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January 11, 2015

 

Jesus Prays for the Disciples

   John 17:6-21 

In December 2014, a YouTube video went viral on Facebook. The video shows Naomi Feil, a white Jewish woman, singing Christian songs to Gladys Wilson, an elderly black Christian woman with Alzheimer’s.1 The video clip comes from a documentary titled There Is a Bridge, which began airing on public television stations in 2007.2 While singing “Jesus Loves Me,” Feil matches the intensity of her voice with the intensity of Wilson’s clapping of her hand on the arm of her chair. Feil became Wilson’s voice. Feil said that “for a split second, we became one person.”3

Jesus prayed for “those who believe in me because of [the disciples’] word” to be one (John 17:20). He prayed for Christians everywhere and of every time to be one, as God is in Jesus and Jesus is in God (verse 21). This unity comes from a sense of abiding together, of being one with one another. As Feil demonstrates, becoming one involves giving of one’s self in order to set aside difference and division.4

As a Jewish woman, Feil learned a few Christian songs so that she might bring meaning to Wilson and others like her. Feil gave of her time. She also gave out of her faith to overcome difference and division. Whether she believes the words of “Jesus Loves Me” or not is beside the point. She needed to learn and voice the words in order to reach Wilson’s heart. She gave of herself in order to make a difference in Wilson’s life.

Jesus prayed for us to be one. Such unity comes as a gift from God.5 We cannot create unity within our congregations, within our denominations, and within Christianity without God’s help. We turn to God to guide us through conversations, discussions, and arguments to work for unity in the faith.

  1. Show the video clip of Feil and Wilson (found at youtube.com/watch?v=4yYkoTkrcwQ).When do you see Feil and Wilson becoming one person? How is the unity demonstrated? How does Feil give of herself to Wilson?
  2. Invite someone with experience dealing with Alzheimer’s to join the discussion. How does the use of music help to break through the cloud of Alzheimer’s? How does music tap into distant memories and emotions?
  3. What differences and divisions does Christianity need to overcome to be a witness of unity in this world? What differences and divisions does your denomination need to overcome? What differences and divisions does your congregation need to overcome?

 

 

 

1From “Jewish Woman Sings to a Christian Lady With Alzheimer’s Disease” (youtube.com/watch?v=4yYkoTkrcwQ).

2From “About the Documentary There Is a Bridge, ”Memory Bridge: The Foundation for Alzheimer’s and Cultural Memory (memorybridge.org/documentary.php).

3From “Jewish Woman Sings to a Christian Lady With Alzheimer’s Disease.”

4From Adult Bible Study Teacher (Winter 2014–2015), by Clara Welch; pages 67-68.

5From Adult Bible Study Teacher; pages 67-68.

 

 

Reverend Katie Shockley is a licensed local pastor and serves as associate pastor at First United Methodist Church of Sachse, Texas.

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