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Leaves of Life Celebration Service Sermon Notes This resource has been designed to help you prepare for the all ages talk during the Leaves of Life Celebration service. The resource provides two themes as options (with the exception of the 4 th Sunday of Easter) for your talk covering three elements: 1. The Gospel reading of the day 2. An introduction theme that could relate to the Leaves of Life event 3. Some questions to prompt reflection in both children and adults Leaves of Life is about celebrating the Eastertide message of new life, reflected by the children and young people of our communities. The event challenges congregations to place children’s voices at the heart of the parish and seek new life, for them and with them, in the neighbourhood. For your talk to appeal to all ages, we suggest that you: Incorporate children’s participation into your talk. You may wish to consider how you will do this in the days leading up to your talk Include stories to illustrate your talk. These can be real or fictitious, but they should particularly appeal to the children in the audience Include pictures, objects or other visual aids to help keep people engaged Relate the points you make to your local community. Talk about landmarks and people that everyone would know or recognise – for example, you may wish to talk about your local school bus driver, or someone else in your community whose work with children is an example to all Prepare your talk in consultation with a group of children. Ask them their thoughts on some of the questions raised in the resources below. You could ask them to help you deliver the message in person on the day Ask children and adults to come up during the talk and select a leaf off the tree and share it’s contents with the congregation. You could ask them how they might relate the content of the leaf to the theme of the day if this has already been established. Adopting this approach may lead you down a different route to the questions posed, but it may be more personal Finally you could also use one of The Children’s Society stories as a way of highlighting how some other children’s lives may be and how new life has come about through the ministry of The Children’s Society You can adapt this resource or use it in full depending on what you feel is appropriate or what your congregation prefers. Easter Day John 20:1-18 20Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‗They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.‘ 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus‘ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes. 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, ‗Woman, why are you weeping?‘ She said to them, ‗They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.‘ 14When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, ‗Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?‘ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‗Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.‘ 16Jesus said to her, ‗Mary!‘ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‗Rabbouni!‘ (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, ‗Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ―I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.‖ ‘ 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‗I have seen the Lord‘; and she told them that he had said these things to her. Pathways towards a sermon & questions: (A) INTRO: Mary didn‘t recognise Jesus at first, because she was not expecting to see him alive – she was looking for a dead man, not somebody walking and talking: her expectations prevented her from seeing what was right there in front of her eyes. REFLECT: Reflect on occasions in life when we fail to see things ‗truly‘, because our expectations mislead us – you could use magic tricks, optical illusions etc. to illustrate the point. CONCLUDE: The love of God is so much bigger than our expectations – the surprise of God‘s love. QUESTIONS: Do we sometimes feel that other people‘s expectations of us stop them from seeing us for who we truly are? What expectations do we have about our community, and about our neighbours? What do we think people expect of us as individual Christians, and as a church family? (B) INTRO: When Mary couldn‘t find Jesus she said, ‗They have taken away my Lord, and I don‘t know where they have laid him.‘ REFLECT: Remembering times when we‘ve lost something we value/treasure – the sense of anxiety or panic, the sense of urgency – we must find it. CONCLUDE: Jesus finding us, even when we feel that we have lost him. QUESTIONS: What are the ‗treasures‘ of our neighbourhood? What people and places do we really value? What‘s missing from our community? What things do we long to see, but seem to be lost to us? Or Luke 24:1-12 24But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‗Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.