Groupies

  • John 17:20-26
  • May 20, 2007 (Confirmation Service)
  • Fox Valley Presbyterian Church

A few weeks ago, I decided to venture into the world of Facebook. Facebook is a social networking website. You type in your profile, and look around to find profiles of other people who you already know. I found my siblings, college and seminary friends, high school friends, cousins, former students, youth group members, a confirmand or two. You can also join groups. Some are exactly what you’d expect: for example, I found a group for alumni of my college and seminary and high school. I found a group for people who have lived in Berwyn, Illinois. There’s a group celebrating Spiedies, the delicious regional food-specialty unique to the county in New York where I grew up. There are groups to support political candidates. Church groups (and let me tell, you there are Presbyterian groups all over Facebook, over 500 of them! We have some work to do to catch up!)When you join a group, that group becomes part of your identity profile, and you’re linked to the other members of the group.

Among all the expected groups, there are some more unusual groups, complete with long names. Here are a few:

I’m from Chicago, so I can cross the street whenever I want
Tell Liz you love her so she won’t transfer to U of I
I worked at the grocery store in Ishpeming, MI
Presbyterian Boys are Hot
My Youth Pastor Can Beat up Your Youth Pastor

Even if we don’t maintain a Facebook profile, we know what groups we are part of. They are one of the ways we define ourselves. Who we are, where we’ve been, who we admire, who we hang out with, what makes us laugh. And some groups are based on the compelling personality or vision of one individual.

Looking at all these groups has me thinking about what is at the core of this group, the church. We’ve got 12 people today who are standing up to affirm that this is their group, confirming who they are, and who God called them to be, confirming the promises of their baptisms.

But this is my question: what is the glue that holds this group together? Confirmands, I’ll be straight with you. Underneath our celebration this morning, there is a worry. You see, we want you to stick around. I want to see you at church next year, at youth group, volunteering in the nursery, with Sunday School, at the church clean-up day. And we are worried that you might take this moment as a graduation, and decide you’re done.

But we want you to be part of the group. And so, when we pray for you, your parents, the congregation, the session, the pastors, we pray, in part that you’ll stick with us.

This passage from John is an incredible moment in the book. If you read carefully, its one of those moments when suddenly, like magic, the book turns and points right at the reader. Jesus has been praying during his last meal with the disciples. He prays for himself. He prays for them, and then, he turns and looks off the page, straight into our eyes, and prays for us. He prays for those who will believe after the disciples. Sit with the thought for a moment: Jesus prays for us. You and me. Here and now.

What Jesus says is not too complicated, it only gets a little  knotty grammatically.

He prays for the unity of those who will believe, the same kind of unity he has with God the Father. He prays that we would be absorbed into the unity that he has with God. God’s unity is no small thing. Jesus praying that we would be wrapped into the love, the friendship, the dance, the embrace, that exists between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Imagine dinner at the home of a family that gets along perfectly (and not in some sappy, fake sense of perfect). A family that gives and takes in conversation, where each member is completely comfortable with who she is, where each individual knows that he is completely loved, each person has a sense of their role in the family, and things feel complete when they are all together. The way they love each other flows out to the people they welcome to their table. There are no secrets, there are no skeletons in the closet. When they hug you as you leave, they say, “If you eat with us, we consider you family.” And they mean it. It’s a place you want to be invited again and again. Of course, no family is perfect. But if you’ve ever caught a glimpse of that as a guest at a meal, you’ve had a small vision of the love that exists within God, in the Trinity, within God.

The Trinity is not just some abstract theological idea the church invented to make your head hurt. It is the reality of God’s love. God is so very loving that God must exist in eternal community, in an eternal dance of three person: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

God is so loving, that in Jesus, we get to be a part of that love.

At the root, what Jesus is praying for is not that we will sign up and be part of the group. At the root, Jesus is praying that we will long for God’s love, that we will seek it out, that we will do everything we can to return again and again and again that table where the Trinity talks and laughs and listens. Jesus prays that the thing we will most seek is to be completely surrounded, completely united with the love of God.

It is only that desire for complete unity that holds the group together. If we come here, if we sign up for this group, for any other reason, we might not stay.

But, if we hunger and thirst for God, we will come back again and again and again. We will want to gather around the table, to taste and see that God is good.

This is not just for the confirmands: this is for us all. Everyday, we are asked to confirm that we are part of this group. But the root of that confirmation is not that we sign up for the group. It’s that we want to move deeper and deeper into God’s embrace.

The group proceeds out of that love. Everything we do, our whole witness to the world, depends on our attachment to God’s love.

Confirmands, this is the hardest part of this sermon for me to preach: you are not done. This hunger for God is something you will have to keep seeking for.

And, in all honesty, I do not know how to tell you to get there. Because it is a journey that I am still taking.

None of us know exactly what to tell you—we are all traveling deeper and deeper into God’s love together.

But this is what we do know:

Every so often, there’s a moment when we feel like we’re sitting at the table with God.

It might come when you are having breakfast with your mentor.
Or when you’re helping someone paint the church garage.
Or when you smile at a friend from church on the street on town.
Or when you’re at FOTC
Or around the communion table, during a hymn, in the middle of the sermon

We never know when we get a glimpse.

But that’s why we want you here: to catch as much of a glimpse as you can of the love of God, to hunger for God, to keep seeking God alongside the rest of us.

This is our prayer for you, and not just ours, but the prayer of Jesus himself, who sits next to God the Father at the table, and prays for you.

Amen.

One Response to “Groupies”

  1. The theology of children | Don’t flay the sheep Says:

    [...] Just this afternoon, it hit me that we completely missed the Ascension at church. (I take full responsibility: I was the preacher on Sunday and I went with John 17. But, hey, it was confirmation Sunday and we had a lot to fit in.) [...]

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