Like Jesus', our focus shifts from time to time. We emphasize one aspect of Gospel, at least till we move on to another one. One of Jesus' foci in this passage (a prayer, not a thinking aloud!) begins with 'making God's name known' to those who, out of the world, have been given to him by God our Source. The question of who's 'in' & who's 'out' inevitably arises in pastoral & other branches of theology. What assumptions do we make as preachers or congregations about 'ins' & 'outs'? If we don't make any, is that necessarily a strength? A weakness? Are we alert as Jesus is to the divine initiative at work in all being called, receiving faith, knowing truth, & so on? Not only in church, but in our various margins?
Hearing Jesus pray (not think!) aloud here is an immense privilege. It's a pretty amazing display of oneness with God & his friends. Is there any reason we should not see ourselves as having the same privilege in our day? And the responsibility that goes with it? This passage always reminds me of a young woman whose marriage plans were broken off at fairly short notice by her intended. They'd been to see me just once before this happened, & the girl came & spoke with me when the bomb- shell struck. I don't know if I was any help, but a month or so later we ran into each other in the street. Still clearly upset, she said, "Father Brian, I've been praying to myself again & again over this, & I'm not getting anywhere......." I wonder how often our praying is only a praying to one's self, a thinking aloud kind of process, over this, that, or the other? I certainly have to recognize this for what it is - simply another of my ploys to wrest the divine initiative away from God!
Jesus claims God's protection for his friends, as he claims it for himself. But what happens when 'bad things happen to good people'? When there is no apparent protection? The issue never goes away! It's not something we can work out in church (though good preaching & teaching must help), but rather out there in our homes or at work, where perils many of one kind or another lurk. Where we recognize God's protection, or seemingly cry out for it in vain. As Jesus himself does from his cross! What happens next? That's when we need to be hard at work doing theology & living it out & about in our life-situations as well as sitting in our pews.
Of the many issues Jesus raises here, the one that stands out for me is that of becoming so close to God that I can hold the kind of conversation with God that Jesus does. "In your dreams!" you say? Why? Can we not become so Christ-like in our stillness, contemplation, adoration, at one end of the scale, while actively living the life of a Good Samaritan, Welcoming Father, or Forgiving Lord, etc. at the other end, that we're at least on the track of becoming so close to God as that, can't we?
I've long been off put by theological terms such as sanctification &
their long winded exposition in sermons, but dealing with it as he does
here in prayer, Jesus sets holiness in its true context, & firmly on
our agenda. Holiness, too, is a divine initiative!