‘ 8Then they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. Pathways towards a sermon & questions: (A) INTRO: The women‘s initial terror at their discovery of the empty tomb is turned to joy as they are prompted to remember all that Jesus had told them. Although the situation they found themselves in seemed frightening and confusing, within their own memories they had the ‗resources‘ to understand it, if only they dug deep enough. REFLECT: Reflect on occasions in which we found ourselves overwhelmed, or indeed terrified, but by the grace of God found that we too had the ‗resources‘ to bring hope out of that time of difficulty. CONCLUDE: Proper ‗remembering‘ is a crucial part of what it means to be a Christian, and at Easter we are reminded that every situation we face, no matter how overwhelming or terrifying it is, we face with the God of the Resurrection. QUESTIONS: Have we forgotten things about our past, which could help heal our future if we actively remember them? Has our community forgotten things about its past, which could help heal its future if we actively remember them? How would we go about such a ‗healing remembrance‘? (B) INTRO: The women‘s initial disbelief melts away when they remember Jesus words, and they then rush to share their good news with the other apostles. Although Jesus had done so much to prepare His followers for what was to come, still they dismissed it as an ‗idle tale‘, and could not believe their ears. It was only when they went to explore the situation for themselves that the truth began to dawn on them. REFLECT: Reversing the old maxim, it is sometimes said that ‗Good news is no news‘. People can sometimes seem reluctant to hear ‗good news‘, or unwilling to believe it when they do. Reflect on some situations where people simply cannot, or will not, believe in some truly ‗good news‘. CONCLUDE: Christians are called to be people who have been transformed by, and seek to share, ‗good news‘. Like the first apostles we are often called to proclaim that ‗good news‘ is to be found in the most unlikely of places. Even though we may experience our fair share of being dismissed as peddlers of ‗idle tales‘, still the Risen Christ sends us out to be good news people in a bad news world. QUESTIONS: Can we think of examples of situations in our own lives or communities where we see people all too eager to focus on ‗bad news‘? Can we think of situations in which, despite people‘s scepticism, God can be seen at work in apparently bad situations? How would we go about sharing our belief that ‗good news‘ can still be found in apparently bad situations? 2nd Sunday of Easter John 20:19-31 19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had 20 met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‗Peace be with you.‘ After he 21 said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said 22 to them again, ‗Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.‘ When he had said this, he 23 breathed on them and said to them, ‗Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.‘ 25 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‗We have seen the Lord.‘ But he said to them, ‗Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.‘ 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, 27 Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‗Peace be with you.‘ Then he said to Thomas, ‗Put your finger here 28 and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.‘ Thomas answered him, 29 ‗My Lord and my God!‘ Jesus said to him, ‗Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.‘ 31 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. Pathways towards a sermon & questions: (A) INTRO: It‘s a strange thing Jesus does when he first appears to the disciples in this Gospel reading: he shows them his wounds, the places where flesh has been torn and bone broken, the places where he was hurt. It is by these wounds that his disciples recognise him. REFLECT: Most of the time we take great pains to cover or hide our wounds and places we have been hurt, whether they be physical wounds, or emotional or psychological ones. Offer some examples. CONCLUDE: However, touched by the Resurrection love of God, those places of hurt can be transformed into the places which positively identify us as Christians – not people who never get wounded, but people who in acknowledging their brokenness make space for God‘s healing to begin. QUESTIONS: Have there been times when our own attempts to ‗cover our wounds‘ has delayed or prevented our healing? Are their places of hurt or brokenness in our own community which people attempt to ‗cover up‘ or ignore? What could be done to begin to bring healing to those wounds? (B) INTRO: This morning‘s Gospel begins with the disciples hiding behind locked doors, fearful of the world outside. However, these barriers cannot keep Jesus out of the disciples‘ lives, and when Jesus gets through to the frightened disciples, the first words He brings them are about peace and forgiveness, and to send them out in to the world, just as He was sent. REFLECT: Fear can be a positive thing, a necessary thing for our survival. But fear can also take on a life of its own in people‘s lives, trapping them, locking them behind literal or metaphorical doors. Reflect on some examples of these sorts of situations. CONCLUDE: Again and again in the Gospels we hear the words, ‗Fear not‘. Jesus does not want fearful disciples, and brings to us the hope that God can break down the fears that trap us with words of peace and forgiveness, and thus transformed can send us out to seek to liberate others from their places of fear… mindful that we too will face rejection and persecution at times, because we are being sent ‗as the Father sent’ Jesus. QUESTIONS: Have you known times when you have been trapped by fears? Why do you think one of the first things Jesus talks to the fearful disciples about is forgiveness? What power does fear exercise in your local community, and what can you do to help break that power? 