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Focus from the Rev. David F. Sellery, Priest-In-Charge, St. John’s Church, Salisbury, CT Just Visiting - John 17: 6-19

In this week’s Gospel Jesus prays for you and for me… and for all who ever have or ever will follow him. He prays that we will be loved, protected and made holy. He sees that his time on earth will be brief, but he wants to live on in us. He is going home to the Father, yet he is staying with us in the Holy Spirit. And as he was sent by the Father into the world, he now sends us out to continue his work.

Because his Passion is so near, with urgency and clarity Jesus uses this gospel to lay out two major concepts of the Christian Covenant. First, he prays that we will be one, as he and the Father are one… and you can’t get any closer than that.

In God’s plan, we are to be one… not just one with our family… not just one with “our kind of people” … not just one with the saintly, the healthy, the smart, the sweet-smelling, the un-addicted. We are to be one with all of God’s children… the good, the bad and the ugly, the near and the far. And that takes a whole lot more than bumper sticker compassion, as we speed past the wreckage that so many have made of their lives.

Where to start? First, each of us must get right with God every day. If we don’t take the time to be one with God, we will never be one with our neighbor. And that means prayer. Long before there was Twitter, there was prayer. It’s faster than Tweets and has no character count limitations. It is express to the top and infinitely more reliable than Wikipedia.
Constant contact with Jesus fills our days with endless opportunities to witness his love. In encouragement and assistance, in kindness and courtesy, in giving and sharing, we become one with Jesus. And as we draw closer to Christ, the spiritual gravity of grace pulls in those around us… drawing us all closer and closer to the epicenter of love.

The second concept presented in this gospel is a mind bender. Jesus tells us that we: Do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. We are all just visiting… resident aliens, here on a “green card” to do the work of our Lord. And when the harvest is in and our contract is up, we are going home.

As visitors, we are in the world, but not of the world. It is an article of faith that we should have tattooed on our souls. It is Christ’s parting message before he leaves for the cross. By his death and Resurrection, we are redeemed and, each in our turn, will be welcomed home… to live eternally in the grace of God with all who have gone before and all who will follow.

There are no parables, miracles or action narratives in this gospel. It is just Jesus, facing the cross, speaking directly to the Father, praying for the apostles and for us. There is a time for learning. And there is a time for acting. The threshold between is a time for consecration. Jesus prays to the Father that we may be consecrated to carry on his work in the world. That is the whole purpose
of his teaching. We don’t study scripture to become the smartest kid in Sunday school. We learn to bolster our faith, to build on the grace of our Baptism and to put it all to work in the service of God.

To be consecrated means to be set aside for God’s purpose. To be a Christian is not a credential for country club membership. It is our job. It is a constant, real-world, real-time commitment to follow Christ in all things by loving God and serving our neighbor.
In this gospel, Jesus tells us that we are just visiting here. But we are not tourists. We are guest workers… here to do Christ’s work in the world. Let’s make the most of the time God gives us. Let’s live consciously in his service.

One kindness… one forgiveness… one sacrifice at a time… we are working our way back home… returning to God as the best version of the person he made us to be. And what a welcome awaits us… when our visit here is over… when our work is done… when we finally come home… when we are truly one with God.

eDevotions from The Rev.Bob Dannals Daily Devotionals -Based on RCL Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B: Acts 1:1-11, 15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; I John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19

. . . I do not belong to this world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. J ohn 17: 15

Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer” in John’s Gospel is an extended meditation to the “Father.” In this section Jesus appeals to the Father to protect all who have been given to him. Jesus recognizes that up until now he has been the target of ridicule and pushback. Now they will be the visible targets.

Challenge and Opportunity:

The world – at any time and any place – pushes back against those who seek to undo systems and structures which hurt and damage God’s people. The disciples – then and now – are boldly to challenge any system which is corrupted by greed and domination, and which oppresses and suppresses the people of God. When we do this we experience the “cost of discipleship.” Thus, Jesus prays for us not to be overwhelmed by evil – meaning anything outside or inside of us which goes against God’s love and justice for the world.
Clergy Confidential: Finding God in Daily Chaos by Tim Schenck In Good Faith: Aging Gracefully

Delilah turns 14 this week. If she was a teenage girl and I was her mother, this would be an intense time fraught with conflict and angst. But she’s a dog. An increasingly older dog. An “active senior” as her slightly more expensive bag of dry dog food proclaims, like she’s moved into a retirement community and keeps busy by playing bridge and attending Brigadoon sing-a-longs.

The multiplication tables drilled into my head as an elementary school student didn’t go up to 14 so I needed my iPhone calculator to figure out that she’s 98 in dog years. Regardless of species, that’s getting pretty long in the canine molar, if you ask me. And it’s starting to show. Like all of us, she’s slowing down. Walks are becoming more leisurely and rather than leaping up at the sound of the doorbell, she’s more apt to bark half-heartedly.

Now, we talk about a lot of controversial topics in our household, from religion to politics to my eldest son’s inexplicable love of the New York Yankees. But the one topic no one will broach is the fact that Delilah is not, in fact, immortal. She will not live forever.

Delilah’s advancing age has become our family’s elephant in the room. We’re all aware of it, but no one names it. For to do so would make a hard reality concrete and we’re just not ready to go there.

Denial is not a healthy way to deal with inevitabilities. I’m always encouraging families to talk about and prepare for the death of a
loved one. One of the greatest gifts you can leave your family is clear instructions for your funeral and burial so they aren’t left guessing amid profound and raw grief. “I think I once heard her mention she wanted to be cremated but maybe she was talking about her pet rabbit?”

Yet, when it comes to Delilah, I literally can’t seem to practice what I preach. As with any adored member of the family, it’s hard to think about life without them. Our teenage boys can barely remember the years before we adopted her; she’s been that omnipresent in their lives. Her presence is intertwined with all sorts of family memories and it’s not just the myriad Christmas card photos that mark her yearly existence in our lives. That’s just a snapshot of what belies the daily interactions and informal encounters with our sweet yellow lab/husky mix. The same one who has come to work with me for well over a decade.

In the end (not Delilah’s end, since I can’t speak of that), gratitude for each remaining moment is what matters. Taking a moment to smile when she does that thing where she lifts up a single ear or summons the energy to sprint after the squirrel she’s never caught and never will, but not for lack of trying. Perhaps that’s the lesson for all of us as we collectively deny Delilah’s eventual demise: to enjoy the remaining time we have and stop to give her that extra belly rub. Which is not a bad way to interact with any aging loved one —
minus the belly rub, of course.

In the meantime, we’ll celebrate her 14th birthday with reckless abandon. Since we adopted her the first week of May when she was “about one,” we mark it on May 5th. Or, as we call it, Cinco Delilah.

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