Reading: John 17.1-11
Introductory words
Dear parishioners of St Philip’s, this extended homily grew like Topsy. Please just dip
into it and dip out as the Spirit guides you. There are four prayers at its ending.
Chapter 17 is John’s “Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer,” it is his version of Matthew’s and
Luke’s “Lord’s Prayer.” Here, Jesus is not the high priest of Hebrews 7 and 8: “We have a
High Priest, who sat down beside the majestic throne of majesty… Jesus, our High
Priest…mediates for us a far better covenant with God. He can save those who come to God
through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” John’s high priest is
not this gentle heavenly image. He has drawn on the Old Testament authors, where the
Cross and Passion meant anguish and pain. Jesus, the “Suffering Servant,” will be
crushed under the weight of the sins multiplied umpteen times by billions of men and
women. The Father’s divine love brings redemption to humanity but at a staggering
human cost. At the Last Supper, as the disciples lazed on divans, Jesus began his farewell
prayer in which he directed his speech not to the disciples he must leave behind, but to
his Father God. In twenty-four hours, he will be dead.
In 1455, Andrea Mantegna painted an image of Jesus in Gethsemane before his arrest.
Jesus was portrayed as a crushed figure, kneeling on a bare rock, under a carrion crow
perched atop a dead branch. His hands were clenched in fear. Nearby, Peter, James and
John snore uselessly drunk with wine from the Passover meal. In the distance come the
armed temple guards, led by Judas. There is still hope. Between Jesus and the police, is a
plank, to take Jesus out of the painting and away into wilderness safety. He has time to
take it and live. Again, between Jesus and his persecutors, rabbits are frolicking on the
pathway. Will Easter happen after all?
John 17, verse 1, Jesus began the Prayer: “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,’” that is, “Glorify me with the glory I once had in heaven before the world
existed.” John’s prayer addresses God not as “Our Father,” but to show his unique
relationship, simply “Father.” In the prologue to John are the words “And the Word
became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of a father’s only
Son, full of grace and truth” [John 1.14]. All his life, Jesus had been moving towards
being “lifted up” on the Cross to “draw all people to himself” [John 12.32]. The Cross was
the glory of his life and the way to eternity. All through history, great personages found
their glory, their nobility, their true place in glory by dying. It was said of the dead
Abraham Lincoln “Now, he belongs to the ages.” When the English burned Joan of Arc,
one watcher walked away saying “We are all lost because we have burned a saint.” And,
the centurion at the foot of the Cross murmured “Truly, this was the Son of God”
[Matthew 27.54]. The cross was the glory of Jesus, because he was majestic in death, and
the magnet of the Cross draws more to Jesus, than ever before. The Cross was the glory
of Jesus because it was the completion of his God-given work. Jesus had to go the whole
way to show that there was nothing that the love of God was not prepared to do and to
suffer for humankind.

How did the Cross of Jesus glorify God? Jesus brought glory and honour to God by his
perfect obedience. The Cross was not the end; the Resurrection was the valediction of
Jesus’ work. God looked at his work and raised Jesus to life. It was as if God pointed to
the mangled form on the Cross and said ”That is what bad folk think of my Son.” Then,
God pointed to the Resurrection and said “That is what I think of my Son.” The glory of
the Resurrection erased the shame of Calvary. For Jesus, the Cross was the gateway to
In the Roman church of St Peter in Chains is a marble statue of Moses with horns! Two
pointy protuberances emerge from his forehead. They aren’t horns, but, carved rays of
light. Glory had to be added to be seen. The horns meant holiness, halo-ness. When
Moses with the tablets of commandments descended Mount Sinai, the people could not
steadfastly look at the glory of his face, so brightly did it shine. I’m sure Doctor God had
told him “Keep taking the tablets!” Could Mary have seen glory as she first hugged her
baby bundle in the stinky-poo of the Bethlehem cattle shed? At baby’s presentation in
the Temple, aged Simeon cradled the infant and said “My eyes have seen a light for
revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” [Luke 2.30-31]. Twelve
years later, having lost their little boy, did the couple see glory when they found the
apprentice Messiah, or did they see a determined nearly teen? Did the glory begin at the
marriage at Cana? There, the bleary-eyed, purple-nosed drinkers began an anguished
thirsty howl. Being good Catholics and not Anglicans, the wine waiters bypassed Jesus in
their prayerful petition and sought help from God’s mother. What awareness had Mary
of her Son’s divine ability? She simply asked “Son, is there a Dan Murphy’s nearby?” He
answered “my hour has not yet come. “ There was a fleeting moment of intense glory on
the Mount of Transfiguration, such that Peter cursed that his smart phone was not to
hand. Jesus’ glory hour will be the time of his passion and death, the time to depart from
this world to go back to Father God. John later described the “hour” as a grain of wheat
planted in the soil. Unless it is planted and dies, it will not become a blade to produce
many more grains. His resurrection over death will prove that he has eternal life to give
to all who believe in him.
