The Lord's Other Prayer
May 12, 2018
Verse: John 17:15–17:19
Christ Lutheran Church
May 13, 2018
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
The Lord's Other Prayer
I do not ask that you should take them out of the world; but that you should shield them from the Evil One. They do not originate from this world, even as I do not originate from this world. Sanctify them in the Truth; your Word is Truth. As you sent me into the world; even so I send them into the world. And for their sake I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in Truth. Jn 17:15-19
Today is the last Sunday of the church’s Festival Season. From the first Sunday of Advent till now the church has shown us everything that God has done to redeem us from sin, death, despair and the devil. Like Enoch, we have walked with God through the Promise of the coming Savior, his birth, ministry, suffering, death, resurrection and this past Thursday his Ascension into heaven where he reigns as our eternal Prophet, Priest and King!
Beginning next Sunday, in the Pentecost Season of the church year, we will again hear how the salvation taught in the Festival Season spreads farther into the world. Deeper into the world, until “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.” (Revelation 11:15)
But how does that happen? In a word by the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. You are that church! And so let us begin there today.
When St. Paul talks about the church he does not mean the membership list but rather the baptized assembled in Holy Communion with Christ, but we don’t always quite get that.
If you come to church because it makes you feel good, or to gain some personal benefit that’s fine, but secondary. When the church of Jesus Christ gathers it is as one! We check our individual preferences at the door. That’s why we do here what we don’t do outside of here. Why we all chant the same words and do the same things, at the same time. We are a unit! We are one! Not only with ourselves, but with all who confess the Lutheran faith. That is why we don’t have the luxury of choosing our own Scripture readings, our own Collects, or our own hymnal: let the reader understand.
And what is it the church does when she gathers? Is she there to take orders as if she were a restaurant? No, because we are not here for ourselves individually, but first for the Kingdom of God.
In his epistle to the Ephesians St. Paul says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the high places.” (Eph. 6:12)
But when, where and how exactly does this wrestling take place?
It happens here. It happens now. It happens when former captives of the Evil One renounce the devil. Renounce his wicked works. Renounce his wicked ways, and give themselves over altogether to God, by faith in Jesus Christ.
It happens when the baptized do what we are doing now. Proclaiming the gospel of Christ. But to whom? To ourselves? Yes! To the inquirer, the visitor, the Prodigal returned? Yes! But also to angels, archangels and all the company of heaven. But even that does not exhaust the list.
When the church gathers to do what she is doing at this very moment, she proclaims the Lordship of Jesus Christ to the “rulers and authorities, to the cosmic powers of this present darkness, and to the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places.”
Who are they? They are the unrepentant rebels who followed in Satan’s original rebellion; and who now inspire wars and rumors of wars, murder and mayhem, discord and disunity and every other imaginable evil in the world, in our homes, and in our hearts.
But in holy worship the church, again absolved and fortified, announces to the devil that “he is finished!” In Divine Service she shows herself to be Salt and Light to the world; and it is by her prayers here prayed that the world is preserved, and sees the Light of God.
Notice that in his prayer Jesus does not ask that the Father should take his apostles out of the world. Instead he sends them, and now us, into the world to do exactly what we are doing now.
Notice, too, that you have never been asked to attend an “evangelism seminar,” so that you can use it to convert sinners to Christ. That isn’t how the Kingdom of God works. But rather when the baptized gather to commune with Jesus, to proclaim, hear, eat and drink his gospel, then evangelism takes place. Then Satan’s kingdom crumbles, and sinners are sanctified by Jesus.
But what gives the church this blinding power?
Only Jesus who says, “For their sake I sanctify myself, that they may also be sanctified.” When Jesus prays these words he is talking about the cross because by it he dealt a death blow to the Evil One, from which he can never rise again. When our Lord died he ended death’s reign, and gave his Spirit to the world, to renew the face of the earth.
And so the church is One as we stated above. She is holy, sanctified, because Jesus made her so by his blood. She is also catholic and apostolic. That is the actual wording of the Creed by the way, and whoever substituted the word “Christian,” changed the words; and is guilty of fake news.
It was a knee-jerk reaction that still irritates people today, but let us try to keep our emotions from running away with us if we can. The word “catholic” means two things. It means “universal”, and it means “true” as opposed to false. The word catholic does not belong to a denomination head-quartered in Rome, any more than the word orthodox belongs to the churches of the East.
Lutherans are catholic. Lutherans are orthodox. Because Lutherans, too, believe, teach and confess the chief doctrines of the apostolic church. Lutherans, too, pray the church’s liturgy of the ages. Lutherans are baptized into the church’s one baptism; and celebrate the same Supper that the apostles ate and drank on the night in which our Lord was betrayed.
We don’t believe, teach, pray or confess whatever suits us. No Christian is allowed to do that. Instead we follow in the train of the Twelve whom Jesus sent out, even as the Father sent him!
And know this, that what Jesus did and taught, and what his apostles did and taught, has been passed on through the ages to us! And so now we are the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church at this time, and in this place: even as our fathers were before us, and our children will be after us.
We are sanctified by Jesus, and distribute that same sanctification to every person that the Holy Spirit calls and gathers here. That’s how the church works. And that is what we will learn anew beginning with the Pentecost Season next week. Amen.