Tag Archives: Gospel of John

“Thank You Jesus” Sermon 08.19.2012

John 6:51-58 • August 19, 2012

Click here to hear an audio recording of this sermon.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.

This past week in the devotional, Christ in Our Home that’s published by Augsburg Fortress, the publishing entity of the ELCA there was a story about a man named Will. Will glanced at the clock in the upper corner of his computer screen. It was much later than he thought. He had been online for hours, reading news sites, blogs, and email, and updating his social network pages. It was hard to pull away from the screen. “This is foolish,” he thought. “Why am I wasting time this way?” He thought about his life and his loneliness after his recent divorce. “I’m looking for a connection,” he realized, “a relationship.” He looked at the computer screen and sighed, “This is too easy. It’s superficial, a poor substitute.”

Will’s story is a quest for a quick on-line connection or easy relationship that has little to do with the rest of his life. No thought about all that life is revealing to him beyond the din of his computer screen.

Or maybe you’ve seen this advertisement recently on television in the middle of the seemingly never ending array of political ads that are consuming the advertising world right now.

Following this link to the video on YouTube http://youtu.be/TUGmcb3mhLM

The young girl thinks her parents are crazy and don’t have any friends, no real relationships or adventure in their life. When in reality the opposite is probably true. The ad is supposed to be humorous, but as a parent it is revealing to me in other ways too.

I think these stories are similar to what’s happening in John 6. The 6th chapter in John’s gospel is part of our worship for several weeks this summer. It’s a chapter of scripture that has been read and analyzed and debated for meaning and preached on for centuries. This is a dense and complex section of scripture. For me, it’s also one of the most challenging pieces of scripture, especially given the Roman Catholic tradition that I grew up in and for which I am very thankful. It’s definitely one of the most revealing teachings of Jesus for me.

There are thousands of people following Jesus at the beginning of chapter 6 as he feeds 5,000 or so people with just a few loaves of bread and couple of fish that a young boy was carrying around. It was probably his lunch that day.

But by the time we reach the end of this chapter, we see the result of Jesus’ challenging and revealing teaching as, “many have turned back and no longer went about with him.” The crowds were offended by what they saw and heard and were no longer interested in following Jesus.

I can relate. My own story at times or that of Will or the girl in that television ad or Jesus’ teaching in John 6 speak to us because they often reflect more of who we are than we’re comfortable admitting. You and I seek relationships that bring instant gratification, usually within parameters that we set and control. The crowds before Jesus sought a relationship with him as long as the loaves and fish were free and they could control the way in which they were to receive them.

But the relationship that Jesus offers them, and you and me, is more than a few fish and stale loaves of bread offered at a hillside picnic. More than simply liking someone’s Facebook status from your list of 687 Facebook friends. More than following the instructions from the latest article in People magazine about how to succeed in getting a date with another person.

The relationship that Jesus offers can even been seen as a little offensive in many ways, because it is nothing less than his own flesh and blood. It’s upsetting to the crowds, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they say. Remember, this teaching from Jesus in John 6 is centuries before Twilight movies about vampires and werewolves were popular. I’d argue that it’s still upsetting and just as offensive today.

I once heard someone say, “When we eat food, it becomes us. When we eat spiritual food, we become it.” Have you ever thought of that as you receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion?

If you and I take the sacrament of Holy Communion seriously, the offense in Holy Communion is not in thinking about eating Jesus’ body and blood in a cannibalistic sort of way. The offense, the good news of life in Christ, is in the lengths that God will go in order to have a relationship with you and me. In verse 56 Jesus says to the crowds, and to you and me today, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” The bread and wine of Holy Communion are not simply symbols for Jesus’ body and blood. The bread and wine that we receive and consume in the sacrament of Holy Communion are Jesus body and blood because this Jesus abides in us. This Jesus lives in us.

Each and every time that you and I receive the sacrament, how do we respond to Jesus offering of his flesh and blood? To Jesus abiding love? To Jesus living in us?

This past week I preached and presided at the funeral of a sister in Christ from our congregation. I believe that she understood and lived life as a child of God fully aware of God’s love for her. Even understood the offensiveness of Jesus abiding in her.

I had many opportunities to experience this kind of love from God in this woman, but I think it was present most significantly every time I served her Holy Communion.

Every time this sister in Christ heard the words “The body of Christ, given for you. The blood of Christ, shed for you.” and received the bread and wine, her response was not, “it’s about time, I sent you an email two weeks ago God” or “God, I’ve been really good lately, I deserve this” or “oh well, it’s just bread and grape juice”. Her response to God’s love for her in the sacrament of Holy Communion was always “Thank you Jesus.”

In our celebration of the sacrament of Holy Communion today and for that matter, every time we celebrate the sacrament, I pray that our response to God’s revealing and even offensive love for us in the life, death, and resurrection of a savior named Jesus is thank you.

Thank you Jesus for walking with us in relationship in all ways and in all days.

Thank you Jesus for filling us in this meal with the Bread of life. Life, that no matter how hard we try, it simply doesn’t exist in technology or possessions or accomplishments of our own in this world.

