Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. John’s gospel account the 17th chapter (John 17:11b-19).
Beloved in the Lord,
Take heart! “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 2:5). And this morning He prays for you and me and His whole Christian Church on earth. “Holy Father, keep them in Your Name.”
The God who is Love is also Holy. “Holy is His Name” (Luke 1:49) sings the Virgin and so also sings the Church. For LORD alone is holy and the world about us is not. Though many in our world glisten and adorn themselves with the name of God they use it to their advantage seeking the appearance of holiness but lacking the substance. For those who depart from God’s word whether in deed or in truth have surely departed from God’s holiness. And the God who is holy would have his children also be holy. The appearance of holiness is merely an illusion if it also lacks the substance. The substance of holiness is God Himself. “As God is so also are His Word and His Name” (Luther).
And God is manifest in His Word. Where His word is taught in its truth and purity there is God sharing Himself, giving His Name, claiming His people, forgiving their sins, and renewing their hearts and minds. Where the Word is neglected, abused, misused, or buried under the manure of “new exegesis” and “innovative understandings” there God is not. Where there is no God, no holiness, no Word, there is no salvation, there is no love, no joy, and there is no life. For all that is good is bound up in God Himself, in His Holiness and is given to us in His Name through His Word.
Thus the Savior prays, “Holy Father, keep them in Your Name.”
To be kept in the Name is to be kept and preserved in the Word, for the Word exults God’s Name. For the Word teaches that “there is no other Name given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) and “God has highly exalted Jesus and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phi 2:9-11).
Old Adam takes offense at this and all of God’s Word. If there is no other Name, then my name is left out. If Jesus’ Name is above every Name, then Jesus’ Name is above my name. And if He’s above my name He’s above me. Old Adam doesn’t like that, doesn’t want to hear that and would much rather scratch his itching ears with other voices speaking other words. Thus, our attraction to soothsayers and health, wealth and wisdom preachers. They scratch our itching ears and appease our Old Adam. They make us feel good about ourselves and encourage us to strive for our own holiness. They give us methods and madness. They offer us rules to be successful and they are tolerant of our evolutions. They praise our efforts and ignore our deeds. “Good job! Good try! It doesn’t matter if you couldn’t actually be faithful to one woman your whole life! It’s the effort that counts. It’s what’s in your heart that matters. Go ahead, try again! Keep trying. Do your best! “Facere quod in se est!” Do what is in you.” This is religion in and of the world. This is today’s spirituality. It’s buffet time for Old Adam! Belly up to the world, pick and choose whatever suits your heart, tickles your fancy, scratches your ears. It’s all about doing what’s true to your heart and being true to your name. It’s all about what’s in you.
But . . . what exactly is in you, beloved? And what are you in? God’s Word? Or this World? If you do what is in you, then you will do sin. We’ve done much of that haven’t we? “Good jobs,” “nice tries,” “valiant efforts,” and “way to go’s,” go nowhere. Old Adam dies. You will die. The world will pass away because the wages of sin is death.
It’s not doing what is in you that saves you, makes you happy, healthy, wealthy or wise. Doing what is in you is the problem. Doing what is in the world is no different. Jesus’ prayer is not that you remain in the world or even be taken out of it, but that you remain in the Name. And so, He continues, “While I was with them I kept them in Your Name,” and “I have given them Your Word.”
God’s Name and God’s Word go together. Both are centered on Jesus. He keeps us in the Name and He gives us His Word. No one comes to the Father on their own merits or even their own efforts. No one comes to the Father except through the Son. He who has the Son has the Father. And He who has the Son has life. “How do you get the Son?” He comes to you in the Word of the Father. The Word of the Father became flesh and dwelt among us. He went about doing what was in Him and by His deeds are we made righteous. For what is in us from Adam and what is from Adam is not in Him. Jesus is without sin, no Old Adam, only New, only Holy. Jesus is one with the Father, one heart, one in mind, and one in Substance. As the Father is holy so also is the Son. As the Father is God so also is the Son. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father. The Father sends the Son, the Word made flesh. The Son gives the Word to the world.
Yet, “He came unto His own but His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). The world would not listen. The world would not believe. The world is against the Son and therefore against the Father. The Son brings death to Old Adam, to sin, death, and devil. His Name is above every name be they called Pharisee, Roman, or American. Therefore He is lifted high. And lifted high He draws all men to Himself that all may find refuge in the shadow of His cross. Only beneath the tree will you find peace and rest. The world will lash you as it tickles your ears. But Jesus gives forgiveness from the wood. “Father, forgive them.” He prays for you! He suffers for you! He bleeds and dies for you! What will the world give in exchange for its soul? Gold? Silver? It’s works? It’s merits? It’s piety or love or devotion or sincere efforts? All pale in comparison to suffering and death of our Lord Jesus! All of the world’s best fades and wanes and fails and is blown away like the chaff. It is worthy only of fire. But not our Lord Christ! He is lifted high! He is crucified, dead and buried! And more than that He is risen! He has earned for us the Name that is above every name. He has won with His holy precious blood and innocent suffering death the victory that endures unto eternity! He has overcome the World! He has vanquished sin, destroyed death, plundered hell, castrated Satan!
He has given you this Word in your baptism, the absolution, now from this pulpit and soon from this altar. The Word gives the Son. The Son brings us to the Father and the Father receives us unto eternal life. If you are in the Word, hearing the Word, receiving the Word, holding the Word by faith, then you also have Christ Jesus and the holiness of our God. The Word is to be your rock in the midst of storms, your refuge as the enemy advances upon you, your rest from the worries of today and tomorrow, your comfort in times of grief, your strength in times of trial, your joy in season and out. The Word is your Life. Abide in the Word and not in the ways of the world!
And . . . just so you know . . . the world will hate you for it. “You will have to hear that you are heretic, the devil’s own and the greatest abomination on earth” (Luther). You will be called intolerant, hateful, hypocritical, judgmental, ignorant, and that’s if they’re being nice. You will be ignored. You will be rebuked. You will be mocked in public and behind your back. The world will think you weak or weird, some will even say you’re a fanatic. “The name of Christ will exceed all other wickedness in the world, and there will be no greater shame or sin than to be a Christian” (Luther). The world will make allowances for all sorts of indulgences, doctrines, and devilish behaviors. The world will tolerate and accommodate every vice, every perversion, and every sin. But it will not tolerate Jesus and His Christians. The world hated Jesus and they will hate you.
And, beloved in the Lord, do you know what? So what? Press on! Hold Tight! Fight the good fight of faith! Jesus sends you to the world with the Truth and in the Name. As the Father sent Jesus into the world, so Jesus is sending you into the world. The world is against you and hates you but God isn’t and God doesn’t. With the Word in you and the Name on you, you go into the world with the Love of Christ. You go and you wield the sword of the Living God! You handle the Word of Truth and make use of it to draw others to Christ. You have been clothed in Christ. You bear the Armor of the Living God. The belt of truth girds your loins. The breastplate of righteousness deflects the world’s blows. Wherever you go you bring the gospel of peace. The shield of faith will extinguish any flaming dart and the helmet of Salvation shall serve as your cap. You are adorned for the world. You have God’s Name. You have God’s Word. Rejoice! The Savior has use of you today, tomorrow, and forevermore. And note well beloved, this morning the Savior prays for you. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Pastor Tony Sikora
Hope Lutheran Church
De Witt, MI