May 16, 2021
Text: John 17:11b–19
You know, a word we are hearing a lot these days is “change.” Some people want change in how the police do things, how government does things, and so on. Sometimes change can be good, and sometimes not so good. When I hear the word change the first thing I think of is “How many (blank) does it take to change a light bulb?” Remember those jokes? “How many Lutherans does it take to change a light bulb? One, but twelve more to say they liked the old one better.” Or, “How many pastors does it take to change a light bulb? We don’t know. Everyone fell asleep when the pastor preached a sermon on it.”
Now, there was a president who ran a few years back with the tag line, “Change you can believe in.” Do you think there needs to be change? In Washington? In our culture? In your home? Here at the church? There are some things going on in the world that need to change. But how realistic is that? How is the world going to change? Many people feel that it’s too late, they’ve given up. We just need to wait for Jesus to come and do his thing. Is it really too late? Jesus says in the text for today, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (v 15). This is a big clue for us about the world and about change. The world can change, and it’s up to us, the Christian people in this world today. Today we discuss “Change You Can Believe In.”
This portion of the Gospel of John records a prayer that Jesus prayed to the Father right before His arrest in the garden. Jesus is specifically praying for His disciples then, and also for us today. The world back then needed to change, too. The Gospel message needed to fill the lives of many people. It was up to the disciples to carry on the work that Jesus called them to do. Jesus knew that He would soon ascend into heaven. He would not be a physical presence for the long haul. Jesus prayed, in effect: “Father, help them be the kind of people that we need them to be. Help them be strong witnesses of the Gospel. Help them change the world.”
Jesus also knew that the job would be very hard. They were in the world but not of the world. This would be a very hard balance to maintain. These disciples were people. They were ambitious to the point of fighting one another. They wanted rewards for their hard work. They got tired; they were lured by the trappings of the world. But they had several powerful things on their side. They had prayer, they had the Word, and they had the power of the Holy Spirit. They did change their world by the Word and how they lived their lives in love for one another. Slowly, day by day, they attracted others to Jesus: His Word and His love.You are in the world but not of the world. This is also a hard balance to maintain. Jesus tells us to love everyone, even those who hate us. How is that going? We are to be the light on the hill, but how much of the world’s darkness soaks into us? Wrong is wrong, even if everyone does it. We so easily get pulled in by the world. “The government doesn’t need all that money; go ahead and cut corners on your taxes.” “Those music guys make enough money, I don’t need to pay to download their song.” “Bill Gates is stinking rich, why should I pay for another copy of Microsoft Office?” Wrong can become so normal in our lives that it ceases to be wrong. In fact, wrong can look to some people like it has even become right. We like to negotiate with evil. We like to rationalize the evil actions in our lives. “It’s not really a lie; I just left out some parts.”
Jesus knows that living in the world is hard for us. Jesus knows our sins and our failures. That is what the cross and the empty tomb of Easter is all about—forgiveness, strength, and encouragement to keep going. What is a better vote of confidence, then, than when Jesus prays that we not be taken out of this world because there is work to be done and we are the ones to do it. And not only that—Jesus trusts us to do His work. The world needs to be changed. The world can change one person at a time. The world needs to see the difference God can make in the world through His people. We need to answer His call, and oftentimes that means seeking the hard road and putting ourselves on the line for the Gospel. It means sacrifice so that others may know the truth of Jesus.
In this day and age, what with the Cancel Culture and the Twitter Mob and Facebook and other social media, it is getting harder, more challenging to share our faith publicly and live our faith publicly. I don’t know how much you pay attention to all that stuff going on in our country and on the internet, but it is all very real. While we acknowledge that here this morning, we also need to note that all this stuff, all the reasons to keep our faith to ourselves, should not stop us from sharing the Good News of Jesus. There are people all around us that need to hear about Jesus or be reminded about Jesus.
That’s the answer to all of this. How do we know that we’re not acting of the world? How do we live in the world, use it, yet not bow down to it or be swept away by it? It’s an everyday, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute battle in our lives. How will my actions or my decisions affect my life as a Christian? How will my actions or my decisions affect how others view my life as a Christian person? How do I use my Christian liberty to further the Gospel in this world? It’s a one-step-at-a-time, one-decision-at-a-time, one-person-at-a-time, one-victory-at-a-time life.
But it is a victory, a hard fought one; a mission that’s been taken on and won for us. Jesus was in the world, struggling against the world, that we would no longer be of the world, that we would not perish with the world. He was hated by the world, rejected by the world, killed by the world, so that someday we could be taken out of this world—to eternal peace and joy that’s out of this world.
For now, we are in the world, but, in our Baptism, we are also in Jesus Christ, so that everything He won during His earthly journey is ours. And so, reading His Word, taking the Sacraments, proclaiming His Word to others, we start to change our little corner of the world.
Until Jesus comes again, we have work to do. There does need to be change. More people need to know that Jesus died and rose again to win for them forgiveness of their sins and eternal life. More people need to live like they know that Jesus died and rose again for them, to take away their sins. We have the privilege of proclaiming the Gospel. That is what Jesus is expecting of us. We see that in His prayer in the Bible today. We are in the world, not of the world. We are in Jesus Christ, and Being in Christ—While Being in the World—Is All We Need to Change the World for Jesus and His Kingdom. And THAT is change you can believe in.
In the Name of Jesus.