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Sermon for the Seventh Sunday of Easter

Augustana 2011

41 Sermon for Easter 7.mp3

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

It’s always comforting to know that someone is praying for you.  And of course, that’s what Jesus is doing now that He has ascended to the right hand of the Father.  It’s nice to hear someone say, “I’ve been praying for you.”  How much greater to know that the Son of God is doing this for you right now.  He’s praying you’ll pay attention to this sermon.  He’s praying my words would be effective and not return empty.  But think about Jesus praying for you in a different way for just a minute.  Think of Jesus interceding before the Father like a lawyer who steps in and speaks on behalf of someone who has to go to court to resolve a legal difficulty.  All that person need do is show up and let the paid professional say the right words to make sure that justice is accomplished.  You have Jesus, the preeminent intercessor, who is making your appeal to the Father.  You can be certain that God our heavenly Father hears the intercession of His Son and answers your request in your favor.  But Jesus is not praying for just anything.  He is praying, “Holy Father, keep them in Your name.”  You are kept in God’s name.

As Christians we live in a world that is constantly at war against us and is doing everything it can to separate us from unity we have with Jesus.  St. Paul writes in Ephesians chapter 6: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”  (Eph 6:12)  We live in a world that is so aligned against us that even some “preachers” spew the Enemy’s propaganda.  Many of you are familiar with this radio preacher, Harold Camping.  He made headlines by predicting the end of the world.  What didn’t make the headlines where his teachings that true Christians should not go to church, nor be baptized or receive the Lord’s Supper. [1]  He strikes at the truest and purest sources of God’s enduring grace and favor to Christians.  This is proof  that the world is certainly allied against us.

What makes the situation worse is that with our built in alienation from God on account of our sin we are inclined to entertain the world and its ideas to the point we often ally ourselves with the world!  Think about how rarely we flee to the sure Word of God when a situation presents itself.  Too often we rely on psychology or sociology to give us the answers we need.  I’m deeply saddened to see the ELCA rip apart over issues that are so clearly lined out in God’s Word.  But just as church bodies flee from the teaching of God’s Word in such matters, so do we.  We turn a blind eye to children and grandchildren who heed not God’s clear Word against intimacy outside of marriage.  The Word of God is the standard for all matters of doctrine and life.  We don’t edit out the bits we don’t like or that require sacrifice or are counter-cultural.  What do issues like this do?  They destroy unity.  And just so we’re clear, there is no such thing as unity in diversity or whatever you want to call it.  We are either walking in sync with God and His Word or we are walking in the ways of the world.  And if you are walking in the ways of the world and are fine with that, remember the world’s intention: to destroy your association with the Father.   Our sinful condition often makes us inclined to ally with the world.

But remember that we have Jesus as our intercessor.  See how fervently Jesus prays for our salvation and our protection from the world, even protection from our own selves.  Jesus’ prayers move the heart of Father.  Jesus prayer on your behalf moves God to cause you, through His Word, to continue to be one with Him.  God is continually working to pull you back from the world.  Jesus’ prayer moves God to give you faith that you would have confidence that Jesus’ Word is His Father’s Word.  Jesus’ prayer is that you would be kept safely in God’s name.

This may be a strange phrase to our ears.  We might feel more secure to be kept safely in a castle or a fortress.  But the name of God the Father is even greater.  The name of God is His power and His authority.  What happened when Joshua’s  spies went into Canaan to do some recon?  They met Rahab who said she would work for the Lord’s spies because she had heard that He dried up the waters of the Red Sea and crushed the Amorite Kings, Sihon and Og.  The Lord has a reputation, a good name.  By His name, Rahab knew the Lord’s power.  There are names that capture attention today too.  Even if you don’t have a computer you know who Bill Gates is.  Even if you don’t watch her show, you know her name, Oprah.  How much greater the name of the Lord God and even greater His intention to keep you safely in His name.

Hear the plea from your Savior, “Father, forgive them.”  (Lk 23:34)  “Glorify your Son.”  Jesus interceded for you.  He said, “Father, lift me up on the cross, let me carry all their sin, then bury me with it.”  Hear too the answer of the Father, “I hear your prayer, My beloved Son.  Because I love you, I forgive Your people.  I have given You power to give eternal life to all whom I have given to You.” (v. 2)  God will not deny His own Son, whom He sent to accomplish all things for Your salvation. (v. 4)  Jesus is even now before the Father in heaven interceding for you and always with eternal results.

There are many today who scoff at the Biblical portrayal of God.  Most people are not nearly so arrogant.  They tend to hedge their bets.  “Even if there is a God,” they say, “and that’s a big if, how can we know that He (or she or it) is favorably disposed toward us in general which I doubt, or even me in particular which I doubt exponentially more?”  Look at Jesus.  Look at how He died; He even convinced a hard-hearted Roman centurion.  Look at His prayer in the garden just before He was arrested.  He is sweating blood here as he prays.  Look at the boundless compassion of Jesus for the sake of His people, for you.  Jesus the Messiah of God, God’s own Son, died for your sins and is now resurrected and ascended to the right hand of the Father praying for all He came to save.  He is praying even now for you that you may be kept safely in the protection of God’s name.

Being Christ’s own possession, flee to the protection of His name in His Word.  You glorify Christ when you recognize any attempt of the world to divide you from the Father and you drown it with a flood of His Word.  Throughout the Harold Camping fiasco, there were so many true Christian voices who simply paraphrased the words of Jesus, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”  (Mt 24:36)  When you diligently read and study God’s Word, He increasingly makes you strong to resist such error and temptation but even more you are participating in the work of the Kingdom, you proclaim His Word and honor the name in which you safely dwell.

Even though not all lawyers have the same ability to deliver in a courtroom, as your intercessor before the Father, Jesus does not fail.  His high priestly prayer is heard by His Father and as a result the Father is favorably inclined toward you always.  Jesus is praying for you until that day when faith, hope, Word, Sacrament, and intercession are no longer necessary.  On that day you will behold Him face to face in righteousness and holiness and know Him fully, even as you have been fully known even from before the foundations of the world.  Being kept safely in His name now is a taste of what will be forever.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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