The Transformation of Easter: Pt VII A Relationship of Unity

The Transformations of Easter

The Change of our Relationship with Each Other

John 17:11b-19

IHS

 May the grace of God so flood your soul with mercy and peace, that you easily realize how many others dwell with you in Christ!

My Struggle with Cynicism

I’ve got a confession to make.

Some of you, for example, Chris and Tom, know that I am somewhat of a cynic.

I wasn’t always, you can ask Kay, but as I’ve ministered in the church, I’ve become more cynical over the years.

Once upon a time I would look at a passage like today’s gospel with great expectation, great hope, great enthusiasm for the day where I would see this unity happen.  Where simply because we preach Christ crucified, unity happens, and the Church throughout the world drops all of the squabbles, all of the politics, all of the guilt and resentment, all of the pride that announces we are right, and they are wrong, and we would gather around the altar and share in the biggest communion service ever seen.

Now I am somewhat of a cynic, because there are days I don’t think it will happen in my lifetime, or if it does, it is because we have buried important parts of doctrine.  Things like the death and resurrection of Jesus, or the presence of the Holy Spirit, fulfilling the promises of Jesus, promises made to us in our baptism.

Part of the cynicism comes from being a history geek.  I know the times that unity was a driving force in the church, like in the 2nd great Awakening, or in the time of Gregory VII and even St. Francis of Assissi, and the results always seemed to be more division, or peace through the use of force. I see the other times, when hanging on to the correct teaching of the faith resulted in division, and death.  Even now, I see political games being played in denominations and churches.  I can see a lack of unity, and indeed, a desire for division.

So my cynical side says that such unity, throughout the church isn’t as possible.  Which leads me to the question.  If it is impossible, why did Jesus pray for it, and why didn’t God answer Jesus prayer?

The Standard of Unity

The idea of unity here in John’s gospel, in this incredible prayer, is a high level of unity.  Hear again verse 11:

Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.

Unity in the church, among the people of God is described as being united, just as the Father and Jesus are united.  That’s pretty close, so close that we can’t understand it.  For God is three persons, yet completely One.

That is pretty united.  Paul describes the unity of the church this way

10  Let us have real warm affection for one another as between brothers, and a willingness to let the other man have the credit. 11  Let us not allow slackness to spoil our work and let us keep the fires of the spirit burning, as we do our work for God. 12  Base your happiness on your hope in Christ. When trials come endure them patiently, steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer. 13  Give freely to fellow-Christians in want, never grudging a meal or a bed to those who need them. 14  … as for those who try to make your life a misery, bless them. Don’t curse, bless. 15  Share the happiness of those who are happy, the sorrow of those who are sad. 16  Live in harmony with each other…. Romans 12:10-16 (Phillips NT)

So I hear these words, and I hear Jesus prayer for unity, and I feel like the police officer in Les Mis, hopeless in view of the injustice, the division, and the fighting that goes on in Christ’s church, throughout the world.

Were we ready for the Ascension?  Did the Father answer the prayer

On my more cynical days, I wonder if either the Father didn’t hear Jesus prayer, or whether the church isn’t the church.

On my less cynical days, I wonder if the Ascension was a bit premature, that Jesus should have waited 2 or 3 thousand years before returning to the Father.  I mean, if He was here…. We wouldn’t be in this situation, would we?

I mean – we are just God’s kids, and you know what would happen if you leave your kids home alone for a few days…

Because even church leaders can act like a bunch of spoiled kids at times.

Jesus gave Himself… The Memorial Acclimation’s promise

So where is the hope that confronts our sin of disunity, our pride, our inability to love each other?

Go back to Jesus prayer,

Holy Father, you have given me your name;* now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.

We find our unity as a result of God protecting us, giving us sanctuary. As He gives us His peace, as He assures us of His presence, of the Holy Spirit’s comfort. We find ourselves relaxing, restful, and trusting Him to maintain it.  For as we know we are safe, we drop our defenses, we forget to be anxious about people betraying or sinning against us, and we reach our in the love of Christ to them.

The is why later He prayers,

17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

We’ve talked about holiness before.  Rather than being perfect or pure, the idea is to be set apart to something.  Jesus asks the Father to make us holy, even as He is holy.  Remember Jesus addressed God as Holy Father?

Here is the truth, God sets himself apart for a relationship. A relationship with us, and Christ makes that relationship possible, by setting Himself aside a sacrifice. His sacrifice on the cross which opens the door for the Father sanctifying us, by giving us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, to abide with us.

And unity is the result of this holiness.  For as we enter into a relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we find that we are together in that relationship.

I said before I can be cynical, I neglected to say that in one of those cynical moods, I find hope.  For I realize that what it takes to overcome my cycnicism is the same thing it takes to create unity.  The miracle of the blood of Christ, sacrificed for us, to create the relationship, a relationship described in this new covenant. We can’t find the unity and the peace we need around a negotiation table, or in the vote of a congregation, or a synod.

It has to originate from the baptismal font, where Christ claims us as His own, and from the altar, the feast where we realize the depth of His love for us. That is what has made the difference here in our congregation.  It is what can make the difference in the church at large.

And as I see that unity come to fruition here, I know it can envelop others.  That is why we are sent by Jesus, even as the Father sent Jesus to be our sacrifice. To reach out to them, to invite them into our sanctuary, into our fortress, into the place where God protects us.  Not this building, but this relationship, God and His people, together.

To share that peace which goes beyond all comprehension, and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen!

About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God's saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on May 18, 2015, in Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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