Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Reward of Being a Welcoming People -- A Sermon

Matthew 10:40-42

In his book The Hidden Gifts of Helping: How the Power of Giving, Compassion, and Hope Can Get Us Through Hard Times, Stephen Post suggests that the “recipe for living a rich, less stressful, healthier, and more meaningful life than you thought possible . . . [is to] give of yourself to someone else” (pp. 27-28).

The responses I heard from the Peace Week mission teams and from the congregations who helped support their work, such as by providing meals, confirm this observation.  Not only were the recipients of this help blessed, but so were the givers of help.   That is, giving and receiving help is circular – you give and you receive and you give again, and in this relationship between giver and receiver, there is great reward.        

In this morning’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew,  Jesus debriefs his disciples after they have returned from a mission trip. He seems to want to know how they were treated.  Hopefully when the teams from Indianapolis, Lexington, and Lincoln Road, were asked how they were treated by the folks in metro-Detroit, they could give a positive report, because as Jesus says – how they receive you is how they receive me, and the one who sent me.

The mission trip under discussion involved the twelve disciples being sent out in pairs.  Jesus told them to proclaim the reign of God, heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons. They weren’t  supposed to take anything with them, but instead they were to live off the generosity of their audience.  When they entered a home, they were to offer a blessing in exchange for this gracious hospitality.  And if the people to whom they went refused to offer hospitality – well, woe be unto them!

So here we are at the debriefing – something we’re going to do this Wednesday evening when Carl Zerweck and Carl Gladstone come to talk to us about Peace Week.  From Jesus’s tone, it appears that not everyone had a good experience.  But, Jesus tells them – it wasn’t you, it was me they were rejecting, and in rejecting me, they rejected God.   But if a community welcomed you, they were also welcoming me and the one who sent me  (Matt. 10:1ff).

The Gift of Hospitality

When Abraham and Sarah welcomed the three visitors to their tents at the Oaks of Mamre (Gen. 18:1ff), by offering them food and shelter, they were abiding by the expectations of their culture.   Their response stands in stark contrast to the way these same strangers were received by the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Lot and his family did the right thing, but their neighbors tried to rape and kill the strangers, and as a result suffered the judgment of God for failing to abide by their covenant obligations.

There’s a principle at work in these stories that was very prominent in the ancient world. You should treat the stranger well, because you might be entertaining “angels unawares.”  As it says in Hebrews:  “Don’t neglect to open your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it” (Heb. 13:2).

  Maybe that’s why we read so many stories in the Bible about people and communities practicing hospitality.  They knew that in welcoming the stranger they were welcoming God into their homes.  How do we see the practice of hospitality in our own lives – both at home and at church?

A Welcoming People

Remember when we laid out our core values more than two years ago.  We decided that two of them should describe us as being a serving and accepting congregation.  But what does this require of us?

Everything I read these days says people are seeking spiritual things, but they don’t think that the institutional church has answers to their questions.  Even if they’re open to the possibility that God could be found residing in our churches, they’re not all that hopeful that this true.

In the gospel reading Jesus says that the way in which people receive the message that we’re called to share is a sign of their receptivity to the things of God.  But I’m wondering if after two thousand years we shouldn’t turn this passage on its head, so that the question isn’t whether we’re being welcomed into the lives of the recipients of our message, but whether we’re willing to welcome the stranger into our lives and our communities.  That is, could it be possible that God is present in the stranger who comes to us?

In the book of Acts, some of the disciples left the comfort of the Upper Room and headed out into the world, bearing the message of God’s realm to that world, eventually taking the message beyond the Jewish community to the non-Jewish world.  They took a  message of grace, mercy, love, freedom, and justice, and while some people received the message, others didn’t.  Some of the hearers of the word found the message of the cross to be foolishness, but the message continued to be proclaimed, and it took root in the hearts and minds of some of the hearers of that word.

We are, of course, an extension of that ministry, even as we embrace the call to be a missional congregation.  To be such a congregation also involves being a welcoming community.  But are there limits to our hospitality?  

Remember what Doug Pagitt shared with us in February about his congregation in Minneapolis?  About how the two young women who found a home in that community, even though one of them didn’t know what she believed about God and the other saw herself as an atheist.  Although Doug and his church don’t shy away from proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Savior, these young women found in that congregation a place of welcome and safety and spiritual wholeness, even if they weren’t ready to embrace the whole of the Christian faith.