“After Jesus had spoken these words” [verse 1]. What were “these words” that Jesus said
as openers? [John 17.1]. Surely, he spoke of his upcoming betrayal, desertion and denial
by his disciples, yet he would still love them to the end. He had already voiced his fears
and troubles. “What should I say-Father, save me from this hour. No, it is for this reason
that I have come to this hour. Father glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I
have glorified it and will glorify it again” [John 12.27-28]. John’s notion of glory
originated in the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures: “Moses was not able to enter the
tent of meeting because the cloud settled upon it and the glory of the Lord filled the
tabernacle” [Exodus 40.35]. The tent of meeting or the tabernacle was God’s home on
the Exodus march, before Israel settled and built a Temple 500 years in the future. In
this place, the glory of the Lord was an overpowering sense of God’s presence.
Destroyed and re-built, the Temple was the place of God’s glory until the crucifixion, and
the resurrection, when God’s glory left the building. God’s temple now is his church, the
body of believers. Jesus had come to glorify God by completing the works which God
sent him to do. The baton has passed from Jesus to all believers, who will do even
greater works than Jesus, perhaps, even finding a cure for corona.
At the incarnation “The Word (of God) became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen
his glory, the glory as of a Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” [John 1.14]. When
Jesus was conceived, God became a human. He was not part man and part God. He was
completely visibly and tangibly human and yet completely divine. “In Christ lives all the
fullness of God in a human body” [Colossians2.9]. The incarnation was the act of the pre-
existent Son of God voluntarily assuming a human body and human nature. Without

ceasing to be God, he became a human being. He set aside his right to glory and power.
Jesus is God’s only and unique son. In John’s writing, at the end of his abbreviated life,
Jesus’ death and resurrection were not a disintegration of any sort. Rather, they were
described in terms of coronation, exaltation and glorification. Jesus looks forward to
glory in the Father’s presence, the glory that he chose to leave in heaven, when he
“emptied” himself to become human [Philippians 2.7].
John 17 Verse 2: “Since you (God) have given him authority (dominion) over all people, to
give eternal life to all whom you have given him.” John borrowed this notion from Israel’s
visionary prophet in exile, Daniel, written 700 years before. Daniel’s vision was “I saw
one like a human being coming…he came to the Ancient One, to him was given dominion
and glory and sovereignty, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him”
[Daniel 7.13-14]. Jesus, the Messiah, chose to come to planet Earth because of God’s love
for the world. To enter into eternal life is to experience, here and now, something of the
splendour, the majesty, the joy, the peace and the holiness which are a characteristic of
the life of God. Eternal life means knowing here and now the one, true God and Jesus,
whom God has sent. Eternal life, living with God forever, begins with acceptance of Jesus
as Saviour. At that moment, new life begins in you [2 Corinthians 5.24]. Such happy
people come to know “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone
who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life” [John 3.16]. As Jesus went
on, the listening crowd stirred, startled; his words no longer meshed with the people’s
concept of a Messiah. “When I am lifted up from the earth, (that is be crucified), I will
draw everyone to myself.’” Now, wait, Jesus, the Messiah cannot die. He will inaugurate a
political, earthly kingdom that will never end. No, nodded Jesus. The Messiah must
suffer and die to set up his eternal kingdom.
John 17 Verse 3: “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and
Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” How do we get to eternal life? Jesus tells us: by
knowing God the Father through his Son, Jesus. Eternal life entails entering into a never-
ending relationship with Father God in and through his Son, and in loving fellowship
with all other Christians. This spirit of togetherness had been Jeremiah’s dictum from
circa 627 BCE: “No longer shall they need to teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know
the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. I will forgive
their iniquity and remember their sin no more” [Jeremiah 31.34]. Isaiah added “They will
not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of
the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” [Isaiah 11.8].
In 1894, A.C.Ainger, took this last line to hymn “God is working God’s purpose out, as
year succeeds to year; God is working his purpose out and the time is drawing near.
Nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be when the earth shall be
filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea. All we can do is nothing worth,
unless God blesses the deed. Vainly we hope for the harvest tide, till God gives life to the
seed: Yet nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be, when the earth
shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.”
Jesus had to dance a few steps of fancy footwork to give a more positive image of God
from the old image in the Hebrew Scriptures. “Eternal life” means existing at all times,
everlastingly, without beginning or ending. John does not describe “eternal Life” as
escaping the fiery flames of hell, nor singing with the cherubim at some future glorious
appointment in the clouds. John defines eternal life as ”knowing” God and Jesus in a
warm relationship, available here and now. Eternal life begins here below and will
continue into the life that we will experience after death. This results in choosing
obedience to the Father’s will as a way of life.

When scripting this Fourth Gospel, John taught at least four examples of true disciple-
relationship: the Samaritan woman at the well [ch.4], the blind man driven from
worship for supporting Jesus [ch.9], Mary of Bethany and her anointing of Jesus
previous to his death [ch12], and the manner in which Thomas the doubter came to
faith [ch.19]. All four participate in on-going encounters and relationships with Jesus.
The life of the misunderstood, much-married Woman of Samaria was a complete mess,
yet she became the first to acknowledge that Jesus was the Messiah and became the first
evangelist to carry Christ to her people. The man born blind gave God the glory for his
cure, acknowledging that Jesus was first a prophet, then the Messiah, then the one
through whom God’s light was coming into the world. Disciple-like, in spite of negative
murmurings, Mary of Bethany gave Jesus’ the only anointing he would receive and
shamelessly dried his feet with her hair. Dour, dogged disciple Thomas was first ever to
address Jesus as “my Lord and my God,” the Messiah and Son of God. The four came to
know Jesus intimately, to realize that he loved them like no other, and to understand
that he was the source of their lives.
Verse 3 continued: “and Jesus Christ, whom you (Father God) have sent.” The Father sent
the Son so that we might catch a glimpse of God’s glory, as the bringer of grace and truth.
Instead of being dropped into the world-war zone fully grown, the whole incarnation
and growth to manhood of Jesus was a Father-God directed mission with a purpose. The
Son willingly came so that “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal
life” [Jon 3.16]. By coming into the world, the Son did the Father’s bidding and carried
out God’s mission unto Calvary’s Cross.
John 17 Verse 4: Jesus prayed to Father God: “I glorified you on earth by finishing the
work that you gave me to do.” Jesus is now in the home strait. For thirty-three years he
has done his Father’s work, especially in these past three years of public ministry. Jesus’
fidelity to the work that God gave him to do had glorified God on earth; he has honoured
God by his obedience to God’s wishes. Jesus has only taught what God directed him to
teach and to heal; he carried out signs and wonders as God wished him to do. In an argy-
bargy, the scribes and Pharisees, accused Jesus of being a Samaritan or one demon-
possessed. Jesus answered, “I have no demon in me. I honour my Father, and you
dishonour me. Yet, I have no wish to glorify myself. God is going to glorify me” [John 8. 49-
50]. Jesus revealed divine glory by revealing the divine power that made him whole. He
made godly power visible by the miraculous signs he performed.
John 17 Verse 5: “Now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the gory that I had
in your presence before the world existed.” A better translation may be “Now, Father,
bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.” At the end of his three year
ministry, Jesus had come to Jerusalem. We sing “Ride on, ride on in majesty, in lowly
pomp, ride on to die; bow your meek head to mortal pain, then take, O God, your power and
reign.” Jesus continued “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Unless a
grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains just a grain; but, if it dies, it bears
much fruit” [John 12.23-24]. Unless a kernel of grain is planted in the soil, it will not
become a blade of wheat producing many more seeds. Jesus had to die to pay the
penalty we could not or would not pay. Then, enduring his self-sacrifice, Jesus will enter
his heavenly glory, giving glory to God by completing God’s plan for our salvation. His
earthly disciples’ hope is for the same outcome, but, as yet they still cannot perceive
God’s plan fully. Before his incarnation, the Son of God had enjoyed heavenly glory,
sharing in divine majesty, honour and love. To choose to come to earth, Jesus “had
emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness” [Philippians
Earlier, I mentioned that the face of Moses on Mount Sinai shone as he had experienced
a one-to-one encounter with the presence of God. As in a mirror, our Christian faces
should reflect the splendour of the Lord within us. When we are permitted back into St

Philip’s, what will the passing crowd see in our post-Eucharist Sunday faces? Will there
be any sign of splendour? What would a newborn see when she looks into our face? She
gleans from our eyes whether the world is a good place to be born into or whether she
would rather be put back inside her mummy. God forbear that she may see only
emptiness. * Some questions on Jesus: What do you think Jesus’ pre-existent glory was
like? What was his personal glory like during his earthly ministry? How did his glory
peek through? How did the work that the Father gave the Son to do bring glory to the
Father? What is the work that Father God has given you to do? What ways are you
bringing glory to the father in what you do?
