Famous Last Words

Today is Ascension Sunday. It is the final Sunday of the Easter season in the church’s liturgical calendar. Ascension Sunday is set aside by the church to commemorate and celebrate Jesus return to the Father after his mission on earth was completed.We will come back to this later. In the meanwhile here is a quick quiz to test your general knowledge with. Can you recall the final last words of someone famous? The following are alleged final words of some–“Don’t you dare ask God to help me” said by the actress Joan Crawford when she discovered her housekeeper was praying for her following a heart attack. “I’m so bored with it all!” said Winston Churchill. Soon afterwards he would fall into a coma before his death in 1965 at the ripe old age of 90.

“I believe that a life lived for music is an existence spent wonderfully, and this is what I’ve dedicated my life to” said the famous tenor Luciano Pavarotti before he died from cancer.

Following a meeting in which he was the keynote speaker, Martin Luther King Jnr is purported to have asked a musician to play: “Precious Lord, take my hand”. Soon after, King would be dead, felled by an assassins’ bullet. Famous comedian and star of the silent movie era, Charlie Chaplin is reported to
have said: “Why not. After all, it belongs to him” after a priest had told him “May the Lord have mercy on your soul”.

The world will never know the final last words spoken by Albert Einstein. Apparently, his last words while lying on his deathbed was spoken in German so were not understood by his English nurse. However, his final written words are a poignant comment on the nuclear arms race: “In essence, the conflict that exists today is no more than an old-style struggle for power, once again presented to mankind in semireligious trappings. The difference is that this time, the development of atomic power has imbued the struggle with a ghostly character; for both parties know and admit that, should the quarrel deteriorate into actual war,
mankind is doomed”.

So, what about Jesus? The text from Johns’ gospel is the alternate gospel text for this Ascension Sunday and it provides us with the authors’ account of what may be the last words of Jesus before his betrayal by Judas eventually leading to his death on the cross. His words are in the form of what some scholars refer as the high priestly prayer, a designation that suggests that here Jesus acts as a high Priest making intercession to God on behalf of humankind. As space does not permit, you would need to turn to John 17:1-25 to read the entire prayer, however, verse 11 is appropriate to our purposes. Here, Jesus concludes his prayer for the disciples, saying: “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one”.

It is only natural to arrive at the conclusion that it is a prayer for unity, so, with this in mind, I want to conclude with questions for you to reflect on.

First, has this part of Jesus prayer for unity been answered? Second, last week I spoke on the difference it makes to God, others and ourselves when we follow Jesus commandments, noting Jesus spoke of the two greatest commandments being to love God and to love neighbour. Do you see a correlation between following Jesus commandments and the fulfilment of Jesus’ prayer “they may be one, as we are one?” What are your thoughts?

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