Being a welcoming people is more than an abstract principle.  It’s more than words on paper.  It’s about real people and real lives.  In her closing sermon at the Streaming Conference at Rochester College last month, Katie Hays  suggested that all the directives found in the Letter of James about the use of the tongue and showing favoritism to the rich while neglecting the poor, and even the directive to call on the elders when you’re sick so that they might pray for you, suggests that this letter is written to a “pre-missional” community.  They have too many issues to work through before they can invite the world into their lives.  That is, they hadn’t yet learned how to welcome each other, so how could  they hope to welcome the stranger?

Are we ready to go into the world bearing the message of God’s reign?  Are we a pre-missional community?  Or are we a missional one?  That is, have we become a truly welcoming people?    And are there limits to our welcome?
What about people who speak a language other than English?   Or whose race, religion, or culture is different from the majority of our members?   What if their theology is a bit different from ours?   Or their taste in music?  Maybe it’s more Jayzee than Bach.  Indeed, what about the generational differences that are present in this very congregation?  And of course, there’s the matter of sexual orientation, which we don’t talk much about, even though it’s a major topic in the broader culture.

What does it mean for us to be a people who are truly welcoming of others?    

Jesus says that in welcoming others, he is welcomed, and when he is welcomed God’s presence is affirmed and welcomed.  In this there is great reward.

Preached by:
Dr. Robert D. Cornwall
Pastor, Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Troy, MI
2nd Sunday after Pentecost
June 26, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Give a Witness -- A Sermon for Trinity Sunday

Matthew 28:16-20
To “Give a Witness” is to offer a testimony about what God is doing in your life and in the world.  It’s also a good way of thinking about this morning’s text, in which Jesus gives the “Great Commission.”   
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you.”
What memories does this passage stir?  When did you first hear it?  How does this verse speak to you today? 

Just a few moments ago we commissioned the delegates for the General Assembly in Nashville, and the theme of this assembly is “Tell It!”, which is another way of saying “give a witness.”   What stories would you want to tell about what God is doing today?

Giving a Witness to a Relational God

Although by tradition this is Trinity Sunday, Disciples of Christ have always been a bit ambivalent about the Trinity.   In fact, Alexander Campbell changed the words of our opening hymn so that we wouldn’t be singing praise to the Blessed Trinity.  So, while I know that not everyone is comfortable with the Trinity or understand how the doctrine works, it’s been the dominant way for Christians to define the nature and the activity of the God we meet in Jesus Christ. 

Now, I’m not planning to offer a lecture this morning on the intricacies of Trinitarian doctrine, but this doctrine invites us to consider that there is diversity within the unity that is God, and that in God’s very being there is this powerful relational element that draws us into God’s orbit so that we might share in God’s relational presence, so that we can be in partnership with God.   

And if the Great Commission offers a baptismal formula that speaks of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Paul’s closing benediction from  2 Corinthians gives further definition of what it means for God to be Trinity:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  (2 Cor. 13:13 CEB).
As we tell our story of what God is doing in our midst, Paul reminds us that grace, love, and fellowship are important markers of this presence.  It is in the presence and the power of this God that we go forth into the world, and as we do, we carry with us this message of Jesus:  “I’ll be with you until the end of the age.”   
Motown and Peace Week

The Great Commission begins with the words “Go and make disciples.”  In other words, don’t stay where you’re at, but go into the world and draw the world into God’s vision of a new realm, where justice and peace, love, and grace are the predominant values.  It’s an invitation to join with God in the work of transforming the world in which we live so that it might be reflective of God’s realm.  

And since our calling this morning is to give a witness, I want to share some stories about what I saw God doing this past week during Peace Week.  The great thing about this story I want to tell is that many of you got to share in it.  

So, before I tell my version of the story, I’d like everyone who participated in Motown Mission's Peace Week in some way to stand, if you’re able.  If you cooked or served a meal at Metropolitan United Methodist Church, or you sat with the participants and shared in a meal, or provided financial support, or colored book marks to give to the participants, or if you went down to Northwestern Christian Church or United Christian Church and did a little painting or pull weeds – please stand.  There are others, including Alex McCauslin, who aren’t able to be with us this morning who also shared in this work, and everyone who participated in this story participated in the wonderful work that God is doing in our midst in partnership with God’s people.   

