Scripture: John 17:20-26(NRSV)
'I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
'Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.'
Living as we are in the heat of an election year, one in which the politics of division has dominated the electoral process, those of us interested in the potentially positive role of spirituality (and maybe even organized religion) in human living are reminded that divisiveness has been a human reality for a very long time. It most certainly has been a part of the 'religious scene', for sure, even as it so sadly is today on so many fronts.
This limited space is not the place to analyze in detail the causality or the history of this sad human tendency to DIVIDE. I think it appropriate instead to acknowledge the impulse toward seeking UNITY that prompted this prayer of Jesus. This prayer, while certainly directed at early disciples of Jesus, taps into a universal message articulated in the religious tradition in which Jesus was raised, yet found also in so many religious approaches outside of the 'Judaeo- Christian' realm. It also acknowledges a reality existent in Jesus' day, most certainly all too real in this time in which we live as well.
There is a beautiful, mystical feel to these words attributed to Jesus, born of a mysticism that was part of his tradition. Reflection on his words beg questions about how WE, 21st century disciples, are able to visualize a oneness that resides in the heart of creation and then to ACT in the spirit of what we are able to imagine. These are words applicable both internally to the life of the church and in relationship to all that constitutes God's created order. Words spoken in a specific time and context speak to us across the generations and raise new questions for us in our world today, a world which has all too readily embraced the rhetoric, the politics and, sadly, the religion of division. In fact, these words transcend organized religion, while at the same time energizing it, leading us into a way of understanding that draws us more deeply into that which we call 'the divine.'
O God, source of all creation, help us to embrace these very words. Lead us as we embrace your very creation as well, seeing in these words of Jesus a vision of unity and oneness existent in the very depth of our lives, a vision for us to embrace, a vision by which we might live! We pray this in His name, the name of Jesus! Amen
Rev. Dr. Robert R. LaRochelle is an ordained UCC clergyperson who has served churches in Union and Manchester, Connecticut, as well as ELCA churches in Windsor, Wethersfield, and Plainville, Connecticut. He also worked as a teacher and counselor in ...