The accounts of the crucifixion in Matthew, Mark, and Luke were accompanied by
displays of divine power: an eerie pall of darkness was a visible sign of a supernatural
force in [Matthew 24.45], the dramatic tearing in two of the Temple curtain showed that
God had left the building in [Luke 23.45], and earthquakes and saints allegedly rose from
the dead in [Matthew 27.51-2]. All these paranormal manifestations are missing from
John’s account. John’s Jesus simply gasped ‘It is finished,’ and gave up his spirit [John
19.30]. By laying down his life completely, by giving the most he could, life itself, Jesus
completed his work of glorifying God on earth. Now, the world knows Jesus’ love for
God, and God’s love for the world. Jesus explained “I do as the Father has commanded me,
so that the world may know that I love the Father” [John 14.31].
John 17 Verse 6: “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the
world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” From
the beginning, Jesus’ mission had been revelation. Jesus was the Word, the one sent to
reveal God to us “and the Word became human and lived among us, and we have seen his
glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son” [John 1.14]. By coming to planet earth,
Jesus has made known the Father’s name of Love. In the Old Testament image of the
burning bush, Moses dared to ask God’s name, and God replied “I am who I am (meaning
the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob)” [Exodus 3.6.] John adapted the title to have
Jesus the Son say “I am the bread of life, I am the light of the world, I am the gate for the
sheep, I am the Good Shepherd.”
Jesus continued with the words of Jesus “I made your (God’s) name known to those whom
you gave me from the world, and they have kept your word“ [John 17.6]. David wrote
“Some trust in chariots and, some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord
our God” [Psalm 20.7]. That is, those who really know what God is like, those who know
the nature and whole character of God, will be glad to put their trust in God. In Isaiah
[52.6], God affirmed “I will reveal my name to my people, and they will come to know its
power. Then, at last, they will recognize that I am the one who speaks to them.”
Jesus made God accessible, made it possible to address God as “Our Father.” In Jesus’
words, we hear God’s words; in Jesus’ deeds, we see God’s acts. The disciples were not
Fulbright scholars; they were not even half-bright. Jesus could well have derided them
as hopeless, yet, to his Father, he spoke of them respectfully as if they were a treasure
that Father God had placed in his hands. While their subsequent commitment and
performance was mixed at best, Jesus was very generous to tell his Father “they have
kept your word.” Jesus always believed that this group of women and men were
especially given to him because they realized that he was God’s ambassador. Pause a
moment to look at the untapped talent that Jesus found in such a woebegone place as
the Galilee shore. Who placed there a leadership gift like Simon Peter in Jesus’ hands? At
first, his words were acceptance of fishing failure “Master, we have toiled all night and
caught nothing. But at your word I will let down the net.” Ashore, his first words were
self-revelatory “Depart from me, Lord. I am a sinful man.” Again, when the way-preparer,
John Baptist, pointed two of his disciples towards Jesus, saying, “Behold, the Lamb of
God,” that was enough for Andrew, Peter’s brother, to take the bait, switch sides, and call
his brother to follow. Think of the giant personality of John the Baptist. Such foundation

members were the Father’s chosen gifts to the Son, perhaps not so much the fruit of the
Son’s recruiting prowess. God destined the disciples as Jesus’ team. As disciples, they
had accepted the mastery of Jesus, and had made the words of Jesus the law of their
lives. Is this a too rosy assessment of the gift given Jesus? May I develop this in a
Imagine that corona has been vanquished and we were employers seeking to hire staff
once more. How would we assess the talent which presented to Jesus? Peter was
uncouth, blundering, a bravado braggart, possessed of a lurid vocabulary when riled.
James and John were an irritating duo of ambitious social climbers, who clambered over
other disciples to seek to become Jesus’ chief lieutenants. Simon was a dangerously
inflammable zealot, whose blood boiled at the sight of a Roman occupier of his holy land.
