As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Feeling Safe, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Mothers Day, Sunday 8 May, 2016. The Reading was John 17:20-26.
Liesl and I are very different in some respects. For example, I have no qualms about walking around at night alone. No worries at all. She, however, won’t step out at night unless she’s with someone. I would be more than happy to walk around the city at night, to take public transport or catch a taxi alone at night, where as those things would make her very nervous.
And I get it. I understand it. I am a privileged person. As a white male, I am less likely to suffer abuse when in those situations, than Liesl is. Still unlikely, but the unfortunate reality is that women grow up with an inherent understanding that if they are alone at night, they are in danger.
But at the same time, Liesl is still much safer than many others. It makes me sad to know that there are kids in the US who are taught from an early age to be alert when a police officer approaches them, and to be certain about everything they say and do, because the reality is that they are more likely to be arrested for no reason, purely because of the colour of their skin.
One mother told a youth leader in the US, “Every time he goes out of the house, I say a prayer that he’ll be safe. You know, when there are more than two black boys walking down the street, people get suspicious. They attract attention from the police. It happens all the time,” she said. ”Even if they don’t do anything, they’re likely to get in trouble. So I keep praying until he comes back in the door.”
I wonder if you can relate to that? I know for me, while I can hear that, and acknowledge it, and understand it, I find it difficult to relate to it. It’s an experience that’s so foreign to me in my privileged white male position. And while I know that my mum has prayed for me, and worried about me, it’s not to the same extent as Liesl’s parents, who couldn’t sleep until they heard her walk through the door. And that’s not to the same extent as the mother who stays up praying every time her son goes out the door, praying that he’ll come home safe, praying that the knock at the door won’t be the police, telling her the worst news possible.
The world is an unsafe place
The reality is that our world is an unsafe place. While we might hate to admit it, the reality is that we can find ourselves in a dangerous position at any time. Whether it is from something major like war or terrorism, or just from abuse, our world is an unsafe place. And while for us, we are in a privileged position where we can worship freely, for many Christians around the world today, they face persecution if they openly worship Christ as Messiah, and as such need to hide, having their church services underground so that no-one might find out.
This was the reality that Jesus knew his disciples faced. In the very next chapter on from where we read today, Jesus is arrested. This was his last words to his disciples. He knew that they would find life difficult. They would be persecuted. They would be harassed. Their faith would be tested. And just like how the mother we heard from earlier prayed for her sons, Jesus prayed for his disciples, like a mother who had adopted the children before him. They belonged to God, but were given to Jesus to care for, to nurture and teach. Jesus knew he would go away soon, and as such prayed for these children with a motherly heart.
But, Jesus’ prayer doesn’t stop with those who are seated at the table before him. He continues to pray for those who would come to believe because of the words of those disciples. That’s you and me. We have come to know Jesus because of the words of his disciples. From his twelve, but also from those faithful believers who have inputted into our lives. We each have our spiritual mothers and fathers who have helped bring us to Christ, who have helped us to grow in faith, and who have – like Jesus – prayed for us to be safe as we grow.
We can pray as Jesus prayed
It’s reassuring to know that Jesus prayed for his disciples, and it’s reassuring to know that he prayed for us. But in his prayer is an implied command. He prays for those who will come to know him through the words of his disciples. His disciples are there commanded to go and to share the word of God so that others may believe. If we are to consider ourselves as Disciples of Christ, then we must also share the word of God, so that others may come to know Jesus. And as we do that, we take on that role that Jesus took, to care for them in the same way that Jesus cared for his disciples, to pray for their safety in the same way that the mother prayed for her children – non-stop until they came through that door.
We can pray for the safety and growth of those that we have introduced to Jesus, but just like Jesus, we should be praying for those that they will introduce to Jesus.
As others come to know Jesus, the world will be made safe
When we believe in Jesus, our lives are transformed. I’m sure many of you can attest to that – that when you consider your life before you came to know Jesus, that you were a different person. God transforms us to become more like Jesus. When we pray as Jesus prayed, we become more like Jesus. When we introduce others to Christ, then we open them up to the possibility of God transforming them into being more like Jesus. And when more and more people are transformed to being more and more like Jesus, our world will be transformed – from a world where hate and divisiveness reign to one where love and inclusiveness rule; from a world of fear to a world of assurance; from a world of war and worry to a world of peace and comfort.
Pray as motherly Jesus prayed
So today, I’m inviting you to come and pray as Jesus prayed. You might like to come and pray as Jesus prayed, praying for those that you care about – both family, and those who you’ve introduced to Jesus. You might like to pray like Jesus prayed, and pray for those who will come to know Jesus. Or maybe, you’re sitting there and you’re thinking that your life is filled with things you don’t want – maybe your life is filled with hate, or fear, or worry. Come forward and pray, asking for Christ to help transform your life to be more like Jesus.
As we spend some time in prayer, you’re invited to join in with this Chorus – To be like Jesus, this hope possesses me. The place of prayer is open to all, and someone will come and pray with you, to seek out how you can be more like Jesus.