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Rupert's Land Provincial Synod 2003
[Jesus prayed] 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 17:11b-19

Warmest greetings from your cousins,
the members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

One of the most joyous events in the life of our church
was to begin the new millennium with the Waterloo Declaration
in full communion with the Anglican Church of Canada.

I am also delighted to be together once again with Archbishop Morgan.

He and I were seminary students
at the same time
at our respective schools in Saskatoon.

We took the same Greek classes at U of S.

It has been like a family reunion
to join him at the National House of Bishops meetings
and in shared rites of our two churches.

I look forward to a warm and growing relationship
with your newly-elected Metropolitan, Bishop John Clark.

The relationship between our two churches
has been one of generosity and sharing.

The leadership of the Lutheran World Federation
is absolutely amazed at the number of Anglicans
who are helping our church host the 10th Assembly July 21-31.

Anglican congregations
will be hosting delegates at worship on Sunday, July 27,
many individual members are serving as volunteers
and a half dozen members serve on planning committees.

There is an intuitive relationship between us.

We are user-friendly to each other.

Thank you for the relationship of sharing and service
that has grown between our two churches.

And now, to the gospel for this day.

Jesus prays:

Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one…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.

John 17:11b, 14 NRSV

The great gift we have been given in Jesus Christ
is his oneness with the person of the Godhead we call Father.

They know each other in a deeply intimate way and anticipate each other's every wish.

While they are distinguishable from each other,
they have no separate ways.

The way of one is the way of the other.

Their only desire is for each other.

That is why Jesus chose the cross with the Father
rather than institutional success with the devil.

Gary Larson once drew a cartoon
in which he portrayed a naked guy in hell.

The guy was in a cave with flames all around
and a devil with a trident
was poking him in the bum and nagging at him:

"Hurry up, hurry up, choose!"

The guy was standing before two doors:
one labeled Damned if you do;
the other labeled Damned if you don't!

Those are the doors the devil offered Jesus

in the story of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness,
Damned if you do;
Damned if you don't.

It's all because of the opening verses of John's gospel:

…the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being…

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.

John 1:1-3, 10-11 NRSV

The devil offered Jesus a way to overcome the world.

He would build a powerful institution
and become a hallowed leader.

There would be wealth and power
and freedom to do all sorts of humanitarian good.

He was offered all the things the church wants.

But Jesus could not accept the offer
because the choice led to the death of his relationship with the Father.

He would cut himself off from the author of life
and become the leader of a legion of idols,
each sucking the life out of its adherents.

Jesus chose the cross instead,
because it was the only way left to him
through which to remain one with the Father:
the theme of his farewell discourses with his disciples.

So Jesus was blamed for causing all the trouble.

And the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world
was made to be the scapegoat of the guilt the church felt
for placing self-preservation ahead of faithfulness.

They had to get rid of him
because he was threatening the unity of the church.

However, Jesus brought a different kind of preservation that is not tied to land or institution.

You cannot read this farewell prayer of Jesus apart from its context:
the metaphor of the vine and the branches.

In him is a kind of life
that forms a bond among humans
that does not rely on institutions
or a particular set of conditions.

The Jewish people in exile in Babylon remained faithful to God,
passed on the faith to their children,
and invented the synagogue service in which to pray.

They discovered that they could do without the temple,
its ecclesiastical apparatus
or its order of teaching Levites.

It was one of the most productive times
in the religious history of Israel.

But to get there, life as they knew it was taken away.

Then God raised them back to life.

Jesus tells a woman at a well in Samaria that, although salvation is of the Jews,
in the end,
people will not worship either on Mt. Gerizim or in Jerusalem.

Rather, they will worship God in spirit and in truth.

And the truth is that Jesus is the way to the Father.

He is the Sacrament of sacraments,
the Holy of holies,
the Sacred One in whom we also become set aside to God.

The pluralist world offers us 400 channels,
not only of television, but of
and politics.

Because the human imagination is capable of inventing anything,
the pluralist world produces it without critique.

The pluralist world is the contemporary church's version
of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness.

We are being offered one of two doors:
Damned if you do.
Damned if you don't.

Humanity is immobilized into spiritual inactivity.
No matter which door you choose,
you will incur pain.

If you bless same-sex couples,
you will enrage a constituency and they will divide the church.

If you do not bless same-sex couples,
you will alienate another group who want to be part of the church.

So you can become frozen, like Nicodemus,
immobilized by the choice of the two doors
of Gary Larson's cartoon.

However, God offers a third door,
one that leads to the cross,
but which keeps you grafted onto the vine of life.

That door leads to freedom from idolatry.

It means freedom from the timid creeping around Nicodemus did
and freedom to be as bold as the cured blind man
who refused to denounce Jesus
while his parents quaked in cowardly slavery to fear and safety.
(John 9:1-40)

Stephen Hawking,
the great British mathematician and physicist,
writes, in one of his latest books,
about the anthropic principle
in tracing the history of the universe.

The anthropic principle is
that a certain sequence of conditions had to take place
so that it was possible for human life to emerge and survive.

For example, if the earth were closer to the sun,
it would have been too hot.

A certain force of gravity,
the presence of water
and an atmosphere to keep the water on the planet
are all essential.

Had the universe taken even a slightly different turn,
there would be no such thing as human life.

But there is human life.

So Hawking becomes philosophical and asks:
do we argue a "high" anthropic principle or a "low" one?

Did the universe produce those conditions
because human beings were meant to be created,
or were humans simply the outcome of a universe
that happened to go in the right direction?

Is consciousness and our sense of God
simply a physical phenomenon?

Or do we really have communion with a living God?

The church answered those questions when it adopted the creeds.

We confess that we believe in a God we call Three Persons.

One of those persons, the Second One,
was with the First One from the beginning,
yet he is also fully human.

We are not accidents of physics.

We were in God's mind from the beginning,
created to be in full communion with God.

What it means to be human
was part of God's very being from the start.

He is our true parent and out true home.

There is no promised land here.

This world only offers us what it values—
the things of the world that have to do with
survival and

But the world is only the cradle of life;
it is not life itself.

Life is in the Word
that spoke the world into being.

Life is the communion with God
into which we have been grafted through Jesus Christ.

Life is in the vine
through which we are fed the sap of God's eternal life.

May God give you joy in discipleship
and freedom in the Spirit
as you go from this place to be the
tangible and
active body of Christ
in this world of many choices.

Only one way leads to life.

That is the gospel of the Lord.


This sermon was prepared by Raymond Schultz, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada for the Rupert's Land Provincial Synod, 1 June 2003

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