Roman collaborator and tax-collector, Matthew, reefed Jewish money from the pockets
of his fellow Jews. When Simon had sunk a skin-full of “four-penny dark,” it was not only
the wine that was “dark.” Mathew may have been but inches from Simon’s dagger.
Thomas was annoyingly cautious; he would take nothing on faith. Imagine such a
negative on a church committee? Yet these men and the many loyal women disciples
eventually had far more influence on the course of human history and language than any
other group. John, perhaps still a teenager when called, was given to tantrums as a “son
of thunder,” yet became the apostle of love. Mary of Magdala, perhaps cured of a disease
such as epilepsy, showed the path of true gratitude. Arch-persecutor, Saul, who held the
execution squad’s cloaks while they despatched Stephen, became the means for the
salvation of the whole of Jesus’ ministry outside Palestine. Had Barnabas and then Paul
not moved the engine room of the new Christian “way” outside Palestine and into Asia
and Europe, Christianity would have been given a real knock by its enemies, or been
expunged completely with the fall of Jerusalem and dispersal of its survivors in 70 CE?
For three years, Jesus had enthralled his team with incomparable parables, they had
marvelled at Jesus’ mind-blowing signs and wonders, witnessed the worst cruelty could
do to someone they loved, then fled underground in fear. Nothing had changed them,
not the magnificent personality of their leader, nor his crucifixion and resurrection. But,
when they were filled with the Holy Spirit of Jesus at Pentecost 1, they became worthy
witnesses and powerful advocates for the extension of the kingdom to the ends of the
earth. At once, filled with the oomph that Pentecost brought, their cowardice gave place
to courage, their self-interest became selfless service, and their custard-gutted fear was
banished forever. After three years’ formation, with divine confidence, Jesus could see
that these mainly Galilean peasants would truly be the pledge of the continuance of
God’s work on earth.
Composed as late as or later than 90 CE, the writer of John’s Gospel looked back to those
far gone days. He realized that those originally called had been disciples in clay. They
had to yield to the skill of Jesus, the potter. Through them, the Son of God brought about
the concept of eternal life, and by believing in him, they taught humanity the life eternal.
Father God had not got it wrong. Jesus thanked his Father, saying, “I have made your
name known to those you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to
me, and they have kept your word” [verse 6].
John 17 Verse 7, 8: “Now they know that everything you have given me is from you, for
the words (the message) that you gave me, I have given to them, and they have received
them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.”
What should the translation be, “Word” or “words?” The Word of God was the revelation
of God: “In the beginning was the Word (existing in heaven), and the Word was Jesus with
God (in heaven) and the Word was God” [John 1.1]. John shows Jesus as fully human and
as fully God. In the Sunday Creed, we pray “We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only
Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from
true God, begotten, not made. ” This translates as Jesus is the Son of the Father, not made,

not created, but begotten, that is, always existing, with Father God. A 4 th Century
independent thinker, Arius, posited that, since Jesus was born a human in Bethlehem, he
must have been created. Thus, there must have been a time “when he was not,” so Jesus
could not be the eternal God. Hence the creed added the line that Jesus was “begotten,
not made, of one being (always) with the Father.” Our belief is that, from heaven, Jesus
came to take upon himself our full humanity and lived here below as fully man, while
never ceasing to be the eternal God, who had always existed as the source of eternal life.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, (the Old Testament), “the Word” was the source of God’s
revealed message given through the prophets and through God’s law as the standard of
holiness “The Lord merely spoke and the heavens were created. He breathed his word, and
the stars were born” [Psalm 33.6]. A more modern version has “The skies were made by
God’s command; he breathed his word and the stars popped out.” In the Christian
Scriptures, John wrote his belief: “The Word became flesh and made his home among us”
[John 1.14]. John’s Word is a human being he knew and loved, called Jesus, who, (as God)
at the same time, was creator and sustainer of the universe, and the living picture of
God’s holiness. Paul defined the nature of Christ: as “the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything else was created, and holds all creation together. Christ is also
the head of the Church…God in all his fullness, was pleased to live in Christ” [Colossians
1.15-19]. Problems came with those of a different mind-set. To say that “Jesus was God
“was blasphemous to Jews. To say “The Word became human” was unthinkable for
John 17 Verse 8 has: “and they received them (the words of Christ) and know in truth
that I came from you: and they have believed that you sent me.” Jesus was a realist. He
does not say that his team have kept his words. They have received them. They are
receptive to the words that Jesus gives because they believe that Jesus was sent by God.
