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Sermon May 21 2023

Easter 7 A 2023 Theology of the Cross

John 17:1-11


Alleluia! Christ Is Risen!

Christ Is Risen Indeed!  Alleluia!

What is glory?  How is glory portrayed in our world?  For Roman soldiers, glory was entering a city as a conquering military force.  In the Middle Ages, glory was as a king sitting on his throne.  Today, glory is what a sports team receives when winning the championship game.   

In the dictionary, glory is identified as “high renown or honor won by notable achievements.”  Glory is something that we can earn through our own works.  Glory is something that we can be proud of.  Glory is something that we can highlight for the whole world to see.

But that is not how glory is spoken about in the Bible.  And Glory in the Bible means more than just a championship trophy.

What do you think of when you are told that someone has entered their glory?  Most people would think that that person has died and gone to heaven.  That the person has run the race with faith and now resides with our Father in Heaven.

Glory equals victory.  Glory means eternal life with God our Father.  Glory means no more pain, and no more disappointment, and no more death.

Humanity likes to see Jesus Christ win.  We like to see death defeated.  We want good to defeat evil and persevere in the long run.

The disciples were no different.  They wanted Jesus to win. They wanted evil to be defeated.  The problem was the disciples did not want to hear Jesus speak about His own death.  And the disciples did not want to hear about the Cross.

The early church struggled with this too.  The Gnostics argued that Christ’s death on the cross was simply an illusion.  That Jesus did not feel the pain and agony of the whips, the nails, and the spear. 

Some even suggested that it was not really Jesus on the cross, that somehow God had removed Him from His suffering and substituted someone else.

Luther called such a proposal the “Theology of Glory.”  A theology based upon a life apart from suffering and sadness and anything that is uncomfortable.

Today there are many who seek a Theology of Glory also.  They seek a theology of glory because they want a life void of pain and suffering.  They want a life free from fear and heartache and death.

But that is not how God’s Redeeming Activity works. 

In our Gospel text today, we hear Jesus pray “Father, the hour has come.  Glorify your Son.”  Jesus knows that He is about to be betrayed, arrested, falsely convicted, and sentenced to death by crucifixion. 

And what does He do?  He does not try to avoid the horror and suffering that is about to come.  And He does not try to make the things that He (we) are afraid of go away.

Instead, Jesus meets fear head on.  And He accepts the glory of the cross as His fate.  He knows that His glory will come through His participation in God’s plan. 

He knows that His glory will be revealed when He takes our place on the cross and dies for our sins.  He knows that His glory will be won on the cross.

And that is why we Lutherans cling to the Theology of the Cross.  And we boldly sing “On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame; and I love that old cross, where the dearest and best, for a world of lost sinners was slain. So, I'll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross; and exchange it some day for a crown.”

My friends, the Christian life is not always a comfortable one.  And it is not lived in a state of glory as we would like to imagine it. Our lives are meant to mirror Christ’s life.  We are asked to pick up our cross and follow Him.

And as we do so, we are asked to not let fear get in the way, for hanging “in glory” for all the world to see is the One who took away the sin of the world to give humanity life, forgiveness, and eternal salvation.

Therefore, let us celebrate.  And let us cheer the victory won by His great sacrifice.  Let us hold on to the trophies won by His Blood. 

For His victory is our victory.  His resurrection is our resurrection.  Jesus destroyed the grip of death and has given us the joy of life in His Kingdom.

Alleluia! Christ Is Risen!

Christ Is Risen Indeed!  Alleluia!

Let us pray: Almighty God, you have glorified your Son through the Cross.  And by His suffering and death have won victory over sin, the devil, and even death itself.  Send us your Holy Spirit so that we may bear our crosses and not run away so we may bask in His glory.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.