Yesterday I had the privilege to teach John 17 to our church family alongside one of the young men in our church, Justin Lenny. The byline to the morning was “what a 20 something wants to pray for their parents and what a parent wants to pray for their 20 something year old child”. It was a fast paced journey through John 17. Fast paced and John 17 don’t usually go together and after we were done I wished we were able to engage in more discussion. One of the fun parts of the morning was having two generations dialogue with one another over the implications of Jesus’ prayer. The two week preparation journey for this sermon was profitable for my own development. I was reminded again of how encouraged I am about the future of church leadership in the Canadian church. Justin is an example of many young men and women that I interact with that have a longing for God and the mission of Jesus Christ. Learning from the next generation is one of the greatest highlights for me.The big idea for our talk together in John 17 is that we need to pray for what is important and that means we should be praying for what Jesus prayed for us, that God would keep us in our relationship with him right to the end. We identified a number of specific requests that Jesus brought before the heavenly Father, protection from the evil one, a specific calling in our life, unity, and a longing for the fullness of glory. As we studied John 17 together we came to the conviction that these were key to persevering to the end.I wish we were able to give more time to the unity section of this passage. Specifically I would have liked to talk more about unity with one another and its broader implications. As Justin and I discussed the implications of Jesus’ request for unity with one another we did note that this unity is rooted in the cross and that meant that our unity is not with everyone. We are united and called to live in unity with those who believe in who Jesus is, what he has done, and the nature of his sacrifice. Our unity is not with all who simply claim to part of Jesus or with the world. Unity is not tolerance of all. This does not mean we are against those who are not followers of Christ it just means we are not united to them. This does mean we don’t discriminate against but at the same time we need to be discriminative. Jesus’ focus is not on organizational unity. Our world full of denominations tends to have us go there but Jesus was not speaking against or to the diversity of our denominational expressions. I am united to followers of Christ whether they are Anglican, Baptist, Catholic or non-denominational in where the gather for their worship of Christ. Our unity is focused on witness. We have a truth message to proclaim and the way we love one another is an expression to the world of the love of God for us and the world. This is an important element to the unity that Jesus is praying for us. This witness as a clearly stated goal, John 17:23. Jesus’ request is not a “why can’t we just all get along” for “getting along” sake. Unity is not lets hold hands around the campfire, sing, and feel good about each other. Unity is about witness with a specific goal, that the world would know that Jesus is the sent one and that God loves the world even as the Father has loved Jesus. This is so powerful. We can’t ignore how important this is. This builds on our sense of calling. It is the joy of Jesus and the cross. It is what we are set apart for.I believe that this leads to some great guiding questions as to our interaction with one another under the banner of unity.Do we believe the same central things as it relates to Jesus and the cross? (there are other questions related to this in particular the nature of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and its broad implications)What is the purpose? Are we living our witness together out in public so that the world will indeed see our unity proclaimed and demonstrated? (This has implications for my small group as much as church to church interaction)What is the goal? Is the goal John 17:23 or is it something else, like we all just need to get along.I learned a lot the last two weeks in the Word with a 20 something year old. Try it some time.
I was driving home from Brampton this afternoon listening to Eric Smith and Paul Jones on Fan 590 discuss the appropriateness of Tim Tebow thanking Jesus every time someone interviews him on television. Listening to the two of them and the multiple responses of those who called in was extremely informative. Once again I was reminded of how much people in southern Ontario have so little biblical memory. Yes the sabbath is a Saturday. Yes December 25th is not the actual day that Jesus was born on. I could go on but there really is no point to that. It is, however, a good reminder that many of those who profess to have a religious background don’t really have a biblical memory.The question for the afternoon was whether Tebow should be putting his faith out there. Sports have and will continue to be used as a platform for numerous points of view. We are long past the day of sports being a neutral venue. We market all kinds of things with sports. Pepsi, Coke, Budweiser, and Gatorade are but a few beverages of choice that use sport to get its message across. Rogers and Bell, Air Canada, and numerous restaurants are attempting to sell their message of the good life. Some times I wonder if consistently using Jesus at the beginning of an interview may come across as another marketing tool. This goes way beyond Tebow. It is the kneeling in the end zone after a touchdown, gathering for prayer after the game at the 55 yard line, cross t-shirts or the like. Certainly any follower of Christ brings Christ with them to any venue but we should be careful that we are not marketing him like another product. I am certain that Tim Tebow has no intent to do so, but I wonder if it may be coming across that way.Yes, I am Canadian. And yes we tend to be (generalization) less in your face about matters of faith but I wonder sometimes if we are confusing following Jesus with some advertising campaign.The biggest challenge in all of this, from my point of view, is whether the media is using Tebow’s consistent expressions of faith to somehow connect God with winning. I am fairly certain and very hopeful that Tebow is not in any way wanting to communicate that God is only about winning but if after every win Tebow continues to say, “I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and that is all that gets reported there is a subtle message being communicated. To what extent does God really care all that much about whether Tim Tebow wins or loses a football game?Perhaps next time Denver loses, very soon, it would be good for the media to allow Tebow the air time to say once again, “I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”.
Someone has said that tomorrows Nebraska versus Penn State football game will not be the Litany Lions fifth best game of the season. It will either by their best game or one of their worst and I along with so many others just wish there wasn’t a game at all. Playing football just doesn’t feel like the right thing to do.There have been various feelings expressed the past three days. Outrage, sympathy, remorse, disappointment, to name a few, have been front and center in commentary and on campus. Sin once again has reared its ugly head. Even the most storied of football programs, even the most honored of coaches, even those who have statues of themselves on campus are not immune (of course I say this “tongue in cheek”). If you are a student of Scripture and life sin does not surprise us anymore. The heart of man is desperately wicked. Sin is not limited to the perpetrator. Sin does not play favorites. The unrest that we are feeling and viewing on University Park college campus is once again proof that something is fundamentally wrong with the world. Sin is the problem. The heart of man is desperately wicked.Tomorrow they may play football with the hope that the Saturday normal will drown out the terrifying impact of sin on a college campus but this was more than an emotional and spiritual fender bender. The moral choices of trusted leaders in the twenty first century are a clear indication of what is wrong with our world. Whether it is Wall Street, Europe, or the hallowed halls of higher education, it is clear that we are broken. Humpty Dumpty has fallen and all the Saturday afternoon king’s horses and men will not make Humpty better again.No “hail Mary pass” is going to save the day tomorrow or the next day. There is only one solution to the tragic state of affairs and it is God’s grace. Sin has a way of wounding and staining everything and everyone. So while we debate what is the right amount of justice for the victims and a school and its football program God’s grace is the only thing that will heal the deep wounds. Appealing for normalcy and time may allow for scars to form but the depth of sins impact demands a sacrificial grace that God can only provide. Jesus died so that we could experience God’s grace.So we pray for grace for the victims, heart changing grace for the accused, and grace for a world that is confronted with the very real wounds and brokenness of sin. Only grace deals with the root issues. Football won’t solve this problem only God can.
I am sitting in Starbucks this Friday afternoon and thinking about the many friends I know in pastoral ministry who are facing the hurdles of great disappointment. No one wakes up in the morning looking forward to disappointment but nonetheless many of us get up each day with its very real possibility. Whether it is a change in direction, a new path taken, that leads one back to where they started from, or the high expectations of hoping and dreaming for a life changing discussion with someone about Jesus Christ that ends up in the realm of sports and weather, disappointment feels like the ugly sister to the joy and thrill that comes from hope fulfilled.Those who persevere for Jesus Christ in the midst of unmet great expectations are the standard of faithfulness in ministry that we should all aspire for our own lives. The real challenge comes when we think that the Spirit of God is only in fulfilled dreams and not in the disappointment of unmet expectations. There are many around us that will want to remind us that the work of the Spirit is in the celebration of spectacular results. Thank God he is in the midst of the high moments. But praise be to God, as we languish in our desperation he is there.So today I lift my grande London Fog to salute those who wish tomorrow was Monday. God give us the boldness and fearless confidence in the gospel even in the midst of the dark moments of the soul.