Then We Will Show
December 31st, 2009 by admin Leave a reply »
I can’t believe what the kids are watching today! I mean, I should be happy. By watching these shows they are learning about statistics, judgment and risk assessment. Is it some hip educational program? Nope. NASCAR? Nope. Poker! You can almost always turn to some station, ESPN2 or the likes, and watch a Poker tournament. If this is sports, then I am physically fit! Golf, which some compare to watching paint dry, looks absolutely riotous compared with Poker. Yet, you have to admit there is some drama (not too much, because the audience gets to see what everybody has in their hands) there as the tension builds when the players have to show their cards.
I’m not saying we should truck on down to Benny’s joint for a weekly poker game or TiVo the next championship poker broadcast so we don’t miss it, but as Christians, I think it is time for us to show our cards. Jesus prayed for the day and I think it has come.
Then We Will Show.
The words of our text for today are part of Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer.” He prayed for his disciples. Then he prayed for all who would believe in him. He prayed these words on the Thursday before his death, just hours before Judas betrayed him.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (20-23).”
Did you notice the two times Jesus mentioned the world in these words? “So that the world may believe…to let the world know.” Well, how is the world ever going to believe in Jesus if we don’t show them our cards? How is the world ever going to know Jesus is the Savior if we don’t let this wicked, old world know?
You see, that’s where the battle starts. The church has often been portrayed as a little fortress on a rock, battered by the winds and waves. Church architecture promotes this with its sanctuary and fortress-like walls. The world is out there, to be avoided! Long before security gated neighborhoods became popular, the church was the security gated community. German, Swedish and Norwegian Lutherans had their own churches. The Irish, Polish, German and Italian Catholics had their own churches. And they didn’t get along. I’m not talking about the Lutherans and the Catholics—I’m talking about the Germans, Swedes, Norwegians, Italians, Poles and Irish! We could just as well bring the divisions up to date with the Mexicans and the Chinese, the Korean and the Philippinos. You expect people to be at each other’s throats. You expect people to segregate themselves and show bias, if not outright hostility, towards others.
You’d expect that, because that’s the sinful human nature at work. Where you find God at work, you see just the opposite and that is different. That is unusual. That is noteworthy enough that even the world will sit up and take notice.
It was that way in the early Christian church. Paul brags, “We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free (1 Corinthians 12.13).” It didn’t matter whether you knew the Bible or not. The preaching of Jesus Christ converted both the Jew who had memorized God’s Word and the Gentile who didn’t really know what he was supposed to worship. The Holy Spirit through Baptism claimed for God those freemen who belonged to themselves and the slave who belonged to other. It didn’t matter. There were no divisions. No distinctions. And here’s another reason there were no divisions. The Holy Spirit moved them to care for one another. Almost every one of Paul’s letters to the Christian congregations contain something like this—“Ever since I heard about your faith and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you (Ephesians 1.15).” But this unity was not automatic. It was something the early Christians had to always strive for. “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought (1 Corinthians 1.10).”
This shouldn’t be hard for anyone who has been in a family to understand. There are lots of strains and pulls in a relationship. You’ve got to work on being close to brother and sister.
It’s like a marriage, and let’s take that as an example. Two people. Got their own ideas, their own likes and dislikes, their own hormonal systems just to add a little spice, like putting cornstarch in somebody’s contact lens solution. How does that big stallion and little filly get along? Will he be gone every night, just like he was before he got hitched? Playing cards, drinking, hooting and hollering with his buds over the din of their off-road vehicles? Will she be hitting the clubs with the girls, because it’s free drinks for them after 2 pm, don’t you know, and whining to him for pretty things like she did to her daddy when she was in junior high? I think we’ve just summarized the plot of most day-time and prime-time soap operas! Or will he be thinking about her, trying to tickle her fancy, working to spend time with her, getting her interested in some of the stuff he just can’t put down? Will she be holding him up in esteem, working to understand his way of thinking, trying to house-break, if not civilize, him a little bit and expand his horizons?
The Christian couple who does this, their friends are going to start wondering about them. “Why don’t we ever see Billie and Bonnie fight? Why don’t they ever disagree in public? Did they get a frontal lobotomy when they went to those pre-marital classes at that Lutheran Church?” But the more they watch this Christian couple, the more they get to know them, they’ll realize, “They have a great marriage because they are Christians—we don’t go to church. Maybe that’s why our marriage stinks.”
You get the point. Let’s look at the other thing we will show—glory!
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world (23).”
