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Given that We May Know Him May 28, 2017

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John 17:1-11

Seventh Sunday of Easter

May 28th, 2017

 

Focus:  God gives us His Son that we may know Him.

Function:  That the hearers are one as the Father and Son are one.

Structure:  Walking through the Text.

 

Given that We May Know Him

 

This morning we have a peculiar text.  It doesn’t seem to fit the calendar.  Our gospel reading today from the account according to John is best known as the high priestly prayer.  What do you know about this prayer? Pause for answers

  • Spoken by Jesus
  • Prayed to His Father
  • During Holy Week, moments before the arrest

 

We have a wonderful opportunity to look at how Jesus prayed.  This isn’t about how we are supposed to pray to God.  Jesus already gave us that in the Lord’s Prayer.  No, this is a wonderful opportunity to see what the Holy Trinity was up to the day before the crucifixion.

But that’s just it, isn’t it?  This is Holy Week, Maundy Thursday to be precise.  We would expect this reading before Easter, not after.  Not during our celebration of the resurrection.  Any ideas as to why we’re getting it now?  Pause for answers.

Let’s walkthrough the text and see if it becomes more clear.  Before we begin, though, just the quick note that this prayer lasts from verse 1 until verse 26, but our text only goes through 11.  So you’re not getting the whole high priestly prayer today, but there’s enough here for our benefit, without a doubt.

1When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,

 

Jesus had just finished a section of teaching, teaching about the work of the Holy Spirit, about His own death, about the peace the disciples would have in Christ no matter what the outcome may be.  And so He begins to pray.

We have to stop with this verse and talk about glory, as the words “glory” and “glorify” show up six times in this small section.  When we say something or someone has glory, we mean that they are worthy of honor, respect, praise, adoration, even worship.  And then to glorify something is to lift it up as worthy of having glory.  To point to something or someone and say, “This is worthy of our respect, our praise, our worship.”

And so the hour has come, indeed, the hour has come in which the Son of Man will be lifted up.  “Glorify Your Son.”  That is what happens on the cross.  His suffering, His pain, His bleeding, His sacrifice given for us.  The cross of Christ, Him lifted up, glorifies the Christ.  It is there, in His body and His blood that we know our sins are forgiven.  And so it is there that we know He is worthy of our worship and praise entirely because He is God.

And it is this then, the act of forgiveness of sins, the act of atonement, the act of restoring us to our creator, to God our Father in heaven, this act glorifies the Father.  Because in our newness of life, in being new children of God through the work of Christ, we can see the Father.  We can know the Father.  And in knowing the Father, we adore Him.

since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

 

The Father has given all things into the hands of His Son Jesus.  We see this clearly spelled out in several epistles, but it’s here, too.  The Father entrusts His world, His creation, into the care of His Son.  And Christ is faithful.  In His death and in His resurrection, He does give everlasting life to all who believe in Him.

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

 

Earlier this week, Christian blogger Matt Walsh wrote a challenging piece on this idea.  He was calling out Christians on the lack of respect, the lack of praise and worship that we show to God.  His challenge was essentially this: the Scriptures teach us that we in everlasting life will spend all our time praising God, worshiping Him. So why is it, that now in this life, many, maybe all, Christians, can hardly be bothered to do so?

630 members in this congregation.  How many of them are here today?  How many will I see in the pews all summer?   And an even smaller number are in Bible class each weekend.  And an even smaller number than that devote time to daily devotions at home.  If we can’t get around to spending time with God now, and sometimes even disdain time with God now, you know God forbid this service goes over an hour, maybe we should rethink either how we’re living this life, or our expectations of our everlasting life.

That’s good law.  I would suspect that truly hits all of us.  I know it does me.  We don’t worship God as often as we ought.  We don’t want to do the things He has laid out for us to do.  We would rather rebel, do the things, the sins, we enjoy, rather than enjoy time at His feet as the Word makes Him known to us.

And yet, He still glorified His Son, He still lifted up Christ for us, to make this known to you: your sins are forgiven!  Even this one, even your lack of desire for everlasting worship and praise.  I didn’t read Matt’s full article, only his shorter version, but my guess is, he doesn’t get to this, the forgiveness, the reconciliation of God and man.

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.

 

The work the Father gave the Son to do is precisely what we just talked about.  Sure, it includes the miracles, the teaching, the fulfillment of the law.  But all of that leads Jesus to the cross.  To the work of the sacrifice which makes forgiveness ours.

