John 17:1-26 (NRSV)
After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed…
…And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one…. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth…
Micah 6:8-12 (NRSV)
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
The voice of the Lord cries to the city
(it is sound wisdom to fear your name):
Hear, O tribe and assembly of the city!
Can I forget the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked,
and the scant measure that is accursed?
Can I tolerate wicked scales
and a bag of dishonest weights?
Your wealthy are full of violence;
your inhabitants speak lies,
with tongues of deceit in their mouths.
Our Christian community exists at very different levels, ranging from the totality of past, present, and future human beings who turn themselves to Christ, all the way to just two people who come together in the spirit of Christ. Somewhat analogously, we at Lewinsville connect through the whole church and at the same time through small groups who support each other’s spiritual development and also reach out to others in need.
Our Lenten readings from the New and Old Testaments offer different perspectives on Christian life and ministry together. In John 17:1-26 (NRSV) Christ, approaching his crucifixion, offers what is sometimes called the ‘high priestly prayer,’ asking his Father in heaven to look after those who have been faithful. In verse 15 Christ makes clear, “I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.” In these words, Christ makes clear that the Kingdom of God is in the here and now, not outside of space and time.
At the same time, Christ recognizes that powerful forces work against people of faith, and that we need the Lord’s protection against these destructive forces. Translated to Lewinsville Presbyterian Church in the year 2021, Scripture challenges us to find our own particular calling for helping to realize the Kingdom of God on earth, while warning us that we must expect resistance to our efforts.
Our Lenten Old Testament reading, Micah 6:1-18 (NRSV), makes very clear that the sine quo non of a Godly life is honesty. In verses 11 and 12 Micah rails against “wicked scales and a bag of deceitful weights” and goes on to accuse: “Your inhabitants speak lies, with tongues of deceit in their mouths.”
With these words Micah points directly to dishonesty in the marketplace, in politics and public life, and even in the intimacy of family and friends. These words are powerfully spoken, but just as important, if not more important, is honesty with oneself – honesty about one’s deepest concerns and values. For true Christians self-knowledge begins with the acknowledgement of sin, and the willingness to ask forgiveness of the Lord for our sins. Once we are honest with ourselves, we may proceed to honesty in the marketplace, in politics, and in our personal relationships.
Lord, give us the wisdom to understand our Christian community as life and ministry together, in which we serve through “inreach” to each other and outreach to those outside our particular church community. And let us understand that essential to Christian fellowship is honesty – honesty to those with whom we live and work, and even before that, honesty to ourselves about ourselves.