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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.

 

 

Peace of Christ November 29, 2015

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Isaiah 40:1-2

Advent 1

November 29, 2015

 

Focus:  God gives us comfort and joy in the Messiah.

Function:  That the hearers cast their anxieties on Christ.

Structure:  Pre-written Sermon Series, “Comfort and Joy” by Tim Klinkenberg, Drew Gerdes, and Michael Hoy via Creative Communications.

 

Peace of Christ

            The text for our message today is from Isaiah 40:1-2: ”Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

Thanksgiving is over.  And now you find yourselves trying to figure out how many different meals you can plan from turkey leftovers, and just how long you can keep your house smelling like pumpkin pie.  Most of us have packed up the Thanksgiving decorations and shoved them back into storage.  And now, we move into the season of Advent.  Or more accurately, we leapfrog right over Advent and celebrate Christmas! Christmas? Christmas! Are you ready for Christmas? Have you started making a list? Because it’s way too early to be checking it twice!

Advent is meant to give us time to prepare for Christmas.  To prepare our hearts and minds, to set them on the coming of Christ.  To give us the time to explore, through the Scriptures, the profound comfort and joy that God promised in the Messiah and delivers in His Son Jesus laid in a manger and the end of this earth and the return of our Lord. As we explore these thoughts in the four weeks of Advent, our theme this year will be “Comfort and Joy.” In the weeks ahead we will look at the Peace of Christ, the Pardon of Christ, the Presence of Christ and the Power of Christ. Each of these will help lead us to Christmas with renewed hearts and with a great sense of what our Lord is doing in the world.

Isaiah’s words of peace and comfort in these two verses are the basis for our theme today. Isaiah’s words are spoken to a community that was struggling with violence and insecurity. Life for the people of Israel, for the people of God, seemed out of control. There was no Internet, no 24-hour news, no Twitter feeds. For all they knew the next person coming over the hill would be a commander with his army in tow seeking to destroy them. Their country had become a second-rate world power and the people were anxious.

We on the other hand get nervous because we have so much information. We are bombarded with information. A jetliner disappears off a radar screen and we have 24-hour coverage for weeks after the incident. Russia moves into the Ukraine and not only do we have newspaper stories, but we have video coverage, audio, and people giving their reports on the ground to family via smartphones.

So much information drives anxiety.  We call this “information overload.”  Constantly checking our phones, our Facebook newsfeed, whatever we can.  We want to know about something the instant it happens.  It’s an addiction, and left unchecked, it leads to uncontrollable anxiety.

The way we prepare for Christmas also builds on our anxiety. We do make lists, some on paper and many more in our minds. We have so many tasks that need to be accomplished over the next month. Gifts need to be figured out, purchased, and paid for. Cards need to be dreamed up, ordered, addressed and sent. Christmas Day dinner needs a menu, then shopping, then preparation, then serving. And enjoying the day? Maybe, if there’s time for that.

And even before the year ends, our minds are racing, wondering where we’re going and what might happen in the year ahead. While there may not be an army at our gates, there is an army of people that needs what we have. Shopping, organizing, baking, cleaning and all the tasks of the season are done with a clock running and the clock will reach zero on Christmas Day.

The Lord speaks to anxious people at an anxious time. He comes with words of comfort. He comes with words that herald God’s engagement in our anxiety. He comes with a word that the future will be peaceful. Peace begins not with the stuff that we have to do, but with God’s plan for you and me. The peace plan rumbles through the Garden of Eden, is sustained by faithful Noah, is affirmed in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and is brought into the world through Mary. God brings peace in the presence of Jesus, His Son and our Lord.

Jesus comes to work at the root of our anxiety, He’s not just some Band-Aid to mask the symptoms. He comes to our soul and connects us to God our Father in heaven. The words of Isaiah find reality in Jesus. Jesus came to pay double for our sins. He brings us peace with God. Jesus’ peace isn’t merely the absence of anxiety, but peace that comes from God with us, from God living with us in life and death. He brings us peace! Christmas is a celebration of God’s peace for us. And we anticipate a new year full of God’s peace.

Our anxiety, along with the fear that drives it, are replaced with confidence in Christ and hope for the future. God has worked, is working, and will work in our lives and there’s no reason to believe He will quit. Indeed, there is every reason to believe and trust that He will keep on working in our lives.

For many of us, this season is filled with traditions. Some of us have a manger scene that we unpack, albeit way too early, and put up in a prominent place in our homes. Typically the scene has all the right pieces: a stable or a cave or whatever, cows, sheep, Mary and Joseph and maybe a few Magi are part of the scene also. But the central character, the most prominent piece is perhaps the smallest. It’s the piece many of us put in the scene last, but it’s clearly the most important piece. Without that little piece, the rest of the scene is useless. With that little piece the scene finds meaning for you and all who see it. That little piece in the center of the scene, lying in a manger, is your peace. It’s Jesus, who was wrapped in cloth and laid in a manger. He is God’s answer to anxiety and worry. He is God’s remedy to fear. He is your Savior from sin and death.  Jesus is the center not only of that scene, but of yours. He comes to live with you and in you. He comes to be the center of the season. He comes to be our peace. Amen.

 

Child of Promise: Prince of Peace December 8, 2013

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Isaiah 9:2-7

Second Sunday in Advent

December 8, 2013

 

Paraphrased from an Advent sermon series: Child of Promise, by Dr. David Peter and CLK

 

Child of Promise: Prince of Peace

 

            Every year, countless beauty pageant contestants, state or national, echo the same refrain.  What is the one thing you wish for?  “World Peace.”  Peace is a fabulous concept, and one that we’re fascinated by the world over.  Just outside the United Nations building in New York City, there’s a large bronze statue of a man beating a sword into a plowshare.  He’s turning a weapon of destruction into a tool for growth and life.  The statue is emblazoned with the words “We shall beat our swords into plowshares.”  It’s a goal of the UN to bring about every Miss Americas’ dream of world peace.

            But what often goes unsaid about this statue is that it’s a Biblical illustration.  The prophet Isaiah foretells of a day of peace among all nations, when “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”  That’s a wonderful image of peace.

            But the peace Isaiah is talking about goes so much deeper than that.  It’s not simply a time with no war, where nations are at rest.  The peace of God is truly as Paul tells us, a “peace which passes all understanding.”  The peace of God, the same peace prophesied by Isaiah, comes to us through the Messiah, a Messiah that Isaiah saw coming over 600 years before it happened:

            For To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His  shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end.

 

            The arrival of the Promised Prince of Peace was not like fire from heaven or a wall of chariots storming Rome.  Instead, the Messiah came as a newborn baby, just as the prophet said.  He would be born a child.  He would be born a Son.  But this Child is not just any Son, He’s the very Son of God.  All authority in the heavens and on earth is His.  He is the King of all creation.  His names are glorious: Wonderful Counselor, a King of wisdom; Mighty God, a divine and all powerful King; Everlasting Father, an eternal King.  This King, this Messiah, is no ordinary man!  He is God incarnate, He is God dwelling among us. 

But the reason this Messiah comes waits for the last name: He is Sar Shalom.  He is the Prince of Peace.  He has come to bring shalom, God’s peace into the world.  He has come to bring peace into a once peaceful creation, one that is now filled with violence and chaos.  And Isaiah tells us that His peace will increase without end.

When the Prince of Peace came, born of the virgin in Bethlehem, Yahweh’s angel army rejoiced and said: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.”  God came and dwelled among us.  In doing so, He gives us His peace.  From God, for us.  That’s what the angels had to say.  God’s peace is a peace between God and His creation.

This is good news.  This is good news because we are a creation disrupted by violence and chaos.   We are, by nature, enemies of God.  Isaiah talks about this: “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”  To a holy God, sin is chasm.  As sinful creatures, we are separated from God.  And if He executed justice, being just, He would have no choice but to condemn us.

