Thursday Theology: A Must-Hear “Sermon-Poem” on John 17:6-19

image_pdfSave as PDFimage_printPrint


What we send you today is a gift I got a week ago from Pr. Shaun O’Reilly of Reno, Nevada. It’s a You Tube recording of what Shaun calls a sermon-poem. He delivered it to the saints of Faith Lutheran in Reno on the Seventh Sunday of Easter. A day or two later he sent me the recording. I was mesmerized. I wrote immediately to ask if I could share it with you too. I can’t thank God enough for his quick responding “yes,” to which he attached the script of the recording for sharing as well.

Two things struck me most in these seven-and-a-half minutes of listening time. The first is what Shaun said. I can’t recall another homiletical treatment of John 17 that does a better job of untangling John’s convoluted prose to deliver a message Christ wants us to hear.

The second is how Shaun delivered the message. It caught my attention. It made me think. Better still, I heard a pastor dropping the promises of God directly in my ears in a way that helped me trust what I was hearing. Perhaps he’ll do the same for you when you listen. If so, thanks be to God yet again.

Peace and Joy,

Jerry Burce, Editor,
on behalf of the Crossings Community



“When Jesus Prayed for You”
A Sermon-Poem on John 17:6-19

by Shaun O’Reilly


+  +  +

Christ in Gethsemane
Heinrich Hofmann (1824–1911)
From Wikimedia Commons

Audio Version:

Available Here. [We strongly recommend that you listen to this before proceeding to the written version below.]

+  +  +


Written Version:

What I love is that
when Jesus prayed for you, it was classic Jesus
Embodied as the very gift that frees us,
and with these words to say to God about you

When Jesus prayed for you, it was close to the end of his life
It was close to the end of his strife and the weight he carried
His friends gathered round the table, their feet washed clean,
Jesus praying for them, but it means something to the friends of Jesus today
too. Jesus prayed for you.

He said, “God, O God, you know these ones belong
I’ve shared the story, I’ve sung the song
they know the tune and melody, it carries them as they carry
this divine word in their hearts.
Let them never be apart from you and me O God.”

When Jesus prayed for you — he mentioned all that he had.
He said, “give it to them now dad!
Purpose, Joy, and Truth, give to them
So they can use
the same materials that have been your body in the world
Now unfurl, a colorful whirl
All personality and promise, Yes Amen,
All you’ve given to me, give to them.”

To you. When Jesus prayed for you.

When Jesus prayed for you, there was nothing you or I could do
I’m talking long ago, that somehow he knows we need to hear it—
Today, hear him say, the words of love, protection, abiding, direction.
And believe! This echo you hear, in it, you peer into intimate conversation
the son’s dedication in asking — “Don’t let this fail
God, they are frail, but build them up, make them strong,
I’m leaving soon but they belong to us,
give them faith enough to believe it.”

When Jesus prayed for you, no one else said a thing
spoken Word of Jesus Christ RINGS out
while everything else waits
it was like it was in the beginning, God creates,
and it’s a spoken word that brings out life, all existence bending an ear
waiting to hear: “what will they make? what will God say?”

It could be a judgement. It could be the end.
Jesus could tell the truth, let’s not pretend, he could ask God
why there are no true friends to the Word made flesh?
why will they abandon and none of these twelve
still dwell with him at his end?

He could have prayed judgement then.

Instead, what you love is that
when Jesus prayed for you, it was classic Jesus
Embodied as the very gift that frees us,
it was not judgement or the end
It was still the beginning.
His faulty friends he defends with his very life and breath
And these, like last wishes, he pours out:
Stick with Them. I never left them, Don’t leave them now.
Give to them! Give them protection, give them each other,
Bind them together, sisters and brothers.

We are God, and we give.

and when we get nothing back
we are still not at a lack of mercy,
we draw from a deep well,
and so let’s water the sheep
I pray that You keep them all, in the promise make a store
for all these faulty friends of mine and yours.
Keep these ones I love, Jesus said. When Jesus prayed for you.

There’s just not much more of value I can add,
when in scripture we hear Jesus talk to his dad about you and me.
I’m inviting you, you see, to listen and believe,
or just listen and receive when Jesus prayed for you.

Two thousand years away, seven thousand miles away,
a night in Jerusalem, those first disciples near him,
Jesus, in breath and spirit, praying where they could hear it.
He could have prayed for power or healing,
or that angels come reeling and destroy everything against God’s command,
But it reads—John 17 reads—like he took their hands
and said, “I’m going to pray for you.”

And when Jesus prayed for you, it was classic Jesus.
Embodied as the very gift that frees us
never one to puff up strength
or to preach at length that everyone should turn or burn,
it’s like the expression of God yearns to care for the needy,
so Jesus says, somewhat sweetly,

Remind them, God. Hold them. Give complete joy. They belong.
Soak them in truth. Make them wholly good.

And I think God understood

From Canva

Because I look at you now, and believe somehow we are changed
because Jesus prayed for you.

And I want everyone to know, and to the world could we show,
that when Jesus prayed for us it was classic Jesus
the voice and blessing of the very gift that frees us,
even now, to see a world in need and in love, draw near it.
In the way of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.




Thursday Theology: that the benefits of Christ be put to use
A publication of the Crossings Community