The Word of God and the Creation of God are eternally intertwined. The Word exists to bring light and life to the creation and the creation itself was made by the proclamation of the Word. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. It is the Word of God which creates and sustains life. In fact, the Word can recreate. It can call the dead from their graves, turn water into wine, and feed 5000 people with just a few loaves of bread. The Word is the fount from which flows hope and assurance and salvation for all of creation. We can see that the real evil unleashed in the fall of mankind was a parting of the people of God from His Word. The temptation Satan leveled at Eve was to distrust the Word of God. “Did God really say?” And it did not seem like that big of a deal. Just introduce some doubt, some healthy skepticism between mankind and the Word. But that little move was like a switch track on a railroad line. What seemed like such a small infraction would send the whole train careening off into darkness and death.
Most of creation spends its time in a sort of blissful darkness. It rolls along without the Word. It spends its time trying to scratch out some foothold of assurance, some philosophy that can make sense of the time they have and perhaps even offer them some hope for the future. Over time, mankind forgets it is connected to the Word of God. It then creates its own structures to manage and govern this world. People go searching for a sense of control amid a world which is anything but under their control. Sure, they have some success, for a time. They seem to improve their situation or show some hope for the future, but it never seems to last. Eventually things come unraveled as we are faced with the specter of disorder, suffering, and, of course, the grave. But that just causes mankind to rethink the tactics and blindly search for another way forward.
Therefore, at the heart of what we are doing here in this place at this moment is to be reconnected with the Word. Church is about meeting the Word who created us, the Word who sustains us, the Word who promises life and hope and salvation. It is to remember what our ancestors forgot as we find the Word of our origin has never ceased to call out to us, to seek us, and to breathe life into us. But as you meet the Word, as you are reconnected to it you will find it brings with it its own set of problems. They were problems not on your radar before you started going to church. For it means you are separated from those who still wander in the darkness. You are disjointed from the rest of the world as your darkness is replaced by God’s light. What this means is you move swiftly from being part of the common herd to a small minority that will be easily ridiculed and pushed aside.
John chapter 17 deals with this reality. It is a unique section of Holy Scripture for it invites us to listen in on a prayer of Jesus. We get to hear as He prays to His Father on behalf of His disciples. If you think about it, you get to hear as He prays about you. You hear Him say to His Father, “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” (John 17:11). He knows we will have hardship. He knows opposition will come. He knows we will be afraid and easily scattered. The Word of God has found its proper home in the hearts and minds of the creatures of God but as Jesus ascends to the right hand of the Father, he knows trouble will come. You get a sense of His heart as He earnestly prays for your endurance, for your unity, and for your salvation.
Jesus, of course, is the living Word of God. He is the Word made flesh and dwelling among us. By listening to His prayer, we find without a doubt the Word of God is for you. It cares about you, seeks your protection and fulfillment. Jesus says to His Father, “I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the Evil One. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:15-16). The Evil One will seek to separate you from the Word of God once again. He will seek to bring the doubt and destruction of the fall all over again. And he has great assets on his side. For according to Jesus, you are not of the world. You have received the Word again. You have been reborn of the world to come. Which means that the very world in which you live becomes part of the opposition.
Now, this all seems like a daunting task. How can one withstand the works of the ancient evil foe especially as he teams up with the rest of the world to challenge your faith and trust in the Word? But this is the continued work of our Lord. He who has done everything for your salvation, did not then leave you to just figure everything else out on your own. He took up your sin as His own. He was washed in your transgressions and repented completely for your failures. He then endures the wrath sins incur as He suffers and dies on the cross. He faces the judgment of the Father for what you have done and then rises from the grave to promise a new life, a new hope, a new assurance in what He has done. He is the one who prays for you. He knows what is coming. He knows that the Devil, the world, and your own sinful natures will try and turn you away from a life of faith and confidence in what He has done.
So, at the pinnacle of His prayer to His Father your Lord says, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). Sanctify them. That is, set them apart, make them a holy, a sacred thing. To be sanctified is to no longer remain as the common normal things, no longer to be simply part of the rest of humanity as you had been before. No, you are set apart in the truth. It is the truth that comes from above, the truth that endures, the truth that is older than the mountains and deeper than the seas. This eternal truth changes you, for it speaks of things our world cannot and will not understand. It speaks without wavering of life and death, of sin and eternal punishment for the guilty. It does not sweep away your trespasses or say, “Don’t worry. Everybody does it.” No, it calls sin a sin and makes no excuses for your behavior. But it speaks equally as passionately or perhaps even more so about hope in the name of Jesus. It speaks about compassion and love and forgiveness that baffles our world.
In this truth you are set aside, sanctified, made holy. Just how does this truth come? Where do we find it? Why it is our old companion, the very Word of God. Jesus says to His Father, “Your Word is truth.” And so it is. The Word which speaks life and hope into you, the Word that brings restoration and strength so the people of God might endure is the only source of truth. To be sanctified in the truth is to be a receiver of the Word of God. And that is precisely what you are. You receive the Word, and, in that Word, you are set apart in the truth.
Now the world will never cease to try and convince you of the blessings of the darkness. The old evil foe will never let up on his attacks to twist and turn the Word of God. He would love nothing more than to bring doubt and confusion to your minds. But here this day, once again, we meet the Word. And the Word of God tells a quite different story. It tells the story of light and life and salvation. It declares you are forgiven in Christ alone, that this age and all its darkness will pass away. It says there will be a more glorious day to come, a day of eternal hope and resurrection, of joy without end and peace in the presence of God. These promises are yours now. They set you apart and sanctify you in the truth. All glory be to God.