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Worship Theme: The risen Christ gives his Church confidence
Sermon Theme: Sent but Safe
It’s graduation season! In colleges and universities around the world, graduates will don their gowns and mortar boards, chancellors and university presidents will conduct their commencement ceremonies, valedictorians will make their speeches, graduates will receive their diplomas and then…that’s it! They’ll walk off of campus and the vast majority of them will never come back. If they didn’t learn it in their four years on the college campus, it will have to be learned on the job! University programs will equip their students and then they will send them into the work force, and then…nothing!! Hopefully they learned enough to succeed in the line of work that they have chosen, because if they haven’t, it’s too late!! College seniors are pushed out of the classroom like an eaglet is pushed out of the nest, and in both cases, everybody hopes they can fly! No one wants to see an eagle or a student turned graduate fall flat on their face!!
Jesus was teaching his disciples how to fly. He was just hours away from his arrest in Gethsemane. The Teacher was just 43 days away from the last day of class. Soon it would look like they were alone. Soon it would look like they were left to learn how to fly by themselves, but Jesus prays this prayer for his disciples that they might fully know that he would never really leave them. He was planning to send them – in different directions but with the same goal in mind, to spread the gospel to the corners of the earth. He was going to send them, but not out of the nest to learn to fly on their own. He was going to send them out as missionaries, but he promised to continue to keep them safe in his loving care. They would be Sent but Safe. …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. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me.
There’s a lot that goes into a name. And it’s a lot deeper than just letters on a nametag. If I say the name Mickey Mouse, it’s probably with a smile on your face that you can picture the character from the cartoons on TV. You might be remembering the time you gave him a high-five at Disney World. If I say the name Christian Yelich, you are probably thinking about his fun-loving smile, or how quickly he can get a crowd at the ballpark to its feet with one swing of the bat. You might be thinking about a few runs into the playoffs that he led and the success that he’s brought to the Brewers. You might be wondering when he’ll be back so that the team can have an offense again. If it’s a good name, it’s good memories that flood into the mind. But it works in the negative too! The name Osama bin Laden most likely makes that smile go away! You think of all the terror that he was responsible for, the horror of watching airplanes turn into fireballs in the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. You think of the lives he took and the evil that he was. There’s an awful lot of emotion involved hearing that name.
A name is more than just letters, it’s everything that we know about a person, everything that they are. And so, the name of Jesus is more than just five letters - it’s so much more. It’s everything that we know about Jesus. It’s everything that he is, everything that he’s done. Everything that he’s still doing for us! It's everything that we needed him to be and that he so graciously is so that we can have hope and heaven.
Jesus’ name is his perfection. Jesus’ name is his faithfulness. Jesus’ name is his loving -kindness. Jesus’ name is his willingness to be treated unfairly so that we could have peace. Jesus’ name is the torture that he quietly endured, even though it should have been ours. Jesus’ name is his willingness to carry your sins and mine to the cross. Jesus’ name is his humble submission to the Father’s plan for our salvation. Jesus’ name is his victory over sin and death. Jesus’ name is his glorious resurrection from the grave and his ascension into heaven. Jesus’ name is his promise to never leave us. Jesus’ name is his preparing the mansion of heaven for us. Jesus’ name is his promise to come back to take us to live with him forever.
It’s the reputation, the accomplishments, the promises of Jesus that keep us safe. He protected the disciples and he protects us. His disciples of 2000 years ago and his disciples gathered here in this place and around these promises are protected by Jesus – his love, his life, his all. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
Jesus didn’t take the disciples with him when he ascended into heaven! He didn’t call them home, because he had work for them to do. He had plans for them and was going to use them in incredible ways to continue to spread the gospel. He wasn’t ready to take then out of the world, he still was going to use them. So, he sent them out. But not alone, they were Sent but Safe.
If you are living and breathing today...if you are hearing the words that I’m speaking, then the same is true of you. The tasks which God has planned out for you are not complete. There is still more service for you to render, more lives for you to touch. If Jesus wanted you at his side, that’s where you’d be. But you aren’t. That means that you are right where God wants you. You are Sent but Safe.
But you might question – “Am I really safe? What if persecution comes?” If church history is correct, then John is the only disciple that wasn’t killed for his faith. Yet even he was arrested and exiled to an island because of preaching the gospel. We heard today about Stephen who was stoned to death for preaching the truth about Jesus! Were they safe? And the answer is “Yes!” God kept them safe in the most important of ways. He guarded the faith in their hearts. He kept them faithful and strong until their last breath. He kept their hearts close to him through everything so that they could be body and soul close to him forever in glory. The Apostle Paul died for his faith, yet his words summarize the thoughts of all those who gave their lives for the sake of the gospel. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
And one of the reasons that he sends us is that we are precisely what Jesus says we are. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. We have been created, not for self-preservation, not for satisfying the cravings of the sinful nature, not for indulging in worldly pleasures, rather we are what Paul reminds us we are in Ephesians chapter 2: We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
The devil is going to work overtime on us to get to forget that divine calling. The devil wants us to live worldly self-indulgent lives. He wants us to seek to live like everyone else, to want what the world wants. He’s going to tempt us to cower in fear of the pressures and persecutions that we will face. He wants to be “of the world.” Christ Jesus calls us to live in the world but not over the world. Christ Jesus empowers us to live in the world, but not of the world. But we are sanctified by the truth. We are set apart as special by the truth of God’s Word. It’s God’s Word that tells us of a Savior who was willing to be our substitute. It’s God’s Word that shows us that we’ve been saved from hell by a God of mercy. It’s God’s Word that tells us just how undeserving we are and just how incredibly loving God is. It’s God’s Word that sets us apart as special, as redeemed children, as heirs of everlasting life.
As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. Jesus set himself apart for a special task to be the Savior of the world. He did that so that we could be set apart as special – the special, forgiven, holy people of God. Jesus came on a mission to live a special and perfect life so that we could live a perfect life with him one day in the mansions of heaven. Because Jesus was set apart for a special task and because he completed that task, now we are special in his sight. Now we are blameless in his eyes. Now we are children of God.
And this is news that we can’t really keep to ourselves. We want others to hear it! We want to share it with many, many more people. We want them to come to faith in Jesus. We want their eyes to be opened and their hearts to be changed. We want them to live for Jesus, the one who lived for them.
Jesus calls us to serve him and others. He calls us to share his love with those around us. That might seem like a daunting task. That might seem like it’s more than you can handle. That might be downright scary! But my friends, you aren’t sent out on your own. You are Sent but Safe. You are safe in the loving hands of Jesus, hands that were pierced for your forgiveness. You are safe in the promises of Jesus – promises that come true 100 percent of the time! You are safe in the victory of Jesus, because he has conquered sin and because he shares that victory with you. You are safe, because the Lord knows those who are his.
You’ve been called through the power of the gospel. You’ve been cleansed in the life-giving waters of Holy Baptism. You’ve been strengthened with the Lord’s body and blood. You are kept safe through the Means of Grace. You’ve been protected by the glowing reputation – the literally glowing name of our glorious Savior.
As Jesus prayed for you in that Upper Room, now you can pray to Jesus. You can thank him for his never-failing mercy. You can praise him that he’s set you apart to be his forever. You can ask him for resolve to rejoice in every circumstance. You can pray for contentment in every situation. You can pray for a rich measure of his strength to resist temptation. You can ask Jesus to make you bold to confess his name and to share it with many who don’t yet know him. These are prayers that he loves to receive. Those are requests that he loves to grant.
Our good and gracious God will give us these things that we ask in his name. We can live our lives for him and answer his call with confidence knowing that we are Sent and we are Safe, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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