The Psalmist said, “O Lord, you have searched me, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in –behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, to lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast… For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well… Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Pray with me: “God, you, who are the Alpha and Omega; the beginning and the end, with you nothing is hidden, and all can be seen. Help us to praise you as we ought; to sing together rather than to struggle against each other, to join hands in unity rather than to build walls between one another, to wonder at your great glory, your great love for us, your great vision for us. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us, melt us, fill us, mold us, and use us. Spirit of the loving God fall afresh on us. So just now, Lord, we pray that the meditations of our hearts, and all of our thoughts, humbly may be found acceptable in your sight, you who are our Lord and Strength and Redeemer for evermore. Amen.”
In 1988 Michael Jackson wrote and recorded the song Man in the Mirror, it became a humongous hit. It sounds as if this song could have been written yesterday instead of 34 years ago. In the song Michael sings, “I’m gonna make a change- for once in my life – it’s gonna feel real good – gonna make a difference – gonna make it right… I see the kids in the street – with not enough to eat -who am I, to be blind? Pretending not to see their needs. I’m starting with the Man in the Mirror – I’m asking him to change his ways – And no message could have – been any clearer – If you wanna make the world – a better place – Take a look at yourself, and then make a change. I’ve been a victim of a selfish kind of love – it’s time that I realize – that there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan – could it be really me pretending that they’re not alone? Somebody’s broken heart and a washed – out dream – they followed the pattern of the wind, ya’ see – cause they got no place to be – that’s why I’m starting with me – I’m starting with the man in the mirror – I’m asking him to change his ways – and no message could have – been any clearer – if you wanna make the world a better place – take a look at yourself and then make a change.”
In the Gospel reading today we hear the final prayer of Jesus. The kind of prayer that needs to be written down, savored, questioned, reconsidered, and finally lived out. Jesus prays for his current and future followers, focusing on unity. The source of this unity is that of the Creator parent and the Son and its goal is the conversion of the world to the knowledge of the Son as the sent One from God and the demonstration of God’s love for the world, that “we may all be one.” In order for us all to be one, “we have to start with ourselves, and then we gotta make a change.”
This is the kind of prayer that is handed down generation to generation. When we look in the mirror, we see the experiences we have had in this life; the experiences of joy and peace, of togetherness, also the experiences of aloneness, of detachment, of isolation, the feeling of absence when we have lost conscious awareness of the presence of “the cloud of witness.” When we look in the mirror in our face we see the ancestors, all of our ancestors that labored and prayed, worked and fasted, sang and marched so that we would bring unity and glory to God as we all become one. In looking at Jesus’ closure on his time with the disciples, today, we find encouragement, because Jesus prays this prayer not for himself but for his disciples, then and now.
I look into the mirror, and my grandparents lay a hand on each shoulder. Or I look again, and I see friends, family, heroes who are gone, who have died, smiling, singing, together. I look harder, struggling to make out the contours of my future. The mirror clouds a bit, but I strain forward, hopeful, that I am able to see others being drawn into the divine fellowship with God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and enjoying that fellowship and extending with others here who want to share in that unity and that glory. What little I can see leaves me feeling adrift and alone. Where are those who are longing for unity? Where are those who believe that we can all be one?
All of us are asked to help change the ugliness, the hatred, the anxiety, the fear, the separation, the hunger, the war, the death, the destruction that is in the land because our existence is caught up and bound with one another. Jesus’ prayer shrewdly clarified what is at stake: “that the world may believe;” “that we all may be one.” But today, it seems that we are set on a different mission. A mission defiled by our lack of unity, a mission far too focused on a kind of glory, gleaming with gold, might, and fame. The kind of glory celebrities and despot have, those who control, who manipulate, who lord it over the lowly and then with loud voices declare it is not their fault things and life is out of control. They are the ones who enjoy creating division, relish humiliating others, delight in violence towards those considered less than, and only wanting unity with those who look and think a certain way. This is not the glory or unity Jesus was describing.
This Jesus embodies another kind of glory, the glory of being vulnerable, the glory of sheer love. The kind of glory that says I am starting with the one in the mirror, I’m asking them to change their ways, if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself then make a change.
This weekend as we celebrate the Memorial Day holiday, we remember and honor those who did for others, which was done in unity. Thinking of them is of immense value in an age when few are willing to do even the smallest thing for others. Let us by word and deed acknowledge that we are a people who value those willing to lay down their lives to defend and protect their country, their family, and their values. Their courage and sacrifice deserve our respect and honor. They had a sheer love that is seen so rarely in these current days. And so, we give God thanks for having raised a people who could imagine a different world and served for the greater good.
During this time of political turmoil and hatred this holiday brings a striking stroke of hope in troubled times. This day of remembrance is happening in a time when many of us are grief – stricken about the murderous racist attack on African Americans, most recently in Buffalo and the totally senseless slaughter of pure innocents in Texas with weapons of war.
These days we are truly being called to take a look in the mirror. In a world of strife, in a place where there is no peace, we try to resolve conflicts by applying force, by truces, by policing one another. We abdicate our responsibility to freely choose, and we give away our freedom: to others, to institutions, to loud voices, to persuasive promotions. We say our country is a haven of freedom, but we condone discriminations and inequities, we close borders and doors, and control opportunities and options. Failing to respect the freedom of others, we exercise power over them, subtly coerce, impose our opinions and our will. I think it is time to take another good long look in the mirror to see that none is subservient to another, for all are free and equal in the sight of God.
We ask the help of God to receive God’s grace. That we not be confined by certain points of view, that we are not locked into arguments, contentions. That we continue to learn and grow. As we look into our mirrors help us to see the past, all of the past, the not so good and the good where we depended on others for all of us to move forward. God will help us to see all of those who cared for us as they cheer us on. God will help us to see all of those who stand ready to help us in our future, that great cloud of witness. God will help us to see clearly that it is God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit that holds us in unity and shows us the glory we aim for. Our hearts are all restless until they find rest in that reality, for which Jesus prayed that night long ago, and still prays, today and tomorrow.
Bethesda United Church of Christ, what say you? Are you gonna take a chance and take a look in the mirror to see where you are going? To see what you need to be doing. To see how you can bring to fruition the prayer of Jesus, “that we may all be one.” This is the time, I think, to honor all of our service men and women, those who have fallen on challenging times, those who sleep the eternal sleep, those with mental and physical dis-eases, and those who are well. Let us honor them with our best selves. We honor them when we imagine and practice ourselves together with the whole body of Christ, giving love and glory to God, being drawn into the divine fellowship of the Trinity, and enjoying the fellowship with others down here. Amen and Amen.