Tuesday, June 3, 2014

YOU are focus of Christ's heart, mind, and work...

Sermon for Easter 7A, the Sunday after the Ascension, preached on June 1, 2014.

    If you want to know what is on the hearts of people, listen to their prayers.  For in our prayers we reveal what we think, what is most important to us, what we fear, and what we want.  Even when we fail to pray, we are expressing something – perhaps  that we don't believe God hears or answers or that we are ashamed of what is inside of us or that prayer is not important.
    God knows what is on our hearts before we pray and what is on our minds before we give words to the thoughts.  We do not pray to inform Him but to own what is in us, to confess the things that are wrong, and to express our trust in His good and gracious will.  But how do you know what God is thinking?
    The truth is most of us fear that God holds His thoughts close to Him, that He deliberately hides Himself from us to leave us guessing.  But we would be wrong.  Just as our prayers reveal what is on our hearts and in our minds, so do we learn the heart and mind of God by listening to the prayers of Jesus, His Son. 
    Today we find that the heart of God is not hidden but made known to us.  He deliberately has revealed Himself to us – not only by Jesus' teaching but also by His prayers.  It helps to know the setting.  The setting helps frame the words of the prayer.
    The setting for the Gospel for today is Maundy Thursday.  It is just before Jesus is betrayed to His suffering and death on the cross.  John does not give us much of the Upper Room but his Gospel tells us much of the heart and mind of Jesus as the events of our salvation unfold.
    Jesus is with His disciples – the disciples soon to be tested by the shock of one of their own betraying Jesus, by the sorrow of the suffering Jesus endures, and by the sadness of the death He dies.  We might well understand if Jesus were only thinking of Himself but He is thinking of His disciples and not only of them but of those who will believe through them.  His mind is on the future His death and resurrection will create and upon the Church created by His death and resurrection – even you and me.
    That is the setting, but what of the actual prayer?  Listen to what is on Jesus' heart and in His mind.  He prays for glory. Not  the kind of glory we think of – not fame, acclaim, and awe.  No, Jesus is thinking of the glory that His death and resurrection will create.  He is thinking of a church, of sinners redeemed by His blood, washed new in baptism, given the eyes and ears of the Spirit to know His Word, and those whom He would feed and nourish at His table.  In other words, Jesus is thinking of YOU!  His glory is the salvation of those for whom He died!
    What is on the mind and in the heart of God?  YOU.  You are.  Jesus reveals to us the mind and heart of the Father who is focused upon those for whom Christ dies, that we might know the Father, the embrace of the waiting Father for His prodigal sons and daughters.  What is on the mind and in the heart of God?  The Church, created from the blood of Christ.  Those who have been called by the Spirit, washed in the blood of the Lamb, set apart and marked by His Word, and kept by His Spirit through the food of His table.
    We fret all day long about the troubles and trials of this mortal life.  Look at the length of our prayer list in the bulletin. We worry about what God knows of us, knows of our lives, of our troubles, of our secrets, and what He cares of them.  How foolish we are!  God is focused exactly upon us.  He knows us all and He knows all of us.  Nothing is hidden from Him.  We pray not to inform an unknowing God but to commend with faith all the weights, worries, and wonderings of our hearts.
    All is met in Christ.  All our needs are met in Christ.  All our past is atoned for by Christ.  All our future rests on Christ.  He has nothing to inhabit His heart and mind except you and me.  How sad it is that we forget or fail to even acknowledge what God knows and cares for us!  Jesus is even now lifting YOU before the Father, interceding on our behalf. 
    His intercession for us does not end until time ends, until the distance between earth and heaven is fully bridged, and we are where He is in the forever of His promise.  Until then there is nothing more dear to Him than you and me, all our troubles, trials, sins and death.  But foolishly we pray as if somehow or other we were in doubt about whether or not God loves us or how important we were to Him.
    God's focus is YOU.  The cross for you.  His suffering for you. His death for you.  His resurrection for you.  But what of you and your focus?  Today in this bridge Sunday between Ascension and Pentecost we pray the Lord that we may be comforted by His concern, guarded by His Spirit, and sustained by His grace... until the day when He comes to seal us unto Himself for all eternity.  Amen.


Anonymous said...

How would God respond to someone who cries in prayer: "Where were you O Lord all those years when my dad abused me. Why didn't you choose to protect me?"

What criteria does God use in deciding whom to help. Some people get nothing for their prayers.

Anonymous said...

Worship is merely prayer put to song.