Lectionary Reading for May 16, 2021: Year B, Seventh Sunday of Easter John 17:6-19

This entire chapter of John is Jesus praying. He knows the crucifixion looms, but he’s not looking for an easy way out. Instead, he spends most of his prayer asking God to care for his disciples. The section of the prayer in verses 6-19 asks God to protect them, give them joy, and make them holy.

I’m not sure why the lectionary reading doesn’t include verse 20, because that verse makes it explicit that Jesus isn’t only praying these things for the disciples that lived alongside him, but also for those who will believe in Jesus through their words, AKA, us! While I know Jesus came to save the world, there’s something about this prayer that feels so personal. Jesus wants to protect US, wants US to experience joy, and wants to make US holy.

And how does God answer that prayer? Through God’s hands and feet on earth! Jesus calls on God, and God calls on us. Protect each other, give each other joy, and make each other holy; we need to hold each other up.

Monique Gray Smith’s simple text and Danielle Daniel’s rosy-cheeked illustrations come together in an answer to this prayer. When I first read it, I thought it was a love letter to healthy relationships and communities. In describing ways we hold each other up, this book describes ways we can fulfill Jesus’ prayer for us. When we are kind and respectful to each other, we are protecting each other. When we play and laugh together, we give each other joy. When we learn, share, and sing together, we make each other holy.

The illustrations in this book are less diverse than those I usually feature, but for good reason. Smith wrote You Hold Me Up to start conversations about reconciliation in Canadian homes, so Daniel’s illustrations deliberately portray Indigenous families holding each other up—something so many were denied when their children were taken to residential schools. If you have an opportunity in your ministry, consider mentioning that while holding each other up in these ways answers Jesus’ prayer for us, the Canadian government established systems that meant Indigenous families could not experience that same protection, joy, and sanctification for 150 years.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • What does your family do to protect you? Give you joy?
  • What does it mean to be holy? Can other people help you to be holy?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • What can you do in your family to protect it, bring joy, and make it holy? In your church? Your community?
  • How can we make sure that other families and communities have the right to the same protection, joy, and sanctification we have?

I hope you consider adding this book to your ministry book shelf! If you click on the book and purchase it through Amazon, I get a small commission to help pay for this website, but check at your local bookstore and library as well.

Smith, Monique Gray. You Hold Me Up. Orca Book Publishers, 2017.

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