7th Sunday in Easter

7th Easter 7.22 “It’s The Worship, Genius” Acts 1:12-26, John 17:20-26

Jesus’ high priestly prayer to the Father says: “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one—I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

And my question is simple: “Mmm… how would we do that?” *www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyoWmkhRyp8

And our Old Testament lesson which er, uh, seems to be from a book in the New Testament, oddly enough (maybe some kind of test?) tells us how would we become perfectly one in Jesus, one Body with him, what are the means of this grace, what it looks like in the actual world we live in.

And it looks like… the Church gathered in worship of Jesus around the apostolic word and sacrament. It’s the Worship, genius! Jesus says—in that last sentence we quoted—that he desires we would be perfectly one, he in us, and the Father in Jesus so that the world may know that God sent Jesus and loves us just as the Father loves the Son…

Many false ideas have sprung up in the last century about the church’s mission and purpose. “That the world may know” is a popular proselytizing slogan, fodder for banners in churches, for signs at big church conferences; and the usual thinking on how we would do this—let the world know—in the modern missional church is basically that the only way the world will know about Jesus is if we tell them, whether they especially want to hear him or not.

This sound sensible. But it’s… not. Nothing in our Lord’s teaching (or that of his apostles and prophets) suggests the mission of the church is to go seeking unbelievers and try to cajole and convert them by giving them a sales spiel about Jesus. Scriptures teach the Word has gone out (always goes out) to all the world—Ps. 19, Rom. 10, Col 1:23. Jesus frequently commands those he’s saved to “tell no one!” about him. Peter says: without a word wives win their unbelieving husbands—not by what they say, but by how their whole life becomes worship of Jesus, a symphony of grace…

Peter says, further in chapter 3 of his first (actually, his only canonical) epistle that we should always be ready to give a defense of our faith to any who ask us a reason for it. But if they don’t ask (to quote a former US President 😉 we don’t tell…

To cut to the chase: we become one Body with Jesus, and the world knows that the Father loves us as he loves the Son, not by anything we do, but rather by something we become through the worship of Jesus Christ, by faith in him alone. Just as we are saved by grace alone through faith alone for Christ’s sake alone—and not by any works of our own—so the world is saved not by anything we say or do, but only by what Jesus does through his Holy Spirit’s work in the word and sacraments of his church.

Thanks to Martin Luther’s 2nd article explanation of the Apostle’s Creed, most people have gotten a little clearer on scriptures’ teaching that our salvation is not by human works, but by God’s grace, through faith alone. Theologians call this divine monergism (God’s solo work) instead of synergism (us working together with God, like two horses pulling a cart). But, in the 3rd Article of the Apostle’s Creed, Luther makes clear the biblical teaching that the saving of other people is just as much a work of divine monergism—that the Holy Spirit alone calls, gather, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith—like a big-boy, fully-grown God who needs not a bit of help from us to save his world.

Synergism of the 3rd article is the modern heresy that has swept through Christendom and ravaged the Lutheran Church as well. When we put the focus on human works—whether to save ourselves or to save other people, we have completely lost the plot, lost the Gospel, and put ourselves back at the center of the Story as the main actors and heroes—which is the original sin, the loss of faith in Jesus Christ. And it is only by faith that we become one in him…

Luther says, in his Genesis commentary, that Adam and Eve were supposed to just look at the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, that it was their chapel, their church, where by contemplation of the Word, their faith in God was made strong and their communion with him passively perfect. But when they decided to do something—eat the apple, gain knowledge, those—works broke faith with God, put themselves at the center, and brought misery and death to them and to all of us, their children. And the only way back is worship, faith in the Word, adoration of the LORD as God…

Which is exactly what we see the first disciples enacting, immediately after Jesus’ Ascension. They are not running around, putting up banners and slogans, or launching a publicity campaign. They are minding their own business, worshiping in a little corner of the temple called Solomon’s Portico and in a synagogue of their own where we find them this morning, immediately after the Ascension—something, we should add, that they understood not as Jesus taking away his bodily presence and limiting it to heaven only, but quite the opposite: as Jesus un-limiting his bodily presence from the usual one-at-a-time, face-to-face manner, but now taking off all the governors, making himself present, body and spirit, to us always, everywhere by his word, by sacramental worship of the Trinity.

This stand-offish worship practice—just the 120 apart from the herd, in temple and synagogue—got the world’s attention, we learn in Acts. But not in the way many think. The Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees, chief priests, and the mass of Israelites did not see them standing apart worshiping Jesus as God, and go: “Wow, know we know Jesus is God so we better join them and worship with them.” No…

    The world did not see they’d been with Jesus (who’s God!), and go luuuv them and join the church. No! Quite the opposite: seeing Jesus is God scared them and made them hate the apostles, beat them up, and persecute the church gathered in worship around Jesus’ word and sacraments. Knowing God loves us best does not make the world love us—but rather hate and persecute us. Just like your sister, realizing you’re dad’s favorite… 😉

So, in our reading from Acts, we see the apostles and disciples are not people-persons. They really don’t give a fig for what the world thinks. They have eyes only for Jesus and his Kingdom. They go back to the upper room and, before the Divine Service, Peter says the scriptures foretold Judas’ betrayal and says that another must take his office. And that “this must be a man who accompanied Jesus and us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until this, [the Ascension] day…”

The congregation of 120 nominated 2 candidates. More votes (this “lot” is a vote not a dice roll!) came out in favor of Matthias who was numbered with the 11 as 12 of 13. 😉

“All these with one accord were devoting themselves to the prayers (a scriptural euphemism for the Liturgy)… to the Supper, to the apostles’ teaching and communion.”

So: how would we become perfectly one, so the world knows God loves us (more than they)? It’s the worship, genius: the word and sacraments of Jesus who, BTW, is risen… indeed.


About Pastor Martin

Pastor Kevin Martin has served six Lutheran congregations, beginning in 1986 as a field-worker in Trumbull, Connecticut, and vicarages in Arlington, Massachusetts and Belleville, Illinois. He has been pastor of congregations in Pembroke, Ontario and Akron, Ohio. Since 2000, he has served as pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Raleigh. Pastor Martin is a lifelong (confessional!) Lutheran (even though) he holds degrees from Valparaiso, Yale, and Concordia Seminary St. Louis. He and his wife Bonnie have been (happily) married since 1988, and have two (awesome!) adult children, Bethany and Christopher. Bonnie is an elementary school teacher. The Martin family enjoy music festivals, travel, golf, and swimming. They are also avid readers and movie-goers.

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