3rd Sunday of Easter John 21:1-19 21After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in 2 this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the 3 sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, ‗I am going fishing.‘ They said to him, ‗We will go with you.‘ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 5 4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to 6 them, ‗Children, you have no fish, have you?‘ They answered him, ‗No.‘ He said to them, ‗Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.‘ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there 7 were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‗It is the Lord!‘ When Simon Peter heard that it 8 was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. 10 9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, 11 ‗Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.‘ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of 12 large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‗Come and have breakfast.‘ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‗Who are you?‘ because they knew 13 14 it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. 15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‗Simon son of John, do you love me more than 16 these?‘ He said to him, ‗Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.‘ Jesus said to him, ‗Feed my lambs.‘ A second time he said to him, ‗Simon son of John, do you love me?‘ He said to him, ‗Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.‘ Jesus 17 said to him, ‗Tend my sheep.‘ He said to him the third time, ‗Simon son of John, do you love me?‘ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‗Do you love me?‘ And he said to him, ‗Lord, you know everything; you know 18 that I love you.‘ Jesus said to him, ‗Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and 19 someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.‘ (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‗Follow me.‘ Pathways towards a sermon & questions: (A) INTRO: How hard it must have been for Peter to have his loyalty and love questioned by Jesus – three times. With the memory of his betrayal of Jesus so sharp in both their minds, it must have been an incredibly painful conversation. And yet at exactly the same time as Jesus is questioning Peter‘s love, He is giving him new responsibilities, new ministries. REFLECT: Reflect on experiences of having let people down, or feeling that you had betrayed someone‘s trust. Reflect especially on the self-questioning that accompanied those experiences, and the changes that perhaps followed. CONCLUDE: God did not found His Church on ‗perfect people‘. Peter‘s calling to new ministries is so intimately entwined with being called to face past failings, because one of the wonders of the Easter story is of how God brings change into the world not through human strength, but through transforming human weakness and sinfulness – that‘s what we see in this story about Jesus and Peter, and it‘s what we see above all in the journey from Good Friday to Easter. QUESTIONS: Have you found that experiences of failing someone (or being failed by someone) have led to periods of self-questioning? Are there people in your community who may feel that others have failed (or betrayed) them? How, at a community level, can we enter into an experience of self-questioning that can be positively transforming? (B) INTRO: What an extraordinary story about such ordinary things. After all that has happened to them, the disciples have returned to their ‗everyday jobs‘. However into this very ‗ordinary‘ scenario, Jesus meets with them again, and it‘s over breakfast, and He‘s cooked it for them! REFLECT: Reflect on occasions in which we have had experiences of God‘s extraordinary love for people, through apparently very ordinary situations. CONCLUDE: Do we pay enough attention to the presence of God in the ordinary and the everyday? There is so much we might be missing if we don‘t. QUESTIONS: In what everyday things are we already aware of God‘s presence with us? In what seemingly ordinary places in our community can we see God‘s love at work? How might we go about developing our awareness of God in the ordinary and the everyday? 4th Sunday of Easter John 10:22-30 22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‗How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.‘ 25Jesus answered, ‗I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father‘s name testify to me; 26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father‘s hand. 30The Father and I are one.‘ Pathways towards a sermon & questions: (A) INTRO: When John speaks of ‗the Jews‘, he is referring to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem who repeatedly sought to undermine and oppose Jesus. They say they want ‗proof‘ that Jesus is the Messiah, but no matter what Jesus says or does they always want more. REFLECT: Reflect on an occasion where you or someone you know, procrastinated over a decision for a long time, because they kept wanting more information before they would act. CONCLUDE: Asking questions is an important and proper part of faith – but faith is also a step of trust in the end. Our faith is ‗proved‘ not by the accumulation of ‗facts‘, but by the accumulation of acts of love. QUESTIONS: What experiences in our lives have been ‗proofs‘ to us of the love of God in Jesus Christ? What makes it hard for people today to believe the Gospel? How do we prove to our community that our commitment to follow Jesus is a serious one? 5th Sunday of Easter John 13:31-35 31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‗Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ―Where I am going, you cannot come.‖ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.‘ Pathways towards a sermon & questions: (A) INTRO: It was a hard path Jesus‘ disciples had to walk. For years they had followed their Rabbi, and now He was telling them that He about to leave them, and they wouldn‘t be able to follow Him any further. Right at that moment, how little they can have imagined what lay immediately ahead of them. REFLECT: Reflect on the effect of crises on our lives. Experiences of complete disjunction, where the familiar things in life are overturned; we become separated from someone we love; a way of life is suddenly brought to an end (e.g. moving school; moving house; job loss; divorce; bereavement). CONCLUDE: At those times of crisis we actually stand very close to the first disciples. Our Easter faith is that just as God is with us before our worlds were turned upside down, so God goes into those times of crisis with us, and will bring us through to the other side. QUESTIONS: What experiences have we had of God being with us in our times of crisis? What experiences of crisis or upheaval have there been (or are there likely to be) in our own community? How can our church express God‘s presence in those times of upheaval? (B) INTRO: When first they heard them, I wonder if Jesus‘ disciples realised just how challenging these words were: ‘ Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.’ They were about to discover that the love they were being called to live out was a love that held nothing back, not possessions, not dignity, not even life itself. REFLECT: Reflect on examples of the sacrificial nature of love. CONCLUDE: It is a dreadful irony that the word ‗love‘ in common usage is so often synonymous with ‗want‘: ‗I love that car‘, ‗I love that dress‘, even ‗I love him/her‘. It is then one of the great challenges for Christians today to live out the witness that the word ‗love‘ is closest to is not ‗want‘ but ‗give‘. QUESTIONS: Think of some of the things you ‗love‘, from the most frivolous uses of the word, through to the most serious: in what ways do these different ‗loves‘ reflect ‗wanting‘, ‗giving‘, or bits of both? What things are most wanting in your own community? What things can the church give to your own community? 6th Sunday of Easter John 14:23-29 23 Jesus answered him, ‗Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. 25 ‗I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28You heard me say to you, ―I am going away, and I am coming to you.‖ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. Pathways towards a sermon & questions: (A) INTRO: The intimacy that Jesus seeks with us is something amazing. In this Gospel He tells His disciples that if they remain faithful to Him, then God will come and make His home with them. REFLECT: What state‘s your home in right now? How would you feel if we all invited ourselves round for a coffee? Would there be things you‘d want to tidy? things you‘d want to hide? CONCLUDE: God is not interested in bits of our lives. Ours is not a Sunday morning God. God wants to enter in to the very hearts of our lives, into our homes, into the places where we are most ourselves, and make His home there with us. QUESTIONS: What does ‗home‘ mean to you, and is it a place you would want to welcome Jesus in to? At the time of this Gospel story the disciples were more or less homeless, living ‗on the road‘ with Jesus – how does this affect your understanding of the story? In what places in your community do you think Jesus would feel ‗at home‘, and in which places do you think he would not? (B) INTRO: One can‘t help wondering how much the disciples were able to take in, of what Jesus was telling them at ‗the Last Supper‘; the account we have in St John‘s Gospel is so dense, and so intense. But I can‘t help suspecting that near the forefront of the disciples‘ minds would be Jesus‘ repeated insistence that He was about to leave them. In this morning‘s Gospel, Jesus exhorts the disciples to feel peace and not be afraid, before telling them again that He was about to leave them, and they should rejoice at that. REFLECT: Reflect on occasions when we have been fearful of being parted from someone. CONCLUDE: The disciples were about to experience a sudden, shocking, and painful separation from Jesus. No doubt it was something they would have preferred not to have happened. But the story of Easter (and to some extent the whole Christian story) is all about God being found in some of the most painful experiences of life – separation, betrayal, physical suffering, death – and bringing new life and a lasting hope out of them. That transforming work of God did not stop on Easter morning – it is what God still offers the world, and each one of us, today. QUESTIONS: Can we think of times when we have found experiences of God‘s love, in experiences of suffering? What are the places of suffering in our community? How might God be at work in them? Or John 5:1-9 After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralysed. 