While we’re giving our witness, I’d like to point out some people who have joined us for worship this morning from Rippling Hope Ministries.  Rippling Hope, which is led by Carl and Robin Zerweck, provided the on-the-ground leadership and support for the mission teams that came to Detroit from Lexington and Indianapolis and central Michigan.  Two of the groups were Disciple and one was United Methodist.   

What happened this past week is the result of a series of partnerships that began developing over the past two and half years, and which ultimately included Motown Mission, Rippling Hope, Northwestern Christian Church, the churches of the Michigan Region, and CWCC.  Together we provided an opportunity for mission teams to come to Detroit, so that people could be blessed, whether it was through service or through receiving these services.   And what began this week is only the beginning!

So, let me give my testimony.  I had the opportunity to share in a dinner that CWCC provided for the mission teams as they arrived on Sunday afternoon.  With this initial burst of hospitality, which then extended to Tuesday evening – and as I understand it, included a few breakfasts along the way – the week was underway.  Later, on Wednesday morning, I went down to Northwestern Christian Church to see what was happening onsite, because I was hearing good things.   When I got there Karen of Rippling Hope put me to work painting, which I did until Carl Zerweck stopped by and invited me to go over to United Christian Church to see the work being done on their parsonage.  In both places I saw young people hard at work creating inviting spaces for ministry to occur.  In both places I heard words of deep appreciation for the gifts that the mission teams had brought to these communities.  

I also heard how the mission teams had gone out into the neighborhood around Northwestern, picking up trash and doing painting and repair work on homes suggested by the local Block Club.  From everything that I heard, the people of the neighborhood were truly blessed not only by the work, but the fact that these strangers from out of town cared enough to come and help.  And not only that, but Eugene told me that the State Representative from that district stopped by and expressed his appreciation and invited Eugene, Carl, and me to meet with him to talk more about what this ministry is doing in that neighborhood. 

Yes, God is at work and this past week we got to join in the work that God is doing in Detroit.  That was the theme of the celebration this past Friday evening as we gathered with the mission teams at Northwestern to bring their week to a close with dinner and a celebration in worship, where stories of God’s work got shared.  From what I can see and what I’ve heard, this was a smashing success!  

Now, the summer isn’t over, and there are still opportunities for us to join in the work both at Motown and through Rippling Hope.  I’m sure that Carl would be glad to tell you how you could be involved – there is hammering to be done, painting to be done, and of course, meals to be served.  You can talk with him after service – he’ll be the one who gave the benediction.

Then on the 29th of this month, we’ll have the opportunity to debrief our experiences.  I’ve asked both Carl Gladstone of Motown and Carl Zerweck of Rippling Hope to join us for this conversation, so we can start planning for next year (if not before).  Finally, in regard to Peace Week, on behalf of Motown and the Mission teams who gathered this week in Detroit, I want to thank you for what you did to make this dream a reality.  
In a moment we’ll sing one of the great mission hymns of the church:  “We’ve a story to tell to the nations. “ I know this hymn sounds a bit triumphalist, but if you can get past this language, the hymn offers an invitation to consider the story that we have been given by God, a story that invites our neighbors into discipleship through baptism and through obedience to the commandments of Jesus. 

Now may “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” as you “go and make disciples of the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” knowing that Jesus has promised to be with us to the end of the ages.

Preached by:
Dr. Robert D. Cornwall
Pastor, Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Troy, Michigan
Trinity Sunday
June 19, 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Prophet Reports -- A Pentecost Sermon

Numbers 11:24-30

The biblical prophets aren’t very appealing characters.  Remember Jeremiah?  He was sent packing to Egypt in a big jar.  And then there’s Elisha who cursed a group of boys who were making fun of him because he was bald, and as a result two bears attacked the boys.  Then there’s Jonah who got upset when God spared the people of Nineveh when they repented.  Those are just a few stories about prophets, who on their best days had a tendency to say things that people didn’t want to hear.   
I expect that when most of us think of prophets we have in mind a “John the Baptist” type, who dresses funny and maybe has a long beard -- unless she’s a she like Huldah -- and makes you feel uncomfortable when they’re around.  So maybe you weren’t all that pleased to hear Moses say that he’d love it if everyone was a prophet!    