And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

 

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian church, we have that beautiful section about how Jesus gave up the glory of the throne for a body of human flesh.  Of how He humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross.  This is God.  Jesus, alongside the Father and the Spirit, created all of this.  And yet, He willingly laid aside His heavenly crown for one made of thorns.

So now, in this prayer, Jesus is praying that that glory be restored to Him.  And while I don’t believe this is the answer to our original question of why we have this text today, it does fit.  “Glorify Me in Your Own presence.”  We think of Christ seated at the right hand of the Father.  And that He is, as we celebrated with the Ascension just this past Thursday.  Jesus reigns over heaven and earth.

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

 

Jesus revealed the Father, Jesus made known the Father to us.  The Father entrusted His creation, His people to Jesus, that Jesus would then point His people back to the Father.  That goes back to the opening of the prayer, “glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You.”  This is the point of the work of Christ, that He makes the Father known to us.

Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.

 

Jesus may be a little ahead of Himself here.  The disciples, the followers that God specifically entrusted to His Son during His earthly ministry often didn’t get it.  They rarely understood His teaching, they often stood in awe and amazement at the miracles He performed.  But even in our inability to fully comprehend God, which simply isn’t possible, they got it.  We get it.  Christ’s authority is the authority of God.  He can heal a blind man, because He has authority over creation and the body.  He can heal the broken sinners of the world because He has authority over sin and death.

For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

 

One of the things that Jesus had just told His disciples prior to this prayer was the saying that you all know full well.  “I am the Way, and the ______(Truth), and the _____(Life).  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  The disciples heard the good news and they believed.  And now, as we do, through Christ and His gifts given to us, we get to know the Father as well.

I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

 

Here we remember that Jesus is praying.  He’s not teaching.  But praying.  And specifically praying so that the disciples can overhear Him.  This isn’t a prayer for the chief priest or for Pilate.  This is a prayer for the followers of God.

The very last words Jesus taught before launching into prayer were these:

32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16

 

After the arrest, the disciples do scatter.  After His death, they are overcome by grief, despair, and fear.  Yet they had the opportunity to hear this prayer of Christ, that no matter what may happen, He is God, He has made known to them the Father, and in the Father they then have everlasting life.

This brings peace.  This brings confidence and comfort in any and all troubles.  Even in their persecution that was to come.  Jesus has overcome the world.  For us.  And this means we need not fear the world, or sin, or death, or the devil.  We can live in the peace, confidence, and hope of Christ, because we have forgiveness and the promise of the resurrection.

10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.

 

The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one God.  And so what is the Father’s is the Son’s and what is the Son’s is the Father’s.  And just as the Father gave Jesus work to accomplish that would glorify Him, that would cause us to worship the Father and be reconciled with Him, so also Jesus gives His disciples work to do, work that when we do it, glorifies Him, points others to see Christ and to give praise and worship because of His good and gracious gifts that He gives to us.

This is the sanctified Christian life, that we indeed continue to give God honor, and praise, and worship, but also that we would tell others of Christ’s love, His forgiveness, and the gift of everlasting life, that they too may then give God honor, and praise, and worship.  Doing these things doesn’t save us, Christ does.  Doing these things is simply something we do now that we are one with Christ, through the waters of baptism.

11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

 

It is this verse that puts this prayer in our readings for the Easter season rather than Holy Week.  We were about to see Christ crucified, Peter’s denial, the disciples scattering in fear.  But Christ’s prayer here is that we would be one, just as He is with the Father.  And so we end the season of Easter this week reminded that we are to be one, as we prepare for Pentecost next weekend, where we see the birth of the church, united in Christ alone.  The reading from Acts this morning shows this.  It shows the one accord of the Apostles as they remained in Jerusalem, awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit.

This wasn’t even the half of it.  I encourage you as you eat lunch today, open up to John 17, finish reading Jesus’ high priestly prayer.  And you will see there that He most certainly meant this prayer to include you among the disciples, that the Father would be made known to you as He was to them, and that as they know the love of God in Christ, through the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life, you would also know that love.  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

 

The Weather’s Good for Camping June 14, 2015

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2 Corinthians 5:1-10

Proper 6

June 14, 2015

 

Focus:  God delivers us from death through the life given in His Son.

Function:  That the campers are encouraged to do good unto their fellow campers.

Structure:  Walking through the Scripture/Here is the promise of the gospel…this is how we live out that promise.

 

The Weather’s Good for Camping

 

It’s that time of year again.  It’s camping season.  The weather’s warm, the wildlife is flourishing, and it’s just a wonderful opportunity to go out and enjoy God’s creation.  So you round up the family, the friends, or maybe you just fly solo.  You load up the car, head out into the woods, pitch a tent, and enjoy.  Whether it’s just relaxing, swimming in a lake, or going for a hike, the weather’s good for camping.

