Our May 24 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook.
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The special Sunday 9 am outdoor in-person service on May 31 is scheduled to be streamed live on the DeSoto Redeemer Facebook page. We will post a direct link to the recording here as soon as it is possible after the service.
Sermon: Easter 7
Acts 1:6-14, Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35
Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11, John 17:1-11
The Gospel is part of “Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.” He said it for his disciples before his arrest, crucifixion and resurrection. It is a prayer to keep them in faith, and in unity in that faith. But it is also, a prayer against the world. Did you catch that part? Notice, that those who believe in Christ are held up against those of the world, who don’t know Christ (and it even seems in this prayer, that they cannot receive Christ, and his message). This prayer is also, almost, a strong argument for predestination, which Lutherans don’t believe in, so I won’t go there.
“They were yours” of course, God is our Creator, all people belong to God in that sense. But, “and you gave them to me” God the Father, gave to Christ the believers, the Church (that’s where it almost sounds like predestination). And, it is the members of the Church, who “know in truth” that “they believed that you sent me.” This is something which the world cannot know. Remember the Confession of St. Peter? “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Jesus responds, “Blessed are you Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” The world does not know it.
Faith, and the knowledge of the truth of Jesus Christ come only from on high, God, heaven. That is what is special about Ascension Day (which was Thursday) and the Day of Pentecost (next Sunday, wear red!).
Ascension Day is probably one of the most underappreciated Feasts of the Church, including this congregation. But, it is also a very important one for us, and it plays into what Jesus is praying today, “That they may be one, as You and I are one.” This is the part that most people miss about the Ascension. When Jesus ascends into heaven, he ascends bodily. He takes his human nature with him. It is inseparable from his divine nature. In other words, as Jesus ascends into heaven, humanity is glorified! We are glorified! We are one with Christ, as Christ is one with the Father. That is a very important, and ignored, part of our understanding of being also a new creature in Christ. That is part one of the Ascension.
Part two is Christ ascends to send us the Spirit (of Truth), also called the Comforter, the Counselor, and the Advocate – in the sense of bearing of testimony. It is the Holy Spirit, which gives us faith, we don’t earn it. It is a gift of grace. It is a gift which we receive through hearing the Gospel, and coming to believe the truth of Christ. It is the Spirit, which gives us the power to come to faith. Indeed, the Spirit draws us to faith. The Spirit, which uses other people to proclaim the story (witness/evangelism), and in fact empowers the very proclaimer in that proclamation of the Gospel!
On the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit arrives, and the Church begins in earnest.
“So that they may be one, as we are one.” It is the same Holy Spirit, which keeps the Church unified, as Luther says in the Small Catechism, the Holy Spirit “calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it united in Christ in the one true faith.” And yet, there have been many schisms throughout the history of the Church, resulting in many different denominations and sects.
Ironically, the main causes of splits in Christendom have been two other things which are supposed to keep us in unity; the Sacraments and their understandings. It demonstrates to me the depth of sin in humanity, even with the members of the Church on earth. Baptism: do we immerse or sprinkle, baptize infants or does a person have to be old enough to understand what baptism is? It is always God’s act. It doesn’t really matter. We are commanded to do it. That should be sufficient. The Holy Communion: How is Christ present in the bread and wine? Or, even further, is Christ present, or is it only symbolic? Should we use wine or grape juice? (this one is “wine” in the Greek – before Welches came to be). How is Christ present? It doesn’t matter. I like Luther’s answer, “Christ is present because he promises to be present.” As to how Christ is present – in, with and under – in the bread, with the wine, under the forms of bread and wine. When pressed for a more technical answer, Luther responded with, “It is a mystery.” That’s a good answer. We can live with a good mystery or two. The Sacraments are to unite the Church, not divide it. In baptism, we are joined to Christ. In the Holy Communion, we share in Christ. That is unity.
In this time of the coronavirus, as our “new normal” separates us by social distancing, we are still united as one in Christ. We may now have to Share the Peace with a nod or a wave instead of a handshake or an embrace, but we are still one. We may have to take the wine in an individual cup instead of the chalice, but we are still united with Christ. We may be separated by six feet of social distancing and a mask, but the Holy Spirit still calls and gathers us, enlightens and sanctifies us. Of this, we may rest assured in faith. Christ has said so, and we believe.
There is still One Church: holy, catholic (with a small “c”) and apostolic. This is the basis for this and the last century’s tremendous examples of Christians working together in areas of education, medicine and to aid others. The realization that there is One Church, One body with many members, united in the proclamation that Jesus Christ is Lord, And that we have eternal life (knowledge of God) in his name. One Church, one proclamation, and one task: to proclaim Christ to the world, as we are led by the one Holy Spirit. That is what keeps us unified, unified in Christ. After all, there is only One Church. And that is Christ’s Church. He is the head. We are his followers.