Words that echo in every mother’s ear.
“But Mom,……… I want to!” “Sweetheart, you can’t afford to go.” “Yes I can. I’ve got a good job. They’d give me a loan, or maybe you could loan me the money.” I am not going to enable you to do something you can’t afford. You’ve only been working for a little while. Get those student debts paid down, and get a little security under your feet.” “But Mom, I won’t get a chance like this again. Jenna is going, and the rest of my friends.” “You’re not Jenna and there will always be other opportunities.” “No there won’t. Not like this one.” “Okay, so what happens next moth when something happens to your car, or your rent goes up, or you have to…” “You’re such a pessimist. Nothing is going to happen. You just want to ruin my life, keep me from having any fun. Just because you and Dad are stuck in rut doesn’t mean I have to be.” “I am not trying to ruin your life, I’m trying to protect you , keep you from getting into a spot where you become desperate.” “I wouldn’t be desperate if you loaned me the money.” “That ship has sailed young lady. You are going to have to learn that you can’t have everything you want.” “I don’t want everything. I just want to go on this trip. Why do you have to make everything such a big deal? Honestly, Mom. You make me so frustrated. Just because your life is boring doesn’t mean mine has to be!” Slam- click- buzz. The line goes dead.
So what do you do now Mom? Well, you’ll probably fume for awhile, lick the wounds ingratitude has inflicted, then try to resolve the confusion logically, which, by the way, never works, because emotions are never logical.
In the morning you’ll acknowledge that this wedge your daughter just rammed into your otherwise close relationship was the reason you tossed and turned all night. So, now you can decide to do one of two things: you can either dig in your heels and wait for her to cool down, which will probably take some time, because she is, after all, your daughter, or… you can pray for her.
Mothers, how often have you prayed for your children? Children, do you know what it feels like to be prayed for?
I confess that, in my job, I feel most comfortable when I am the one doing the praying. To be honest, it leaves me in a place where I’m in control of what gets prayed for. But when another prays for me, especially ones who know me, I feel exposed as my paid, my sorrow, my confusions, my anxieties and well as my joys, get named and lifted before God. I feel like my life is being broadcasted.
On the other hand, when I know others are praying for me, there is really nothing I can do but receive these prayers. It’s out of my hands. Having others pray for me causes me to remember that I don’t have to do everything. That I am in relationship with others and these others, my friends, will support me. Mostly, It awakes my often sleeping soul that I am valued enough to be prayed for. Admittedly, that reality is a hard one for me because, like most of you, I don’t think that my life, or what I am going through, is significant enough to deserve this kind of attention.
Today we read a scripture that sounded a lot like a mish-mash of sound; repetitive and convoluted. To be honest, it is. But it helps to remember that this is a prayer and, in the Jewish tradition of prayer, if you wanted to emphasize something, you repeated it three times. Repetition is like mantra, a prayer verse which is repeated over and over again until it drenches the soul.
Now, we could spend more time than we have today dissecting this passage to expose the wisdoms within it. Yet, in doing so, we might just miss the whole point of this verse. This is a prayer. The scripture takes us back to the Upper Room. Jesus senses anxiety rising in the disciples. A few days ago, Jesus rode into this city triumphantly. A few days ago, he cleared the temple. For a few days, the Pharisees have been hiding in every shadow waiting for Jesus to slip up. Now, they’re squirreled away in this upper room. Judas has already fled. The authorities are pressing in. What will tomorrow bring? Of course, we could tell them because we know how the story ends. But that isn’t fair.
At this moment, they don’t know if they’re going to be able to walk home or get thrown in jail, or have to face the church’s high council or…
Their confusion, their not knowing has got them pacing the room. In response to their anxiety, Jesus does the following. He washes their feet. He offers them bread and wine. He tells them that in order to survive what is coming, they must, they have to learn how to love one another. This, he implores them, is a survival strategy. He even commands it of them. They must be ready, if need be, to lay down their lives for one another.
Much like the mother spoke about at the beginning of this sermon, what Jesus is trying to do appears to be an impossible task. Just like the daughter, how do you prepare disciples for something they haven’t experienced yet, something that is not a reality for them? Jesus tells the disciples he will never leave them but will be with them in the presence of God’s Holy Spirit.
Then, finally, as his last act of preparedness, he prays for them. When anxiety appears, he prays for them. When he senses they can handle no more, he prays for them. When they know he will soon leave them, he prays for them. How do you think the disciples felt when their Rabbi, their Messiah, their friend prayed for them? Probably much the way you and I do, vulnerable. But, but it must have also made them feel valued. Their master, the one they honour, humbly bends his head before God and in the midst of all he himself is going through, opens his heart to them and lifts all this to God.
Hopefully, in the midst of their confusion, they could receive this prayer. It made them aware that this was not something they can go through alone. Just ask Peter as the cocked crowed and he realized he had denied knowing his friend three times. The power in this prayer was helping the disciples to realize they don’t have to face the future alone. Jesus will be their to guide. That is why, in this prayer, Jesus prays not once but three times that they all may be one. One with each other, one with Jesus and God, and one with themselves. That becoming as one, they may experience peace.
I really want you to take this final thought with you into the unknown of this coming week, because life is always a great unknown. You may think you have the week all set out and your agenda set but, as the old saying goes, you could be hit by a bus tomorrow. The only thing certain about tomorrow is its uncertainty. So take this thought with you. Jesus has never stopped praying for his disciples. He prays for them still. You, me, we are those disciples. I want you to go away from this sacred space this morning knowing that Jesus, your Rabbi, your Messiah, your friend, is praying for you even as I speak. How does that make you feel? That Jesus, who knows the number of the very hairs on your head, who knows your words before your speak them, is naming before God your greatest fears, along with your greatest gratitude, into the eternal light of God. That Jesus is exposing to God what he knows you can’t take anymore, when you feel alone or truly lonely, when you feel those wedges being driven into your relationships, your regrets, your proud moments, every intimate detail of your life.
I hope this focus Jesus places upon you makes you understand just how valuable each and everyone of you are. I also hope this brings you peace, knowing that you don’t have to be at the command centre of all of life. You don’t have to take care of everything. Jesus is praying that you may be one with yourself, one with the other faithful in this church, and one with him and God through the presence of God’s Holy Spirit.
Jesus is praying for you as deeply and lovingly as a mother prays for her children. Don’t dismiss that. Never believe that you are the middle child living the middle child syndrome. That your life is too insignificant to have Jesus pay much attention to you. Jesus sees you, has called you by your name and IS praying for you. I pray, that knowing this may bring you peace.
By the way, I should let you know that the daughter finally did come around, phoned her Mom and told her she was sorry for the things she had said. Did she go on that trip? I never heard. But the wedge was removed and the two became as one, once more. And there was peace. So don’t tell me there is no power in prayer.