"Cheers' was a popular television show in the 1980's that featured a cast of characters who frequented a bar in Boston. What made the show endearing was the community and caring they had for each other. The familiar verse of the theme song encapsulates what the TV show was all about: "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came; you want to be where you can see, troubles are all the same; you want to be where everybody knows your name." Have you ever longed to have that kind of group of friends or be in that kind of loving community? We all have because God built us with a desire for relationship. But sin destroys and hinders our ability to have healthy relationships. In this broken world, there is only one perfect relationship - the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I highlighted this relationship in a sermon last year.
In John 17:20-26, Jesus prayed that we could fully receive the blessings of being invited into that perfect relationship.
In this short passage there are two key topics in prayer: 1) unity and 2) witness
In John 17:21, 22 and 23 Jesus prayed for unity. But what kind of unity was Jesus praying for? A unity of theological viewpoints? of religious practices? Jesus prayed for a unity of relationship as reflected in the Trinity.
John 17:21...that all of them may be one Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us...
Two important points about this type of unity: 1) Because Jesus prayed for unity, it gives us a clue that the power for unity must be rooted in prayer; 2) the model of unity is the relationship between the Father and the Son.
A second key topic in this passage is witness.
The church is able to show the world who God is because of their unity.
John 17:21 May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me...I in them and you in me - so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
The main tools that Jesus equipped the church for the purpose of sharing the good news is the Holy Spirit (John 14-16, Acts 1) and our love relationship with God in Christ and with each other!
The church has oftentimes failed in unity because it has merely been focused on an outward unity of theological knowledge or religious practices rather than a unity focused in the love between God the Father and God the Son.
How do we begin to build relationships that model this love? Three things are necessary in building relationships: time, experiences and transparency. Each of these things takes time and energy and effort. But as we make time for each other, as we experience events and life together and as we open ourselves to share what is really going on in our lives, the kind of unity that Jesus prayed for will start to happen.
Can we be committed to becoming a congregation that can show the world who God is by our unity?