Sunday May 24th 2020. Unity (John 17:1-11)

If I said that Jesus has prayed for you, then how does that make you feel?

Firstly, he prayed that we may be protected from all evil, but he doesn’t stop there; Jesus prays “that we may be one”.    

What a blessing that is. Jesus praying for us that we (his disciples) may have the same sort of relationship that he enjoys with the Father and the Holy Spirit; mind blowing.  

What sort of relationship does Jesus have with the father?  Well his relationship could be described as Ubuntu, which says ‘a person is a person because of the other persons.’ Or in this case Jesusis the Son because of the Father and the Father is the Father because of the Son.  But more than this even,

a mutual indwelling of equals totally dependent on each other, a loving relationship that is … the best way to describe love.  

The Trinity is one God, expressed in different ways and names yes, but indivisible…one.  And that’s the relationship Jesus prays that we will have with each other.  Brilliant! 

How might this be made manifest in Hinckley?

Ubuntu means that St Mary’s is because of St Francis Centre or St Mary’s is because of the people of Hinckley, or St Mary’s is because of the other churches.  One body of Christians, but with different expressions.   We are because of St John’s or Holy Trinity, they are because of St Mary’s and we all are because of those we serve.  We are because of the other.   Is that your experience of Churches in Hinckley?

I know we are not the same in our churchmanship styles, our theologies or even our buildings, but even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not exactly the same, but different expressions of the one true God; they are still one in substance; they are still one in spirit and truth.

And as Jesus prays that we may be one as they are one, he is identifying a model of the Trinity that suggests we should value our individual characteristics and personalities, but we should also strive to be one body, one family, working for greater unity; strive to find ways to promote closer integration and shared mission and ministry.   We should be so open to each other that each other’s work, hopes, and goals become shared about, cared about and prayed about.   

The more open-mindedly people live with one another, for one another and in one another in the fellowship of the Spirit, the more they will become one with the Father and the Son. (John 17.21).  

After all the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are related in such a way that the work of one is the work of all, and, of all the places, the church should be where this is modelled best.

The Trinity is without boundaries, a mutual indwelling of the three persons, one substance, three persons.  God therefore has put us together to be able to create something that works well for the kingdom in the context of many churches and yet one body of Christians; one substance (Rom 12:4-5) where we can be all that we are as individuals because we are an effective body and have the same overall goals. Ubuntu!

It’s not about us becoming mates, or kissing cousins if that won’t work, it’s about being caught up together in the fellowship of God, which is about a common love (agape), not individualism.  As St Paul makes clear in 1 Cor 12:12-31, we are one body, connected, and therefore responsible for each other.  Yes, we are sinners under God’s grace and our relationships get broken through our sinfulness, nevertheless “…we are called to nothing less than sharing in God’s life. And we need to develop a real sense of wanting the best for the other.  Because… WE ARE THE OTHER!

Make no mistake, times are changing, church is changing, some churches may close. And so, in an age when more churches may struggle to pay their way and where at every interregnum an evaluation is made as to clergy cover, we should be looking for better ways forward.

Fortunately, Bishops and Archdeacons are more interested in encouraging churches to become more alive, to tap into the life changing power of the Trinity, and to encourage newcomers by our life and witness than they are about closures, but it’s up to us.

We need to work together on our mission and evangelism, we need to develop a vision and live it, work it, and breathe it.  We need to embrace change and we need to get excited about the gospel message all over again, sharing it with others at every possible opportunity.  Someone said to me recently, ‘If you really believe in the Promises, then why are you not out shouting about it in the streets?’

We need to look at what we do well and resource it, what we do badly and drop it, but resource it or drop it we need to do it together; one in our thinking, in our vision and in our actions and that can only come from working together. 

This maybe through supporting the endeavours of others, like St John’s church plant at St Francis Centre where closer working relationships and sharing resources benefit all.  Maybe we should socialise together more, give greater commitment to united services, and share prayer for the mission and evangelism of the town.   Whatever we do, we need to think about how we can be better at being one body of Christians in Hinckley. 

I think if we can achieve something of the Trinitarian model then our relationships will enjoy a freedom and interaction that cannot help but move us forward and aid us in our joint mission, that of a sustainable, welcoming, witnessing and worshipping presence in the one area covered by the Churches of Hinckley.

This approach cannot help but make our response to the Holy Spirit’s lead more dynamic, not in terms of success as the world understands, but in terms of living life in such a way that others (unchurched and churched alike) can see what it is to live and work in the light of Christ. 

Then they will come to know for themselves that God is love(Mk 16:15, Mt 28:19); and that God, through Jesus, loves them so much he died that they might live and live as one.

How important was this to Jesus? Well he prayed this prayer just before the agony of the garden. Knowing the agony to come, Jesus spent time in prayer for us that we might be protected from attack, from things that divide us, and that we might know Him, but biggest of all he prays that we might be one in His name.

If we love him, what should our response over the next year be?  

In what way can we promote greater unity and cross church working?

In what way can we show Jesus we have heard his prayer?


Intercessions for Sunday 24th May 2020

Heavenly Father, we are those who belong to you, we are safe by the power of your name, we are one in your name.

Lord we pray for your church throughout the world.  Help us to manifest that oneness.  We pray for people in churches where that safety in your name is challenged.  Churches that face persecution and real danger.

We pray Lord for unity amongst your churches here in Hinckley.  Help us to be better at working together.  Help us to love one another.  Help us to be more full of your gospel message, more full of your Holy Spirit, better witnesses to your name; to the name of Jesus, to the name of Love.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Father we pray for your world.  We thank you for this world that you have given us to live in, we thank you for the sunshine, the beauty of creation.  We thank you for the opportunity to go out and enjoy it, even in this present lockdown.

Lord we thank you that the lockdown gives us opportunity for change.  We thank you for the way that the environment has benefited.  But we’re conscious Lord of the challenges ahead.  Last week I heard about the continued increase in the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide, it’s carrying on up, and it’s already above the recommended maximum for the sustaining of the planet.

Lord help us to play our part, help us to reduce our carbon footprints as individuals, as a church, as a town, and as a country.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Father, we pray for our government.  We pray for wisdom for our leaders at this difficult time.  We pray for them to be honest, to be people of integrity.  We thank you Lord for the steps government has taken to look after people’s welfare.  We pray Lord that we will recover as a nation quickly, and that you will give us wisdom in that process.

Father we pray for the key workers; the people who sustain us from day today, people in the health service, delivery drivers, bin men, and all those who help us to carry on life in a more or less normal fashion.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Father we pray your blessing on our community.  We lift before you those we know who are struggling at this time, struggling as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, people who would normally be providing us with a service; publicans, barbers, hairdressers, shopkeepers, and people whose businesses we know of that are in jeopardy.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus we thank you for your many encouraging acts of healing, that we read about in the Gospels.  Lord we lift to you in our hearts those who we know, who are unwell at this time, in body mind or spirit.  Meet them Lord in their time of distress, bring them your peace, your healing touch, the presence of your Spirit.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord we pray for those who are mourning the death of a loved one.  We are conscious at this time of many extra deaths because of the virus pandemic.  We pray Lord that you will meet those people in their distress.  That you will help them to cope with the isolation and separation from loved ones, and the difficulties associated with funerals at this time, and we pray your blessing on priests and ministers who have to look after funerals in these strange circumstances.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen