Sermon: “Going out in Glory”
Lectionary Series A; Seventh Sunday in Easter
Sunday, May 24, 2020
Gospel Reading: John 17:1-11
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
In 1939, this famous speech was given as one of the greatest athletes left the game of baseball. I share with you a portion of that farewell address: “Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.” He then went on to acknowledge his fellow players, coaches and family members before closing with: “So I close in saying that I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.”
Lou Gehrig died two years later from ALS, a nervous system disease that weakens the muscles and impacts physical function. Most of us now know it as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
I am left to wonder what went through his mind as he tried to put into words what to say as he left the game that he loved. In watching the footage, he was so overcome with emotion, that he didn’t even want to approach the microphone. After some encouragement, he made his way to the microphone to wish farewell before going out in glory. (Pause)
What does one say when they know they will be leaving? What are the right words to share with those one cares about in a farewell address?
I looked up some suggested quotes that one might use in a farewell address, and these were some of the popular ones.
Ernie Harwell, sports broadcaster for the Detroit Tigers, whose voice I heard each time I was in the garage with my dad or at my grandmother’s house while I laid it bed at night, he said: “It’s time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad and I’d much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure.”
Elwyn Brooks White, author of Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan once said: “You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss once said: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
Alan Alexander Milne, author best known for his books about a bear named Winnie-the-Poo said: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Saying goodbye is hard. Jesus sat there in the upper room and he went on saying farewell for four chapters before He came to our text for today. And then, when it was time to draw things to a close, he spoke the words that have now become known as the high priestly prayer.
Jesus, our prophet, ‘priest,’ and king, said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:1-5).
Here He was about to go out to the Garden of Gethsemane and be betrayed and arrested by one of His own. But before leaving the upper room, He gave His disciples one last gift as we was about to go out in glory.
Jesus prayed for His disciples. Where so many times He had gone off on His own to pray, this time He welcomed them into the conversation between Him and His Dad. Just imagine what that must have been like to sit and listen to the Son of God speak to His Heavenly Father.
Then, just imagine what it must have been like to hear what petitions Jesus placed before His Father’s throne. It was all about them. Jesus was concerned about them, not Himself. Here He was about to go and die for the sins of the world on the cross, but what He cared about most in that hour was them. And not just them, but if you keep reading His prayer beyond our text for today, He even included those who believe because of the Word spoken through the disciples. That includes us.
In a time, where anyone else would have only been thinking of themselves, Jesus lays aside His glory, and focuses His attention in prayer on those for whom He is about to die.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for His friends (John 15:13). Indeed the disciples were His friends, and so are we.
Jesus continued to pray for those He loves, that they be kept in His Word, that He be glorified in them, that the Father would keep them in His name, and that they would be one.
It was His prayer for all of us as He went to manifest His glory for the entire world. But where worldly glory would only draw attention to the self, Jesus did quite the contrary. He showed us what true glory looks like. It doesn’t come in the spotlight being shown upon us. It comes in suffering for the sake of others. It comes in sacrifice.
Going out in glory for Jesus meant laying aside His crown in heaven to be fitted with a crown of thorns. It meant removing His royal robes to be stripped of His clothing and beaten and spit upon. It meant forfeiting His throne next to His Father to be fastened with nails to a cross next to two criminals. And yet then and there, His prayer remained for us: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He did it all for us. (Pause)
How often do our prayers focus on what is best for others? How often do we get caught up in a list of worldly wants and desires, and neglect what our neighbor needs? How often are our prayers just down-right selfish as we manifest before the Almighty God how discontent and unsatisfied we are with His gracious provision?
We hear a prayer from the lips of Jesus here today, and we ought to ask ourselves, where is our prayer life at? Are we fervent in prayer and pray without ceasing, or is prayer like a last life-line only to be used in utter desperation?
The Catechism teaches us that prayer is speaking to God in words and thoughts.
So what is on our minds as you pray? Is it others? Is it ourselves?
From the upper room to the cross, we can be thankful that Jesus’ thoughts and prayers were not for Himself. What remained upon His heart and mind was doing the will of His Father. What remained upon His heart and mind was doing what was necessary to forgive our sins. What remained upon His heart and mind was journeying to that cross, through the empty tomb, and returning to His Father in heaven.
And that is where He is now. We confess it week after week. “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty.”
This past Thursday was Ascension Day. On that great and glorious day, while surrounded by His disciples Jesus went out in glory and was raised up into heaven. This was the coronation of the Son of God. No longer was He to wear a crown of thorns. Once again, a crown of high esteem was placed upon His head, His royal robes were placed upon Him just as they once were, and he sat down on His throne right where He belongs.
And from that very throne, He continues to do the unthinkable. He exercises His authority on our behalf. He prays for us, He pleads for us, He petitions for us.
Jesus’ prayer for us is that we would go out in a blaze of glory…that we would be people concerned about God's glory and not our own…that we would be people of prayer…that we would be focused on others…that we would share what we have been given to share…and that one day we would see His glory face to face.
Oh yes, at the Father’s right hand, Jesus is there interceding on our behalf, and the Father delights in what He has to say because the Father loves to hear from His Son.
And all the while, even though He has gone in glory into heaven, He has not left us. As we heard last week, He keeps coming to us…in His Word…in His Sacraments. He does not leave us or forsake us...ever!
For all those who are struggling with feeling alone and isolated right now, please take that to heart. As Jesus goes out in glory, He does not abandon us. He never will. Jesus says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). And He keeps coming to us to shed His light into the darkness of our lives to deliver us the peace of His presence and the hope of life everlasting.
And that is what we all look forward to as we look to His return. Where He once went out in glory through cross, the empty tomb, and the ascension, there is a day that we look for in joyful anticipation.
What a day that will be! To look into the clouds. To see the Son of God descend. To witness the dead raised back to life. And to always be with our Lord.
On that day great and glorious day, we will see with our own eyes that His farewell address was no “good-bye,” but rather, “until we meet again in glory.”
And we will meet again. Jesus, our King who went out in glory, is coming soon. And so we pray: “Come, Lord Jesus! And come quickly. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.