5One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‗Do you want to be made well?‘ 7The sick man answered him, ‗Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.‘ 8Jesus said to him, ‗Stand up, take your mat and walk.‘ 9At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath. Pathways towards a sermon & questions: (A) INTRO: For thirty-eight years a man had lain there, and nobody had helped him. Imagine the state he must have been in. And what sort of person is left un-aided for so long? Perhaps he was someone people found it difficult to feel sympathy towards? Physically he must have been a sorry looking specimen by then, but perhaps he was a bit of a rough sort, angry and aggressive maybe. REFLECT: Not everybody who needs our help is easy to help. Offer some examples. CONCLUDE: The healing love of Jesus goes beyond normal human sympathies, and challenges us to go beyond such sympathies too. Similarly, the love of God reaches to those parts of ourselves which we may feel are undeserving of love. QUESTIONS: Are there parts of ourselves we find hard to love? Are there people in our community we find it hard to feel sympathy for? Could any of those people benefit from our help? (B) INTRO: I wonder what it was like by the pool called Beth-zatha? No doubt any pool which was supposed to have curative powers would gather a large crowd – and as this morning‘s Gospel suggests, some of them would have been there for a very long time. Now if you‘ve got a lot of bodies, in a small space, for a long time, I would guess that pool could have been a bit of a shock to the senses to people passing through: with so many people in need of help, it must have been a fairly overwhelming place to visit. REFLECT: Reflect on personal experiences of being overwhelmed by the needs of others. CONCLUDE: Sometimes it‘s easy for us to feel that there are so many people we could help, that it‘s impossible to know where to begin, and we‘re better off keeping to ourselves. But we are called to follow Jesus – someone who went in to places of need, and did something. Remember that in this story Jesus only heals one person. QUESTIONS: Are there times when you feel that there is so much need in the world, you simply don‘t know where to begin? Where are the places of need within your own community? Is there one thing your church community could do (or you as an individual could do) to make a difference in one of those situations? 7th Sunday of Easter John 17:20-end 20 ‗I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that 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. 22The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23I 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. 24Father, 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. 25 ‗Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26I 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.‘ Pathways towards a sermon & questions: (A) INTRO: We know that some of the disciples were quite ambitious for personal power, and so no doubt their ears pricked up when Jesus spoke at the Last Supper of them being given the same ‗glory‘ that the Father had given Jesus. After all, they had just recently seen their Rabbi receive a rapturous welcome on his arrival in Jerusalem – clearly the same adulation was being prepared for them. REFLECT: ‗Glory‘ is not a word we use a great deal these days, and when we do it‘s quite often in relation to sports. A ‗glory hunter‘ is someone who often puts their own ambition before the good of the team; and glory is associated with great victories and sporting success. Reflect on contemporary uses of the word. CONCLUSION: The ‗glory‘ that Jesus was to be given, and which he was about to share with his followers, was his triumph over sin through the Cross – but this was not something which was going to be identifiable as a great success or victory to most people‘s eyes. However to the eyes of faith it became clear that the apparent shame and defeat of the Crucifixion was indeed a triumph, and a true glory. QUESTIONS: What would we identify as moments of ‗glory‘ in our own life story? Where are the places of shame and/or defeat in our local community? How might those places be turned into places of glory? (B) INTRO: Jesus‘ prayer that his followers may be ‗one‘ as He and the Father are ‗one‘ can be painful to read. From the antagonism there can be at times between different Christian communities, and within congregations, we often seem conspicuously to fail to be ‗one‘. REFLECT: Reflect on examples of both unity and disunity between and within different Christian communities. CONCLUSION: At Gethsemane Jesus in a sense ‗argued‘ with the Father in prayer. At Golgotha Jesus cried out that the Father had abandoned Him. Nevertheless Jesus and the Father are ‗one‘. Unity is something deeper than agreement. QUESTIONS: In what senses are Jesus‘ followers today ‗one‘? What are the major divisions within our own community? What would unity mean in our community, and what would help to bring it closer?
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