But it’s just a tent.  And when the weekend comes to a close, you pack it back up and return to brick and mortar, to the place you call home.  Seeing how Paul was a tentmaker by trade, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he uses the tent to express something to us in his letter.  Much like a camping tent, or even the Old Testament tent called the Tabernacle, Paul calls this earth our tent.  It is our home, but only temporarily.

For a camping tent, the more permanent home is what you return to.  For the Tabernacle, it was replaced by a more permanent structure called the temple.  And for the tent that is the earth, well, Paul tells us that we have a building that is from God.  Isaiah, Peter, and John all talk to us about a new heaven and a new earth.  You can dream about it, but that’s not where Paul’s headed.

Instead, Paul is giving us a reminder, a reminder that in the grand scheme of things, in the scope and scale of eternity, this is just your weekend camping trip!  And it’s a bumpy one at that.  It’s only temporary; it doesn’t last forever, not even close.

And the naked bit fits well, too.  Here we are looking to God for clothing, so that when we see Him face to face, we won’t appear before Him naked.  Does that sound familiar?  Does it remind of you of a time when God walked around in the garden and called out: “Where are you?”  And the man replied, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:9-10)

In their sin, Adam and Eve recognized their nakedness, and then they were ashamed.  In our sin today, we are still ashamed, and so we call out, longing for God to clothe us.  We groan and we long for His response, for His aid.  We bear the burdens of this world, the burdens of our temptations, of our greed, of our failure, of our lack of trust, of our lack of courage.

We could sit here all day listing off our failures; they’re more numerous than any of us care to admit.  And so we long to be clothed, we long for this mortal flesh to be swallowed up by life.  And it has!  Paul talks in exactly this way to the churches in Rome and Galatia, that we have clothed ourselves in Christ.

God heard our groaning, our longing, and He answered.  He gave us His Son.  And through the death of Christ on the cross, through the crimson blood flowing from His veins, as it drapes itself over you, your sins are covered, they’re forgiven.  And as He rose again from the dead on Easter morning, leaving that burial cloth behind in the tomb, we too, leave behind the filthy rags, for the robe of Christ, that we may be swallowed up by life.

It’s been done for us.  God has done it.  And so that we never forget it, the Father and the Son gave us the Spirit.  Through the work of the Spirit, we have the guarantee.  Through the work of the Spirit, creating faith in our hearts in our baptisms, daily clothing us with the love and forgiveness of Christ, we have the guarantee of life.  We can be certain: it is a gift, and it is ours.  Because God has promised, and God has done it.

In this text, the NIV translation uses the word “confident.”  But the ESV translation uses the word “courage.”  In fairness, the Greek word used by Paul can truly mean either.  But which word you read in this text does affect the meaning.  If it is indeed confidence, then we worry not about this world, and we focus on the Spirit’s guarantee, that as He has promised, we have life both now in this tent, but also forever in the home He has prepared for us.

But the word courage takes it a step further, and makes us think of boldness.  And it’s in this light this day that I want us to think about Paul’s words.  Because we live in an age that takes courage.

Paul continues by talking about how right now we’re at home in the body, but we’re away from the Lord.  And he mentions how we long to be away from the body and at home in the Lord.  This isn’t a negative view of God’s creation, of our bodies, only the desire, the longing we have for the perfect relationship, the life everlasting that is truly ours as we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness.  And that day comes, we know not when, only that it comes.  And body and soul will be reunited.

In the meantime, we walk by faith, not by sight.  This is essential today, brothers and sisters.  This is essential because we now live in a culture where you won’t see Christ in the society around you.

We get so caught up these days in the details that we’ve missed the bigger picture altogether.  We get so caught up in specific issues and in political battles over things like divorce, abortion, cohabitation, and same-sex marriage, that we’ve completely missed the war that’s being fought all around us.

Our culture, this nation, is at war and there’s not a doubt about it.  But even though the media and the talk all seems to be about the things I just mentioned, those things are just battles, not the war.  The real war that’s being waged right now is over the Christian worldview, and it’s been happening for decades.

Now, as a historian, I won’t go so far as to say this nation was founded as a Christian nation.  That’s simply not true, as many of our founding fathers were deists, not Christian.  But this nation has had a Christian worldview since the outset.

Let me define that quickly.  A worldview, simply put, is how you look at and think about the world around you.  It’s the way you view your life and then live it.  So there were enough Christians in America’s earlier days, that the culture, by and large, inherited that worldview.  They saw things in light of who Christ is and what He’s done.

