Welcome to worship! The video below will go live at 10am, May 24th 2020, but can be viewed any time after that in case you can’t be here at that time. The bulletin can be found here and the sermon manuscript can be found just below the video.
If you wish to participate in communion, please have something small to eat and drink ready for that portion of the service.
We are glad you’re here!
Holy God, may we be blessed with your Word of life, that we be restored, supported, and strengthened by the unity found in the welcome of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
So I’m going to be honest with you. I’m tired. Last week I talked about us being in this third quarter of isolation, but I didn’t really feel it then. I do now though. Or at least, I think I do as I’m not really sure if I’m tired from this quarantine thing, or if I’m just tired because I stayed up late last night and frankly every night before that. While I don’t have to get up to drive the kids to school anymore, I still try to wake up at a relatively respectable hour just to make sure my sleep deprivation stays constant through this time. You know, we all need something to cling to for normalcy. Some people have their work, some have their friends, I have perpetual fatigue.
But seriously though, last night I was having a real hard time writing this sermon so I decided I needed to unwind and rest my brain if not my whole being so I turned on Disney+ and scrolled through the Marvel movies to see which I could get lost in this time. And while you all know I’m a huge fan of the MCU movies, I landed on Fox’s X-men: First Class from 2011, starring Michael Fassbender and that guy from Split.
And it hit me, maybe I could somehow maybe perhaps stretch this movie to relate this to the themes of today, here in the end of the Easter season. I mean, I’ve even used this movie as a teaching tool back when I used to teach for Confirmation Camp. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s basically a comic book superhero movie with a lot of deep themes like many comic book superhero movies do, if you cared to watch them. And without getting too deep into the X-Men lore (maybe we can do that after the service *wink wink), this movie basically follows two young friends who happen to be mutants, that is, humans evolved to have special abilities, and how they navigate together through this world that doesn’t understand and even fears mutants. These two friends want the same thing: mutant acceptance, but they go about it in completely different ways. One thinks that it can be done peacefully and the other believes that it can only be done by eradicating all humans who don’t have the mutant genome. I’ll let you decide which is good and which is evil. While it might seem like your run of the mill good vs evil movie, it is actually more like good vs good, in that both of these two friends just want what is best for the world and the future, and they just had different ways of expressing it. Although their actions and methods were wildly different, they both come from the same basic place of wanting everyone to just get along in spite of difference.
So this got me thinking about today’s theme in our church calendar. In the loose chronology of the year, Jesus has already ascended to heaven and now the disciples have to hang tight and wait for the Spirit to come as promised. The rubber is about to hit the road and the disciples are about to show the world what they’re made of. And I would imagine that this wouldn’t be as exciting as it sounds as this would be uncharted territory for the disciples, moving forward without their teacher and mentor at the helm. Although they followed him closely over the past few years, I wonder how sufficient they felt now that they couldn’t audibly hear Jesus, they couldn’t visibly see Jesus, and they couldn’t physically be in the presence of Jesus, and somehow they had to manage on their own.
Now they had to come up with their own travel route. They had to come up with their own ways of caring for their neighbour and helping the poor and needy. They had to come up with their own theologically astute and somewhat witty comebacks to all the haters that just didn’t understand this new way of thinking, living, and loving. No, I don’t think it was very exciting at all. In fact, it might have been scary. I mean, they were pretty scared the first time they lost Jesus, and he told them he’d be back. So I’d imagine that this time would be worse, as they watched Jesus literally leaving them. Not taken from them like last time, but leaving them. Oh the emotions.
And what they have to go on is the memory of Jesus praying for them, which is what we read about today. And it wasn’t this “thoughts and prayers” kind of sentiment, but Jesus actually prayed. He prayed hard. It was clear that Jesus loved his disciples and wants what is best for them, and according to his prayer for them, what’s best is that they be united. United like how God and Jesus are united, one like how Jesus and God are one, joined as God and Jesus are joined. That is what Jesus wanted and that is what Jesus prayed for.
Yeah, that sounds like a tall order. For the disciples, and for us.
Granted, they did ok. They were able to start the church and things went quite swimmingly until, well, human nature got in the way. Power was sought after, corruption happened, and splits, fights, and full on wars came as a result. Not exactly united.
Well, it isn’t, if by “united” you mean “in agreement.”
But I don’t think this is what Jesus meant. I don’t think Jesus wanted all of us to be the same. I don’t think Jesus wanted just these cookie-cutter Christians who all think, act, and worship exactly alike. I mean, just looking at the disciples, this rag tag bunch of misfits and commoners, but each with their own strength and ideas to bring to the group.
You know the real reason I used X-Men: First Class in Confirmation Camp was because the class I was teaching had a teamwork component and I felt like this movie really displayed that well. It also starts with a ragtag bunch of misfits, all with their own strengths and weakness and some not even getting along. But in the end when push came to shove, each of them were able to do their part, use their uniqueness and difference to be stronger together than they ever could before.
And I think this is the kind of unity that Jesus prays for. Jesus prays for us to be united by God’s love, called to be God’s children, empowered to express our faith in unique and personal ways. Jesus wants us to be united maybe not so much in knowledge but in intention, that we seek to glorify God. That is, to make God known, in our own ways and what makes sense in our contexts. Jesus hopes for us, for better or for worse, that we would be united in knowing that we are all… all of us… fallen and imperfect, capable of making mistakes and being wrong, but brought together by God’s grace, invited by God’s mercy, and welcomed into God’s peace and community, living lives of faith as witnesses to all that God has done and made as one through our worship in whatever form, our faith practices how they look, and as you may have guessed, our prayer lives, wherever they take us.
That was the theme of this week’s photo challenge, I asked you to send me pictures of where or how you pray, in your homes, in nature, or even in action and service. I hope this helps us to see how we are all united in spite of our difference, one in spite of our uniqueness, and together in spite of our social separation. Here are the submissions:
Let’s finish this sermon with prayer for you all.
O Lord our God, at the time of Jesus’ suffering and death at the hands of those he loved, he was glorified in that he was made known to the world, and thus you were made known. For you have given him authority over all, authority to forgive, authority to welcome, authority to save, and he gives freely all the things you have given to him. Through his witness, so may we become witnesses and bearers of your good news, that we may in turn glorify you in all that we do, that just as you and Jesus are one, so may we be one in your holy name, through your holy son, by your Holy Spirit. Amen.
At the end of this Easter season, may we feel the joy of our being united in God’s name, that even in our separation we might be joined in love, community, and prayer. Thanks be to God. Amen.