United We Stand / Seventh Sunday of Easter

Sunday, May 13, 2018
Pastor Donald Beaumont

John 17: 11b-19

As You sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate Myself, that they also may be truly sanctified in truth.

Today is Mother’s Day, a day when we honor our Moms. We learn many things from our Moms.

My mom taught me religion. She used to say things like, you better pray that comes out of the carpet.

My mom taught me medicine: If you don’t stop crossing your eyes, they’re going to freeze that way.

My mom taught me how to be a contortionist: Will you look at the dirt on the back of your neck!

My mom taught me to appreciate a job well done: If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning!

My mom taught me about genetics: You’re just like your father!

My mom taught me logic: Because I said so, that’s why.

I don’t know if any of you had mothers like that. Maybe we all had a mom like that. But here’s a more profound question: Do you know anyone whose mom prays for them daily? I believe several of us are in that category. Let me tell you about a young woman who became one of the most important women in the history of the church simply because of her faithfulness as a mom who prayed.

Her name was Monica. You may recognize that name and you already know who I’m talking about. Monica was born in 331 A.D. in North Africa in what is now Algeria. As a young girl, Monica converted to Christianity, still a relatively new faith. Her parents, who weren’t religious and not supportive of her new faith. They married her off to a Roman pagan named Patricius.

Both Patricius and his mother, who lived with them, were hot-tempered people, and difficult to deal with. Nevertheless, Monica did her best to be a good wife and daughter-in-law. While Monica’s prayers and Christian deeds bothered Patricius, he respected her beliefs and not long before his death, both he and his mother converted to Christianity.

Monica and Patricius had three children, two of whom entered religious life as young adults. The third was a son named Augustine. Augustine was more of a challenge. By his own admission he was a wayward youth, giving in to most of the pleasures of his day. One writer describes him as lazy and uncouth. But Monica kept praying for her son. Her watchful, prayerful persistence paid off when Augustine finally became a Christian. Monica lived to see her son baptized into her faith. She died shortly thereafter. She couldn’t have known that Augustine would go on to become one of the towering figures of the church of his time whom we now generally refer to as St. Augustine. From a sinner to a saint, simply and solely because of the prayers and the influence of his mother.

Do mothers play an important role in society? Tell me who else is more important than a mother? Augustine was one of millions of people who have come to know Christ through their mother’s never-failing love and prayers. Some of us are here today because we had that kind of mother. And so, it’s appropriate that we honor moms today, whether they’re still with us or whether they’re now with God.

In our text for today from the Gospel of John, Christ is praying for the church. Jesus loved the church like a mother loves her child. He offered this prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, shortly before His betrayal by Judas. Listen carefully to His words, for Christ is praying for you and me: Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name, the name You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father protect them by the power of Your name, the name You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one.

It was important to Christ that the church, His body, remain unified after He was gone physically from this world. Obviously, He knew that would be difficult. We enjoy singing, “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord; we are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord; and we pray that all unity will one day be restored. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” And that’s true in most churches, but all through history we have also been known by our squabbles.

Now, of course, silly arguments couldn’t possibly happen in our church, but I understand they’ve happened in some churches. Someone once compared his church to Noah’s Ark. “If the flood on the outside weren’t so bad,” he said, “you couldn’t stand the smell on the inside.”  Conflict in most churches isn’t that bad, but it does happen. People turn against one another, relationships are broken, even in the holiest congregations. We are, after all, only human.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus prays for the church. He prays that we will all be one. In other words, that we will be united. Considering the present fragmentation of the Christian community, Christ is probably still praying that same prayer today.

What is it that holds together the body of Jesus Christ? What is the source of our unity where it exists? Obviously, we’re united, first of all, by what we believe. We believe in God. And we believe that through Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit we can know God and experience God.