Since it’s Pentecost Sunday and we’re supposed to think about the things of the Spirit, it might be good to remember that prophets factor into this story as well.  

Do you remember when the Spirit of God fell on the disciples as they were in the Upper Room?   They’d been waiting for Jesus to fulfill his promise to send the Holy Spirit to them after he left.  Well, it had been ten days, and although they’d gotten some business out of the way, such as filling Judas’s spot in the leadership team, they were just waiting to see what would happen.  If they were like me, they were probably getting a bit impatient and maybe a bit anxious.  You know how it is – after you go to the doctor and have some tests done.  It’s agonizing having to wait for the results.   

But then it happened.  Ten days later, as Jews from around the Mediterranean world descended on Jerusalem to celebrate the festival of Pentecost, the Spirit fell on the people and they start prophesying, apparently doing so in the various languages of the gathering crowd.  It seems they caused quite a commotion, and so Peter decided to take advantage of the situation and do a little preaching, and he decided to base his sermon on the words of the prophet Joel.  After all, every preacher needs a text!  And Peter focused in on Joel’s words about the last days – I hope Harold Camping is paying attention – when the Spirit would fall on the people of God and they would  dream dreams and prophesy – the young and the old, men and women.  Yes, it appears that in the mind of Joel and of Peter, a day would come when everyone would be a prophet, just as Moses had hoped.  So are you ready to take up your prophetic calling? 


Moses’ word about everybody being a prophet has a context.  If you go back a bit in the passage from the Book of Numbers you’ll see that Moses was struggling with his job.  Here he was the leader of his people, called by God from a Burning Bush to go down to Egypt and tell Pharaoh: “Let my People God!”  And he did it.  He had led the people of Israel out of bondage, but now things were getting a bit overwhelming.  With more than 600,000 people to herd across the desert, you can see how things could get a bit overwhelming, especially if you were having to do it all by yourself.  

What Moses needed to do was learn the lessons we had to learn in kindergarten.  Remember kindergarten?  I don’t know what you learned in kindergarten, but I remember learning to  tie my shoes, eat graham crackers, and take naps.  We also learned about sharing, which was part of the broader purpose of learning how to get along with others.  We had to do this because sharing apparently doesn’t come naturally.  And we don’t stop learning how to share in kindergarten – we all seem to need some regularly scheduled continuing education.   In fact, if Mr. Rogers weren’t dead, we could ask him to come and help us learn how to share our toy trucks!

Now Moses had to learn this lesson the hard way.  He was carrying the burdens of the entire community on his back, having to listen day and night to complaints about the food, the lodging, and the length of time it was taking to get across the desert.  It was getting so overwhelming that one day Moses yelled at Go: “If this is the way you're going to treat me, just kill me now and end my miserable life!”  (Numbers 11:15). Now that’s frustration:  kill me now and get it over with, because I’m going to end up with a heart attach anyway!  

And God heard Moses and sent him back to kindergarten for a refresher course in sharing.  God did this by having Moses choose seventy leaders who would help him.  Moses was supposed to have the leaders and the people gather in front of the Tabernacle to await further instructions.  And what happens next?  God descends upon the crowd in a cloud, enshrouds Moses, and takes some of the spirit that resided on him and gives it to these seventy leaders.  After they received this spirit of leadership from Moses, they began to prophesy.   

Could it be that the church, like Moses, might need a refresher course in sharing?  We all know that too often the majority of the load falls on the shoulders of a few people, who tend to burn out and often leave as a result.  And churches can become overly dependent on pastors, who pretend to be omnicompetent and omnipresent, even though we’re neither of these things.   What Moses learned by going back to kindergarten is that none of us can carry the whole load.  As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12, to each is “given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  


Moses seems to have learned his lesson about sharing, and so he shared some of these leadership duties with this newly formed Board of Elders.  Everything seems to be going like it should.  Everyone has their policies and procedures manuals and their assigned responsibilities.  To one is given the job of coordinating food distribution and to another planning worship and to still another responsibility for packing up the Tabernacle when it’s time to move.  Moses is happy and the people are happy, because the institution is ready to hum!  Except that God is about to throw everyone a curve ball, just to keep them on their toes.  