Jesus is talking here about heaven. We are going to see Jesus in his heavenly glory. It will be indescribable. The Bible always portrays that vision of God as one of the highest joys of heaven. The joy of seeing fireworks (especially after that 51s slaughter we went to). Or better yet, the joy of a mother seeing her children again, the joy of parents seeing son or daughter on the stage, getting that high school diploma, the joy of a young bride seeing her husband get off the plane from his tour in Iraq. Maybe those things are as close as we can get to the joy we will one day feel in heaven when we see Jesus.
But how in the world is that going to show to unbelievers here and now? Go back to Jesus’ first words. “I have given them the glory that you gave me (22).” We aren’t exactly glowing like Jesus did on the Mount of Transfiguration, shining like lightning, our clothes whiter than any Laundromat could make them—that’s only the actors on those Crest whitening strips commercials! Most of us, if the truth be told, are showing the wear and tear. That’s not the glory Jesus is talking about, the outward glory of those naturally ageless celebrities like Kenny Rogers and Michael Jackson. Here’s the glory Jesus is talking about, that heavenly glory we already have here that unbelievers can spot. “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4.17).” Grace under pressure. Hope in the midst of heartache. Joy in Christ through the tears. That’s the glory Jesus was talking about. One more word from Paul on this, “We all reflect the Lord’s glory and are transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3.18).”
It’s the glory of a Christian life. It’s the glory of the Christian hope. That’s why even unbelievers want a Christian funeral. Maybe they think they’ll sneak in under the wire. Big, suave, cosmopolitan Ernest Hemmingway put a gun to his head when he found out he had cancer. Little stay-at-home Evelyne Zensen prayed, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.” Do you think people notice? Yup.
They will also notice our love.
“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them (26).”
We’ve talked a lot about love this Easter season, that we love one another. I don’t think a group of Christians can hear that message enough. Back up a step, though. Our love for one another is impossible without the love of God for us. His love comes first and moves us, creates in us, that love for him and love for others. Jesus is talking about how God’s love for us will show in us.
Ever notice how children who are loved well by their parents just beam? The time, the attention, the respect the parents give their children make those kids confident, at ease with others, willing to take some risks and look foolish if it doesn’t turn out, because they know they have someone who always loves them. I think teachers can tell at a glance which kids are loved well, whether they make the honor roll or just escape being declared ineligible because of English class.
Are you well-loved by God? Am I always in my God’s mind? Looking at the Bible, we’d have to say “yeah.” “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3.16).” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands (Isaiah 49.15-16).” Your junior high son or daughter ever come home with something written on their arm or the back of their hand that was so important, they couldn’t risk forgetting it before they found some paper? That’s our God! We are always in his mind. There is nothing he wouldn’t do for us, even to the point of Jesus giving up his life for us on the cross. No wonder we sing, “God loves me dearly, grants me salvation, God loves me dearly, loves even me. Therefore I’ll say again, God loves me dearly, God loves me dearly, loves even me.”
Do we show we are loved by God? Again, we’d have to say, “yeah.” Look what we think of him! Good Shepherd. Lord. Savior. Deliverer. Friend of sinners. That’s a whole different picture than the Hindus have of their gods, some of whom are the Destroyer and the Avenger. What do we think of what God has done for us? We don’t say, “Well, I hope I’ve been good enough for God to let me into heaven.” Most Americans say just that, which is why it doesn’t surprise me at all when we find out most Americans don’t go to church to regularly hear that Word of God. Not us. We would say, “I am certain I am going to heaven, because Jesus died for my sins.” That confidence in our Savior’s love for us will show. How about deliverance in earthly crisis? The world expresses doubt in God’s love. “Watch out what you pray for, you just might get it.” We express certainty in God’s power to deliver. “Take it to the Lord in prayer.” Or a preschooler tells her mother after the bank robber took his gun away from her mother’s head and ran out of the bank, “See, Mommy, Jesus protected us.”
People will notice. They really will. “How did you keep it together when your father died?” “Why didn’t you divorce him when he lost his job and you had to let the house go?” God gives strength to his people. It is so natural to us that we don’t think about it all that much, which isn’t a bad thing. I always get into trouble right after I’ve stopped to count all my virtues! But the times will come, as they have already come, and, as before, when that day comes, again
Then We Will Show.
Kids certainly watch some goofy stuff. Because that’s what people were made for—watching. These eyes can notice the difference between a ripe peach and a peach that needs to be on the tree a few more days. We can notice a healthy color or a face that’s starting to show jaundice. People, including unbelievers, will notice, because they are watching you. Give them a chance to know who Jesus is as we display his grace in our lives.
Rev. Don Pieper is a minister in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. He has devoted his life to
sharing the Gospel of Christ to all of Gods people. For more information about the Green Valley
Evangelical Lutheran Church visit us at
www.gvelc.com or call
Ask for Pastor Don or Pastor Matt.