Do any of you remember Murphy Brown?  Here’s a trivia question for those of you of a certain age: who played the character of Murphy Brown? It was actress Candace Bergen. Now for trivia question number 2: Who was Candace Bergan’s famous father in real life? That’s right, the well-known ventriloquist Edgar Bergan. Remember Edgar Bergan and Charlie McCarthy? Like I said, you have to be of a certain age.

Anyway, in this episode Murphy Brown is, for some reason, asking the staff about their thoughts or feelings about God. Each of the characters had a different response, one was an agnostic, one was a Baptist, and so on. But the response of the character Jim stands out. Remember, this was on a secular television show. Jim said he was a Presbyterian and went to church every Sunday with his wife. He said, I haven’t had any experience of God. I go because it’s obvious to me that the people who attend are experiencing God, and I am hoping that one day I will too. That’s an honest response. I wonder if a TV character would say that today. Television has become somewhat hostile towards organized religion.

Some of us have experienced God in quite a profound way. Others of us are still waiting for such an experience. Regardless, we’re united in our belief that Christ God and is the way to heaven. And we gather here each week in the hope that God will make Himself known to us. That, if we haven’t already done so, we will one day experience God in our lives.

We’re not perfect people. And no group of people is going to agree on every little matter. Sometimes there’s conflict in the church. But when the dust settles, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us, there’s a common bond that unites everyone who takes on the name Christian. That bond is this: We believe that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall have life everlasting. We believe that and that unites us with millions of believers around this planet. That’s the first thing that unites us, our beliefs.

We’re also united by our love for one another and for the one whom we serve. We’re a family. We’re together. We live together, fight together, die together. We stick together. You’d think that as saints of God we’d at least be as committed to one another as our biological family, and I believe we are. I see people in our church doing little acts of kindness for one another all the time. The first thing that unites us is our beliefs. We’re also united by our love for one another and for Christ.

We serve Christ. He’s the inspiration of our lives. He’s the living presence who works within us. He’s the Lord and Master of all we are and hope to be. We are His. It is in His steps that we walk. I was astounded at the number of times Jesus sent His followers out to do something. For example I'm sure you remember all these times when Jesus said: Go preach, Go tell, Go work, Go into the highways, Go to the next town, Go into the country, Go to the other side, Go into the deep, Go into the streets, Go into the city, Go into the village, Go to the lost sheep, Go call your husband, Go make it right with your brother, Go and learn, Go quickly, Go in peace, and of course Arise and go!”

Paul set the standard for us over 1900 years ago when he wrote that our job “whether at home or absent, is to be pleasing to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:9). That’s the test of service in our lives as believers in Him. We should be asking ourselves; would it be pleasing to Christ?

We’re united by what we believe. We’re united by our love for one another and for the Christ we serve. Finally, we’re united by our love for those whom we’re trying to save, the world for which Christ died. The church can never be satisfied with protecting its own existence. We serve one who poured out His life for the world. That’s our calling as well, to pour out our life for the world. We have no other purpose as the church of Jesus Christ.

A young woman was joining a certain church. The pastor asked her, what do she did for a living? And, with a sly smile, she looked at him and said, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ secretly disguised as a legal secretary. Isn’t that wonderful? I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ carefully disguised as a carpool mom. As a financial advisor. As a bank teller. Or even as a McDonald’s hamburgerologist. The attitude we bring can change almost any occupation into the call of God. For whatever our occupation, our one vocation is always to be a servant.

Christ prayed that we would be united. United by what we believe. We believe in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord. United by the one whom we serve. We seek to serve Christ in all we think, say and do. United by whom we’re seeking to save, namely the world for which Christ died.

Our text for the day ends with these words: As You sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate Myself, that they also may be truly sanctified in truth. Jesus loved the church like a mother loves her child. Remember that this Mother’s Day. And what is it that He most wants for us? To be united. We’re sanctified by our faith, by our love for Christ and by our outreach to the world for whom Christ died.

Bethel Lutheran Church

32410 Willowick Drive
Willowick, OH 44095

P: (440) 943-5000

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