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Sermon by: Archdeacon - The Venerable Canon Terry Leer

Peace River, AB.

 

Date:  May 17, 2015 (Easter 7)

1.  Texts:  Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Ps. 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19.

2.  Subject:  faith.

3.  Topic:  faith as a fundamental reorientation of life itself.

4.  Aim:  challenge, guide.

5.  Proposition:  “Jesus is the centre around which the faith and all creation circles.”

 

ALL FOR JESUS

 

Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.

 

All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands.
All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands.

 

For it's only in Your will that I am free,
For it's only in Your will that I am free,
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.[1]


All for Jesus—all for Jesus,

This our song shall ever be;

For we have no hope, nor Saviour,

If we have not hope in thee.

 

All for Jesus—all for Jesus—

This the Church’s song must be;

Till, at last, her sons are gathered

One in love and one in thee.[2]

 

          Almost one hundred thirty years separate these two songs.  Yet, still they ring true.  Still Jesus calls us to surrender ourselves into his hands so that we might be his hands—and his voice—in the world. 

 

          We know this.  There is nothing new in this.  But it bears repeating—especially as a community—so that we might find some encouragement and direction together.  All for Jesus, all for Jesus—this our song must always be.

 

          Here's the thing:  God is continually and continuously revealing himself in creation, in scripture and in the Church.  God expresses himself in the miraculous artistry of the universe.  His authoritative and normative word finds ever new ways of application in the changing contexts of our lives.  The Church gives his will voice and hands to serve all God's people in sacrificial love.  Every day, in uncountable ways, God reveals himself to all who would pay attention. 

 

          In this ongoing revelation of love, Jesus is the central figure and the chief self-revelation.  In fact, his appearance inside time and space fundamentally changes human existence and our experience of that existence.  He is the midpoint of humanity, the centre that holds all things together and around which all of creation revolves. 

 

          Yes, we do know this, but that's only after two millennia of Christian reflection and discipleship.  Imagine what it must have been like for those first disciples!

 

          They were in the upper room.  Jesus had already washed their feet as a sign of servanthood.  Judas Iscariot had already left to do his deed.  So, Jesus began to talk.  He spoke of leaving.  He spoke of the disciples not being able to come with him.  He sounded like someone who was going to commit suicide.  Jesus made it very clear:  he was leaving—permanently, it sounded like, and certainly dramatically.[3] 

 

          The disciples struggled with this truth:  he who was their Master and the Centre around which all creation held together would be leaving.  He would be gone.  They couldn’t understand.  They couldn’t conceive it.  And Jesus’ assurances were not enough.  They could not be.  Jesus' permanent departure was beyond their ability to understand and they had nothing on which to rely for comfort or support. 

 

          That’s why Jesus had to pray for the disciples.  His assurances, his teachings, his proclamation—none of these would be enough to uphold the disciples as they experienced the loss of him through whom all things were made.  Jesus could only pray.

 

          That makes perfect sense today.  Prayer is frequently our best resort when times are incomprehensible.  And what better example of that than Jesus himself, praying for his disciples.  Back then, I imagine that few of them actually heard what Jesus said, and John's Gospel is the only one to have recorded his words. 

 

          We read only a part of that prayer today and it would be well worth your while to read the entire prayer, slowly, thoughtfully, prayerfully.  I suggest that you carve out some quiet time when you can be alone with Jesus and immerse yourself in his prayer.

 

          And as you do so, it again becomes clear that even the prayer is all about Jesus.  The prayer places Jesus at the centre of the disciples’ future.  He glorified the Father.[4]  He is the one who genuinely proclaimed the Father to the disciples and so transformed them.[5]  He is the source of the gospel and his words reflect his nature as the incarnate Word of God.[6]  Jesus himself is the foundation and basis for his prayer for the disciples.

 

          That’s why those songs make sense.

Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.

 

All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands.
All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands.

 

For it’s only in Your will that I am free,
For it’s only in Your will that I am free,
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.[7]


All for Jesus—all for Jesus,

This our song shall ever be;

For we have no hope, nor Saviour,

If we have not hope in thee.

