Good morning and welcome everyone to our church! I pray that you would be blessed as you worship, pray and fellowship today. Sometimes, we go to church or to events with our normal expectations, and God surprises us. I am sure when Zechariah went to the Temple, he did not expect the angel Gabriel to tell him that he would have a son, John the Baptist, in his old age (Luke 1:5-25)!
I believe in this truth: God always desires to bless those who seek to do God’s will (Deut. 11) in unexpected and unlooked for ways. One Sunday, I stopped by Starbucks on the way to church. At the sugar and cream counter, I was flapping my sugar packets prior to opening them when one flew from my fingers and plopped directly into a stranger’s beverage. This had never happened before, but there it was floating in his drink. We both stared at this unexpected development, and rather than plucking it out, we both stared as it slowly sunk out of sight like some white leviathan in creamy seas. I had to restrain myself from saying, “Call me Ishmael.”
Mortified, I immediately offered to buy a replacement drink for him, to which he graciously accepted. While waiting for his grande no foam, percent latte, he asked me why I was in a suit. I said, “Oh, I’m actually going to church.” He said, “Church? Oh, my girlfriend keeps harping on me to go to church with her. I don’t have time for that nonsense.”
Saying a quick prayer to God, I replied, “It sounds like your girlfriend considers church very important. And, she obviously thinks you are important. It makes sense that she wants to share with someone she deeply cares about, the most important beliefs in her life.” The stranger was about to make a quick reply, but stopped himself, and slowly nodded his head saying, “Yeah, yeah that makes sense.”
“What time is her church’s service?” I asked. He said, “I can make it if I leave now. She’s going to be super surprised. Thanks!” “No, thank you, and God bless you!” Do I know if he made it to church, I do not know, since that is in God’s hands.
This event seems so small, but most of our life’s encounters with people are like this. We pass by people everywhere, and in God, each potential meeting is an opportunity for God’s name to be glorified and the name of Jesus to be shared. Jesus encountered the disciples while they were fishing, tax collecting, and dispensing medical care to name a few. Normal encounters with extraordinary futures, because who knows what could happen when one seeks to do God’s will? May you have many normal encounters, amen.
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me (v. 20-21).
I find it amazing that in the Bible Jesus directly prays for us. Moreover, we know Christ rose from the dead and continues as our high priest, our advocate and redeemer forever (Heb. 7:22-28). That means Christ continues to pray for us, even today! For what does he pray? Friends, that we would believe the Good News that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, and that all of us would be “one.”
“One”-ness is a hard concept to grasp. One way to describe it would be for us to be one in purpose (Phil. 2:1); in identity (Eph. 4:1-6), and in suffering (John 15:20; 1 Pet. 3:8-14). We struggle to achieve this ideal. When confronted by challenges, we seek to achieve the resolution by our own power, perspective and experience rather than letting Christ achieve it for us. What do I mean by this?
As much as I now grow weary of the song, “Let It Go” by “Adele Dazeem” (2hur-hur), I find myself humming it when I encounter situations where I wish I or others could just “let it go.” Let go bitterness! Let go anger! Let go coldness! How can we, though, since it is quite normal to feel and to react to the people and to the events that trigger these states? We are going against our very natures, but that must be the preferred outcome for our natural state is a sinful state (Rom. 1:18-25). So, I tell you, “Let Jesus!”
Martin Luther speaks of an “alien righteousness,” the righteousness of Christ, given to us through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 1:30). This righteousness of Christ is powerful, transformative and not of this world. Christ’s righteousness, instilled within us, draws us closer to God and remakes us in Christ’s image. When the challenges of the world present themselves that threaten the “one”-ness of the people of God, let Christ respond, rather than us. See how he responded to the taxpayers, the prostitutes, and the Roman soldiers! See how we brought about the Kingdom of God through His laying down his life for others. Let Christ be our first responder through prayer, through Holy Scripture, through peacemakers, and through you. Amen!