Thursday, May 21, 2015

Easter 7 Sermon: "Jesus Prays for You"

+ Easter 7 – May 17th, 2015+

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B: Acts 1:12-26; 1 John 5:9-15; John 17:11-19

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Most of the time when Jesus prays in the Gospels, we don’t get to listen in on his prayers, like when Jesus leaves his disciples to pray by himself on the hillsides of Judea.

On occasion we get a few soundbites of Jesus praying. When he’s in the Garden of Gethsemane – “Father if it be your will, take this cup from me, nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” Or when Jesus on the cross prays – “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Today we get to participate in a little divine eavesdropping. We get to listen in on Jesus praying in the upper room. The same upper room where Jesus washed the disciples’ feet; where he taught about the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter; where he instituted a holy meal with his holy body and blood in the Lord’s Supper; where he prayed with them and for them.

This is known Jesus’ High Priestly prayer. On the night before he intercedes as our great High Priest by offering himself for us on the cross, he intercedes on our behalf as our great High Priest by offering his prayers to the Father.

Jesus prays that you would be kept in the baptismal name that has been washed over you with water and Word and his Spirit. He prays that you would be one with him and with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit. He prays that you would be kept from the evil one, and kept steadfast in his Word of truth. He prays that you would be holy by his Word which fills your ears, purifies your hearts, and declares you to be his child. Everything Jesus prays for is for you.

Now, it might seem strange to have a reading from the night before Jesus’ crucifixion on the Sunday after the Church celebrated his ascension. But this actually makes perfect sense. Jesus’ high priestly prayer gives us a glimpse into what Jesus is doing now at God’s right hand.

Jesus is our High Priest. Jesus intercedes for us. Jesus prays for you and with you. And think about what this means.

When you’re struggling with what college to go to or where God’s calling you to serve, Jesus is praying with you and for you.

When you’re wrestling with how you can possibly forgive someone who’s sinned against you, Jesus is praying with you and for you.

When you’re at the hospital sitting by the bedside of your grandparent, spouse, or child praying for their health and healing, Jesus is praying with you and for you.

When you’re stricken with grief over the death of a family member or close friend, when you’re asking God “why?” Jesus is praying with you and for you.

When you’re crying out to God in agony over your pain or someone else’s, Jesus is praying with you and for you.

When you’re praying for a restoration of faith for that child or grandchild, or best friend who’s fallen away, Jesus is praying with you and for you.

What comfort and peace it brings us to know that the same Lord Jesus who shares in our humanity, who bore our sin, sorrow, and death, who ascended to heaven, now stands in the Holy of Holies above, at the Father’s right hand praying for you to abide in his Word.
This is why Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote that the richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the poverty of our heart.

For without the Word of God all is lost. Without taking time to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest God’s Word, how will we know when someone is twisting God’s Word or leading us astray? All we like sheep have gone astray.

Without a steady diet of the solid food of God’s Word and the daily bread of Jesus’ body and blood, how will we be able to give a reason for the hope that is within us? We will starve.
Without the sword of the Spirit how will we remain steadfast in a world that hates us as it hated our Lord? We would be devoured.

For this – and for all our sins – Jesus our High Priest intercedes. Jesus prays. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Our High Priest takes in hand our weak and faltering prayers and voices them to His heavenly Father – and he is heard. Jesus petitions the Father not to keep track of your iniquities, but to count only the drops of blood He willingly shed for you – and he is heard. Jesus prays His Father to keep you steadfast in His Word and truth until the end – and he is heard. And you are kept.

Jesus’ cross and prayer are inseparable. Jesus dies, rises, and ascends. And still he intercedes for us because of the cross.

We pray in light of Jesus’ cross and in hope of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. That is where the joy Jesus talks about is found – in his cross. In the Word he declares from the cross: It is finished.

This is what makes us holy – not what we’ve done or avoided doing - but what Jesus has done for you.

By God’ Word the disciples were sanctified, set apart and called, to declare God’s Word of truth. It was the Word that made them holy, nothing else.

So it is for us. God’s Word sanctifies us, sets us apart. Jesus takes his Word, water, and cleanses us in his sacrificial death on the cross. Jesus takes his Word, bread, and wine, and offers his body and blood sacrificed on the cross for you, to give you his holiness, forgiveness, and salvation.

Everything that is holy - Holy Baptism. Holy Absolution. Holy Communion. The Holy Christian Church. The Holy Ministry - all of these are holy by the Word of Jesus, the Holy One who shed His blood for the cleansing and forgiveness of all.

We give you thanks, Holy Father,
For your holy name which you have caused to dwell in our hearts,
And for the knowledge and faith and immortality
Which you have made known to us
Through Jesus your servant;
To you be the glory forever….
Remember your church, Lord,
To deliver her from all evil
And to make her perfect in your love;
And gather her, the one that has been sanctified,
From the four winds into your kingdom,
Which you have prepared for her;
For yours is the power and the glory forever. (Didache, 10)

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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