A Dangerous Place

by | May 16, 2021 | Sermons

A Dangerous Place

One of the most reassuring aspects of scripture is the knowledge that Jesus prays for us. Our passage from John’s gospel today features such an occassion. It is the reason that Jesus is praying for the disciples and us that is more concerning. The passage from John’s gospel takes place over Holy Week, Jesus knows he is going to die and that the disciples will remain. He knows the fallout and turmoil that will result and so he prays. 

Scripture: John 17: 6-19

A big thanks to our musicians and vocalists who continue to help and inspire us as we sing praises to God: Diana Carr, Janet Leadbeater, Rob Lenters, Brian MacInnes, and John MacDougall.

Children’s Story – Jesus Gives Us Tools for Prayer

Today the Children’s Story is from the website Ministry to Children. There is a YouTube video that can be watched (found below). In addition the website has the a full teaching plan that parents can use with their children. Additioanlly, parents can download a lesson plan

A Dangerous Place

On October 22, 1939 C.S. Lewis preached at Oxford University. Hitler had invaded Poland only six weeks earlier, and England was at war. The undergraduate college students there at Oxford were frightened–many of them would face death soon, and altogether too 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.”

The world is a dangerous place. Sometimes the danger of the world is evident and all around us, other times it is a little more hidden. Prior to a year ago, before Covid-19, physical and social distancing much of the danger, within our own context, was hidden. We were aware of problems, things that could be better in our own lives and within society at large, but things were pretty good. Covid-19 has pulled back the curtain on many things we thought were good and exposed problems in our common life together.

Our health care system has strained under the impact of Covid-19. Many who work in this field will feel the strain and burden of this time for years to come. Our elder care does not provide the care that we feel our loved ones deserve, nor are those who are tasked with caring for them compensated in a fair way. Our social safety net has also strained as people who thought they were safely employed, now find themselves jobless. Those who call bank vestibules and park benches home, have been further isolated with the closing of many businesses to help limit the spread of the virus.

The world is a dangerous place. But as Lewis laments, perhaps it is good that we have become disillusioned in institutions we once felt secure. Perhaps it is good that we have been disillusioned by what we called god. As vaccines continue be administered, as we grow closer to a time of returning to what we once thought was good, new questions will drive us towards change.

Sometimes we forget that Jesus preached a message that was counter cultural to the time he lived in. In many ways, the message of the gospel is contrary to much of our common life together. Following Jesus isn’t easy. We forget that Jesus preached about a world turned upside down. Of a temple destroyed (Mark 13: 1-2) and rebuilt in three days (John 2:19).

Those are either the messages of a raving lunatic or of someone who saw that the way people were living was missing the mark on how God wanted us to be. If you have ever made this mistake, and I know I have, of thinking the work of the church is easy this passage tells us different.

Scott Hoezee writes, “If ever we in the church needed a reality check as to what we should expect in ministry and in service to this world, the fervency of Jesus’ prayer here should remind us that we should not expect smooth sailing.” (Scott Hoezee)

And our passage from John today is a prayer. It is a prayer between Jesus and God. It is made by Jesus on behalf of the disciples and all who will follow in their footsteps. Today, Jesus prays for us.

Let that settle on you for a moment.

Our passage today, is a prayer from Jesus for you. Jesus prays, not that God would take us out of the world, but that God would protect us. Jesus knows that the work we do is hard, that we will be hated for it, that forces will try to stop us and so Jesus prays for us.

Jesus knows, that we as his followers can’t just leave the world, we need to remain here in the thick of it and get our hands dirty. Jesus knows this and so he prays for us. That is very powerful, Jesus prays for our protection.

Sometimes we forget that we will be hated and despised for the work we do. For so long the society that we are a part was nominally Christian. Over the past half century that is no longer the case, but still we forget that. When we speak up on an issue, we are often told to mind our own business. To keep to worship and stay out of politics and other events. Except Jesus was a very political person, his outrage over the politics and policies of his time and how they were contrary to God’s love is what got him killed.

Jesus spoke often about caring for people. He healed those that society marginalized, the blind, the lame, the poor, the widows. His most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, celebrates how the weak, the lowly, and the poor will be raised up.

In his inaugural sermon Jesus quotes from Isaiah, proclaiming freedom for the prisoners, sight for the blind, that the oppressed would be set free (Luke 4:18). After delivering that sermon, in his hometown of Nazareth, the people in the synagogue were furious. They drove him out of town with the intention of throwing him off a cliff.

Jesus knows how difficult our task is. It is why he prays for us. Jesus knew, that just like the prophets of the Old Testament who were often hated and reviled for the message they preached, that the world would dislike us for some of the work we do. To be clear the world loves it when we run a soup kitchen. But when we write to politicians or protest about how social services are underfunded, when we draw attention to why a soup kitchen is needed, then we are told to be silent and stay in our lane.

And so maybe it is good that everyone once in a while we become disillusioned. Not disillusioned in the truth that we follow, which is the living Word found in Jesus Christ. Which is the continuing illumination of the Holy Spirit of God’s great grace and love for creation. In that we stand firm, from there our light shines out.

No, it is good that from time to time we become disillusioned in the society that we take part. Because it is only from that position of being disillusioned that we can critique, it is only there that we can see the harm that is occurring, and it is only from this position that we can advocate for change. Change founded on God’s love for creation, on God’s love for people.

We recognize that the world around us can be dangerous. Dangerous because some people don’t want to hear the truth as we see it, because it doesn’t fit their narrative of success, because it criticizes them. We are unlikely, given our own context, to experience physical harm, but emotional, mental and spiritual trauma remain. And so Jesus prays for us. That as we are called to remain in this world and do the work of protecting God’s good creation, that we are cared for and protected as we do it.

Don’t conform to the roughness of this world, don’t follow paths of jealousy or revenge. Instead allow God, through Christ-Jesus, to dwell in you. Let that peace, let that grace, let that love flow through you and transform the world around you. We are called to dwell in this world, God called creation ‘very good’, for as rough and dangerous a place this world can be, there is beauty yet. Amen.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.

St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security. 

Kristina Nairn

Public Health Nurse, HKPR Health Unit

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Thank you for visiting St. Andrew’s. It’s our prayer that this sermon was helpful to your walk of faith. We would ask you to prayerful consider donating to the mission of St. Andrew’s. You can make an online donation through our website. 

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