They saw things through the lens of Scripture.  You could make a reference to the flood, or to David and Goliath, or to milk and honey, or to pillars of salt or golden calves, or even have a football play named the Immaculate Reception.  You can’t make those references today and expect people to understand it.  The Bible is no longer seen as authoritative, and we live in a culture where people refuse to believe that there could be an authority outside of themselves.

It has many sources, but this has been Satan’s war against God since the tree in the garden.  And he continues to fight it in our very midst.  It’s not just people calling the Bible some 2000 year old book.  We can think about daily life.  The sense of being a true community has been lost.  We never have to leave our own homes; we all have shrines of entertainment just for us.  It’s individual, not communal.  We don’t need to interact with other people on a daily basis to survive.

Our Board of Evangelism, just in the time I’ve been here, has noticed the impact here in Stewartville.  Going door to door used to be okay, even fun sometimes.  You’d knock, they’d answer, and you’d have a conversation.  Maybe they didn’t believe in Jesus, maybe they outright refused Him, but usually they showed respect.  That’s gone.  And that’s assuming they even open the door when you knock.

You see it with people in need.  How often will someone drop their purse and no one even notices because we’re too wrapped up in our own little world?  How bad has it gotten, that if a couple is thinking of divorce, or if a teen is feeling so lonely that they’re contemplating suicide, or if a mother just lost a child, that we now live in a culture where that has to be kept secret?  We can’t share ourselves with one another because we’ve lost what it means to be a community, even in the church.  And for whatever role I’ve played in that, I’m sorry.  Forgive me, forgive us.

I’ve seen this also in the media, but even now, more and more among the general population.  Recently President Matthew Harrison of our Synod wrote a letter of encouragement to pastors, a Christian blogger blogged about how our culture wants to call Bruce Jenner a hero, and the sometimes sarcastic Christian comic Adam4d for just about any of his posts, they all had something in common.  They got lit up like a Christmas tree.  Whoops, sorry for the Christian worldview reference there.

No, they spoke their mind and their faith, and received hateful backlash for it.  The response was just vitriol.  And it’s becoming increasingly popular all around us.

There’s a quote that I mentioned partially in Bible class two weeks ago that fits this very well.  The now late-Cardinal of Chicago, Francis George once said “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”  And while that shares the doom and gloom outlook many Christians have today, while it seems to fit in with the church decline we hear about so often, it wasn’t the end of the quote.  He finished by saying, “His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”

That’s just it.  This isn’t new.  We’re not alone.  It’s the same sin and death cycle we’ve seen throughout human history.  With Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, the Egyptians and 400 years of slavery, Jonah and the Ninevites, Jesus and, well, everybody, Saul/Paul and well, let’s be honest, the whole New Testament for that matter was written during a time of persecution of Christians.  And yet, Paul writes that we should have courage.

You see the worldview that we have, that comes from God’s Word and is indeed a gift from Him, is at odds out there, it doesn’t make sense.  But it’s to those very people that Christ came.  It’s in the very midst of brokenness, our brokenness, our society’s brokenness, that a loving God reached down and called us His children.  And He will continue to do so.

And so, we take courage.  Because even if persecution does increase, even if we are reproached and insulted by men, we walk by faith, not by sight.  We have courage, boldness, and confidence in light of the Spirit’s guarantee, and that this is only a tent.  No matter what happens to us now, we have a God who created us, loves us, and saved us.

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.  Christ said His purpose was to glorify the Father, and thus, when we do that, we please Christ.  This isn’t a salvation issue, a works-righteousness thing, it’s simply a family thing.  We’re children of God, with the Spirit as guarantee, and so we are courageous.

Step outside of your homes, help the neighbor build his shed, bake something for them, water the plants while they’re away.  Reach out to the prideful, the strong, the arrogant.  Reach out to the broken.  Build relationships with people, through which you can share the truth of God’s Word and the love of His Son.

When we approach the judgement seat of God, to give an account, yes, we’ll have to fess up for our faults, but we also get to say, I know that Guy, I’m wearing His robe.  And He’ll vouch for you, because He clothed you and made you part of the family.  And it brings glory to Him when He gets to vouch for your neighbor too.

Remember, this is just a weekend camping trip, with many bumps along the way.  But while you’re out on your trip, you’ll notice other campers, too, many of whom could use assistance.  Light their fire, share your food, give some directions.  Maybe persecution will ruin your trip, but it won’t ruin your life, your everlasting life.  And just like Saul/Paul himself, those same people might become our fellow campers.