1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
The Gospel of John's main focus is life. And to be more specific, eternal life. This is John's key question, main teaching, and ultimate goal. What does it mean to have eternal life?
For many church goers, eternal life is also the most sought-after prize. They understand it synonymously with going to heaven.
In today's scripture, Jesus defines eternal life clearly in verse 3.
And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Simply put, eternal life is knowing God and Jesus. And "knowing" in John's context is synonymous with "being in relationship." In other words, knowing God and Jesus means being in relationship with God and Jesus. With the promise of the Holy Spirit in John 14, eternal life means being in the triune community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This triune community is a relationship of love and harmony. And Jesus demonstrates this relationship during his ministry on earth; continually revealing his oneness with the Father, continually exemplifying his compassion for the marginalized, continually teaching his disciples how to love through words and actions.
What Jesus brings is the offer of life in relationship and the offer of life in community. As William Loader puts, "Eternal life isn't a place or a gift or a certificate of acquittal, but a relationship."¹
This is why Jesus seems to focus on unity when praying for his disciples just before his impending death. Jesus prays that the disciples would be one. Oneness is the opposite of disunity and division. And this oneness, or unity, is a very countercultural, idealistic and unrealistic concept. Today's culture makes it really hard for us to strive for unity. We are too quick to remove ourselves from relationships. Hookup culture is seen not only in a dating world, but also in every other sub-societies. There is just an overall low expectation and low standard for committed relationships. People ghost each other every day. Cancel culture is a thing too, and using the Urban Dictionary, it is "a form of public humiliation for their past problematic actions and mistakes, ejecting them from the seat of influence or fame, or even from their jobs."
This is our current culture, a culture without grace upon grace. This is why Joaquin Phoenix's words at the Oscars seemed more relevant than ever (See the full speech here).
“Not when we cancel each other out for past mistakes, but when we help each other grow, when we educate each other, when we guide each other toward redemption, that is the best of humanity.”
Today, we celebrate our Commonwealth community's first year together. We started to meet each Sunday with one simple goal to learn how to worship together. But, in hindsight, the real goal behind it was learning how to be in relationships with one another, where Christ is the cornerstone.
There has been a lot of ups and downs but we are here today, because of the patience, endurance, and resilience we put into this relationship gifted to us called Commonwealth Fairfax. Being with God, being with one another, and being with our neighbors—this has always been our motto. And there is still a lot of room where we can learn and grow deeper together and for others to join.
I believe one of the most challenging, but pivotal things in life is learning how to find and surround ourselves with people whom we will walk this journey called life together. And we eventually learn (and sometimes continually learn) that not everyone walks this journey with us. Some people walk at a different pace, some people find a different path, and some people join a different pack.
The past year's unique journey with Commonwealth has been one heck of a journey where—despite our imperfection, brokenness, and fatigue—we continue to not give up on each other and on ourselves and learn how to journey together by guiding, inspiring, and showering one another with grace upon grace. I have found this grace is a true reflection of God's love for us through Jesus, which is also what we are learning from reading the Gospel of John. Jesus prays this later is verses 20-23:
"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."
God's love is revealed to the world through our complete oneness and our complete abidance. In this second year of our journey as Commonwealth, I pray that our journey together continues to touch every aspect of life, witness God's love to our neighbors, and "challenge all systems and instances where that love is absent."² Let us pray.
This post is an adapted excerpt from Minoo Kim's sermon from 2/24/2020.
¹⁻² William Loader, "Easter 7: 28 May John 17:1-11," Bill Loader's Home Page.