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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

John 17:20-26
James McTyre
Lake Hills Presbyterian Church
May 23, 2004

Happy Easter! Oh gee, am I late? You know, I’ve got an organizer. I try to stay up on current events. I have cards. I’ve got eggs. Chocolate bunnies with the ears not even bit off (and you know what a temptation THAT is. Why is it we always go for the ears first? So cruel). Sure, I’m a little late, but you know what they say - it’s the thought that counts.

Jesus has thoughts. Jesus prays to God his Father - Our Father who art in heaven - that we might be one in them as they are One. Jesus prays that you, and I, will be of the mind of God and be with God just as he is. Jesus prays that through the Holy Spirit you and I will love God and love Jesus just as they love each other.

It is a sad fact that God isn’t always in our thoughts. We don’t love God as Jesus loved God. We aren’t one with God the Father Almighty any more than the disciples were. Immediately after Jesus prayed this prayer he was betrayed and denied by the very people he was praying for. Earthly love falls short of heavenly love. From our point of view, Jesus’ prayer remains unanswered, and in our more pessimistic times we might even wonder if it’s forgotten.

On the church calendar, today is the seventh Sunday of Easter, the last Sunday in the season of Easter. But on own personal calendars, Easter is long gone. We’ve had Mother’s Day. Father’s Day is coming, and before that, Memorial Day, Graduation Days, End-of-school-days (and let the teachers in the congregation say, “Amen!”) The Easter Egg Hunt, the rainy sunrise of Easter (remember them?) seem a long time ago, more than seven weeks. Were it not for the photos in the hallway, we might not think about them at all. The sad fact is that Easter doesn’t stay on our minds any more than any other day.

But the glorious fact is that even though our earthly love falls so short of its heavenly goal, even though the greatest event in the world slips away, we stay stuck on God’s mind, and stuck in Jesus’ prayers. Through the Holy Spirit, those disciples were able to change the world. Through the grace of God, the disciples did remember and did accomplish just enough - despite themselves - that we’re here, not only seven weeks after, but 2000 years after Easter. Despite our own denials and betrayals of the Word of God, the words of Jesus’ prayer are strong enough, Jesus’ prayer is eternal enough to see us through.

“Righteous Father, the world does not [think about] you, but I [think about] you; and these… that you have sent me [-- they think about you, too]. 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 [-- on their minds and in their hearts].”

It may sound as though the Easter greeting is seven weeks too late. But it’s not. For you and for me, it’s right on time. And it will stay on time, whatever time we need it. Happy Easter.


Usually, we complain about God being late, not early.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? - Psalm 13.
How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile your name forever? - Psalm 74
How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealous wrath burn like fire? - Psalm 79
O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? - Psalm 80
O Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult? - Psalm 94

Our own prayers and thoughts probably aren’t so poetic. If heaven is eternal communion with God, then hell must be like an airport terminal where all of the flights are cancelled. And rescheduled. And cancelled again. After a while you start thinking, “We could have driven to DisneyWorld in this amount of time.” And you swear your next vacation will be in the mountain heaven of Pigeon Forge. How long, O Lord, how long?

How long does it take to get a lab report back? How long until that kid calls to say where she is? How long until the right job, or the right person, or the right feeling comes along? How long until some of these prayers get answered? THAT’S the usual complaint. God has slipped a schedule. God is late.

But putting the shoe on the other foot, I would guess that God has the same complaints about us. Jesus came. Easter came. Jesus arose. How much longer until these people get with the program? But unlike us, God knows the answer: Never. We’ll never answer God’s prayers. We’ll never answer God’s prayers for us because we’re addicted to our complaints. God knows that. So on our behalf, God answers God’s own prayer. Jesus comes. Easter comes. Jesus arises. 2000 years ago, God gave us a new status. 2000 years ago, God answered our prayers. 2000 years ago, God smashed the ultimate deadline.

The truth is, we spend most of our time waiting around for something that’s already happened. Who we are is not determined by a lab report. What we are isn’t decided by our comfort. Where we are headed has already been chosen by Christ who laid down his life for our sakes. Written upon our hearts is the covenant of grace, engraved upon us by God who sees our secret sins and does us one secret better. The secret of God’s kingdom is that it came early, not late. The secret of God’s mercy is that it was there before our sins. Through Jesus, God has placed heaven within our reach. Already.

How long? How long, O Lord how long? It’s not that God doesn’t answer, or gives the wrong answer. It’s that we’re asking the wrong person.


Proverbs 1:22 is a twist on the lament of the Psalms. “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?” It’s easy to aim that little gem at the poor dense people who disagree with us, who regularly go out of their way to make life difficult. They’re out there, you know. The people who wake up every morning with no other purpose than to tick us off. It’s usually our parents. We parents don’t like doing it, but they made us sign papers when you were born. Of course we can’t make you totally miserable, so sometimes we subcontract with your friends and teachers. Don’t worry. Someday you’ll have children of your own. And we’ll dote on them and tell embarrassing stories about you. How long? Oh, most of your lives.

Um, anyway. The sharp point of Proverbs 1:22 is, actually, pointed right back at us. God’s love is out there. Jesus prays for us. How long will WE not get it? God is on time. Jesus died and arose at the right time. How much longer will we complain that God doesn’t care? How much longer will we take God's love for granted?

In some ways, those are rhetorical questions. We'll never get it 100% right. There's always going to be part of us that gets stuck with lament & complaint. Some of us really are in situations where the only appropriate response is a good, heartfelt, "How long, O Lord, how long?"

But there's another part of us, a deeper part, that does resonate with the songs of the Holy Spirit. After we've run out of anxiety and anger, it's the part that remains. It's where we find stillness and peace so unexplainably real that it could only come from Jesus himself. And it does. It's the prayer of Jesus, and it goes,

“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.”

Today, at the end of Easter, that prayer begins again. So on the day when you and I look around and wonder where in the world God is, we hear a gentle voice in our souls that says, “O simple ones. I am with you all along.”

So happy Easter. Happy Easter seven weeks ago and happy Easter today. Happy Easter on that day when you need Easter the most. It’ll be there. God’ll be there. Jesus will be there. And you’ll be there. Together.