A Sermon for Series A Seventh Sunday of Easter 2017 “Closeness versus oneness”


First Lesson  Acts 1:12-26

Second Lesson  1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-11

Gospel Lesson  John 17:1-11

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Gospel lesson just read.  [John 17:1-11]

Sometimes I think we go a little overboard with our concern over ‘public’ privacy.  You know, like when you go to the pharmacy to have a prescription filled and there are all these signs: ‘Please wait behind this line to ensure other customer’s privacy’. Or: ‘We cannot guarantee audible privacy here.’

But, other times I wish people were a little more concerned about their own privacy; those times when you’re put in one of those situations where you just couldn’t help but hear what was going on nearby.  You didn’t intend to listen in, but either the voices were just the right pitch, or they were just a little too loud, and you heard things you didn’t want to hear, things too intimate for those outside the conversation to listen in on.

You didn’t intend to be part of the conversation, but now you are, and whether you overheard complaints, frustrations, maybe even cries for help, you’re left in a tough situation.  What do you do with an inadvertent invasion into someone’s assumed privacy that really isn’t there?  Do you offer help and expose the fact that you overheard the conversation?  Do you let it go and hope that things take care of themselves?

We can’t assume that just because we’re ‘close by’ the other people will understand or accept our invasion of their privacy.  We can’t assume that just because we heard a portion of their conversation that we understand them intimately.  Do we even know if these people themselves are one or are they just close?  When our closeness puts us in situations like this, it becomes painfully obvious that closeness just isn’t the same as oneness.  Oneness implies a whole other level of understanding and acceptance.

We get close, we’d like to think we even become one with one another, at least some others; husband, wife, family members, maybe even others; but our sin prevents us from truly being one with one another.  Sin builds dividing walls between us; walls of doubt and suspicion, walls of distrust, and in some cases even walls we put up to protect ourselves from getting too emotionally involved.  Sin uses our concern for self to stop closeness from becoming oneness.

Although those in the world deal with each other in closeness, Christ always deals with oneness.  He tells us that he and the Father are one; not just close, but one; not just sharing a common goal, but being of one will, with one way every step of the way, with one path that brings eternal life for all believers.

That one path led to Christ’s incarnation; it led to him becoming one of us.  That path included miracles, healings, and all sorts of signs that he was the true Son of God, and yet that same path led to rejection even by his closest friends.  That path led Christ to a criminal’s death on the cross, a death that came despite his innocence, a death that truly belonged to you and me.

The forgiveness of all our sins comes uniquely and completely from the oneness of Jesus Christ; oneness he has with his Father and oneness he has with us.  Because he is true man, truly one with us, he was able to take our place and die for us; because he is true God, truly one with God, he was able to bear the sins of all mankind and offer himself as an acceptable sacrifice for those sins to his heavenly Father.  In oneness, not closeness, Christ is our salvation.

Even though he knew our sins, our trials, and our temptations, he chose us and made us one with himself.  He did it all.  By his death and resurrection all our sins are forgiven.  By sending us his Holy Spirit our faith is created.  By burying us with himself in our baptism, by sharing with us his own body and blood in Holy Communion, we’re made one with him.  We share in the oneness of Christ; and in that same oneness we share oneness with one another.

Now that we’re one with Christ we no longer deal with closeness; through him we deal with oneness.  We deal with our fellow believers in oneness, both believers here and those who’ve gone before us into heaven.  When we worship together, it’s in oneness, not closeness.  When we receive the Lord’s body and blood, it’s in oneness, not closeness.  When we go about our lives serving God in our vocations, each and every day, it’s in oneness … with God … not closeness.

That’s why we’re invited to listen in on this intimate conversation in the gospel lesson today.  Unlike accidental overhearing, unlike eavesdropping, we were meant to listen in on this conversation.  The Holy Spirit inspired John to write this conversation down, so that we’d understand the intimacy, the oneness that exists between God the Father and his Son.

It’s through the working of his Spirit in his holy Word that God reveals the oneness, the intimacy, but also the mystery that is our Triune God.  In Jesus’ prayer, this intimate conversation between our Savior and his heavenly Father, we come to know the love the Father has for the Son and the love the Son has for the Father, a love that’s always been, a love and oneness that’s eternal.

We see our place in this plan as we hear Jesus say that the Father gave us to the Son to be his own so that we might know the truth and in knowing the truth become heirs of eternal life.  We see the protection that’s ours as our Savior asks his Father to watch over us and defend us as we continue our sojourn in this life.  In the intimate conversation between Jesus and his Father we hear the plan that God has had since before the beginning of time, to bring glory to himself through the redeeming, glorifying, work of his Son.

Through his Word and Sacraments the plan for our salvation is made clear, and God gives us oneness of hope, oneness of joy, oneness of desire to do his will.  This is the oneness that encourages us to go forth proclaiming the good news to friends and neighbors, so that through the working of the Holy Spirit those who still deal in closeness can become those who deal in oneness; a oneness in which God’s kingdom continues to grow among us.

This is what the Church is commanded to do, to challenge closeness and welcome sinners who are brought into oneness with us.  This is what “go and baptize all nations” means.  This is what “love your enemies” means.  We pray for them, we forgive them and we welcome them into the kingdom, a kingdom that deals only in oneness.

We’re of that kingdom, God’s kingdom.  We live in the world, but we’re not of the world.  And so we deal with oneness, even as the world around us deals with closeness.  The world clothes its closeness in words like respect, friendship, tolerance, brotherhood, sisterhood, words that sound like oneness; but in the end only describe closeness.

Only God has oneness.  Only God can give oneness; because oneness is a mystery, a fellowship that’s so unique that it’s beyond description, just like our God.  That’s what he offers to you and me as we hear Jesus pray:  Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.


In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle