John 17:20-26; Rev. 22:1-20/Easter7.07
The Lord prays for you, children. He is seated at the right hand of the Father, but before He went away - before He ascended above all heavens that He might fill all things and so be with you always - He prayed for you. He thought of you. He asked His Father that you be saved from YOU and all the ways you want to spin off into the abyss.
Our Lord does not comport Himself with modern notions of individuality. This godless age instructs us to think only of ourselves, to follow our hearts, wherever they may lead us. If you don't feel a certain way, then go whatever way delights you, strikes your fancy, floats your boat, rings your bell, gratifies your lust. Nothing new in that. The devil got that going in the Garden, and Eve, when she saw for herself - contrary to the Word of God - that the fruit was good for eating, she took some and she ate.
The oldest religion after what God laid down when He first spoke to Adam, the oldest religion Satan sowed within man's heart, says: "Every man for himself." At least, "Every man to his own religion, his own feelings, his own opinions and interpretations." Jesus prays against all that. He prays for you, saying, "I do not ask for these only," meaning His Twelve, "but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us." He prays that we may be "perfectly one."
Now that just blows apart the way that men so often speak. Even Lutherans tell me, "Well, not every Lutheran believes EVERYTHING that we confess, Pastor." If not, then stay away. If you don't want to give Jesus His prayer today, and don't want to be "perfectly one" in everything He says, then you must stay away from this Communion. Come talk to me, though, and tell me, "I don't want to give Jesus His prayer. I have my own opinion about things, so, clearly - I need more prayers, pastor, for repentance and faith; clearly, I am on the verge of needing excommunication, so that I take seriously what Jesus desires. Forgive me, father, for I have sinned. Please, help me to do better."
That's the ONLY thing that I can tell you, dear Christians. Because Jesus is just so all-fired sure there's NOTHING more He wants in all the earth than to have us all together in the one true Faith, in the same confession, the same Gospel, the same Jesus. Please, get a-blaze over that.
That's the way that true evangelism goes, isn't it? Nothing lukewarm, saying it doesn't matter what people believe, but fired up over all that Jesus says! Remember, this same Jesus sent His Church out to make disciples of ALL nations, baptizing them into the One Name of the One True God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, adding that we teach "them to hold to EVERYTHING I have commanded you" - as if He really wants what He asks His Father for!
This Thursday, when a few of us were all together for Ascension Day, and this Friday, when this place was packed with about 130 for our school's graduation, the Word of God said this, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations." So, I pointed everyone here to Holy Baptism. I preached that Christ is present FOR us in the Holy Absolution and the Supper. Apart from this, Jesus doesn't do us any saving good. Jesus asked His Father that we would all be perfectly together in the same Faith, didn't He? So, who am I to deny Him what He asked for?
What a delight it was, then, to hear the older students read their essays on the importance of the Catechism. Now, I realize that almost NEVER do Lutherans equate the Catechism with evangelism. Even the CATECHISM doesn't seem to - and by that, I don't mean the part that Luther wrote, who was on the same page with Jesus and true unity of Faith. I mean the part somebody in our Synod put together. For the most part, they do a decent job. But here's the big boil on our Synodical nose that shows how apt we are to cut it off to spite our face. After Luther's Catechism, which so deftly lays out the Christian Faith - the Ten Commandments, by which we know God's will and how we are to live as Christians, by which we also come to know how miserably in sin we are - the Creed, by which we come to know God's will toward us, the Promise of the Gospel on account of Jesus' death in place of every sinner - the Lord's Prayer, by which we learn to speak as those Baptized in Christ the language of Faith, of dear children begging their dear Father - all of which is provided us, completely free, through Baptism, Absolution and the Supper of our Savior's Flesh and Blood in bread and wine -
After all of THAT, the newest printing of the Small Catechism has a little page in the back which provides a so-called "Salvation Outline." It reads, "The following seven points summarize basic information about the human condition and God's saving grace." Then, it proceeds to say - in seven points - SOME of, but LESS than what the Catechism just said in SIX! It says we're sinners, deserving of God's wrath. Ten Commandments. It says how God loved us in giving us His Son, who died and rose again for our salvation. The Creed. That's points 1 through 5 of the Outline. It's Parts One and Two of the Catechism. Then, the Outline says that Jesus offers us forgiveness of sins, but says NOTHING of the Means of Grace. The CATECHISM speaks of faith, in the Third Part on the Lord's Prayer, and then of the MEANS OF FAITH in Parts Four through Six; Baptism, Confession and the Lord's Supper.
Now, I'm not here to bash the new edition of the Small Catechism. As has been the case recently, our publishing house has given us another fine tool. But it seems we're still missing the point. Jesus prays that we may all be one - perfectly one - in the one true Faith. And we have inherited a fine little outline of that Faith in the Small Catechism. It's not the ONLY little outline we could use, for sure, but let's at least USE it, so that, as Jesus prays, "the world may know that" the Father sent Jesus, and that He loves us as He loves Jesus.