 

All for Jesus—all for Jesus—

This the Church’s song must be;

Till, at last, her sons are gathered

One in love and one in thee.[8]

 

          This makes sense to us here.  We've heard it many times before, but it bears repeating.  Jesus is the centre of our faith and the centre of creation.  Jesus is our master and model.  Jesus is the Saviour who stoops to pray for us.  Because of these realities we can only surrender ourselves in sacrificing faith.  “All for Jesus” is our only song.  “All for Jesus” is our promise and commitment.  “All for Jesus” is not only our choice—it becomes the declaration of our life and lifestyle. 

 

          I'm going to contend that this is a fundamental reorientation of life itself.  We look at the world through the eyes of Jesus.  We think about people differently because Jesus came as a human being.  Ecology becomes a Christian force because Jesus adopted a human form.  Our material possessions and their use are directed differently because of this reality.  The existence of Jesus is the fundamental shift in the life of the disciple.  That's the sense of these songs.

 

          Now, if we are to be faithful disciples, we just have to make sense out of this sense.

 

          "All for Jesus" is the statement of our life's reorientation.  That is, since Jesus gave his all for us--a clear statement of God's sacrifice for us--we give our all for Jesus.  We shift our responses and choices accordingly.

 

          I remember once a "street person" walking in late to one of our services.  You could sense immediately the congregation's discomfort.  Heck, I felt uncomfortable. I wasn't at all sure what would happen.  But the people in the pews sacrificed their own experience of worship and their own comfort to make sure the gentleman was cared for.  There were some clenched jaws and shaking heads in the room, but they sacrificed.

 

          That's love for one's neighbour, don't you think?  The essence of love is sacrifice, at least according to Jesus.  They gave up something of their lives right there and then, so that, just maybe, this guy might experience something of the life of Jesus.

 

          Such love may even require drastic action.  Remember Jesus in the temple?  He drove the sellers out of the temple because the relationship with God was being damaged.  Jesus challenged others to cut out part of their lives for the sake of the faith.  When Peter's refusal to accept the upcoming crucifixion was hurting the other disciples, Jesus called him "Satan" and ordered him to step aside.  Our God-inspired and Jesus-directed love may require drastic action.

 

          So, when someone’s faith is being attacked, we need to respond with courage and strength, rising to that person’s defence.  When others are being called silly or weak or deluded because of their commitment to Jesus, we need to respond strongly.  Like Jesus, we take drastic action when the faith of others is at risk.

 

          Or, like Jesus, we show barrier-breaking compassion to those in need.  He demonstrated this with the Syro-Phoenician and the woman caught in adultery, just as he did with the woman at the well and in his Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Compassion is the application of practical love in the life of someone who is suffering and Jesus is forcefully clear about our mandate to show compassion.  As Jesus suffered for us, so we suffer for and with others.  His example creates a fundamental reorientation of our lives as we take on the suffering of others. 

 

          We could go on, talking about our reorientation with respect to our material possessions, our prayer life, our recycling efforts and so much more.  But that would take a whole workshop and I'm certain that's not what you signed up for today. 

 

          However, you did sign up to reaffirm your fundamental reorientation of your lives.  You did sign up to experience afresh the fulfillment of Jesus' prayer for you.  The centre of our universe prayed for you two thousand years ago and you've come here today to again experience God's grace and to recommit yourselves to the transformation of that grace.

 

          “Jesus, all for Jesus, all I am and have and ever hope to be.”  “All for Jesus—all for Jesus, this our song shall ever be.”  That’s what it means to recognize the centrality of Jesus.  That’s what it means to put Jesus at the centre of our own lives. 

 

          That’s what it means to be a Christian.     

 

          AMEN. 



[1] Robin Mark, “All for Jesus”, 1990.

[2] W.J. Sparrow Simpson, “All for Jesus”, 1887, The Hymn book (1938), verses one and five. 

[3] John 13:33, 36-37; 14:1-5, 18-21, 25-29; 16:7, 16-19.

[4] John 17:1-5.

[5] John 17:6-8.

[6] John 17:14-17.

[7] Robin Mark, “All for Jesus”, 1990.

[8] W.J. Sparrow Simpson, “All for Jesus”, 1887, The Hymn Book (1938), verses one and five.