If Jesus was truly sent by the Father then his words are trustworthy. His words came
from Father God, who gave them to the Son, who gave them to the disciples, who
“received them.” It would be stretching things to posit that the disciples had been faithful
to his teachings. Sometimes, they only dimly understand, and act as more clueless than
faithful: “When many of his disciples heard it (his teaching on the real presence in the
Eucharist) they said, “This teaching is difficult. Who can accept it? Because of this, many of
his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him” [John 6.60. 66]. Yet, his core
group hung on through good times and bad because of a belief “You have the words of
eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Christ (the Messiah), the
Son of the living God” [John 6. 68-69]. The faithful few were prepared to say that Jesus
was God’s holy One, his Messiah. He is the One who is not only speaking about God’s
new age, the age to come, but is, by his words, already bringing it into existence. The few
recruits stand as representatives of the faith; this tiny band has the belief that Jesus has
been looking for, the recognition that, in him, his words and his deeds, God was at last
bringing to being the great movement which would find its completion on Calvary and
on Resurrection Sunday, eventually as a mighty army of the redeemed.
John 17 Verse 9: “I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but
on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.” Does Jesus sound a little
mean, as if he cares only for his little band, his rescued and redeemed ones? Jesus is
speaking of the whole world, much of which was still opposed to God, a world that was
organizing without God. This world posed a threat to the evangelist-disciples, who were
being sent out to work in this world, as Jesus was about to depart from it, to lead the
world back to God, to make the world aware of God. Neither God nor Jesus could
respond with hostility to a hostile world. They must love the world, warts and all, and
strive to redeem it, even ‘though the world values and standards were poles apart from
God’s. “If anyone listens to my sayings, and doesn’t believe, I don’t judge him, for I came not

to judge the world, but to save the world” [John 12.47]. The disciples would find a joy in
battling against the storm and struggling against the tide of world hostility to enter into
Christian joy. The Samaritan people said to the woman, who had enthused them to ask
their former enemy, Jesus, to stay to evangelize them, “Now we believe, not because of
your speaking; for, we have heard for ourselves, and we know this is indeed Christ, the
Saviour of the world” [John 4.42].
John 17 Verse 10: “All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in
them.” Jesus has an unmistakable pride in his team. It seems strange that he would feel
glorified in them. His disciples, both women and men are a small, ordinary group, who
exhibit no unusual intelligence or talent. Often, they seem unable to learn from the clues,
signs and wonders, that Jesus gives them concerning the future. Sometimes, no matter
how simply Jesus spells out some teachings, they just don’t get it. Mathew’s and Mark’s
Gospels may have been written about 65 CE, Luke’s in 60 CE, while John’s may be as late
as 95 CE. By this stage, most of Jesus’ band had died. Looking back, the author called
John could see, that, somehow, through the grace of God and the abiding working of the
Holy Spirit, Jesus had been glorified by the faith of the original disciple team, however
inglorious they were. Verse 10 is an encouraging word if anyone is tempted to despair
by the effects of corona. While the future of the Church may seem compromised by the
lack of fidelity to mission of some of the shepherds of the flock, the glorification that
began with those first few disciples continues in the work of the Church today. God still
chooses the weak and little ones to shame the wise and strong.
John 17 Verse 11: “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.” The death on Mount Calvary is about to take Jesus from
this dangerous world that has declared him an enemy. The world will succeed in killing
him, but, he will emerge from the struggle victorious through his glory-ous resurrection.
His disciples must remain in an uncertain state, in an alien and hostile world and need
protection. Jesus sounds a note of anxiety as he leaves them behind.
In 1942, war came to New Guinea. Expatriate Australians were ordered south to safety
in Australia. But missionaries were told to remain at their posts so that the work of
years would not be lost and the indigenes feel unwanted. What did these heroic souls
feel as they watched the last coastal steamers sail away, leaving them to an uncertain
fate. The 333 known Christian martyr missionaries of PNG, (including eleven Anglican
women and men), are remembered annually on September 2. Jesus must have been with
them here. From his earliest days, in synagogue school, Jesus had learned the prophetic
utterances that foretold his manner of excruciating death in enemy territory. Yet, he
went on.
“Holy Father” Jesus called on God. Jesus also calls him “Righteous Father” [verse 25].
God’s holy-ness was central to being God in our understanding. Old Testament Jews felt
unworthy to address God by name. Here, Jesus makes God’s name known. It is “Father.”
