Posts Tagged ‘Ascension’

They Are Yours 6-1-14

This sermon comes from John 17:1-11. In this passage, Jesus prays for the disciples as he is about to leave the earth. In the sermon I explore what it means to be one in Christ, and to follow his example of the work that we are called to do for the gospel.

You can listen to the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/they-are-yours-6-1-14

You can follow along with the text of the sermon here.

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

I find that the church calendar is a wonderful thing…rotating year by year…season by season…and it works well to point us towards specific periods in the history of the church. Advent prepares us for the coming messiah…Christmas heralds his birth…Epiphany celebrates Christ being revealed to the world…Lent prepares us for the darkness of Holy Week…Easter joyful declares our risen Lord…and Pentecost celebrates the long ongoing growth of the church itself.

And in addition to the seasons…we also know that there are specific days that fall in the church year that are of special significance…Some of them fall on a specific date every year…Christmas Eve and Christmas day for example, and they carry their own celebrations. Others change from year to year, but are still important and recognized…Easter Sunday and along with it, Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday…still other important celebrations will skip around date-wise, but still have a specific time in the year when they are celebrated…like Reformation Sunday the last weekend of October, or the day of Pentecost coming up in another week. (pause)

But then…there’s an exception to this cycle…there is a church holiday that tends to slip through the cracks just a little bit…because of its very specific timing. Ascension Day…Now to clarify…the Ascension of Jesus does move around every year…it is dictated by Easter…always occurring exactly 40 days later…and now think about that for just a moment…the last time I checked my math…40 is not divisible by 7…and so we will never find Ascension Day happening on a Sunday.

And because of that fact partnered up with the notion that Jesus’ Ascension, while an important event, sort of pales in comparison with some of the other yearly events…the Ascension often times gets overlooked. Sometimes it will be highlighted in worship either the Sunday before or the Sunday after…and that does happen…we highlighted the Ascension a week ago here in fact…but all too often we mention it in passing…and that’s about the extent of it…if the various seasons and celebrations within the church year were a family…then Ascension day would be the proverbial red-headed step child.

That being said, the lectionary does do its part in making sure that we remember this important day when Jesus leaves Earth and returns to his father in heaven…and as is the custom…our first lesson today featured the story from the book of Acts…but at the same time the lectionary plays a bit of an odd joke on us, as our gospel lesson for today, the 7th Sunday of Easter…still places us in the midst of the last supper…before Jesus betrayal and arrest.

Certainly this is an odd combination of passages for us to focus on today…and yet it is not without a sense of purpose. For Jesus returned to the Father last Thursday…and next Sunday we celebrate the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost…and the two events are certainly connected.

And even more so…we must also remember that this brief period is a time of transition for the disciples, as they adjust to the absence of Jesus, their teacher and leader for the past three years…and therefore, a reminder of the prayer offered up by Jesus…prayed on the behalf of his disciples shortly before his death…is fitting. (pause)

Now there’s a lot in here…quite a bit of heady stuff including the authority of Jesus granted by the Father…making the name of God known…learning the word of God, keeping the word of God…doing the work of God…all kinds of stuff…and its all important stuff…but what I am most drawn to in this passage today is the moment when Jesus prays specifically for the protection of his friends.
I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours…protect them in your name that you have given me…so that they may be one, as we are one.

It’s interesting to note here that the authority granted to Jesus…the authority over all people…is manifested in a VERY limited number of people…the disciples…and that’s it…did you notice that? I do not ask on behalf of the world by on behalf of the ones that you gave me…Jesus has been around all this time…more than 30 years he’s been walking the earth as the only Son of God…and for 3 years he’s been proclaiming the kingdom of heaven…performing miracles…debating religious leaders…causing all manners of uproars around the countryside…yet his work…his duty…his task…was limited to these 12 guys. (pause)

And now as he departs this world he asks…flat out begs the father to protect them and to make them of one mind…of one being with one another just as Jesus himself is of one being with the Father and the Holy Spirit. (pause) Let them be one…

Well one what? (pause) When I ask that question I wonder how many of your minds skip over to the idea that the church is the one body of Christ here on Earth…many of you I hope…that’s where my mind goes as I ponder on this train of thought…Let them be one Father…let them be one church…let them be the body…your body…here on Earth in my absence….because these men…these 12 individuals know me…and through me they know you…we are all in relationship with one another…so protect them…and bind them together.

Jesus prays this prayer, in the midst of the very people he’s praying for…and he does it for a specific purpose…to strengthen them for the work that they will do…Jesus work is done…to proclaim the truth to the disciples so that they may know what God has done for them in the life of Christ himself…and their work…is to pass along that same gospel…and Jesus highlights this very point shortly after the end of today’s lesson…just a few verses later he says I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. (pause)

If you stop and think about it…Christianity is really a giant pyramid scheme…and while that may sound like a joke, I don’t intend it that way. (pause) The word of God became flesh and dwelled among us…teaching 12 men the truth, that through Christ the kingdom of God is here now…he called them by name and they are his…and then they went out to proclaim the very same…following Jesus own command to make disciples of all nations…baptizing them in the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit…knowing that each and every person who would follow in their footsteps would become members of the one body of Christ…and would join together in the same work started by Christ…continued by the disciples…and carried on through the lives of every believer down through the centuries.

And today…in just a few moments…God will add another individual into the one body. Brandt Sealock will come forward…presented by his parents to be washed in the font…to be washed in the same water that Jesus himself was washed with all those years ago…and in the waters of his baptism Brandt will be given the same name given to Jesus by the Father himself…my child, the beloved…and Brandt will take his place as one member of the body…joining with Christ in a death like his, but also in a resurrection like his…just as each and every baptized member of the body of Christ that has come before him. (pause)

And each and every member of Christ’s body…has a role…has a task…has work to do…just as Jesus’ work on earth was to make disciples of the 12…we are called by Christ himself to do the same…we are given authority to proclaim the gospel…maybe like Christ, we have 12 other people to reach in our lifetime…or maybe we have just 1…or perhaps we have thousands that God intends us to reach…only God knows what that is…but this is the work that we are all called to as fellow believers in Christ.

And we heard that very thing from Jesus himself in the first reading from Acts today…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…and you WILL BE my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria…and to the ends…of…the…earth.

And with the water that will wash over Brandt’s head in a moment, we believe that the Holy Spirit will come upon him just as it comes upon us all…we are the church…connected back through time to those 12 disciples…and through them to Christ himself…and Christ himself prayers to his father…reminding the Father…reminding the disciples who were in the room…and reminding us today that…Father, they are yours. Amen