Sermon for Easter VII
June 2, 2019
Much can be learned about human nature and a variety of world views through the lens of law enforcement. As an emergency services chaplain, I rode with an HP Trooper on Friday morning from 8:00-12:00 noon. The most interesting part of the ride was pursuit of an older VW clocked at 98 mph westbound on I-94. The 20 year-old driver was not able to produce proof of insurance, proof of ownership of the vehicle, along with some other issues. He indicated that his mother kicked him out of the house and he was on his way to Oregon where a job awaited him. Three tickets to the tune of some $400.00 wasn’t the fresh start that he was looking for. Hopefully he has learned from poor choices and not being one with various laws and will make wiser choices in his future. I pray that this is the case for this young Minnesotan.
We also spent nearly an hour at the rest area just east of Bismarck as the trooper conducted a random truck check. Even though the trip for the owner-operator of a 2019 rig was interrupted for a 45 minute inspection, he was gracious and everything was in order. He had accurately logged his miles and hours on the road. Safety checks for working signals and lights were in order. Proper equipment including fire extinguisher and triangles were readily available. The seasoned driver knew his stuff and took pride in complying, being one, with standards and laws, all designed for the well-being and safety of the travelling public.
There are fewer accidents and people arrive safely at their destination when drivers on the roadways agree to follow the rules of the road. In recent weeks there have been several fatal crashes where sporadic and wrong-way drivers have led to tragic results. They were not in concert with carrying out the rules of the road and basic safety measures like seatbelts. In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus prays that there be unity, agreement, ONE as it relates to knowing and loving God. There is grave danger when this ONENESS in faith is not accomplished.
This past Thursday was the Ascension of our Lord, 40 days after the resurrection of our Lord as He was lifted up in the presence of the disciples and was hidden by a cloud. Two men in white robes indicated that “This Jesus whom you have seen go into heaven will come back just as you have seen go into heaven.” He is now seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding in our behalf. He will return on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead, to resurrect the bodies of those who have died and to bring all who trusted in Him for forgiveness to heaven. Going back 44 days from His ascension into heaven, we again meet Jesus, gathered with His disciples in the upper room, just prior to His arrest. His last word before this High Priestly Prayer is from last week’s Gospel. “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.”
Having prayed for His disciples who were present with Him, He now offers a prayer for those who will believe in Him through their word. Jesus offers this prayer for you, for me. He is letting us know why, after hanging on a cross for six gruesome hours, He will hang around for 40 days after being raised from death to life. The disciples will be able to give a first-hand witness account of Jesus’ appearances. His prayer is for oneness. There is no greater example of oneness of thought and purpose than the relationship that our heavenly Father has with the Son and the Holy Spirit. We will hear about that in two weeks on Holy Trinity Sunday. We celebrate that God the Father sent His dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, to be born, to live under the law, to be the sacrificial lamb for sin in His bloody death upon the cross, to rise to life, having defeated death through His death. We also rejoice that the Holy Spirit continues to work through the precious Word, convicting us of sin and pointing us to Jesus as the only Savior.
The ultimate desire of Jesus is in this little phrase in verse 21 of our text: “So that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Jesus wants as many souls as possible to know Him as Lord and Savior. As we recall from John 3, those who do not believe will perish, they will die in their sins. He echoes this again in verse 23: “so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
Just what does it mean to be ONE with others as Jesus and the Father are one? It means that we agree with His holy Word that we are accountable to God. We recognize our station with God. He is the Creator. We are His creation. We don’t get to call the shots. He who created us clearly stated how to live the joy-filled life. In a word, “TRUST ME. I’ll take care of your every need and bless you.” Isn’t that what the Lord declared to Adam in the Garden? I’m providing for you. I formed and shaped you, I breathed life into you. I’ve given this beautiful garden for you to tend along with a wife to be your companion. What more could you want? Trust in Me and I’ll take care of your every need. Enter Satan, the slimy liar who drove a wedge into that oneness by casting doubt on God’s Word of promise. “Did God really say that you would die?” Don’t be ONE with Him. He’s holding out on you. You can become acquainted with both good and evil if you eat the fruit. One bite of forbidden fruit and ONENESS with God was severed as death entered the world. A great chasm, wider than the Grand Canyon was formed between God and man. We have been seeking our own way rather than God’s way ever since. We are not one with Him in thoughts and desires. Our hearts do not beat as one with His as we seek our own selfish ways, a way that leads to death and eternal separation from Him.
There are ways in which we are like the 20 year-old MN driver with no insurance or title driving down the road 23 miles over the speed limit. We have no regard for God’s Word when it makes us uncomfortable or is not convenient. How do you view those whom God has given authority over you? Parents, teachers, your boss, the criminal justice or the system of government. All too often we think we know better and are driving down the freeway at 100 mph without regard for who gets run over as we seek our own preferred solutions. We like to call the shots. We don’t like to be wrong or be told what to do. We are not always team players when it vital to work alongside others. Rather than acknowledging our vulnerabilities we dig in our heals and head in a direction without seeking Godly wisdom or considering options based on God’s Word.
