Monday, May 22, 2017

Sermon on John 16:23-30, for the 6th Sunday of Easter, Rogate ("Ask!"), 1 Year Lectionary

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. In our Gospel reading from John 16, Jesus tells His disciples “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
·         Jesus urges us to ask boldly and He will answer! amazing promise, but this simple promise creates a crisis of prayer or a crisis of understanding for countless people.
·         two ways to understand: one leads to a crisis of prayer and doubt. the other to fullness of joy
·         Reread. Where is emphasis? Next sentence “in my name.”
·         natural tendency: latch onto “whatever you ask”—because we want to take Jesus’ words as a genie-in-the-bottle promise. Examples: cars, wealth; healing grandma—we wonder “what gives?” >>Crisis: ask, but don’t receive! Have Christians “mastered” this promise?
·         neglect the qualifier: in my name. bulletin quote: “in the name of Jesus” not a magical tag that we attach to prayers, to get whatever you want. Rather
“Jesus promises you whatever is in His name. All that’s in His name, He says the Father will give you.” Picture it like this: God has a big treasure chest and written around the outside of that chest are the letters J-E-S-U-S. Everything inside of that chest is in the name of Jesus. The Father promises you any and everything that He’s put into that chest. It’s yours. After all, Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name He will give it to you.” So, the big question is: what’s in the name of Jesus? Because whatever is in that name is what the Father promises to give you!

·         NT search: includes forgiveness, God being with us, the holiness of God, hope, blessing, Jesus’ presence, baptism and the right to become children of God, salvation, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and much more! these and more are attached to the name of Jesus. Seek and ask for these in the treasure box of the Name of Jesus, we are assured by Jesus that He will give them to us. Spend too little time reflecting on and asking for what’s in His name! This is the way to enjoy the fullness of the promise—many Christians who have learned contentment
·          Understanding Jesus’ promise in this way, leads us into the fullness of joy. find His joy in His Name. Chasing the “whatevers” of this world—treasures outside that chest, is a quick way to disappointment. Store up treasures on earth, Jesus warns—and you never know when they will rot, rust, fade away, be lost or stolen. But treasures in heaven—i.e. spiritual things, these can’t diminish or be lost or stolen.
·         The problem: we stand next to that treasure box, the name of Jesus—and we turn up our noses and look longingly at all the stuff outside it. Selfishly or greedily, we want “that”, whatever it is, instead of what God’s offering in the name of Jesus.
·         Predictable outcome—one way leads to joy and contentment in all circumstances, high or low. The other way leads to a never-ending hunger for more, and a lot of grief. James 4, dark effects of that mindset: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passions.” God isn’t interested in providing us with the things we don’t need, that aren’t in Jesus’ name because for one thing, those aren’t the real treasures, and for another thing, we use them wrongly. But this doesn’t mean God doesn’t provide for what we actually need and bless us in many unexpected ways.
·         But then Jesus says: “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God”. direct to God the Father, assurance He personally loves us, because we love and believe Jesus is His Son. This verse is so important on a day like today, when we see the kingdom of God enlarged by several baptisms, and several confirmations and professions of faith. The Father Himself loves you because you love Jesus and believe Jesus came from God. This is why our youth will come forward to confess their faith. It’s why children are welcomed into the arms of Jesus for His blessing, in baptism. It’s why adults come to profess their faith that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. All ages, follow the call of discipleship, to believe and follow Jesus. They’ve come to the treasure box of Jesus’ name, and are asking for the gifts inside—and God is freely granting them.
·         How far will I go with Jesus? Confirmands’ vows: “Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death?” And they answer, I do, by the grace of God. It should catch our attention that this is a deeply solemn promise—saying that we intend to remain faithful to God, even till death. The next question similarly asks if we will stand by this confession and church, even to death, rather than fall away from it. And you notice that the answer is, “by the grace of God.” It’s something we could never do on our own strength, but only by God’s grace. Can’t say it without thinking of Peter—“even till death!”
·         But even if I should stumble on the journey of discipleship, or in a moment of trial lack the courage—not saved because we gave our life for Him, but because He gave His life for us. This is why Jesus’ love is a love above all loves—not to be traded or surrendered for anything. John 3:16. God’s love, Jesus’ death, priceless value placed on you. In His Name, sins forgiven, salvation delivered, washed under baptismal waters, dressed in innocence, sin is purged away. This is why we love Jesus and believe in Him. This is why we say that by the grace of God we’ll stick with Him till death. Wouldn’t say that about any person from ancient history, 2,000 years ago in a place I’ve never been—but because of the extraordinary fact of His death on the cross for us, the perfect example of humility and earth-shattering divine love, expressed in words of forgiveness spoken from the cross, and because of His glorious resurrection from the dead, that convinced even former enemies like Paul, that He was the Son of God, and that turned disciples who, like us, might doubt whether we could, except by the grace of God, stand by Jesus, even till death—His resurrection turned them into the most courageous men and women who spread the Gospel all over the world, till generations later it has reached us today. To the One who loves us so deeply, and teaches us that God, His Father loves us the same—to Him we are bold to ask all that He has promised us, in His Name. Amen!

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. In John 16:23 Jesus refers to an approaching moment: “In that day…” When is He referring to? John 14:18-20. What would happen, and how would it change the direction of their prayers? To whom could they ask direct?
  2. How does the meaning of 16:23 change if you put the emphasis on  the phrase “whatever you ask” vs. the phrase “in my Name?” How could that lead to misunderstandings of this verse? How does Jesus in verse 24 guide us to which should correctly be emphasized? How does this lead us to correctly understand the verse?
  3. What will we find promised “in Jesus’ name?” 16:24; 27; 33; John 3:16; 5:24; 6:27, 63; 7:37-38; Luke 11:13; James 1:5, etc. Meditate on the picture of a filled treasury of spiritual gifts, marked with the Name Jesus, in contrast to the worldly treasures we long for outside that treasury. Cf. Matthew 6:19-21.
  4. How can you express the Father’s love for us, as we love Jesus? It is incomparable. For young and adults, who confess their faith in Jesus, why is this a love above all other loves, a love that is not to be traded or surrendered for anything, even in the face of death?
  5. What has Jesus given to us and for us, out of His great love?

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