Salem Lutheran Church

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"It's a Hard Knock Life"

Our Gospel story today comes at the end of Jesus’ lengthy address to the disciples that we have been reading through the past few weeks, which actually began all the way back in Chapter 14. Jesus had spent a considerable amount of time preparing his disciples for life and ministry on their own without him physically present with them, and at the end of this prayer we hear today, John immediately tells us of his arrest, trial, and crucifixion. In other words, on the night before Jesus was crucified, he prayed for his disciples who he knew would be facing a difficult road ahead.

I find it very comforting to know that Jesus prayed for us before he left us. I also find this text to be a fitting text to read today, Mother’s Day, because in many ways his prayer is much like a mother prays for her children. Like a mother, Jesus knows that life is filled with dangers and difficult times, and so he prays for them. He asks God protect the disciples and to keep them from getting lost. He prays for the disciples to have their joy completed, and give them whatever they will need to carry on. How many moms, and dads, in here have prayed this prayer for their children as they have ventured off to school or even just out the door for the evening? I know Jill and I have prayed this prayer many times for our kids and now our grandkids.

Life is difficult! In the musical Annie, a story about a young orphan girl in the 1930’s, the story begins with Annie and the girls in the orphanage singing the song, “It’s a Hard Knock Life.” The song says it perfectly: “It’s a hard knock life for us! ‘Steada of treated, we get tricked! ‘Steada of kisses, we get kicked! Don’t it seem like there’s never any light. Once a day, don’t you wanna throw the towel in…” There are many days that life stinks and it’s not easy; this was as true some 2,000 years ago as it is today, but it is the life we are called to live.

The disciples had been drawn to Jesus and his ministry, but now they realize that he is leaving. They must have felt devastated, but we read today Jesus didn’t leave the disciples hanging. He focused their attention on how to have confidence and hope, and he did this by praying. This prayer is often referred to as the “High Priestly Prayer.” And it is one of the few times in the scriptures where we actually hear what Jesus prayed.

Now, what I find most important about this prayer is noting what Jesus doesn’t ask for in this prayer. He doesn’t pray that life will get easier for the disciples. He doesn’t pray that they won’t encounter challenges, struggles, or persecutions, nor does he pray that their enemies will be defeated. Instead, Jesus asks God to give them hope and strength. He asks God to protect them from the evil one and he prays for God to enable them to live into the “oneness” of Jesus and God.

Jesus was preparing the way for the disciples as they moved into a new time in their lives. He was realistic in his prayer for them because he knew they would not have it easy. He knew they would be threatened by hatred and negativity and so he petitioned God to help them persevere through those tough times, so they would be able to continue on the path Jesus had walked and now he was sending them to continue.

Life is difficult and as I read Jesus’ prayer this week I was reminded that Jesus never promised an easy life. So often we like to moan about how hard and difficult life is, don’t we? Instead of acknowledging, as Jesus did, that difficulties are a part of life, most days we prefer to moan about our problems, our burdens, and our difficulties as though our “hard knock lives” are unique and unfair or as though life was supposed to be easy, but that is never what Jesus promised. I know about this moaning because I have done my share of it and I do it often, but the truth is life is a series of problems and we have a choice — we can moan about it or we can be assured that God is with us in this life and that we have all we need to continue on.

Jesus never tried to tell his disciples, or you and I, that we could be all that we dream, or that if we just try hard enough and believe firmly enough that we can make our goals become reality. Instead, as his life came to an end, he acknowledged that life would be hard; life would be filled with heartache, sorrow, and pain, but as we lived this life we would also come to know real joy as we came to know a God that loves us so much he would die for us, so he prayed that God would be with us in life so that we could persevere.

You know in the Kyrie that we sing at the beginning of most of our worship services, we pray “Help, save, comfort, and defend us, gracious Lord” because we know the truth: we are afraid, we fail, and need God’s help. Today, Jesus prays for our protection. He does not pray that we be taken out of the world, but that we be fully present to its difficult and painful realities. It is Jesus’ prayer that we be able to engage the dangers and difficulties of this world and in doing so that we wholeheartedly entrust our protection to God.

So yes, life will throw curveballs at us. Loved ones will get sick. Jobs will be lost. Darkness will surround us. But God has promised to be with us throughout our challenges. In the midst of this difficult life we are called to live and live life fully.

So on this very special day, Mother’s Day, a day we lift up and remember moms everywhere who not only have brought life into this world, but have nurtured life and loved as only a mother can love. I hope that we come to remember this prayer. For today, as we live this “hard knock life” of ours, we are challenged to lean into Jesus’ prayer that God would protect us while we are in this world so that we might engage it fully, unafraid, and free, living and loving under the promise of God’s protection and care, and in doing so, our joy will be complete. May we remember this prayer so that it might help us through our days at home, school, work and travel, no matter whether the day is full of beauty or pain. These words ought to remind us that no matter how difficult things get in our lives God is with us, strengthens us and uses us to care for each other. Amen.


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