Faith Inspires Faith

Taken from my Red Rock News Article (5/10/24)
Rev. Dona Johnson | May 12, 2024

One of the most powerful prayers in the New Testament and for that matter, all of Scripture can be found in John 17. It is called the “High Priestly Prayer” and for good reason. It is packed with so many truths that one can only grasp fragments of them. It is a deeply intimate prayer. It depicts Jesus’ greatest desire that Father and Son and Jesus and his disciples may all be one. Jesus prays, “It is for them (his disciples) that I pray and not for the world, but for those who you have given me.” Jesus did not pray that the disciples should be taken out of the world, he didn’t pray that they find escape; he prayed that they might endure and have victory. Christianity was never meant to withdraw from the world. A life withdrawn from the world would have seemed to Jesus sadly a truncated version of the faith he died to bring. No, he insisted Christians be totally immersed in everyday life. Although it is true that Christians are not of the world, it is also true that their Christianity is to be lived out in the world. And living out one’s Christian faith does not necessarily mean a comfy life. When lived out fully it requires us to be pruned of our vices, it requires us to stay with our suffering and learn from it and to trust the cycle of death and resurrection that is on-going in the life of faith. However, we go to great efforts to protect ourselves from painful situations.

       A few years ago in the Christian Century a writer reminded us of something C.S. Lewis preached at Oxford University on October 22, 1939. Hitler had invaded Poland only six weeks earlier, and England was at war. The college students at Oxford were frightened–many of them would face death soon, and many would die. Here is what Lewis told them: “If we had foolish unchristian hopes about human culture, they are now shattered. If we thought we were building up a heaven here on earth, if we looked for something that would turn the present world from a place of pilgrimage into a permanent city satisfying the soul of man, we are now disillusioned, and not a moment too soon.”

      While we live in uncertain times, Jesus doesn’t pray for more certainty, he prays for a unity that rests on the common basic attitude of abiding in his love. This is where true safety and protection abound. Leon Morris writes, “It is a divine unity, where all wills are bowing in the same direction, all affections burning with the same flame, all aims directed at the same end—one blessed harmony of love.” It is a unity that by nature is more difficult for us—unity of heart, mind and will.

      The prayerful words of Jesus still ring true today, be one with God and one with each other. So when we are tempted to conform to the roughness of this world—to the untruths, to the politicization of the Gospel, when we are tempted to join the corruption and deception in order to win at all cost and right the injustices in this world, God calls us to let go of any anger or revenge that rejects his command to love and forgive. Return every day to the love and forgiveness of God and rest and relax in the security of that love. And then let this love that you feel deep in your bones help you be love, too. Let that unifying love motivate you to do the hard work of figuring out what God wants out of us Christian people. Let love, not hate; good, not evil, guide us. May each of us go forward unified in God’s eternal promise in Jesus Christ to redeem us and the world that already belongs him. Amen.