Thank you Jesus for forgiving our sin and inviting us to this table, to come just as we are.

Thank you Jesus. Amen.

“Who Does Jesus Pray For?” Sermon 05.20.2012

John 17:6-20 • May 20, 2012 • “Who Does Jesus Pray For?”

Click here to hear an audio recording of this sermon. 

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our risen Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen. As a pastor, I get asked one question more than just about any other. It’s this – “will you/can you pray for me?” Of course my answer to that question is always yes, but most of the time I will also say to the person asking me to pray for them, if they will pray for me as well.

Whenever I think of prayer, I think of my grandmother. It’s always important for her to know that I pray for her. And it’s not necessarily just because I’m her grandson and she knows I love her, it’s also because I’m a pastor and she thinks I have a closer connection or wifi signal to God as I offer prayer for her.

I think prayer is one of the most misunderstood aspects of our life in Christ. I also think that if we believe that pastors have some special connection to God hearing our prayer that is better than everyone else, we may never get any closer to understanding the significance of prayer in our own life of faith.

John 17 is one of the most dense and challenging pieces of scripture there is. There is no way that I’m going to attempt to uncover all of the nuances of this chapter today. BUT – what I hope to do is highlight a few parts of this final prayer of Jesus that have spoken to me for many years and continue to speak to me today.

It’s important to understand a little about the context of this prayer that we hear Jesus offer. The 17th Chapter of John takes place in Jerusalem shortly before Jesus’ crucifixion. Many believe it is probably in the same room where the Last Supper was held. Jesus last prayer in the other gospels takes place in the garden of Gethsemane with Jesus being alone. In John 17 Jesus is not alone and this is not a private time of prayer. This prayer was written not only so followers of Jesus centuries later could read it, but also so followers like us could hear it again and again just like the first time Jesus offered it in the presence of his disciples.

So who is Jesus praying for?

John 17:6-8 (NRSV) 6“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.  7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;  8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.”

In the first section of this prayer, Jesus is offering prayer for his own mission and ministry in the world and thanksgiving for how his relationship with God has shaped this mission. One of the most significant struggles that I have with prayer is the pressure that I feel to sometimes be something that I am not in my prayer life.

You know the kind of prayer I’m talking about? Just follow these 7 steps of prayer or pray in this specific way. If you do that, you’ll behave and look and feel more like the Christian you’re supposed to be. We become so focused on doing something or becoming some sort of super-hero prayer warrior that we fail to simply be followers of Jesus who pray. I’ve always wondered how the people who want me to pray in these systematic ways know what kind of Christian God is calling me to be?

For Jesus, prayer is a gift. And the best part of this gift is relationship with God through Jesus. No one specific prayer formula is going to work for everyone in growing their relationship with God. Our prayer life is not dependent upon the techniques we use when we pray.

John 17:9-19 (NRSV) 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.  10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.  11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.  12While I was with them, I protected them in your name that£ you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.  13But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.  14I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.  15I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.  17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.  18As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.  19And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”

Starting at verse 9, the second section of this prayer, Jesus is offering prayer for the community of followers – those God has given to Jesus. He is offering prayer for protection and unity for that community.

Do you believe that God is protecting you? Do you pray for protection – for yourself or someone you love? Have you ever prayed for unity – whether with yourself or with others? I mean, what do you think the world would look like if the nearly 40,000 Christian denominations that exist today were really and truly united as one as Jesus is praying for in John 17?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, one of the reasons why I love this chapter in John’s gospel is that it is a powerful reminder for all of us who seek to follow the risen savior Jesus. A powerful reminder that Jesus not only prays for himself and his mission, but also for his disciples and the entire church. The church – for you and me. I believe that is still true today. The relationship to which you and I are invited to participate in with God through our savior Jesus Christ is very intimate – prayer is a significant piece of living in this intimate relationship.

So, who does Jesus pray for?

John 17:20 (NRSV) 20“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may be united as one.”

Jesus does not just pray for the disciples Peter, James, and John.  He also prays for saints like Augustine, Benedict, Francis, and Theresa. He brings Calvin and Wesley, Luther and Whitefield before His Father, as well as Billy Graham and Desmond Tutu and Martin Luther King, Jr.

As Pastor Bruce Laverman states about Jesus’ prayer, “Here Christ is praying for you and for me, and for all his disciples who would follow Him into the lost and broken world of the 21st Century so loved by Him.”

That’s pretty clear in Jesus’ words in verse 20 isn’t it? “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may be united as one.”

German theologian Karl Rahner wrote an essay in the 1960’s called “Pray Daily Life!” Rahner’s words connect our own prayer life with Jesus’ prayer life. Rahner wrote “…everyday life becomes in itself prayer. All our interests are unified and exalted by the love of God; our scattered alms (offerings) are given a specific direction toward God; our external life becomes the expression of our love of God. Thus our life takes on a new meaning in the light of our eternal destiny. Make everyday life your prayer.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what do you want Jesus to know? What do you need Jesus to know? What do you want prayer for, not just from your pastor or a close friend? Jesus prays for you. What do you want Jesus to pray for?