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May 16, 2021

“Protected!”

(From Lesson John 17: 6-19)

“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.  I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.  And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. 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.”  

     As a child, I used to look forward to going shopping with my Mom and Dad for new household items like appliances and TV’s.  My parents were very safety conscious, and they always allowed me to help them look for the UL symbol on the back of each item they intended to purchase.  UL, as most of you know, stands for “Underwriter’s Laboratories.”  Underwriter’s Laboratories is an international science and technology firm that tests new products to insure their safety for use by consumers.  That famous circular symbol enveloping the two UL letters was, for my parents, the assurance that they would not be shocked or suffer a fire caused by the new appliance during its use in their home—they were protected.

     Indeed, the world has many dangers and pitfalls that require successful navigation so that we can remain safe from harm.  For example, the IIHS, or Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, tests an automobile’s safety features for their effectiveness in the event of an accident or crash.  Good Housekeeping tests household items, such as mattresses and chairs, to ensure that they will “Perform for their intended use” for a minimum of two years from the time they are purchased for home use.  And there are others.  Our modern world, where material and technological items play a major role in the quality of our daily living, requires that steps be taken for our safety and protection.

     Just as protection from harm is a key aspect of the modern technology we find common to our outward and physical lives, protection from the evil influences of this world, Satan and his allies if you will, is key to our spiritual wellbeing.  Our scripture lesson for this morning discloses how very personally Jesus took overseeing our spiritual welfare and protection.  The prayer of Jesus in our lesson today from John Chapter 17 was Jesus’ final word for his Disciples before going with them to Gethsemane to be arrested, tried, and crucified.  His final words both to them and for them, and by extension for all believers, were these: “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 am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.” 

     Jesus was, is, and will always be the protector of our souls.  Jesus referred to himself as the “Good Shepherd” in John Chapter 10.  Jesus shared then that the good shepherd is one who cares so dearly for his sheep that he lays down his own life to protect them.  Jesus was that good shepherd who gave his life to protect our souls and to assure our eternal salvation.  He did not protect only the “good” and “best” of the sheep.  As he disclosed in our lesson today, Jesus loved and protected all of the sheep in his care.  Even while he was dying on the cross, Jesus assured a thief who was crucified with him that he would be with Jesus in paradise.  It was his final act of love, care and protection found in the Gospel of Luke.

     Easter people, this is the good news!  In our life in this world, we do experience trouble from many sources.  But, Jesus has showed us that we can live on, and love on, for we need not fear the world.  By his victorious resurrection from the grave Jesus has overcome the powers and principalities of this world!  Nothing can separate us from God’s love, neither human sin nor earthly circumstance.  Jesus is for us—who can succeed against us?  In the words of Paul’s letter to the Roman Church, we are more than conquerors through the one who loved us and gave himself for us.   We are the Easter people of the empty cross and the empty tomb, for Jesus the Christ is alive with us.  Sisters and brothers, we are not alone on this journey of life.  Jesus has given us the power of the Holy Spirit to be our constant Guide, Guardian and the Protector of our souls.  We are also blessed to have a community of faith-filled and faithful believers journeying down the road of life together with us, sharing both its sorrows and its great joys.  So, on this final Sunday of the Easter season, let us rejoice and be glad, even as we yet struggle with all of the difficulties, losses and injustices we find in this world.  With confidence, may we pick up each day the crosses of life that we must bear.  May we follow the one who will never lead us astray, for he knows us as we truly are, and yet still loves each of us so dearly. He is the one who died to assure us of our eternal life, and who rose again to prove our ultimate victory over all the powers of evil in this world.  He is our Savior and our Protector-Christ Jesus, our Lord. And so, Easter people, let us boldly say together, Alleluia!  Amen.

Hymn- “Because He Lives”

(words-Gloria and William Gaither, music-William Gaither)

God sent his Son, they call him Jesus; he came to love, heal, and forgive; he lived and died to buy my pardon, an empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.

 Because he lives, I can face tomorrow; because he lives, all fear is gone; because I know he holds the future, and life is worth the living just because he lives.     

Mission for Easter giving:

Bishop Tracy Malone is promoting a capital campaign called Teach, Reach, Bless to build a dormitory on the campus of Africa University for women students to give them an opportunity to focus on their studies and keep them safe from often dangerous commutes. 

More information can be found at www.EOCUMC.com/teachreachbless/.  Contributions can be made to PUMC with “Africa” in the memo line.  This will be the last week of our Easter Season Mission.