That's what one little boy confessed this Friday in his essay on the importance of the Catechism. He said, "People need to confess the Catechism so they don't think God is against them." What insight! And he's only in the 4th grade! He added, "They don't want to think that way - that God is against them - because then they can become evil." Whether he realizes it or not, he is getting close to saying the very thing that led Jesus to pray that we may all be one, perfectly together with Jesus and the Father and their Spirit in the Gospel!
What's the alternative? That we are left to our evil selves! That was aptly stated by another student when he started off his essay saying, "The Catechism is important to keep us from going crazy." Yes, because apart from the Faith outlined therein, we will only spin off in our own interpretations, our own ways of thinking and believing, and that's insanity. It is the evil that the other boy was speaking of, which leads us to the hurt and harm we do to one another ever day. It leads us to forget the Baptized children that we are, how God is now toward us in Jesus, and to put ourselves back under judgment, under wrath, to living like pigs and lying down with dogs.
The Revelation that we hear from today warns us, in no uncertain terms, how insane we are to frustrate Jesus' prayer, to go it on our own. The angel said to John, "Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy." That is, let those who want to run the show keep running it - all the way to hell. But those who, like the children who confessed this Friday night, recognize their need of being bounded by the Word of God, wrapped up in what the LORD has said and given them in Jesus and His saving Gifts, let them remain in the Faith given them in Holy Baptism and Confessed so plainly in the Catechism.
The Lord is coming soon, He says. Blessed are the ones wrapped up in Jesus and His Faith, in Jesus and His prayer that we be all together in the Promise of His Gospel. "Outside are dogs" - the ones Jesus says not to give what is Holy, His Body and His Blood; the ones who rip and tear at others; the ones whom Scripture says "return to their own vomit," loving evil, never learning, always going back to sin. "Outside are dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood."
That's the evil we are left with when we're left to ourselves. So, Jesus prays that we be rescued from all of that; that we be one with Him and one another in His Faith. That's the ONLY way that we are safe from all that we deserve. So, the Revelation says, "Blessed are those who wash their robes," who make them white in the Blood of the Lamb. They have the right to the tree of Life, the Foretaste of which we eat and drink today in Bread and Wine.
If left to ourselves, we dogs, we wishers and dreamers and believers in things other than God's Word and Promises; we idolaters and adulterers and murderers and thieves would be left out. Damned. Blessed are the Baptized and believing, however; the ones who are washed in Christ's death and resurrection. Blessed are you! Blessed are you who return to the waters of your Baptism daily through repentance and contrition, drowning your Old Adam, arising to live before God in righteousness and purity - that is, in this: "I forgive you all your sins!" Blessed are the Absolved, who confess they are dogs but desire what The Master has for them at His Table - His Body and Blood in bread and wine. This is the Tree of Life for you until you eat and drink of it in all its fullness in His Kingdom. Remain in that, dear Blessed Ones, and point all people to it.
Today, Maiya-Elise Beata Koenigs-Pruett joins the ranks of the Blessed Ones who are washed in the Blood of the Lamb! Such a big name for such a little girl, but today she receives a Name that's Bigger still: the Name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Today, Maiya-Elise is gathered together in the Faith of Jesus, which makes her TRULY blessed - Beata. For CHRIST believes her sins are now forgiven. HE believes that she is His and He is hers, and all her life will now be growing up to learn that this is so and what this means. Catechesis!
Many remain apart from such a living, active Faith, saying that Maiya is not old enough to DO what must be done by SINNERS if they hope to get into God's City. Such falsehood, attempting an end-run around the Gate, the Shepherd of the Sheep. Let those who insist on being the cause of their salvation go on in such evil. But let those who are righteous - SOLELY for Christ's sake - continue to wash their robes and live from the Tree of Life. Maiya-Elise, you are Baptized and believing because CHRIST died for you and pours out heaven here! Let the dogs bark, the MASTER has spoken! And He has prayed for you, and here today His prayer is answered. He continues praying, that you do not stray; that your parents keep you steadfast in the one true faith, and never - as so many others do - keep you from the One Who loves you so. Maiya, He loves you like this - not only does He pray for you, but He COMES to you, in answer to the Spirit and the Bride, who both pray, "Come."
Today, He did - for Maiya. And today, again, He does - for you and me, absolving us, and teaching us, and feeding us His Supper. He will come again, to take His washing ones into His City. Yes, I said "washing" ones. You see, as the children said this Friday night, "it is obvious that everyone needs to say the Catechism daily." That's washing - the present, active, going on in Jesus' Faith, in being ONE as He has prayed; confessing sins, confessing faith, beseeching God as children do their Father, believing that Baptism really saves, that Absolution is the Voice of Christ to save us, and that here - here in Bread and Wine, Jesus goes on feeding us the Tree of Life, His Body and His Blood, until He answers all our prayers and comes again in glory. In Jesus' Name, Amen