Sermon for the Seventh Sunday of Easter
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas, May 8, 2016
Sermon Text: John 17:20-26
Sermon Theme: “The Family of God: The Model for Human Family Oneness”
(Sources: Emphasis Online Illustrations; Emphasis Online Examples; original ideas and examples; Anderson, Cycle C, Preaching Workbook)
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Of all the special observances, Mother’s Day, no doubt, is the most sentimental and emotional of them all! Even grown kids, who gave their Moms a rough time when they were young, and now neglect her most of the year, get teary-eyed and mushy on Mother’s Day.
Although my own mother was not a sweet, sugary type, she was a great Mom who lived by horse sense and hard work.
When my twin brother and I were young adults, with jobs and living away from home, but not yet married, we always came home for Mother’s Day. Our mother would prepare a huge feast of all our favorite foods, after which, my father, my brother, and I would adjourn to the living room to watch television (by then they had TV).
I remember one Mother’s Day after a sumptuous dinner of our favorite dishes, my brother said to her, “Mom, you shouldn’t have to do the dishes on your special day.”
Thinking the men were going to do the dishes, she put down her dish cloth.
“Just come in the living room with us,” my brother continued, “you can always do the dishes tomorrow.”
A couple years after that, my brother got married, and he tried it with his wife. It was the first and last time! From that time forth, he became a committed dishwasher.
It’s amazing how our sermon text from John’s gospel works for Mother’s Day, even though such was probably not the intent of the lectionary makers. Although my brother and I were never as considerate of our mother as we should have been, our family was very unified. This family oneness included the extended family of my grandparents, aunts, and uncles, all of whom lived near us and worshipped at the same church we did. As a child it made me feel very secure.
Sadly, there are far too many families that lack this oneness, and where there should be oneness there is division, frustration and unhappiness. On this Mother’s Day, we are reminded that the model for individual human family oneness is the Family of God. Let’s look at the model by looking at our sermon text.
Our sermon text from the 17th Chapter of John is a section of what we call Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer.” After praying for Himself and then for His disciples, Jesus petitions His heavenly Father on behalf of those who will become the second generation of believers. Jesus desires the same intimacy with those who will yet believe as He has had with those who already believe. This means that through faith, any believer is as close to Jesus, regardless of the century lived in.
The unity experienced by future fellowships of Christians will not be of a second-rate nature. It is just as authentic as what the disciples shared in the presence of Jesus. The risen Jesus, by the power of God, can be with the church whenever and wherever it is. Faith is the bond that will manifest the glory of the risen Jesus in His on-going body in the world, His church.
Jesus bases the oneness of the believers upon His being in them and the Father in Himself. This intimacy of being in one another is a gift from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the believers. This is what creates the oneness for which Jesus prays. The gift of relationship is given the believers to establish the oneness, so that it may stand as a witness to the world that there can be a living relationship between the divine and the human, between God and the children of earth.
Look at how Jesus is the center of our lives. After the Last Supper, Jesus gave the Church, words of comfort, encouragement, and challenge. He told them not to let their hearts be troubled. He told them if they asked anything in His name it would be granted. He reminded them they would never be abandoned or orphaned. He told them that He would send the Spirit to teach and remind them of all they needed. He promised them that, despite it all, at the center of the storm of their lives there would be a great peace – the peace of God.
He gave us many words to think about, and in today’s text, on our behalf, He prays this awesome prayer to the Father, with the emphasis on, “That they may be one as we are one.”
Today, we live in a time when people do what they want to do, and for the most part they do not want to listen to any voice but their own. That’s one of the reasons individual families are torn apart and the reason individual churches are torn apart.
A good mother is at the bottom of a unified family, when Christ is working through that mother. Many studies have shown that the Christian Mother is largely responsible for the spiritual life of the children, that she is the stabilizing force in the family, that she is the glue which holds the family together. That’s not putting her on par with Jesus, — it’s showing that Jesus is working through her through the Holy Spirit. When the mother has Jesus in her heart, the bickering, the fights, the jealousies, the hateful attitudes, the disunity of family members will be overcome.
In one of the Psalms, God is called a “dwelling place,” a home formed by a family living together. This image of a family, living together in harmony and compassion, reflects the desire of Jesus for all His followers to be united. Like a family, we Christians need to love one another, share with one another, strengthen one another, and defend our home, the Church. Like a family, we also may have quarrels and differences of opinion.
But, as the old man in an Aesop Fable demonstrated, unity strengthens us. The old man in the fable gave his quarreling sons a bundle of sticks, tightly tied together and told them to break the bundle in two. No matter how hard they tried, they could not. He took the bundle apart and handed them individual sticks to break, which they could easily do. When you are united in the bonds of family, no one can break you, but when you quarrel and separate, anyone can harm you.
Jesus is at the bottom of the unified family of God, the Church, but, again, because people do what they want to do, and for the most part do not want to listen to any voice but their own, the Church today has far less oneness that the Early Church did. This oneness of the Church must, however, never happen by editing the Bible, by ignoring its parts, such as the Ten Commandments, which command you not to do the things you may want to do.
Martin Luther, in his typical outspoken manner, gave a reason for this struggle. He said, “Therefore, wherever the Gospel flourishes, factions and sects that again spoil and check it must follow. For the devil must sow his seed among the good seed; and where God builds a church, Satan builds a chapel or a tabernacle next door. For Satan always wants to be among the children of God, as Scripture says.”
Some ecumenical movements today want worldwide church unity, but the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod does not get on that band wagon. Before you criticize our Synod, you must realize that some want unity with no constraints. If we are in Christ, and Christ is in us, how can we unite with denominations that “edit” Scripture? Denominations that approve things that Scripture speaks against?
For example, our Synod President, Dr. Matthew Harrison, has been meeting with the WES (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod), the ELS (Evangelical Lutheran Synod), and one of the Anglican Communions, in an effort to unite. As far as I know, he has not included the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) nor the Episcopal Church in these talks. The three he has met with are in totally agreement with us regarding the truths of Holy Scripture. The other two approve abortion, approve of gay marriage, and have women pastors.
That two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, and there are four opinions, is OK if those opinions do not refute the truth of infallible Scripture. To be in Christ and Christ in you, you have to be in accord with God’s Word.
Just as the mother cannot bring stability and peace to her family without the Word of God, our Church cannot maintain its unity outside the Word of God. Jesus has prayed to the Father for oneness in the family of God, we continue to pray for unity in the Church. It is God’s desire that those who belong to Him are one. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.