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Seventh Sunday of Easter

June 2, 2019 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Easter

Passage: John 17:20–17:26

†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: John 17:20-26
Date: June 2nd, 2019; Easter 7; Series C
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
  • This past Thursday was an important day in the Church Year – it was the Ascension of our Lord.  
  • This is when the Church observes Jesus’ ascension into heaven to be seated at the right hand of God the Father.
  • Now, Jesus’ ascension doesn’t mean that he has abandoned us.
  • He has not left us behind in this world to deal with the struggles of sin and death on our own.
  • That’s what the devil wants us to believe - and sometimes we buy into it.
  • Sometimes we can think that Jesus is just somewhere “up there” far removed from us. 
  • This can especially happen when we are experiencing a difficult time in our life.  
  • Sometimes it can feel like we are so far away from Jesus - and that he is so far away from us.
  • But this simply isn’t so.
  • Our Gospel reading for this morning is part of what is known as Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.  
  • Jesus is praying for his disciples and for all people who believe in him - including us today.
  • He prays, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am…”  
  • Jesus is praying that we would be with him.  This is our desire too, isn’t it?  
  • We want to be with our Lord and to receive the life and blessings that he has given us. 
  • We don’t like those times when we feel that we are distant from God - like we are isolated from him.  
  • So, how can we know that Jesus is with us - if he is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father?
  • This question is one that has unfortunately caused a lot of debate and division in the Christian Church.
  • One answer is that we know that Jesus is with us if we can feel his presence.
  • But, a good question to ask is, “What does Jesus feel like?”
  • What type of emotion or sense are we to have to be certain that Jesus is with us?  To be certain that his promises are for us?  How can we be sure?  
  • The Christian faith for some is emotionally based.  This is where people look for the certainty of their salvation.
  • But what happens if you don’t have a sense or feeling of God one day?  
  • Our feelings fluctuate and are unreliable.  
  • Things happen in our lives that can have a major impact on how we feel.   
  • Our feelings and emotions are a dangerous place to look for Jesus’ presence in our lives.
  • To be sure, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t or won’t feel things as a result of God’s presence in our lives.  
  • Even as a somewhat stoic fellow - there are times when a reading from Holy Scripture or a verse of a hymn will bring me to tears - but that’s not where I find assurance that I am a child of God who has received his gift of salvation.
  • Another way some try to determine if Jesus is present in their lives is by looking at how good they are as Christians.  
  • If they are good people, go to church every Sunday, give to charity, hold doors open for people – then obviously God is with them.
  • This too is dangerous.  
  • On the one hand, you might actually believe that you are being good enough to make it to heaven – that you are good enough to be where Jesus is.  
  • But the truth is we are not - and never will be.  
  • We all fall short of the glory of God and we can’t earn our way into heaven.
  • The other danger of looking at our deeds or good works to determine if Christ is with us - is that it can lead to despair.  
  • We recognize that no matter how hard we try – we continue to fail.  We continue to sin.  
  • We might think that obviously Christ isn’t with us, because if he were, we wouldn’t continue to sin as we do.
  • To be clear, we are to strive to live our lives according to God’s will, and we all do show forth the fruits of our faith in our daily lives.  
  • But in this life we also continue to sin - and we need to turn to God to receive his forgiveness.  
  • Looking at how we live our lives is just as harmful as turning to our feelings and emotions to verify if Christ is with us.
  • And do you notice what both of these dangerous teachings have in common?  
  • The focus is on you.  It’s about what you feel or sense.  It’s about how you are able or unable to live your life according to God’s will.  
  • It’s all about - and centred on you.
  • But our faith is not based on us, on what we feel, or on what we do.
  • Our faith is in Christ Jesus who lived a sinless life for us, who sacrificed himself in our place by suffering and dying on a cross, who won eternal life for us as shown in his resurrection.
  • Our faith isn’t in what we have done for God - our faith is in what Jesus has done for us.     
  • Focus not on yourself – but on Christ.  On his Word and his promises for you.  
  • When you feel lost, abandoned, sad, alone; when you feel guilt and despair over your sin – know with absolute certainty that Christ is with you.  
  • Know for sure that you are with him.
  • In our Gospel reading Jesus prayed that we be with him. 
  • And where has Christ promised to be with us?  
  • In the Word and Sacraments in his Church.  
  • Jesus promises to be with us in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.
  • Through his baptism, Noah has God’s assurance that he is his loved and forgiven child who will inherit everlasting life.  
  • We too have this assurance in our baptism.  
  • Jesus promises to be with you in his Word – comforting you, enlightening you, bringing you to believe and receive his mercy.
  • Jesus promises to be with you in Holy Communion – physically present forgiving your sins, strengthening your faith, and giving you eternal life.
  • We look outside of ourselves to the promises that God has made to us through Christ.
  • We look outside of ourselves to where Christ has promised to be.
  • On this side of heaven we are going to have ups and downs, struggles and difficulties, blessings and times of great joy.
  • Our feelings and emotions will fluctuate with our experiences. 
  • Regardless of our feelings and emotions - we know with certainty that God is with us through it all. 
  • On this side of heaven we can’t live our lives perfectly according to his will.  We are going to struggle and continue to fall into sin.
  • But even in our sin, God does not forsake us.
  • He calls and leads us to repentance.  To seek forgiveness. To desire to turn from sin and go and sin no more. To trust that we have been cleansed of our sin by the blood of the Lamb.  
  • God’s love and mercy for us will lead to feelings and emotions and peace and comfort.
  • This is a natural response to God and all that he has done for us.
  • But the key here is that it is a response.
  • It is a response to God’s promise that in Christ, we are one.  One with each other.  One with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  
  • Perfectly one for eternity.
  • Jesus prays for the church; he prays for you. 
  • And you are held safely in that prayer forever. Thanks be to God!  Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.