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Festival of the Holy Trinity

June 17, 2014 2 comments

Matthew 28:16-20

June 15, 2014

 

Note:  below is the audio and the text for the sermon from Sunday.  You can listen to it by clicking the embedded player below

or downloading it at the link here:

Sermon for Holy Trinity

 

TrinityIn the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The text for the sermon this morning is from the Gospel just read, Matthew 28.  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded of you.”  This is our text.

These are the last lines of Matthew’s Gospel.  Otherwise known as the Great Commission, Jesus mandates his eleven disciples to make more disciples just before he ascended into heaven.  This text is full of meaning and instruction.  A lifetime of discipleship would not exhaust the words of our Lord to his disciples.  And it is perhaps especially fitting that this text was chosen as the Gospel reading on Holy Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentecost.  Sitting at the point in the church year in between readings that focus us on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, it is fitting that Holy Trinity Sunday and this reading from Matthew start the church off on the second half of the year when readings call our attention to the teachings of Jesus and our life in Christ.  What is a disciple?  How do you make disciples?  What is a disciple to do in order to be a true disciple.  All this and more packed solidly into the Great Commission from Jesus.  We’d better get started.

Now even if we nothing of Jesus of Nazareth, we should know a great deal more about him simply by reading this passage of scripture.  The eleven, there are eleven now, 12 minus one, had gone out to the mountain where Jesus had told the women he would be back in verse 7.  And when they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted.  Just this line tells us so much about faith, the early church, and one simple fact.  Jesus is divine.  Jesus is God.  Jesus is the Lord.  Who was Jesus for the past three years?  A traveling Jewish prophet with a group of disciples from Galilee.  They were certainly not the sort of folks you would expect to take over the world.  Only one thing can explain the radical shift from traveling group of disciples to leaders of a world-wide missionary church in a matter of a month and that is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and this passage and Pentecost.  The eleven had been down in Judea, other evangelists record some of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances in Judea, but Matthew records this one in Galilee where it all began for them.  The eleven would no longer be following a penniless preacher; they would be going to all nations to make fellow disciples of Jesus.  That in itself is amazing and more about that in a minute.  But first, what’s a disciple?  Where to we get that word?  Discipulus, Latin for pupil, and from discere, Latin for to teach.  What then ultimately is a disciple?  A student.  In the old days, it meant a follower, a groupie if you will but in the academic sense.  Plato was a disciple of Socrates and Aristotle, of Plato.  And Jesus says make more disciples.  More people from every nation should follow after me and hear my preaching through you and receive my healing through you and come to a knowledge of faith and salvation and thus accomplish the will of my Father who sent me, through you.  Who are disciples today?  You are.  We all are.

Some people would say that Jesus didn’t really say this.  They say it’s a later addition to the text by the early church.  But I say to you, if Jesus didn’t really say it, I have no business standing here before you today and we’d all be better off at home reading the Sunday paper or gardening.  Because if Jesus didn’t command it, then I have no reason to try to make disciples.  Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  That same authority is the authority by which I stand before you this morning confident that in my attempts this morning to teach everything Jesus has commanded us, I am carrying out our Lord’s desire to continue to make you his disciples.

How is the Christian church to make disciples?  What does Jesus command?  Baptize and teach; that’s how you make a disciple.  Baptism without teaching is not what Jesus commands.  To be baptized and then to never darken the door of a church again is not what Jesus is mandating.  And yet, teaching without baptism is another way to get it wrong.  One’s discipleship is in question if one rejects the Lord’s command to be baptized.  This is simple.  Make disciples by baptizing and teaching.  And the Christian church has never not known baptism.  Acts chapter 2 on the day of Pentecost after Peter’s preaching to the masses gathered there they ask, what shall we do, then brothers?  And Peter’s response is “repent and be baptized.”  Why?  Because Jesus said so.  And into what shall we be baptized?

This is a good question because here is the heart of the passage before us.  “Baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Can you quickly scan scripture in your mind and think of a more forceful proclamation of the divinity of Jesus Christ?  Here the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are listed as co-equal and the Spirit as a separate person also.  Trinitarian theology is not a construct of the early Christian church; it is at the heart of the scriptures and the revelation of our God about himself to us.  Three divine persons but of the same divine essence.  Baptize into the name, singular, not the names, plural.  There are not three gods but one God.  “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one.”  Baptize into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not in the name of an impersonal divine power or force.  God bestows His name on us.  Just as the great “I Am,” bestowed his name on Israel and gave it to them as a gift that He might be known by name.  Here is the pure gift of God, that he bestows on us his name and we can know him as he was have us know him.

Pick up a grasshopper in your hand and imagine what that grasshopper thinks.  One, that your power holds him fast in your grip and two, the instinctive reaction that you can crush and destroy him at will.  Think about this for a minute, what would we know about God if not for the revelation of his name to us?  He would be the God of tsunamis, and earthquakes and cyclones and rainbows.  We wouldn’t know much more than a capricious God, angry most of the time and in a good mood sometimes when the stars twinkle at night.  The power of God is unmistakable.  All people have this little voice, this conscience that says, we ought to.  We ought to make something of ourselves.  We are answerable to this Creator whose voice we hear that we ought and we have every reason to be afraid of that ultimate voice.

Would you really kill the grasshopper just for the fun of it?  Of course not.  But how will that grasshopper know your true nature, your kind heart toward it?  So too the question about what is God really like?  And the first and immediate and I would say only satisfactory answer is Jesus of Nazareth.  Here was a man who claimed to be God, said things only God can say, did things only God can do and accepted worship that belongs only to God.  The only possibilities says CS Lewis are “Lord, Lunatic or Liar.”  He who is God from all eternity was made flesh and dwelled among us.  In Jesus, God was seen and heard and touched.  Here is the answer to what God is like.  God became a man, went to the cross, and suffered the agony of hell as sin’s punishment.  He died for us who were heretofore mere grasshoppers in the hand.  He died for sinners.  He died for you and me.

There is no greater love imaginable, and that my friends in Christ, is what God is like, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  Forgiven we are no longer afraid of God.  We know him as Father because of our status as his children through our brother Jesus.

When we come to know those things we are being made into disciples. Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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Sermon for Holy Trinity

June 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Augustana 2010

26 Sermon for Holy Trinity MP3 Audio

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text for the sermon this morning is the Old Testament lesson for today from Proverbs chapter 8.

This is a reading that is full of surprises.  As it starts out it appears to be a passage like many others from Proverbs, where our spiritual father Solomon recommends we find ourselves some wisdom.  “Does not wisdom call?  Does not understanding raise her voice?”  Wisdom, of course, is a virtue we all admire and desire a bit more of, but that sounds more like the focus of a sermon that rests in plain old moralism, not the Gospel of salvation.  Even by verse 2, though something is different.  “On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; 3 beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud…”  The writer speaks of Wisdom as though it were a person, rather than an abstract virtue.  Maybe it’s been a while since you did any literary analysis but clearly, the writer has used a trick of the trade to get us to engage the material a little more than straight dogmatic theology.  If this is the case, then what we have is a nice example of personification in an early Hebrew text.  Except, this Hebrew text is not in isolation, is it?  No, it’s part of not only an entire writing, we know as Proverbs, but that book is in a collection of more books we call the Bible.  And so if we turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 1, verse 24, we read that St. Paul calls Christ, “the Wisdom of God.”

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Cor 1:20-25)

It turns out that Wisdom here in Proverbs is far more than a literary device, Wisdom is a person, no less a person than the second person of the triune God!

The Trinity, God is not three; God is One: one divine essence, three distinct persons, all of equal majesty and glory and all three equally worthy of all worship and honor but they are not three Gods, only One.  And we go to catechism class and we learn about the three persons of the Trinity as we confess them in the three articles of the Apostles’ Creed and what do we learn there?  The Father is the maker, the creator, the Son is the redeemer of the creation by his dying and rising, and the Holy Spirit is the sanctifying Spirit.  We confess all that wonderful theology in the Athanasian Creed this morning and then we read Proverbs chapter 8 and it begins to solidify for us:

22 “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work,

the first of his acts of old.