Remember those two brothers who stayed behind in the camp to guard things while everyone was at church?  Well, even as the Spirit was anointing the seventy elders, these two brothers named Eldad and Medad start prophesying in the camp.  A young man sees what happens and runs to tell Moses that these two brothers are “out of order.”  They’re not operating according to the Constitution, and Joshua, who is Moses’ assistant gets upset and tells Moses to make them stop.  What Joshua didn’t understand, is that God’s vision is often greater than is ours.  We like things done decently and in order.  Everything has its own box and don’t mess it up!  

Of course, God isn’t bound by our boxes, as God has demonstrated time and again.  Remember when women were supposed to keep silent in the church?  Some of you may remember when women not only didn’t preach in Disciples churches, they weren’t allowed at the Table either.  And even as we take to heart the message of 1 Corinthians 12 that to each is given a manifestation of the Spirit, for centuries the “official church” told women they couldn’t preach or teach because in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul tells the women to be silent in the church.  Of course, they didn’t remain silent.  God had a way of touching people and empowering them for service even when the institution said no.  Consider the stories of women like Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avilla, Anne Hutchinson, Phoebe Palmer, and Aimee Semple McPherson.   

Being that I was once part of the Foursquare Gospel Church, which was founded in the 1920s by a woman preacher at a time when few Mainline Protestant churches ordained women, I thought I’d tell the story of Aimee Semple McPherson.  Back in the 1920s and 1930s Sister Aimee was one of the most prominent preachers in America.  She started a denomination and a megachurch in Los Angeles.  She preached all over the world and was one of the first preachers to make effective use of radio.  Of course, her detractors were many.  They reminded her of what Paul said about women speaking in church, but she responded by telling her detractors that she couldn’t stop preaching because God had given her this gift of the Spirit, so how could she say no to God?   Women like these were the forerunners of Sharon Watkins, who in 2005 became the first woman to lead a Mainline Protestant denomination!  

As for those two brothers, when Moses heard about them he responded to Joshua’s demand that he silence them, because they weren’t following the rules, by saying:   “I wish the Lord would give his Spirit to all his people so everyone could be a prophet” (vs. 29 CEV).  

And on the day of Pentecost the Spirit fell upon the people and in fulfillment of the promise of the prophet Joel, they began to prophesy – young and old, male and female – just as Moses had hoped!

Preached by:
Dr. Robert D. Cornwall
Pastor, Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Troy, Michigan
Pentecost Sunday
June 12, 2001

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Embracing Eternity -- A Sermon

John 17:1-11

I’ve known a few preachers in my time who after they finished their sermon offered a rather lengthy prayer that was almost another sermon.  In fact it appeared as if the recipient of that prayer was the congregation rather than God.  That’s how I feel when I read John 17.  John begins by saying:  
When Jesus finished saying these things, he looked up to heaven and said: “Father the time has come. . . .”  (Jn. 17:1).  
There’s a lot of stuff packed into this prayer, much more than we can digest in one sitting.  There is a word that is present in this prayer, however, that speaks to where we have been this past week. 

Has the word eternity been on your heart and mind this week?  Last Sunday I shared some of my own feelings about Alice’s death and on Thursday we gathered to remember and celebrate her life.  Her death has caused many of us to think about our own mortality and perhaps about what comes after death.  Stirred by Alice’s example, several members approached me about making plans for their own services, and maybe others of you were thinking about it.  There’s wisdom in this, though you needn’t be quite as comprehensive in your planning as was Alice! 

So here we come today, with Alice in our thoughts, and find that today is Ascension Sunday.  I don’t know about you but the Calvinist in me finds this fact to be providential and not coincidental.  Ascension Sunday is all about saying goodbye and looking forward into the future.  Although Jesus has yet to go to the cross in John’s gospel, in Acts 1 not only is Jesus resurrected, but he’s commissioned the disciples to be his witnesses, promised them the Holy Spirit, and is ready to say goodbye, whether or not they’re ready.   Maybe we can sympathize with the disciples. 