Now, we can see God as holy, righteous, but, also as a nurturing parent.
For the past three years, Jesus has protected his disciple team. He asks Father God to
assume the role of Protector of those left behind in this hostile land. Jesus prays “Protect
them in your name,” that is, help them to maintain an identity as Christian. By the time of
John’s writing, the Christian Church will have experienced the full venom of Roman and
religious persecution. Jesus was not concerned so much for the physical danger the
disciples may face, but for the spiritual victory that they will win in the face of trial. Mad
Emperor Nero’s persecution of Christians from 64 CE, would sweep up both Peter and
Paul. Two years before, Peter could write “ Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal
that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening

to you. Rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad
and shout for joy when his glory is revealed” [1 Peter 4.12]. Peter wrote later “Cast all
your anxiety on God, because he cares for you. Like a roaring lion, your adversary prowls
around looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know
that your brothers and sisters are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And, after you
have suffered for a while, the God of all grace, will himself strengthen you” [1 Peter 5.6-
John 17 Verse 11 continued: “That they may become one as we are one.” Church unity
seeks to bring separated sisters and brothers together. This unity goes deeper than
organizational unity. That is only a first step. There is still disunity within
denominations and between individual Christians. Jesus’ prayer has not yet been fully
answered. The Church has fragmented into many denominations and factions.
Christians still waste time sniping at one another. Yet, Jesus’ prayer has been answered.
Christians are working together across denominations. There have been formal
mergers, such as the coming together of the three communions, Methodist,
Congregational and Presbyterian as the Uniting Church of Australia in 1977. It is not
enough, but, after 2000 years, it is a beginning.
May I end with a very l-o-n-g aside? The poet John Shaw Neilson, 1872-1942, was born
at Penola, South Australia, to an impoverished bush-farming family. One bright light in
Penola’s story, was the founding there in 1866-67 of the Sisters of St Joseph. This
Catholic religious institute came to educate bush children in their thousands across
Eastern Australia. Josephites, the home-grown product, held the line until and beyond
when “real” nuns from the British Isles and France arrived to challenge the secularistic
education acts from 1851 (in South Australia) to 1893 (in Western Australia), which
sought to replace Christianity with “a neutral-tinted deity.” In 1879, the chief minister in
New South Wales brandished his Public Instruction Bill in his colonial parliament,
boasting “I hold in my hand what will be death to the calling of the priesthood of Rome.”
Stiff cheddar, old son. St. Philip’s locum was one of them!
Neilson’s mum was a believer in a very strict branch of Presbyterianism, which then
followed the Reformation teachings of John Calvin on double predestination. This was a
belief in the absolute sovereignty of God over every person. From all eternity, this God
had predestined some souls to be The Elect for eternal salvation, and other souls, The
Reprobate, for eternal damnation. Individuals had no choice. The death of Jesus was only
a help to those elected for salvation. A possible way a soul could fathom her or his
chance of being “in the number, when the saints come marching in,” was the doctrine of
Assurance. Whether you were in the happy number was gauged by positive signs in life,
such as prosperity or good health. (The Anglican Communion emerged in the Age of
Religious Wars from 1534. Its defined “Articles of Religion” on Predestination from
1562 can be found in your green prayer-book, page 479, No.XV11, paragraph 2 *But!!!
Remember the embattled religious mind-set then!)
Alas, the accepted beliefs of Neilson’s mum stressed acceptance of suffering for human
depravity and divine punishment from the Just Judge. Her God was a cruel, oppressive
Jehovah, who took delight in punishing puny humanity’s failings. Anything pleasurable
was deemed suspect. Farm-work was strictly forbidden on the Sabbath. This meant that
the inoffensive dairy herd, which had no soul to save, was left unmilked and bellowing in
discomfort. The brutal bush tormented such small-scale selectors. Sometimes, driven
from one dust bowl to another, their lands were no more than a desert of dried-up water
holes. Across Victoria, there were drought impelled dust storms, floods, fires, mice and
grass-hopper plagues, cattle pleuro-pneumonia, crop failure and foreclosure. In the
grinding poverty, Neilson became nearly blind, two sisters died from malnutrition, and
the rest of his family was dead by the early 1900s. His mother’s taught divine vengeance
had hung over the farms like a black thunder cloud. Satan was everywhere as a palpable

presence. The harsh, but beautiful Australian bush was Satan’s device to entrap unwary
little boys. Love, unless exalted through thoughts of God, was debased and, ultimately
Yet, Neilson was disturbed that his God, a perfect being, could treat his humanity so
inhumanely, by dooming to decay and death, those created in the very image of God. He
saw the bush as a place of beauty and light, not darkness. In his poem “The Gentle Water
Bird,” he contrasted the frowning, terrible view of God with a beautifully regal bird he
had seen there. He noted that the bird was not frightened about God and the cycle of life,
and renewal in the bush was not God’s punishment: “In the dim days, I trembled, for I
knew, God was above me, always frowning through. And, God was terrible and thunder
blue. Creeds the discoloured awed my opening mind, perils, perplexities, what could I find?
