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Oneness with God in Christ

Oneness with God in Christ

John 17:20-16

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

These are verses that we’ve read before. It struck me how plain and straight it is, Jesus’ explanation in John 17:20-26. It’s one of these holy prayers he prays to his Father, kind of almost private prayers. Jesus says, “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these know that thou hast sent me. I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

We’ve shared before how, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God.” [John 1:1] The Word is God speaking, God expressing himself. Old [Karl] Barth says, “That’s one of the most remarkable things that we have to notice about God, that he was WILLING to express himself.” And I thought, “Well, what WOULD he have done?” Of course, obviously God could have kept himself utterly to himself – or could have simply shown us a PART of himself but not shown us ALL of himself. So, the important thing about God’s word, not that it is written, but that it is LIVING, ALIVE. It is HIM expressing himself to us in ways that we can understand.

It’s Jesus, “Word became flesh” [John 1:14] – something that we could understand: nose like us, mouth like us, teeth like ours, words like ours, ideas like ours. God became something that we could understand. We’ve already shared together how really, it’s the birth of Jesus into the world that is the beginning of God speaking directly to the world, and how he did it through Jesus in his physical body as Jesus of Nazareth. And then, Jesus went back to his Father and his Spirit remained here on earth and lived his life through the apostles. We are actually the continuation of “the Word made flesh”. We’re the continuation of Jesus.

This prayer, of course, states it so clearly. I’ll tell you how I misunderstood it for years, but if you look at it, it’s John 17:20, “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one” and then it goes on, “so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”

Irene [wife] might remember part of it, I don’t know but, “We’re Methodists! We’re part of the Ecumenicists” — we used to call ourselves. “We were part of the ecumenical movement. We’re going to join with those miserable Catholics, and we’re going to join with the miserable Lutherans and some miserable Presbyterians.” Everybody was suddenly, according to us, that [that prayer] was going to be fulfilled, God said, “They would believe in us”. So we thought, “I’ll get them all together”. Actually, I’ll tell you a secret. The secret was, we’d thought they’d start believing in coming to church more because they were more of us. Maybe the strength of our right arm would eventually make the church count in the society.

For years, we — I certainly — interpreted it as Ecumenicism where Jesus was praying, “that they may all be one even as we are one.” I missed totally the important part, “that they may be one and that they may be IN me, and I am in them, even as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in you. That THEY would be in us.” It’s only been years and years later that I’ve seen what Jesus is saying: that the world will only believe in his Father when it sees him ALIVE – with our miserable hands and feet and faces – and my miserable words. I’m horrified and ashamed so often. My wife catches it, and you probably put up with it at times. I know I do some things right at times. I certainly do a lot of things wrong. It seems to me, the Saviour’s will to live in each one of you and in me in such a way that people will recognize him, and would be touched by him.

I thought earlier (when I was in the middle of the rowing) I thought, “You know, we’re all probably about 100 pounds of self and we’re lucky that we get probably 40 pounds of Jesus. Very lucky. But, we’re so FULL of ourselves! We’re so used to our own ways of doing things, and losing ourselves – me, especially in conversation. It is so off-putting. Of course, I thank God for all of you, especially for my own dear girl for putting up with me. I know I’m sure you do the same. I’m sure I’m not the only one. But certainly, when you pause for a moment, you can see how full of ourselves we are.

We all have good excuses because we were brought up that way with our good mums and dads. We were brought up as if we were the important people and as if, “Of course, this is your life and you have to make of it as much as you can. That’s your job. Be yourself!” And so, we HAVE BEEN ourselves. Who questions that they have a right to their own way? We’re brought up with, “Now, let him have his toy, Ernest.” “Now, let him have his toy, Trish.” But it’s really a concession you make to the miserable creature. Your right is to your own toys and your own space. “Give me my space!”

Greg remembers it well, his comment. I don’t blame him at all, running helter-skelter after every switch that broke, “I want to have a life!” Dear love him. I thought it was funny because that hadn’t been his spirit at all. He’s been the servant of all, by all means, all the time. But I think we’re brought up to feel that. “Somebody owes us something and the WORLD owes us something. It’s our right to have that something. That’s found in the tone of our voices and our words to one another and in our actions.

Of course, there’s one dear Man who’s kind of tapping us on the shoulder, “Um. Could I speak? Could I have a word here?” In a way, so often we ignore him except when it’s prayer time and we give him lots of attention. But, when we get back to real LIFE, we don’t bother too much with him. That seems to be what Jesus is saying. He’s praying his Father that he will be in his Father and that his Father will be in him, and that he, himself, will be in us. And then, wonders of wonders, that we will be in him – that we will be in him. That he will be surrounding us every second of the day, protecting us, bearing the burdens and the hurts and the harms and the difficulties. He will be protecting us. We will be in him. We will be preoccupied with him and enjoying him.

I think I’ve said it amongst you before, I don’t think I’ve ever had an out-of-body experience –- whatever that is — but I did have an odd time when I was a boy in summertime. I looked at somebody else and think, “Wouldn’t it be funny to be in them and not in me — and to kind of feel a little separation from myself?” Sometimes, you kind of glimpse that, “Wouldn’t it be fun to live above yourself and be separated from yourself?” But, we’re so used to thinking of ourselves as ourselves, and as our limits of our own existence. Yet, Jesus is the one who is in us. That’s why we are here.

The other one is so dead obvious. Can you imagine another Jesus like Marty? See – there isn’t, there isn’t. You mean, he may wish there was! I may wish there was another Ernest O’Neill – but there isn’t! There is not another Jesus like you, like each one of you. You are the only version of Jesus that exists just like you. That is a great privilege. That’s wonderful. That undoubtedly is why from the earliest days we talked about being born again and having a new life because that’s what it meant. It meant the old life being done a away with and Jesus living here with YOUR NAME! What you were giving him was your name. Even the old people years ago knew that because they said, “Oh yeah, that’s your Christian name, isn’t it? That’s not your real name. Your real name is something else. This is your CHRISTIAN name.” That was because YOU became Christ-man. The old church’s view: you became a new existence of Jesus here on earth. It’s a great privilege that we have.

I would suggest that in preparation for communion now, we just spend time in prayer. You can pray aloud if you want, do whatever you want, but most importantly, ask Jesus to give you light, to give me light, to give each other light as to any ways in which we are assuming something to ourselves: any attitudes we have that are not real and are not his, any ways in which we are ignoring him so that he may give us light. Let us pray.