A High Priestly Prayer
But the passage that we’ve read isn’t about the Ascension, but about a prayer.  Of course it’s not just any prayer, it’s Jesus’ final prayer for his disciples, and in it we hear Jesus say: “It’s time for me to go home,” so glorify me as I’ve glorified you, protect them as they live their lives in the world, and may they be one, as we are one.  Some scholars call this Jesus’ “high priestly prayer,” and he’s doing what priest’s do, which is intercede for others.   That’s what Alice was.  She was an intercessor.  I guarantee you – if you got a card from her, she probably prayed for you as she sent out that card.    

The Gift of Eternity
Alice’s death is fresh in our minds, but Jean’s death wasn’t all that long ago, and she too has left us a legacy of faithfulness to God.  There are others, of course, who have died over the last few years, whose deaths have marked your own lives.  Remembering their lives and their deaths can be difficult and even painful.

Death is a difficult thing to deal with.  No one likes talking about it.   We don’t like talking about it with our spouses or with our children.  In fact, there are more than a few people, hopefully none of you, who don’t take out life insurance, because it’s so morbid.  But death is part of life.  Alice understood that, which is why she planned her service well in advance of her eventual death.

This leads me to the verses that really stuck out to me this week, and apparently also when I decided on the title for the sermon.  Here in John 17, as Jesus is interceding (and preaching), we hear him say that God had given him the authority to give to everyone, whom God had chosen, the gift of eternal life.  I wonder what this means, that God has authorized Jesus to bestow on us the gift of eternity?

Knowing God 
Many years ago, when I was in seminary, a theologian named Orlando Costas spoke at Fuller Seminary.  Although that lectureship occurred more than 25 years ago, I remember him posing a question for us to think about.   Costas told us the big question facing us isn’t whether there’s life after death.  The big question is this: “Is there life before death?”   If Jesus has the authority to give us eternal life, and Costas is right about the big question that faces us, then what is eternity all about?

Remember how Jesus defined eternal life in John 17?    Remember how he said to God:  “This is eternal life:  to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.”  If eternal life involves knowing God and Jesus, whom God sent into the world, then when does eternity begin?   Could it begin now, in this life?

If eternal life involves knowing God – maybe not in a full sense, but in a real sense nonetheless – then what does this look like?   How do we know God?  Where is God present in our lives?  As I ask this question, I’m mindful of our tendency as human beings to create God in our own image.  Perhaps that’s not surprising – after all, Genesis 1 says that God created us in God’s image.  But taking that caution into our minds, might we not encounter God in the lives of godly people like Alice and Jean as well as in the lives of little Eric and Sylvia?   Have you experienced a sense of God’s presence in the beauty of music or nature?  You know one of the great things about life is that it’s so varied.  What speaks to me might not speak to you.  How you connect with God might be a bit different from me.  Maybe that’s why we have Episcopal Churches, Disciples’ Churches, Baptist Churches, and Pentecostal Churches – just to name a few options.

Or maybe you would like to try the way envisioned by Julian of Norwich, a medieval mystic, whose biography I read recently.  Julian was a very holy person, who  spent most of her life inside a small room praying.  As far as I can tell, she never left that room.  Food was delivered through a small door and whatever needed to be taken away from the room went back out that same door.  From what I’ve read, she had some intense encounters with God.  Although I’m not sure that her methodology would work for me, her writings continue to bless people to this day.  Brother Lawrence, on the other hand, found it possible to experience the presence of God while peeling potatoes and washing dishes.

As we ponder this question of knowing God, perhaps we might pay attention to this qualifying statement of Jesus.
I have glorified you on earth by finishing the work you have sent me to do.  Now Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I shared with you when the world was created.  
I know that we can take this passage to speak of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  I’m sure that this is partly the intent of John, but could it speak of more than this?  Could it speak of our own calling and our own work in the world, work that is not yet finished for most of us?  Perhaps, what we hear in this passage is a question of a legacy.  What is it about our own lives, which will continue to bear witness to the presence of God in our world after we’re gone?  

May I leave this word of definition, as we ponder the meaning of eternity.  Eternal life is this: “To know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.”   May we embrace this message of eternity, so that we might be one, even as Jesus is one with God.  

Preached by:
Dr. Robert D. Cornwall
Pastor, Central Woodward Christian Church
Troy, Michigan
Ascension Sunday/7th Sunday of Easter
June 5, 2011