23 Ages ago I was set up,

at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,

when there were no springs abounding with water.

25 Before the mountains had been shaped,

before the hills, I was brought forth,

26 before he had made the earth with its fields,

or the first of the dust of the world.

27 When he established the heavens, I was there;

Well, this is a surprise too!  Even if we understand the second person of the Trinity to have always been, we don’t normally think of him as having done very much at creation and yet here he is.  He was active at the creation; Solomon calls him a “master workman” at God’s side.  This shows us two important things.  That Christ was there at the creation of the world and that he was intimately close with the Father.  Other passages from the Scriptures help us to understand this correctly.  John 1:1 which we read on Christmas morning.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”  (John 1:1-4)  In his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul describes Jesus like this:  “15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col 1:15–17)  We know from Genesis that God said, and it was.  The Word He spoke was the way by which all things came into being.  Jesus is the Word, the wisdom of God, the master workman standing by the Father’s side long before the hills and the rivers and all things were created.

And yet, in a way, the river of water and the hill were already in existence even before they were created.  Christ himself was that river of life welling up to eternal life.  “…Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn 4:14)  “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” (Jn 7:37–38).  There was a hill in existence long before the hills were shaped by the Creator.  Christ himself was that hill.  “I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.  (Ps 121:1–2)  Jesus is the rock of our salvation.  The rivers of water and the hills Christ was present to create were but a physical manifestation of himself.  In that sense, the creation is made in the image of God.  Like the workman, like work.

And the workman at the Father’s side was there rejoicing in the delight of the Father and rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of men.  God rejoices and delights in his creation, not his rebellious, corrupted creation, mind you, but in what he made.  I think here we get a glimpse of the love in the heart of the Father in why he would send his workman to do such an extraordinary work, to salvage what he had made.

In 1989 on a routine flight from Chicago, an airplane’s middle engine fell apart.  Pieces of the fan blades flew through the air as shrapnel, cutting the planes hydraulic lines.  The pilot made an emergency landing at Sioux City, Iowa.  Then came the disaster.  There are films of this airplane somersaulting down the runway in a ball of fire, killing half of those on board.  It took years to discover what cause the engine to disintegrate.  But the investigators finally concluded that when the titanium hub of the fan was manufactured, an almost microscopic air bubble remained in the metal.  This bubble went undetected for over 20 years and passed many inspections, but it finally led to a tiny crack.  The crack got bigger and then the hub shattered and the engine blew apart and it brought the entire plan down.  When the Triune God created the universe, he overlooked not even the tiniest detail, and he clearly foresaw the coming disaster for his creation, our sin.  He engineered the perfect repair: the incarnation of his master workman even though it meant his death.  But through the work, that is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the master workman, we are salvaged and restored.

The Holy Spirit brings us this gift of salvation and delivers them to us, even brings us the intimate presence of God that we might rejoice and delight in Him even as he delights in us once again.  Think about that for a minute.  On account of what Christ has done for us, we enjoy an intimacy with God that is close to the kind of intimacy the three persons have with one another.  Jesus, who was with God at the beginning, left heaven and was forsaken by God.  We are restored to intimacy with God because of the break of intimacy within Christ and the Father.  In the language of our text, he was no longer at God’s side.  The reason for this rupture was that on the cross Christ was made sin for us (2 Cor 5:21) and became the curse for sin for us (Gal. 3:13).  This is the work the master workman performed for us.  He left the God’s side so that we might be restored to that intimacy with God and he might delight in us once again.  Look how Paul describes it in the Epistle reading for today.  “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Rom 5:1-2)

It is the Holy Spirit who is revealing this to you today.  That is what he does.  He takes what is Christ’s and makes it known to us causing us to delight in the knowledge that God delights in us on account of Christ.

God strengthen us and preserve us in the true faith.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds though faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.