I don’t know if the 20 year-old didn’t know that you only have so many days to process a transfer of title and that he didn’t have insurance. Ignorance is no excuse. The same is true for us. We are called to grow in knowledge of our Lord through the study of His Word. What is your attitude when it comes to growing in knowledge of God’s Word? How is your devotional life? Do you spend time daily with the Lord, permitting Him to fill you with assurances of His mercy and love? I would urge you to consider joining us for our Sunday Bible study. Many of you may not be aware of the tremendous gift we have in Vicar Woodside and his ability to teach because you haven’t attended one of his classes. He is truly amazing at bringing out truths of God’s Word and applying them to life. His 20+ years of teaching are a tremendous blessing. Whether I am leading a class or someone else is, I invite and urge you to consider growing in knowledge of God’s Word. You have insights to that others desire to hear. The Lord longs to have you grow in knowledge of Him. We are made one as we agree on God’s Word.
But God promised a reunion, a restoration of the ONENESS through a descendant of Eve who would crush the devil’s head. Yes, Jesus is the fulfillment of that wonderful promise to restore us as children of our heavenly Father.
To know and to love the Father is to listen to the Word of truth. It is to see how the Father has loved us so much that He gave us Jesus. To know and to love Jesus is also to see His glory. In chapter 12 of the Gospel penned by John we read of Jesus’ glory. 27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show what kind of death He was going to die.
Yes, Jesus is glorified, praised, and honored, as we point sinners to the crucified and risen Lord and Savior. To be one with other Christians is to confess the ancient truth of God’s Word as summed up in the creeds. In order to help others know, we must first submit to God’s Word, to take the time to read, mark, learn, and take to heart this very Word of God. How do we know that Jesus was sent by the Father? His Word of truth makes it clear. Others are also drawn to be one with the Lord and restored as His children when we demonstrate love. I rejoice in the blessing of wonderful servants in our midst. VBS was a success because of volunteers. You continue to demonstrate love through your volunteer efforts with Heaven’s Helpers. We will also have an opportunity to serve The Banquet on November 16 this year. Whether it is placing pavers in a member’s yard or just stopping by to visit a shut-in, your service and love are appreciated, and it is noticed. I am so grateful to our media team here at Shepherd, our elders who click the ppt, to Rob and Chuck for Livestream efforts, to Kari for editing our services for Dakota Media. I visited with former mayor Warford yesterday and he indicated that he catches our Sunday afternoon services from time to time. People are being fed through the proclamation of the Word. They are also being fed physically through our Little Free Pantry.
Our unity with one another can happen only when we are first united with Him, for His love and His truth we give others. He has made you one with Him in your baptism, having washed away your sin and claiming you as His dear forgiven child. Our being united with God happens only when the sin that separates us from Him is removed.
I learned about Professional Courtesy during my ride along on Friday. The trooper with whom I rode on Friday told about a traffic stop from a few weeks ago. The driver from Massachusetts had several lbs. of illegal drugs. When the officer approached his window and the drugs were discovered, the driver flashed a card stating that his brother was a law enforcement officer from Massachusetts.
Apparently, there are states on the east coast where “Professional Courtesy” goes beyond officers to their families. It’s kind of a “Get out of jail free” card. ND HP is not a “Professional Courtesy” agency. This guy’s cop brother was not his free pass to carry illegal substance across ND. He was responsible to pay the penalty that was warranted. The only professional courtesy we have is to acknowledge that we are sinners in need of a Savior, just like every other human being.
It would be interesting to check in with our 20 year-old friend a decade from now to see how he is doing, whether he is doing a better job at being ONE with common sense and rules of the road. My sense is that the semi truck driver will likely be in a better place overall because he seeks to be safe and demonstrates care for others on the road and public safety. It is one thing to be ONE with rules of the road and safety measures. Our ultimate desire is to be ONE with our Lord for eternity.
Jesus carried our debt. He carried out the death penalty that our sin deserved. He has made us ONE with our heavenly Father in restoring us as forgiven children of God. As we receive Christ in the Lord’s Supper this morning, we receive His very Body broken and His very blood shed, along with the bread and wine, for the forgiveness of our sins. We also confess that we worship one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, who was crucified, suffered, and buried. That He rose on the third day according to the SCRIPTURES and ascended into heaven and sits at the Father’s right hand. This Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end. We also believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who continues to work faith through Word and Sacrament. We also believe one Holy Christian and apostolic Church, and acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. As a result we look for the resurrection of the dead and life of the world to come.