Kuhn Memorial Presbyterian Church 955 Main St. (P.O. Box 222) Barboursville, West Virginia 25504 May 22, 2022.
Welcome and Announcements
*Call to Worship
If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater.
Those who believe in the Son of God have testimony in their hearts.
This is the testimony:
God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
Whoever has the Son has life.
We gather knowing that we have eternal life.
Let us worship together this Lord of life.
Prayer of the Day
your blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples
that they might be one, as you and he are one.
Grant that your church, being bound together in love and obedience to you,
may be united in one body by the one Spirit,
that the world may believe in him whom you have sent,
your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
*Hymn 41 O Worship the King, All Glorious Above, verses 1-3
Prayer of Confession
Eternal God, in whom we live and move and have our being,
whose face is hidden from us by our own sins,
and whose mercy we forget in the blindness of our hearts:
Cleanse us from all offenses,
and deliver us from proud thoughts and vain desires,
that with humble hearts we may draw near to you,
confessing our faults, confiding in your grace,
and finding refuge and strength, through Jesus Christ your Son. Amen.
*Hymn Take, O Take Me As I Am
Assurance of Pardon
Hear the good news!
Who is in a condition to condemn?
And Christ died for us,
Christ rose for us,
Christ reigns in power for us,
Christ prays for us.
Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation.
The old life is gone and a new life is begun.
Know you are forgiven and be at peace. Amen.
First Reading Ephesians 1:11-23
Time for Young Disciples
Reading from Scripture John 17:6-19
The Morning Message
This exquisite passage has been affectionately called “the other Lord’s Prayer.” Sometimes it is called “Jesus’ high priestly prayer.” Words describing it fail us.
The setting is the upper room, where so much has happened that night…a Passover meal, the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the washing of feet, a betrayal.
Still in Jesus’ presence, the disciples remain attentive to his words. But now, the words are not directed to them. Here, Jesus is praying for them. Jesus is praying for that time when they would carry on his ministry, but without his earthly company.
Commentators say this is the most detailed prayer of Jesus in all the gospels. In the fifth century, CE, the Bishop of Alexandria, whose name was Clement, said that in this prayer Jesus was fulfilling his role as a high priest for his people. This is the origin of the term, “high priestly prayer.”
In the Old Testament, there were three holy offices: Prophet, Priest, and King. No one assumed these offices on their own. Only those called by God and anointed by the Holy Spirit entered into these offices.
As we look back over the entirety of Jesus’ life, we can see how he came to fulfill these holy orders. At his birth, Jesus is referred to as the infant king. You recall that Herod decreed that all baby boys two years of age and younger were to be put to death because Jesus’ birth was interpreted as a threat to Herod’s rule and reign. Throughout his ministry, from the time he read scripture in the Temple, to his trek down to the seashore, in visiting the crowded cities, and dining at the homes of his friends, Jesus was prophet. Remember, when we come across the term “prophet” in scripture, we may substitute the word “preacher.” Jesus preached, or prophesied, wherever he went.
But, here, in these last few moments with his disciples, in the upper room, their gathering place, it is Jesus, the High Priest, speaking. The work of the priest was to mediate between human beings and God. People would bring their sacrifices to the temple and the priest would present them to God. There were thank offerings that were burned. There were memorial offerings that were waved.
And then, there were the sin offerings that were sacrificed. As the people brought their offerings forward, the priest would take the animal, present it to the Lord, sacrifice it, throw some of the blood on the curtain in front of the Holy of Holies, and then throw some of the blood on the sinner. As he performed this rite, the priest would say, “The Lord has forgiven you all your sins.”
The High Priest did not mediate for a specific man, woman, or family. The High Priest mediated for the whole nation of Israel collectively. The High Priest carried out one special offering to the Lord. Every year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter alone into the Temple. No one else was permitted to enter. He would take one animal, a lamb, into the temple, on behalf of the whole nation, and sacrifice it at the altar. He would then take the blood of that one lamb behind the curtain, into the Holy of Holies, and pour it out onto the Ark of the Covenant, where God himself was believed to dwell. The High Priest would atone for the sins of whole nation by one sacrifice, “once for all.”