That’s the good news of Sar Shalom, of our Prince of Peace.  By coming and dwelling among us, our King took God’s justice, His wrath, upon Himself.  By His death on the cross, He’s experienced God’s wrath against sin.  Isaiah saw it all coming: “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”  His punishment brings us peace.  We are at peace with God once again.  The Apostle Paul saw this clearly:

Therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Since therefore we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.  – Romans 5:1, 9-10, ESV.

 

This is the ultimate peace which Christ, the Prince of Peace brings to us.  He brings us peace with God through the forgiveness of our sins.  Sar Shalom, our Prince of Peace, brings us to everlasting life.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding does not limit itself.  As peace rains from down on us from God, it splatters.  It gets all over the place.  God’s peace helps us have peace with one another.  Unfortunately, as we continue to wrestle with our sin, we often struggle to live at peace with one another.

A common joke illustrates this pretty well.  A woman is stuck between two men on a passenger train.  One man is complaining that he’s going to die of heat stroke if they don’t open the window.  The other is complaining that if the window doesn’t stay shut, he’ll die of pneumonia.  The fight got so heated the conductor himself was called in to settle the dispute.  After his failed efforts, the woman stuck in the middle offered a solution.  “First we’ll open the window.  That will kill the first man.  Then we’ll close it again, and that’ll polish off the other one.  Then we’ll all have peace!”

That kind of peace is what we’re most familiar with.  It’s the worldly peace, the kind men and women fight and die for.  But it really isn’t peace.  It’s like the bumper sticker that says: “I have no problem loving the world; but it’s that worthless fellow next door who’s the problem.”  We all have those “problem” people in our lives.  Maybe it’s someone in your family, or your boss or a coworker.  Maybe it’s a classmate or a former friend.  We all know someone that’s difficult to love, difficult to be at peace with.

But Paul writes in Ephesians 2: “For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility.”  The fall of the Berlin Wall has nothing on Christ, the King who destroyed the barriers between Jews and Gentiles, brothers and sisters, workers and bosses. Even that worthless problem person, we can love them and be at peace with them because of the merciful love that God has showered upon us.

In World War 1, the bloodbath between the Germans and British was one of the most tragic in human history.  But in the midst of it all, on Christmas Eve 1914, things were a little different.  As the soldiers were lying in their trenches and fox holes all along the Western Front, suddenly the German forces broke out into song.  The British looked across No-Man’s Land in surprise as the Germans joined together in harmony, singing “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht.”  As they began to realize what was going on, the British joined in one after another, “Sleep in heavenly peace.” A former officer, Gerald Shepherd, reported the scene:

The British sentries…saw what appeared to be small lights, raised on poles or bayonets, waved above the German trenches, and although these lanterns clearly illuminated the German troops, the British held their fire.  Even more startlingly, British officers saw through binoculars that some enemy troops were holding Christmas trees over their heads with lighted candles in their branches!  Then occurred one of the most unusual incidents in military history.  One by one, soldiers on both sides laid down their weapons and ventured into no man’s land – too many of them to prevent their superior officers from objecting.  They traded chocolates and pictures of families.  They played a flare-lit game of soccer.  An Englishman brought out an accordion, a German a violin.  (“The Night the War Came to a Halt,” by Catherin Foster, The Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 24, 1986, http://www.csmonitor.com/1986/1224/rtrench.html)

 

For one night, the bitter enemies sang Christmas carols and celebrated the birth of their Prince of Peace.  For one night, swords became plowshares.  This Advent season, may the Prince of Peace continue to pour out His peace upon our violent and chaotic world.  May our Sar Shalom bring that peace to you and your families, that you may know the peace and forgiveness that have reconciled you with our Father.  And I pray that you may also share God’s peace with everyone you meet, that the Prince of Peace, our King’s peace, will continue to increase without end.