The Great Invitation

John 17:20-26

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

When I was a freshman in college, I experienced one of the greatest social experiments for students this age – I pledged a sorority.  I went to college far from home; no phone back then (much less a cell phone!!), no T.V., no car and not a soul that I knew.  Sorority rush was a few weeks after I arrived and I immediately felt a sense of belonging on my bid day.  I not only had new friends, but I also spent the semester learning about the beliefs of our founders and was introduced to a life long focus on serving others and philanthropy within a community, separate from my parents and my childhood and something I could own and believe in.

I remember standing in line on bid day and there was a group of girls in front of me that clearly all knew each other.  They laughed at jokes that had unspoken insider information and already seemed to have that “sisterhood” thing before even accepting their bid.  But some of them weren’t like girls I had ever known.  They dressed differently, talked with strange accents from parts of the country I had never visited – and I was quite intimidated.  Fast forward 27 years and these are some of my lifelong friends and sisters.  All I needed was the “invitation.”

Being a follower of Christ is so much greater than my sisterhood in my sorority.  Some obvious differences include that EVERYONE is invited to believe and follow Christ, no one who chooses to live a life in Christ will ever feel rejected in that relationship and we don’t have to DO ANYTHING to be deserving of acceptance.  This verse from John describes the complex and simple dichotomy of the relationship of Jesus with God – both praying to the Lord and depicting his role as part of the Trinity, therefore inclusive WITH God. His words from verse 22-24 are a clear articulation of Jesus’ desire to share his knowledge and love of God with his friends and followers, as well as for you and me.

The world gets a lot more simplified when we view it through this lens of love.  Loving our neighbors as ourselves, God’s love for the world and its people illustrated through sending his Son to take away our sins, loving our enemies, and trying to love ourselves as God loves us.  All the other stuff we experience in the world can be flipped around if we filter it with love.  Just try feeling anything other than love for someone who wrongs you when you remember that he or she is a child of God, just like you!  It’s much harder to hang on to hurt when we are invited to love.  Loving Christ and others through him makes everything easier to handle and the world a much better place.

God of love, open our hearts to reach out in love to those around us; at home, at work, at school, in our community and those we don’t even know.  Help us to feel your love for us each day and to live out our lives in a way that honors your greatest commandment.  We thank you for your many gifts and we ask you to lift our eyes to you to feel your love for us.  In your name we pray. AMEN.

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