We can see how Jesus is, for us, the Great High Priest. He mediates between us and God. He offers himself, the Lamb of God, to take away the sins of the world.
In this prayer, Jesus gives us a glimpse into the warmth and depth of the relationship between himself and God. He prays for his friends. He prays for us in our generation. This passage is exclusively prayer. There are no instructions, no charges, no challenges. Jesus is asking God to bless his friends with the kind of relationship he has with God, whom he calls Father. He asks that God bring his friends together as one, as he and God, Father and Son, are one. He pleads for unity among them. He expresses his deep desire that they love one another as he has loved them.
How very important these things will be to the fledgling church. To be united in purpose and love would strengthen and empower the believers in the strife-filled years to come. The love of Christ will compel his followers to mighty heroic acts, breaking the chains of oppression and bringing relief to those who suffer. They would advance the kingdom, in size and in spirit, and bear it to generations yet unborn.
I’d like to spend a few moments reflecting on the impact of unity. In the last year, we have witnessed what can be accomplished when unity is valued and applied to a challenge. By following a reasonable protocol, we did our part to reduce the damage of a deadly virus. It wasn’t a perfect performance. The challenges came swiftly and with gravid cruelty. There was a psycho-social ingredient added to the mix, and we could explore that, but I think it’s been analyzed to death at this point. In spite of ourselves, and forces beyond our control, we have achieved a sense of unity. We have seen the real benefits from its use.
Where have we witnessed some other significant demonstrations of unity? About this time a year ago, a crack was discovered in the Hernando de Soto Bridge that spans the Mississippi River between Arkansas and Tennessee. The discovery called for an immediate closing of the bridge. An inspector actually called 9-1-1 to report the emergency and seek help stopping traffic. But that wasn’t the only concern. The traffic passing under the bridge, the boats and barges, would have to be re-directed, too. Think about that a moment. Picture yourself trying to cross that bridge. Maybe its rush hour and you are anxious to get home, pick up your kids, let the dog out. And you are not alone. Hundreds of others have urgent reason to get to the other side. Those on the river have products to move, deadlines to meet. We can almost feel the adrenalin pumping.
With a single goal, a unified purpose, that community prevented a tragedy. The repairs will take awhile and will be inconvenient. But I predict there will be a great unified celebration, with the governors of both states in attendance, and high school bands marching from one side of the bridge to the other on the day it re-opens to traffic.
Sadly, we can point to incidents when the power of unity is mis-used. People can be compelled to unite around destructive ideas. They can be emboldened to perform heinous acts as we have so recently witnessed in Buffalo, New York and Laguna Woods, California. Jesus recognizes the presence and power of evil and asks God to protect his friends from the evil one.
We don’t talk much about evil, but we are all aware of its power in the world. The theological term for this is theodicy, or the study of evil. One of the best books I have ever read on this subject is M. Scott Peck’s, People of the Lie. It is probably out of print, but it is not out of relevance.
The antidote to Covid is a vaccine. Being vaccinated is a process. I’ve been through it and survived. First, you have to qualify by age or condition or occupation. Get your name on a list. Show up when its your turn. Roll up your sleeve. Feel a tiny pinch. Wait fifteen minutes, then off you go. Hopefully, you will not suffer side effects.
The antidote to evil is love. No qualifying, no waiting, no pain, no side-effects.
For God is love. And, as you’ve heard before, those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
*Hymn O Worship the King, All Glorious Above, verses 4 and 5
Affirmation of Faith The Apostles’ Creed
*Hymn 581 Gloria Patri
Sharing Our Joys and Concerns
Pastoral Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer
Presenting Our Gifts of Tithes and Offering
*Hymn 606 Doxology
*Prayer of Dedication
*Hymn 378 We Wait the Peaceful Kingdom
Go out into the blessing of a new week.
As Christ prays for you, pray for one another.
As Christ forgives you, forgive one another.
As Christ loves you, love one another.
And may the grace of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
go with you today and always. Amen.