Thursday, May 28, 2020

Jesus prays for you.

Sermon for Easter 7A, preached on Sunday, May 24, 2020, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

Alleluia! Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia! He is risen, ascended, and glorified.  Amen. 
    When you step back and look at what happens on Sunday morning in the Divine Service, you’ll notice a few things.  First, we sing a lot.  From the beginning worship to the end, we’re joyfully singing God’s praises.  Second, the Word of the Lord is everywhere.  Scripture isn’t just confined to the assigned readings.  God’s Word is the source of everything that is said and sung.  Just look in the hymnal and see; everything comes from Scripture.  And third, you’ll notice we devote a lot of time to prayer.
    We begin with a prayer of confession, repenting of our sin; asking God’s forgiveness.  We sing a prayer of Kyrie, “Lord, have mercy.”  We pray the Collect of the Day, that historical prayer assigned for each Sunday, the same prayer that’s prayed by our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.  After the sermon we kneel, praying for the Church.  During the Sacrament, before and after the Supper, we pray a prayer of thanksgiving.  And of course, as God’s children, we boldly pray the Our Father, the prayer our Lord has taught us.  On Sunday morning we pray a lot.  But what about the rest of the week?
    God invites us to pray to Him every day.  St. Paul encourages us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17).  And in our prayers, we keep the Second Commandment.  We rightly use and honor God’s name when we call upon Him in prayer.  But we must admit that many times we fail at this. 
Too often do we fail to go to God in prayer.  We know we should pray.  We know it’s good for our faith, taking our concerns to the Lord and leaving them with Him, trusting He has everything in hand.  We know we should thank Him for all that He’s given to us.  But instead of praying right away, we decide to put it off for when we have more free time, but of course that never comes.   Our days get busy and full.  And so we find ourselves going the whole week without prayer. 
Sinfully, prayer isn’t a spiritual discipline and daily Christian habit that we practice.  I know I’m guilty of this.   But when we encounter trials and troubles, that’s when our knees hit the floor.  Attacked by the fiery temptations of the devil, overcome by the brokenness of the world, suffering the sickness and disease of death; that’s when we come to God.  We ask Him to protect us, to spare us, to heal us.  And this is good.  We should look to the Lord for salvation at these times.  But what about the other times?  Why wait?  And why must our prayers always first be about us?  Why do we only pray when we want and need something?  Why don’t we readily pray for God’s will to be done beyond the Lord’s Prayer?  And why don’t we pray first for others and then ourselves?  It’s because of our sin.  Even our prayers are tainted with our sin.  Even in our prayers we’re all about “me first, then others.”
But this isn’t how Christ prays.  None of Jesus’ prayers were focused on Himself.  His prayers were always about the Father and His will.  His prayers were always about you and for you. 
The Gospel reading for today is Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.  He prayed this on Maundy Thursday, right before His betrayal and crucifixion.  Jesus knew what was coming.  He knew the suffering of the cross was at hand, so you’d think His prayer would be asking God to spare Him; after all, that’s what we’d pray for.  But not Jesus.  His prayer was about fulfilling the Father’s will and glorifying Him through the cross.
God the Father is glorified in the cross.  Christ is glorified in the cross.  Glory isn’t something we usually think about when we think about Jesus’ crucifixion, but it is, because the cross accomplished the will of the Father.  On the cross, God’s grace and mercy were enacted.  On the cross, Christ paid the price of your sin.  On the cross He died your death, and He won eternal life for you.
The will of the Father is your eternal and everlasting life.  His glory is your eternal life.  That’s what He’s all about.  That’s what Christ is all about.  And that’s what Christ prays for.   
Jesus prays for you.  He prays that the Father will keep you.  And that’s exactly what He does.  God keeps you in His name.  He keeps you for salvation because you are His.
    You are the Father’s child, baptized in His name.  You’re redeemed from sin, death, and the devil, purchased by Christ’s blood.  And He will keep you for Himself and for your salvation, even in the midst of the fiery temptations of the devil, even in the midst of the brokenness of the world, even in the midst of sickness, even in the midst of death.
    None of this can steal you away from the Lord.  None of it can snatch you from His hand.  None of it can overcome your eternal life.  Yes, it is hard to endure these as they are happening.  It’s difficult to be constantly bombarded by Satan’s temptations.   It’s exhausting to live surrounded by the conflict of the world.  And it’s unbearable suffering all the sickness and disease that plagues our bodies.  But as Peter says, this suffering is just for a little while.  It can’t compare to the eternal glory in Christ that God has prepared for you.  And if God has prepared this glory for you, He will keep you for it. 
This is Jesus’ prayer for you, the very prayer the Father answers.  You’re kept for salvation.  You receive the promise of this every time we gather here in worship.  You literally receive it in God’s Word of forgiveness and Christ's Supper eaten.  And so it is with this promised salvation that we come to the Lord in prayer, entrusting others and ourselves to Him.  We gladly pray every day for the Father’s will, just as our Savior does, because with faith we know what that will is, our secured and eternal life.  In Jesus’ name...Amen. 
Alleluia! Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia! He is risen, ascended, and glorified.  Amen. 

1 comment:

John Joseph Flanagan said...

Very good sermon indeed.
As a side note, please don't consider this a self serving plug for my own benefit or recognition. I am looking for neither. But I must share with you all that a few years ago I happened across an anonymous Christian poem which had a theme about Jesus praying. I tried unsuccessfully to locate an author or copyright holder to secure permission to compose it into a hymn and record it to share on YouTube. Although I wrote letters to the publisher of the book where it was listed, the editors could not claim authorship or locate an author or source. The book was published around 1959, and they had no further information. As far as they were concerned, there was no copyright. So I wrote the chords and melody, tweaked the lyrics a bit, and sang and recorded it on my guitar solo. If you would like to hear this song about the prayers of Our Lord, you can find it by googling Youtube John Joseph Flanagan, and the song title based on the poem is,"He prayed beside the sea." God bless. Soli Deo Gloria JJF