Sermon for Easter 7, Year B
Based on Jn. 17:17-19
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
"Living in the Truth"
Today in our gospel, we are reminded, once again, that Jesus was a person who prayed to God regularly. Our gospel is a section of what is commonly known as "the high priestly prayer." Jesus is our one true high priest who, through prayer, makes intercessions on our behalf. Jesus prays for his disciples, and oh how much they needed to be prayed for!
Soon they would no longer have Jesus with them in the flesh. Jesus knew what was in store for himself. He also knew what his disciples would have to face when he was ascended to heaven. So he prays for his disciples, asking God to help them and be with as they do God's work in an often hostile world. This prayer of Jesus is an all-encompassing one ~ it includes all Christians of every time and place.
Among the many things that Jesus asks for his disciples in this prayer, he asks that they be sanctified and consecrated in the truth. The truth, of course, according to the Fourth Gospel, is none other than God's eternal Word made manifest in the person of Jesus Christ. The Word is personified, incarnated, en-fleshed in Jesus who is also the truth.
Jesus prayed that they be sanctified and consecrated in the truth because he knew that they would be tempted and tested to their limits. In fact, history and tradition tell us that many of the first disciples suffered a martyr's death. It was the preaching of the gospel, the truth, Jesus Christ the crucified and risen Saviour, that led them to a martyr's death. Jesus knew that if the disciples were going to preach this gospel in a hostile world, then they'd need to be sanctified and consecrated in the truth; that's why he prayed for them.
To be sanctified and consecrated in the truth means: to be set apart, to be separated, to be made holy for a special task and purpose. God set apart, God separated, God made holy the disciples for a special task and purpose. God does this with each member of the church, the body of Christ. That means you and me ~ all of us. We are set apart, separated, made holy to share the message of the gospel with others everywhere throughout the world.
To be sanctified and consecrated in the truth is like being royally welcomed into someone's home. The people who welcome you are telling you that you're special and important by putting out their best tablecloth silverware and china, candles and flowers, and by serving you the finest quality food. This is their way of saying: 'Welcome, you are special, you are important.'
When we are sanctified and consecrated in the truth, God makes us special and important people. God royally welcomes us into God's realm by giving us abundant grace ~ feeding us till we are all full-and-overflowing, preparing us for a special task and purpose, giving us the resources required to do the work we're called accomplish.
When we look at the world situation today, we can be very thankful that God has sanctified and consecrated us in truth, in Jesus Christ himself. In today's world, every one of us is being bombarded with so many different messages each day. Through our computers, radios televisions, newspapers, magazines, books, and so on, we are made aware of what is going on in today's world ~ right up to instant, on the spot, live coverage. This is a mixed blessing. It does make us more aware of living in "the global village." On the other hand, it's problematic since not all of the messages we read or listen to or see are good, nor do they necessarily represent the truth.
In fact, as Malcolm Muggeridge ~ and he should know, since ironically, he himself was a journalist for many years! ~ astutely observed, the mass-media distorts reality so that what is good is regarded as evil and what is evil is regarded as good. Some of our media and the messages they communicate actually have the capacity to distort the truth, deceive people, even enslave and destroy people.
There are some people who receive all of these different messages without any discretion; without really thinking about what these messages are really saying and how they affect peoples' lives. Consequently, many of these people become very confused about life because so many of the messages conflict with one another. And, when some fanatical cult or sectarian group comes along, professing that it has the truth; such people often become easily hoodwinked because they're so desperately in need of the truth ~ hence more prone to latch on to whatever comes their way without proper discernment.
That's why it's so very important for us Christians who have been given the truth to be selective, to utilize discretion, to think carefully about all of these different messages and their consequences ~ least we too be victimized and destroyed by them.
Another way some people react to all of these messages is to ignore everything and become cynical and apathetic. This is equally as bad because even if the truth is shared with them, they will ignore it and turn if off. As ones who have received the truth in Christ, we are called to counter all of the negative, false and destructive messages by sharing the truth with the world more clearly and convincingly ~ that people cannot be made prey by it, nor ignore it. There are still so many people in our world today who are waiting for the truth. Without the truth, life has no meaning or purpose. Without the truth, people journey through life as if they were lost.
As Albert Stauderman points out: "A sailor adrift at sea on a dark night faces danger from shoals, reefs, rocks, and unfriendly winds. If the compass isn't working and the charts are inaccurate, the sailor may circle about in confusion. Some people sail like that along the sea of life, circling about in dizzying uncertainty. But when that sailor has something to be guided by, even a faint star or a distant lighthouse, the sailor's course can then be set firmly and courageously. So on the sea of life, we need some light to guide us. God's Word, the truth, Jesus Christ is such a light."
We are sanctified and consecrated in the truth. This truth is neither stagnant nor static. It's always prodding us, leading us out into the world to share it there. It's always teaching us new things and helping us to grow. It's always challenging and calling us to address and deal with the pressing issues and concerns of our time and of all times. This truth, in the person of Jesus, calls us to be his spokespersons in the world. Over against the seeds of destruction so prevalent in our world; he calls us to be peacemakers and peacekeepers; to speak out and work for justice; to be life-givers rather than life-takers; to care for, to be stewards of God's world and all the people in it.
Our Lord's truth is never out-dated; it speaks to every person of every age and place. May the truth who is Jesus risen from the dead and present wherever we gather; help each one of us to journey through our lives with a sense of calling and purpose; knowing that, in the midst of all the conflict, confusion, falsehood and destruction in the world, our God is with us and is in control of all life.
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