7th Sunday of Easter
5 June 2011
St. John’s, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This week, our “Week of Weeks” draws to a close. The seven-week celebration of the Victory of Christ’s Resurrection is rapidly nearing completion. While we rejoice in the rising of our Lord Jesus every Sunday, the intensified focus is nearly complete for this year. But our Risen Savior has words of comfort to encourage us in these last days – days when we no longer see Jesus walking about as His apostles saw Him, in His earthly form.
This morning we hear Jesus pray to our heavenly Father: “I have manifested your name.” I have revealed You. I have made you known. Christ our Lord who rose from the dead reveals to us our wondrous, Triune God.
Yet in our earthly lives, our Old Adams do not want to notice what Jesus has revealed. We cover our eyes, and avoid seeing Jesus. We turn away, refusing to witness God as He desires to come to us. We are far more interested in other sources for revealing a god.
Where do we look for our god to be revealed? We look for our Master to be revealed in entertainment. In our culture of “texting, Google, iPhones and Facebook;” and with devices that are only desirable if they come with functions such as camera and game systems, we are consumed with the idea that we must be entertained. So we sit back, and instead of witnessing the amazing comfort and awe and splendor of one- or two-thousand year old songs and prayers of the Holy Liturgy, we let our minds drift, and covet the worldly entertainment that has lured and enticed others.
Where do we look for our god to be revealed? We often look for signs of God in financial success. Our heads are turned away from Christ as attention shifts to monetary blessings. We might worship at the altar of the scanner, bar code, and plastic card, or perhaps just work harder to have cash in hand. We also might become totally immersed in the idea of wiping out debts to the point that our families, our obligations, and our relationships take a back seat. In the end, we might have a god in our credit, or another god of financial freedom. Old Adam is always looking to turn blessings into false gods.
In the end, we are looking just about anywhere except to the one place – to the One Lord and True God revealed to us through Jesus Christ – God-in-the-flesh!
Dear friends in Christ, we have comfort and joy from Jesus as we hear Him pray for us: “Holy Father, keep them in your name.” Our Father in heaven does indeed keep us. He protects and preserves us, as He leads us to abide in Him. He protects us from the devil, the world, and our sinful selves. And thus, He protects and keeps us from everlasting condemnation.
How does He protect us? God protects us as He forgives and strengthens us – through His Means of Grace! In Holy Baptism He placed His name upon us, rescuing us from the slavery to sin and death into which we were born. He claimed us! In Holy Absolution, He offers to continually protect and keep us from falling back into a lazy life as “Old Adam.” He protects us from a life of imperfection and giving in to our fleshly desires. And in His Holy Supper, God protects and keeps us from those same enemies, as He feeds us with His very self, nourishing us with His Holy Body and Blood, granting forgiveness, life, and salvation.
Now we regularly and frequently gather to receive these Gifts which strengthen and protect us. That is the entire purpose of coming to the Divine Service. Not simply to pray. Not merely to praise God. But to receive His Holy Gifts. You really are freed and released from your guilt as you hear the Gospel preached! It is happening right now! God is cancelling your debt of sin and selfishness at this very moment! He did the same at your Baptism, and soon He will sustain you with Himself in the Sacrament of the Altar. As you continually receive Jesus in His Gifts, He continually works on you and forgives, protects, and strengthens you!
This past Thursday, the Church throughout the world observed the Ascension of Our Lord. At His ascension, Jesus was taken up, body and soul, into heaven. He is at the right hand of God even now, still in that risen and glorified Body! Yet this is in no way limiting Him.
You see, the Father is everywhere. So His right hand is everywhere. You can be assured with holy comfort that our Lord Jesus is present in that same risen glorified Body wherever His Gospel and Sacraments are delivered. Yes! Indeed! That is the joyous mystery of this Holy Day! Jesus went away precisely to get closer to us!
Jesus’ ascension did NOT take Him away! No, dear friends in Christ. He ascended precisely to come to you! Now He can come in His Body to bring Himself to you, and with Himself, His holy gifts of forgiveness and life.
This morning Jesus thanks His Father for glorifying Him, but not because He likes the attention or fame. Our Savior thanks His Father for this glory so that in this glory, He can “Give eternal life to all whom you have given [Me.]” The Father has sent the Spirit to call you to faith, gather you, enlighten and sanctify you, so that the Son can give you this abundant life!
Praise God, dear friends, for you have a wonderful ascended Lord, who is with you, giving you protection and all things you need to be ushered into eternal life. His glory, His suffering, His death, and resurrection, and now, His ascension, are all for you! So rejoice in His resurrection, knowing that this Good News brings you Christ Jesus Himself! Amen!