All the old terror waiting on mankind.” Then, a water-bird flew in and stayed. Neilson
brightened: “There was a lake I loved in gentle rain. One day, there fell a bird, a courtly
crane. Wisely he walked, as one who knows of pain. God? Did he know him? It was far he
flew? God was not terrible and thunder blue. It was a gentle water-bird I knew.”
Has the confidence that our churches once had the answers to the troubles of life, been
stretched by corona and snapped? Has the preached notion of God as a bullying
punisher of incorrigible iniquity been so overdone that droves of untried but willing
souls have merely voted with their feet and left the church? What is the God of loving
concern trying to tell us through the world-wide pandemic?
1. Holy One, in your day, the people of Samaria were regarded as spurious,
heretical worshippers, yet, you were always so friendly and never hostile to them.
Indeed, you praised the Samaritan leper, who came back to say thanks for a cure, and
you heralded the Good Samaritan as the perfect example of love of a neighbour. Was it
you, personally, who was once mugged on the Jericho Road to give the genesis of the
parable you told? Eighteen centuries later, Herman Melville walked that way and gasped
“Oh, God, what a ghastly country and it’s given birth to a ghastly theology.” If ever we
have mindlessly attributed blame to you for the failings of nature in a world that is still a
work in progress, forgive us. If ever we may have misused your name and blamed you
for some human failing such as corona, forgive our foolish ways. Help us always to think
before we speak. We know that our tongue, being in a wet place, is liable to slip when
travelling too fast. May we learn that, in speaking, less may be more. Help us to respect
your name and use it only in praise or worship. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our
2. Henry Lawson penned “Banish from under your bonny skies, the old world errors
and wrongs and lies, making a hell in a paradise, that belongs to your sons and you.” God
of Holy Wisdom, Henry spoke to those who were utterly sceptical about the value of
religion, who discounted your relevance in new Australia. Have we present Australians
been lulled into a false belief, dazzled by technological invention? Have we made far
more advance in the scientific world than in the world of morals and ethics? Why is it
we have so little interest in discoveries of You, Holy One, of your working in the world
and your faithful dealings with your people? Why is it we are so little curious about the
import of our Sunday rest or a football-free Good Friday? Carona has thrown us back to
see how valuable and fragile human lives really are. Now, we see that our human
conscience has too long been anaesthetized by worldly prowess and, instead, we must
concentrate on character-building religion. Help us to seek first the kingdom of your
righteousness. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.

3. God of the Southern Cross, the old Australian bush creed was “Life is mainly froth
and bubble, two things stand like stone. Kindness in another’s troubles, courage in your
own.” Carona has swept away so much of what we thought was necessary, but, was
really unnecessary and unholy. Yet still we see selfish people flouting social distancing.
Unthinking people still party and risk spreading infection. Brother Jesus, you tell us to
get our people priorities in order, saying “Pray for anything, and, if you believe that you
have it, it will be yours.” Help us always to check do we really want your will above ours?
Guide us to pray with confident boldness for the speedy advent of the new post-corona
order, to prove that you have not withdrawn your power at work in human lives. Holy
One, may it be a new world of justice, love and trustworthiness. Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
4. God of Loving kindness, the abuse scandal has diminished respect for the
churches and their leaders. The confident rock on which you built your church has in
part crumbled and has been swept away. In wartime, the threat of enemy action filled
our churches for a time, but the piety-from-fear was ephemeral. The enemy has
returned under the guise of COVID-19 and we are scared again. The Scriptures are filled
with examples of your Spirit-inspired loving embrace, when you chose never to remain
remote, but to be steadfast and loyal to our forebears and to us. Send a religious revival
of personal intimacy as the new normal. Surprise us, overwhelm us and nourish us
spiritually to face the challenges that are to come. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our