Text: John 17:11b-19 Acts 1:1-11
Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me that they may be one, even as we are one.
There is a lot to consider this weekend. The ascension of our lord 40 days after Easter, the 7th Sunday/ weekend of Easter and Mothers Day; It should make for an interesting sermon.
In Acts Chapter 1:4-11 St. Luke describes the ascension of Jesus in this way:
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Jesus desires unity around the truth. Jesus’ desire was in accord with the will of his Father.
Saying: I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost. Vs 12
Jesus’ desire is to keep and protect those whom he will leave as he returns to the Father. His desire is that they (his disciples) may be one in unity with each other just as Jesus and the Father are one … though distinct in person. Christ says that he has guarded them and that not one has been lost except for Judas - the one who went the way of destruction – so that the scriptures may be filled.
And as Christ prepared to leave them, he prays for them, that the Father would keep them in your name, in the name of the one true God, so that they would be guarded and not lost.
Christ knows that his disciples will remain in the world - just as you and I also remain in the world - and though are not of the world. We remain but also we represent the work of God in us to abide in Jesus to remain in him, to be his and to show forth his will against the power of the evil one who looks only to steal, kill and destroy.
We see division, brokenness, tension and the work of the devil in our day as well. We hear the cries for unity and truth distorted. We see death celebrated and life denied both for those just conceived and those ready to depart this life for their eternal rest.
We’ve heard the unity cries before.
All of us have differences. We all have conflicts. We have families and this too can pull us apart as we wrestle with the changes in society and civic life. Marriage has been redefined and gender has creatively been reinterpreted not for the true goal of tolerance but for a breakdown of the family as has been known and proclaimed through Biblical principles and God’s word.
17 Sanctify them [or make them holy which also is to be set apart] in the truth; [he then tells us that] your word is truth.
Apart from God’s word we live in a world where God is re-made in man’s image and that is how the devil wants it. To turn what God has said upside down into that first deceptive question: “Did God really say?” It gives us all, like Adam and Eve, a high view of self and a low view of sin … which is simply, missing the mark and coming up short, on what God expects and so what do we do?
We lower the bar rather than honor God’s commands
We change the definition rather than honoring the truth.
Your word – Jesus says - is truth.
Jesus’ desire for you and me … in this world … is that we may be sanctified [made holy and set apart] by the truth.
As Jesus returns to the Father he leaves his disciples with a promise.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
Epistle 1 John 5:12
Our epistle reading follows this confirms this.
12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
Unity needs to be … around the truth that Jesus Christ is the son of God.
How do we know this? How can we know this?
The word of God, it needs to be our highest authority.
At Baptism we are made God’s own child, one redeemed by Christ, who was crucified for you and me. This Jesus upon his ascension gave the promise that we would not be left alone and that the comforter, who would come at Pentecost, and would be with us to point us to the unity found in Jesus the word of God made flesh.
Dr. Scott Murray in his wonderful Memorial moment devotion reminds us that:
When the Word is lost everything is lost. Over the past twenty years, churches have begun to jettison the confession of faith in the Creeds of the church. They are no longer recited as part of church services. When this trend began the clergy, who were so eager to get rid of the public confession of the faith by the faithful, were quick to reassure the skeptical that even though they no longer said the words that they certainly still affirmed the content of the Creeds. More recently the clergy who jettisoned the recitation of the Creed are now quite aggressively rejecting the content of the Creed, including its Christological [focus on Christ] content. Once we stop saying the words, it isn't very long until we stop believing the content of them.
Dr. Scott Murray: Unloving Love Wednesday of Easter 6 13 May 2015
The truth comes to us in the word of God and is made know through the work of the Spirit who points us to the truth of Christ’s work.
Luther tells us:
"In the issue of salvation, on the other hand, when fanatics teach lies and errors under the guise of truth and make an impression on many, there love must not be exercised and error must not be approved. For what is lost here is not merely a good deed done for someone who is ungrateful, but the Word, faith, Christ, and eternal life, etc. are lost. Therefore, if you deny God in one article of faith, you have denied Him in all; for God is not divided into many articles, but He is everything in each article and He is one in all the articles of the faith."
Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 5.9
17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
Christ has made you his own and will keep you by his Spirit connected to him and his truth. This is his promise.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit