Rogate – Sixth Sunday of Easter
“Asking in Jesus’ Name”
Philip G. Meyer, Pastor Emeritus
St. John 16.23-33
22 May 2022
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
Christ is risen! Alleluia! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!]
Today is Rogate Sunday. Rogate is a Latin word which means “ask.” It’s imperative, a command. “You! Pray!” Praying is mentioned in all three of our readings. Paul says that this is good and pleasing to God that we pray, using the synonyms supplications, intercessions, and thanksgivings. [1 Tim. 2.1-6]. God commands us to pray, as you all learned when we studied the Our Father.
Historically, the Christian Church has observed Rogate Sunday as a prayer vigil before Ascension and also because farmers are planting crops. It reminds us that God is the One who blesses the seed that is sown into to ground and gives it growth so that we might receive our daily bread as well as the seed of the Word of God planted in our hearts and minds. So Rogate also means we pray for “for all people” as Paul writes. As is customary on Rogate we will pray the Litany [LSB 288f] as the Prayer of the Church.
Today, as a congregation we are going to pray specifically for these confirmands as they renew the vows made for them at their baptisms. Today they speak those vows for themselves in this rite known as Confirmation. Confirmation does not bestow any gifts that have not already been given in Holy Baptism. It is merely a God-pleasing rite in which those who have been instructed in the main doctrines of the Christian faith speak them with their own lips and are admitted to the Sacrament of the Altar. We pray that they continue in the one true faith until our Lord brings them to everlasting life.
Jesus makes an amazing statement here. He tells us that we have direct access to the Father in heaven. We do not need anyone to intercede for us before the Father, only Christ himself. Boldly we go to the throne of the Father in Jesus’ Name. But what does that mean to ask “in his name.” It means that we ask with faith in him as our only Savior from sin, death, and hell. As Jesus was soon to ascend into heaven he did not leave us without access to the Father. He told his disciples that they would no longer ask him for things—they would ask the Father directly. You and I go to him “as dear children ask their dear Father.” And we know that our Father in heaven hears us because of what Jesus has done for us. Jesus is our Mediator—our go-between—with the Father.
This really helps us remember our baptisms. In the unit exam on Holy Baptism you catechumens were asked to name the date on which you were baptized. Think of that date right now! While I don’t remember the date I remember that I baptized two of you. Other than the date of your physical birth, your baptismal date is the most important day of your life because that is when you really began to live. You were baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ. You got the whole physical death thing over with and you received eternal life, the life of Christ. Christ, our risen Lord, lives in you because of your baptism. God the Holy Spirit, “the Author and Giver of life,” [Nicene Creed] conveyed the life of Christ to you in place of your death. Christ lives in you and you will remember that every time you receive the true body and blood of your Lord in the Sacrament of the Altar. Christ keeps feeding your faith, keeping it alive.
Jesus spoke these words on Maundy Thursday, just before he was betrayed and arrested. He wanted his disciples and all his disciples ever after—all of us!— to be ready for life in this world after he ascended to the right hand of the Father. He did not leave us alone, but he and the Father have sent the Holy Spirit to keep us in this true faith. Jesus still comes to us, but now in a different way. He comes to us through his Word and Sacraments. By ascending to the right hand of the Father Jesus is able to be present for all Christians no matter where they are in this world. His gracious presence is not confined to a specific place. So you are not alone. Christ continues to be with you.
This is very, very important! This world is not a friendly place for us Christians. The old, evil foe continues to assault us every day. The world, that is, unbelievers who do not confess Christ, will find ways to cause us trouble, even persecute us to our deaths. When I was confirmed I heard those words, too, yet none of us really believed that Christians would be so persecuted in America. That was something that happened in far off places in the world that none of us would probably ever visit. But all of that has changed. Jesus said it would happen. “In the world you will have tribulation.” There are synonyms for that word. One is harassment. Another is persecution. The parallel is the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. We share Christ’s sufferings because we are baptized into his Name. Paul tells us that suffering produces endurance. [Romans 5.3]. The Christian’s life is not trouble free. Quite the opposite. Because you belong to Christ you should expect trouble from the world. Satan wants to separate you from your Savior. But he won’t win.
We pray in the hymn Preserve Your Word, O Savior, [LSB 658.2] these words:
Preserve, O Lord, Your honor, the bold blasphemer smite.
Those are pretty strong words as we ask God to deal finally with those who hate him. The electronic news has shown people carrying signs that read, “Efff your God!” It is directed at the Holy Trinity and the only Savior of the world. These are the words of the Prince of Demons! It is entirely proper that we should pray that God would deal with such persons. God’s honor is at stake. We should pray that God would put an end to such blasphemy which curses his holy Name.
Sanctuaries have been vandalized for standing up on behalf of unborn babies. The unbelieving world hates that and hates those who confess that God the Holy Spirit is “the Lord and Giver of life” [Nicene Creed, Third Article]. These people threaten violence against those who make that confession. Crazed persons have slain Christians gathered for worship.
Persecution or tribulation seem far away for young people your age. You have caring parents and loving families to shield and protect you from much of it, but as you grow older you will confront troubles. Even now you may be on the receiving end of such hatred from your peers at school because you do not conform to their values. Trouble will happen.
Yet Jesus gives us a tremendous promise here, which is comforting not only to your parents but especially to you, and I do not want you ever, ever, to forget it. Here it is: “But take heart, I have overcome the world.” Jesus has overcome the world and the troubles that it brings.
I suppose the even children of your age have heard the news reports of the awful war in Ukraine and how these people have been driven out of their homes as their cities are bombed, how they have fled to neighboring nations for protection. It is hard for us in America to grasp what it would be like to have no home, no school, no church, and even our loved ones taken away. We say that they have lost everything, all of those things that belong to the Fourth Petition of the Our Father. But believers do not lose everything if they have Christ. You have everything you need!
When Jesus says that he has overcome the world he is telling us that the ultimate victory already belongs to him. That’s why these words are read in the Easter season. When Jesus died on the cross he shouted, “It is finished!” [John 19.30] He finished the work that only he could do, that is, give his life as a ransom for all people, to pay the penalty of our sin and guilt so that he could reconcile us to the Father in heaven. He rose as the Victor over sin, death, and hell. He defeated Satan—for good! The outcome is not in doubt! Our Lord Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father and there he lives and reigns as King of kings, and Lord of lords—forever! And he gives you access to the Father. You can pray to him and he will hear you because of Jesus.
One of my dear granddaughters—I have 11 of them!—is handicapped. Evangelina is afflicted with cerebral palsy. She has a hard time with words, formulating her thoughts. Her pastor told her this about prayer since she can’t string too many thoughts together. He said, “Evangelina, when trouble comes pray this: ‘Jesus, help!’” He’s a wise man and a good pastor. Sometimes your only prayer will be “Jesus, help!” or “Lord, have mercy!” And be sure of this, your prayer will be heard because Jesus has promised to hear.
The world will give you trouble, some of it severe. None of us knows how many years God will give you on this earth—only he knows—but this we know!—we have his peace. Jesus earned peace with the Father for you. He gives you his peace in his word of Absolution and especially in his true body and blood in the Sacrament. Luther’s hymn reminds us, “peace with God once more is made.” [LSB 617.2]
“Take heart,” then, you who are dearly loved by Christ! It’s another way of saying, “Take courage! Live boldly because you belong to Christ who is the Victor over the world. He promises to bring you to the glories of heaven so long as you remain faithful to him and continue to receive his gifts. You’ll fall into sin. We are weak. Sometimes we are faithless. But God never is! He promises to bring his good work to completion on the last day. He promises to bring you, body and soul, to everlasting life.
So while these words are directed mostly to you, they are also meant for everyone else here today. To you young adults this promise is made as your troubles increase; to you in middle age with all the struggles of midlife this promise continues to be made; to you who are aged and contend daily with the maladies of age, those with chronic conditions, those with daily pains, both physical and emotional, take heart! Christ has overcome the world. He is the Victor! His victory is yours.
And so today we pray in the full confidence that our Father in heaven hears all our prayers, that he does not deny them if they are prayed in Christ’s name and because his blood covers all our sins. We pray for you that God the Holy Spirit will bring you at last to eternal life with Christ our Lord and a happy reunion with all who have confessed his name in this life!
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In the Name of the Father and of the ✠ Son and of the Holy Spirit.