Thursday, February 13, 2014

Keep them in Your Name

I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. (Jn 17:8-13)
“I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me.” Jesus turns his attention to the disciples, those who will carry out his work after he has left this world. Later he will return to the subject of the world and all those who believe in him as a person can see in verse 20 of this chapter. But now he prays for the disciples through whom he is glorified. He prays that they will be kept in his name, the name of the Father and in this name they are one, even as Jesus and the Father are one in this name they share.
“In Your Name.” It can’t be stressed enough that this name is so much more than a term or a label, not a mere moniker, it is the very being of God himself, which shapes their will and directs them in their work, the calling they receive from God. It is the very same name that is poured over us and given us in baptism. It is the name that is at work through daily devotions, through the divine service and Holy Communion which then goes out with us into our daily work. It is a wonderful name above all names, and it is given to us, and just as it kept the disciples together despite all their weaknesses, and conflicts, (yes, the disciples had conflicts with each other) so it keeps the whole church together as one, even amidst flaring emotions and hardships.
Tentatio, that’s what Luther called it. The third ingredient in making a theologian. Meditatio and oratio were the first two. So meditation, prayer, and temptation. But the temptation here means affliction, more than it does a lust for sin. Affliction, it is a particularly satanic form of temptation. It can be so horrible that you don’t even realize it is Satan at work. The pain is just too great. It’s not that you don’t love God that you begin to skip church during these times, but you can’t stand to be there and face the conflict. Satan will even use the pious Christians to afflict and abuse. The things you love are lost and it creates anger towards God. It’s painful. But what you do with the tentatio, the temptation, the torture the anfechtung, well that makes all the difference in the world. And no, you don’t have to face it with a smile, or be “positive” as they say these days. It’s ok to be sober minded about the afflictions. If they cause a bit of depression that is to be expected. It doesn’t mean you are a weak Christian either. But do you let the devil have his way? No. This cannot become an excuse to quit worshiping and praying together, to cut yourself off from the sacraments, God’s word and the life of the church. These afflictions will pass. And if you handle them with meditation and prayer, and by meditation is meant the study of God’s word, then you grow stronger through the hard times. And what is said here about the individual theologian can also be said of a congregation and a church body. These afflictions come, and they help shape a congregation, the congregation together has to face these problems through which new leaders are born, priorities reassessed and your understanding grows, and God’s will is accomplished and mourning is turned into dancing. The theologian, the pastor, the individual Christian is steeled and grows stronger in the faith through such things, and so does a congregation and a church body, as we all learn the hard lesson Paul had to learn. “My grace is sufficient for you.” That is God keeps us together in his name.

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