Sermon: May 24, 2009

24 05 2009

I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.



John 17:6–19


            You I will never forget when I arrived at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Illinois.  It was a small congregation located in a small town, just outside of St. Louis.  And shortly after I arrived something interesting happened.  May Company decided to come out there, buy some land, and build the largest enclosed mall in the St. Louis area.  Eventually St. Clair Square had four anchor stores, two floors of shopping with about 125 stores.  Now because of that and all the other business that moved out with the emergence of Fairview Heights as the commercial center of St. Louis, the city of Fairview Heights literally exploded.  It grew from about seven thousand to about twenty thousand in just a few years.  With that, of course, the church grew.  And everything was going great – for a time.  And then little things began to happen.  Disagreements got out of hand.  Silly, little stuff became big stuff.

            About that time I sought out the council of another pastor.  I told him what was going on.  He looked at me and smiled, and said, “The devil doesn’t like it when things are going well in a church.  The devil doesn’t like it when the Gospel is being preached.  The devil doesn’t like it when the children of God are loving God and caring for each other.  Always remember Alan this kind of stuff is of the devil.”

            I never forgot those words.  And it seems to me that that is sort of what Jesus is talking about – praying about – in our Gospel Lesson for this morning.  He is praying that we may all be one.  That we may all be one so that we may do the Father’s Work.  And what is the Father’s Work – “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”  Or as we say it hear at Zion – Be Disciples – Make Disciples.

            OK.  We all agree to that.  But how do we do that?  Well, I am going to give you a few very practical things that I think that we ought to be doing as a church.  But you know I think that these things could well be applied to our personal life – our business life – to just about anything that we do with other people.  OK.  Get your pencil and paper out and let’s begin.

Learn to think before you speak. Bite your tongue before that provocative remark comes out of your mouth and you find yourself embroiled in a fight.

Stop and think before you say anything.  Once words are spoken they can never be taken back.  And my experience has been that words that hurt stay for a long time.  How often hasn’t that happened to us?  Somebody says something.  They didn’t mean to hurt our feelings.  If we tell them that they hurt our feelings, they would be surprised.  How often haven’t we said something without thinking and hurt someone else.  We all need to learn to stop and think before we speak.

Listen when someone expresses strong feelings. Rather than argue and try to insist that they shouldn’t be feeling what they’re feeling, understand that they ARE feeling that way and simply say, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Try to put yourself in their shoes and give them the empathy that you would want yourself. Arguing may only make a situation worse.

Listening to people and their feelings is something we all need to work out.  My experience has been that people aren’t good at listening to what others have to say.  Often times when somebody is speaking to us what we are doing is not paying any attention.  It is sort of like in the Peanuts Cartoon.  When adults are talking all that you hear is Wah, Wah Wah.  And what we are doing is simply waiting for them to stop talking so that we can start.  I cannot tell you how often I have had a couple in my office for counseling.  One of them will say something and then when they stop the other person will start talking.  I will interrupt them and ask them, “Did you hear with that person said?”  And I ask that question because it was pretty clear to me that they had not heard what the other person said.  Listen to what people have to say.  Even if you don’t like what they are saying.  Maybe the next time – when you have something to say that they don’t like, they will listen to you.

Make every effort to be cordial and friendly. Ask people about how they are; notice changes in their appearance in a complimentary way; comment and compliment people upon the quality of what they do around this place we call Zion. Being popular can only make church life easier.

Make every effort to thank people for what they do – whatever it is at Zion.  Thank the band for their playing.  Thank the choir for all of the time that they give.  Seek out the Stephen Ministers and tell them how what they do is appreciated.  Tell you child’s SS Teacher how much you appreciate what they do for your child.  Tell the Pastor how much you enjoyed his sermon.

Overreactions cause all out wars. Don’t do it! Assess a dispute. Is it really worth fighting over? Repeat to your self, “They’re only words.  They’re only words.  They’re only words”

Remember why we are here.  It is not about us.  It is about Jesus.  It is about making disciples and being disciples.  It is about Jesus.  Repeat after me.  IT IS ABOUT JESUS.  IT IS ABOUT JESUS.  IT IS ABOUT JESUS.

Whenever you have issues in the church you’re better off thinking through your words before you voice complaints, thoughts or suggestions.

Ask yourself a very simple question?  What would Jesus want me to say?  What would Jesus want me to do in this situation?  If Jesus were standing next to me and listening to what I am saying – what I am doing – what would He say.  Would He be smiling or would my actions and my words bring a tear to his eye.

            The whole point of this prayer of Jesus that is in our Gospel Lesson is that we should be one.  Why?  Because Jesus like conformity?  No!  Because He wants us to remember what we are about.  We are about Being Disciples so that we might Make Disciples.




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