the choppy sea.
The fate of the passengers depended upon the craftsmanship of the blacksmith as the chain he so lovingly forged held and the ship was saved.
In our gospel lesson today Jesus had given last instructions to his disciples as he was preparing to be arrested and die on the cross.
As he often did, Jesus prayed to this Father in heaven; but this prayer was different.
Jesus prayed that the work he had done, the words he had spoken, and his witness to the world not come to an end, but be carried out by his disciples; that they be one as he and the Father are one.
True to form, Jesus showed more concern for his disciples’ well-being and their protection from evil forces than he did for himself.
This prayer is not just for those disciples who were with him at the time, but for those who would follow as the church grew and spread throughout the world, including today’s disciples.
Can you think of any other time in history when Christ’s Church needs to experience the power of our Lord’s prayer?
When we consider the violence, the disregard that some people have for those who are different from themselves, the apathy, and the senseless rage that appears to be consuming so many, we realize that Jesus’ prayer becomes even more significant for our world today.
Jesus makes it quite clear that those who follow him must not be separated from the world’s problems, but be fully engaged in bringing about a lasting change.
Jesus calls upon us to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in opposing and confronting the demons of this world that threaten to separate us from the love of God.
Christ’s message of love, forgiveness, and salvation is the only way to change the world and bring peace to battling factions that only see threats and violence as a means to dominate those within their control.
In order for us to be able to be a part of making that change, we have to be more attached to the teachings of Jesus than we are to those things which may, at first glance, seem more attractive and secure.
As our Easter celebration over these last seven weeks is coming to a close, our joy of living the new life in Christ is just beginning.
It is up to us to decide whether to be an audience on the sideline or a living, breathing church that is called to bring change and challenge the community we serve to action for the sake of the Gospel.
Charles Jefferson explains the difference between our being an audience or our being Christ’s Church:
“An audience is a crowd – a church is a family;
“an audience is a gathering – a church is a fellowship;
“an audience is a collection – a church is an organism;
“an audience is a heap of stones – a church is a temple;
“pastors are ordained not to attract an audience, but to build a church” (of living stones committed to bringing hope, peace, love, and the message of salvation to our communities).”
So, sisters and brothers in Christ, I ask you: are we a mere audience this morning, or are we a church that is called to put our faith into action on behalf of our risen Lord?
After Christ rose from the dead, he knew that his work on this earth was done.
He knew that it was now the time for the Holy Spirit to breathe the breath of life into a fledgling church so it could continue to grow and witness to an ever-changing world.
The Holy Spirit is able to make Christ known exponentially with the speed of light in greater numbers than we can even imagine; but we are very much a part of that spiritual awakening every time we make the effort to witness to others about the amazing way Christ touches us personally every day.
I knew when I was preparing this sermon that I would deliver it on Mother’s Day; and although this is not a religious holiday, it did cause me to think about my own mother who died five years ago.
I cannot prepare a sermon about faith and love and courage and hope without thinking of her influence on my life and my call to ministry (of course, my father is very much a part of that, too).
Mom endured so much disappointment and pain in her life.
She lost a younger brother and baby sister under tragic circumstances when she was a girl; her parents divorced and her mother died at a young age; and she was diagnosed with crippling arthritis when she was in her early thirties.
She never let any of these tragedies knock her down.
She always kept her faith, and she encouraged and supported her five children throughout our lives.
We were in church every Sunday and whenever there were activities throughout the week, although I knew there were days when she could hardly stand or walk without being in pain; she had a great sense of humor, and whenever the children got into arguments, she would always have a unique way of bringing them to an end with a valuable lesson on loving and treating one another as we would want to be treated.
This prayer in our gospel lesson for today reminded me so much of how my parents took seriously their responsibility to bring up their children in the way we should go, and we have not departed from it.
From the short time that I have known you, the members of St. Mark’s, it is clear that many of you had similar experiences in your own lives, and have even been that kind of witness in your own families.
Is that not what Christ prayed for when he asked his Father in heaven for the protection for those who followed him so that they, too, could serve God and glorify his name through their service and actions?
When Jesus prayed, “make them one as you and I are one,” was he not asking that our faith community be one so that the threat of evil and division has no power over us?
It is from within this one holy catholic and apostolic church (this communion of saints) that we accept our common mission to bring Christ’s message to a world that is hungry for change, and hope, peace, and salvation through a loving and forgiving God.
That is what our Lord prayed for and what our Father in heaven has seen fit to bestow upon us.
The invitation to share that message both within our own fellowship and in our surrounding communities is quite clear.
What, in the name of Christ, are we going to do about it?
How are we to continue to be one as Christ and the Father are one so that others can see that in this place they can and will find refuge from the storms that are buffeting them about?
How can we continue to communicate that we are links of the chain fastened to the anchor (which is Christ) that will not fail them in their time of need?
These are serious questions that we need to be asking ourselves every day, because each of us carries the answers to those questions in our hearts.
The answer lies squarely in our submission to our Lord’s call to be his messengers, his servants, his disciples; and we pray that our Lord bring us closer together as one family of faith so that God’s will be done.