O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
The Pillar of Truth
"The Pillar of Truth"
Based on John 17:11b-19
Preached on May 20, 2012
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Fellow baptized saints, do you know about the bright white pillar here on earth? There is a bright white pillar. It points towards the heavens, tall, majestic and strong. It gleams and catches the eye as it reflects the light of the Sun. It stands for all that is true and right. There is a bright white pillar. It is also called the pillar of truth, for this bright white pillar is Christ's Church.
The world opposes the idea of truth, it hates the idea that there is One true thing and everything that does not measure up to it is falsehood and lies. The world rages against this pillar trying to knock it down. It competes with it by building its own pillars. Pillars made without God. Pillars made with human hands, with human ideas, like the Human Rights museum that is being erected in the heart of our city. It is heralded as a modern day tower of Babel. A tower built on the truth of humanity, not on the truth of God. It sets itself up against the pillar of truth, and suggests there any many truths, not the One truth of God. There can be no question, the world hates God's truth.
But isn't it interesting how easily we can get drawn into this worldly mindset? Isn't it surprising how easily we can abandon what is true and at times even hate it? Which of us hasn't wanted God's Word to say something different than what it truly says? Which of us hasn't stayed quiet in a public setting when something we know to be true is attacked, mocked and dragged through the mud? We timidly stand by holding the proverbial coats of those who stone it to death. As a pastor, there are countless times when I almost find myself apologizing for God's truth, and I wish I didn't have to speak it. All of this shows how divided we are: within ourselves, and as a Church. We too have set ourselves up against Christ and His Church. We too have built pillars in our hearts without God, and we need to repent.
Yet when we hear the heartfelt prayer of our Lord in our Gospel reading, we can take great comfort. For these things that torment us are the very things that Christ is concerned about for His Church. They are the very things He asks His Father to give us. He says, "Holy Father, keep them in your Name, which you have given me, that they may be One, even as we are One." He knows that His Church is going to struggle with the falsehood of the world. He knows that His Church is going to be attacked and made to feel little and bullied, so He prays that we may be kept in His Name. Kept in His truth. Kept in His Word. He never intended for His creation to be divided and conflicted. He made us to be One with Him, and He has died that we may be again.
Many Christians can get confused about what Jesus wants for His Church. What does Jesus want for His Church? Well, thankfully we don't have to look very far. There is no mystery here. He prays for it. He prays that we would be kept in His name - that is, kept in the true faith, in the true teachings of God. Doctrine. I know it's not what pop Christianity focuses on, it will never make you cool. But it is Christ's prayer. It is what He wants for His Church. And more, that we would be united in those teachings. United in truth. One.
Christ wants His Church to be a pillar of truth in the world. He wants it to defend the truth by fighting and contending against errors. Christ does not want His Church to make up and determine truth, to conform to the world and the false teachings that come from it - The Church firmly and faithfully guards the truth which has been committed and entrusted to it by Christ. We are the pillar, not the builder.
And we need to be clear about what makes the Church - Christ's Church. The Church is not limited to some place, it is not a building, a steeple, or some other location - the Church is made up of people - preachers and hearers - it is found wherever the Gospel and the doctrine of truth is preached and taught in its holy purity, for there you have preaching and hearing of God's true Word. Otherwise, you have manmade pillars. Towers of Babel. The truth of God's Word is what creates His Church. It is what sanctifies His Church and prepares her for the perfection of His kingdom.
His prayer to His Father continues, "I have given them your Word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world." Do you ever feel like you don't quite fit into the world? Have you ever thought that that might be a good thing? For God has set you apart. He has made you holy. The Church is set apart from the world in what we believe, teach and confess, all because God has given us His Word. If we fit into the world, we would not be part of the pillar of truth.
This thought can be a little scary. I remember when I was young it used to make me afraid. You mean, the world is going to hate me? I did not realize that it isn't really me that the world hates, but the Word of God in me. The world hates the Word of God regardless of where it is. That is why Christ's prayer continues the way it does, "I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the Evil One." We are safe. Not because we conform to the world, but because of the very Word that God speaks to us. He promises to protect His pillar of truth from the Evil One. It is a common theme in His prayers. No one can take God's truth away - no matter what they say, no matter what they do. God's Word is truth - and the truth has set us free - free from sin, free from death, free from the raging of the world, the Evil One, and those who hate us. Christ's crucifixion and resurrection declare it, there is nothing to fear.
And so Christ prays, "Father, sanctify them in your truth. Your word is truth." By the power of His Word, God is bringing us deeper into the truth. He is drawing us closer to the truth. He is making us stronger defenders of the truth, bolder members of the pillar of truth.
Christ prays this way because He desires all people to be saved. Although the world hates Him, He so loved the world that He shed His own blood for it. He is able to draw others to the truth through us, through the strong defence we make as His Church on earth. Christ calls all to Himself by His pillar of truth. He points the way to eternal life in His kingdom. He forgives those persecute Him and loves those who hate Him. He knocks down the pillars of falsehood in our hearts and declares us righteous, clean and true before His Father in heaven.
Do you know about the bright white pillar here on earth? It is also called the pillar of truth. Christ's Church. Lord, sanctify us in your truth.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr