So all of this then raises the question, "How do we, as Christians, identify ourselves?" Or to take it another step in the direction I want us to go, "How do we establish our identity as the people of God, in this generation? Is it by our good works? by how we gather together for worship? Is it by the way we treat our children? our elders? our enemies?" No, it's not by any of these ways. For the Gospels tell us that we're not identified first by anything that we have done, because God has taken the initiative, because, almost regardless of what we do or do not do, we have already been identified as a people by the prior action of God in human life. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.
This is what today's Gospel lesson is pointing us to. God has chosen us and then has sent us out into the world where we are to live our lives as God's people. To use a phrase that's not my own but the title of a book by Stanley Hauerwas, you might say that we are "resident aliens" on this earth, that we are the people of God who have not yet come to live in the Kingdom of God, but that we are nevertheless citizens of that Kingdom who are still living in another land. We are strangers in a strange land. The Son of God was here on this earth with us for a while. But now he has ascended into heaven, and we are yet here a little longer. And, in a way, we are here as resident aliens in an often hostile world. So in today's Gospel reading, Jesus is praying for us, just as he does every moment of every day of all time.
So today let's listen carefully to his prayer. Today, let's feel its impact
and seek out its implications. And let's try to grasp the enormity of
this truth: that Jesus, the Son of God, is praying even now for
for me and for all the people of this earth. I stand in awe before this
*What are we to do when our desire to be generous and responsive
*What are we to do when following in the way of Christ and
we are resident aliens who live in this world while our citizenship is
in heaven. But nonetheless we are the people, you and I, through
God is building the Kingdom. And that brings me to the other emphasis
of this High Priestly Prayer of Jesus which was read this morning. For
in it Jesus also prays for us in this way: "Protect them," he
says. "Protect them in your name, that they all may be one, even
as You and I, O God are one." Can you hear the power of that petition?
Jesus praying that all the people of this earth may be one, may be united,
bonded together by the power of love and by the power of caring for one
another, that we may be made one even as God and Jesus are one and are
united by their love for one another? Can you hear the power of Jesus'
petition? It's a tall order, but I am convinced that it's the only way
humanity can survive, and that Jesus knew this only too well, and that
that's why he prayed as he did: "Protect them and make them one."
Now, if this is so, and I believe it is, then we cannot not really be resident aliens. Rather, we are living in that seamless reality called eternal life. So I think the challenge for us then is how to live this eternal life with the confidence and the courage that befit a person who is nothing less than a child of God and a full-fledged citizen of heaven, with all the benefits and responsibilities that belong thereto. How will we do that? The one thing I'm sure of is that we will need the power of God and the support of one another. So let's not tarry any longer. Let's get to our work as honored citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven right here and right now.
Delivered at Calvary Episcopal Church, Memphis, Tennessee, June 4, 2000.
Copyright 2000 Calvary Episcopal Church