Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sermon - Holy Trinity (May 31, 2015)

NUMBERS 6:22-27
In the name + of Jesus. 
     Whenever you put your name on something, you claim ownership of it.  Whenever I got a new baseball glove, I put my name and phone number on it so that everyone could know it was mine.  Parents give their last name to their children.  This lets the world know who is responsible for their behavior and well-being.  It is also why parents are horrified when their children misbehave.  If you share that name, the child’s behavior reflects on you.  While you may be appalled by the shameful actions of another person’s child, you don’t take it personally.  You do with your own children.
     The Lord was pleased to bless the children of Israel and to put his name on them.  Of all the nations on the earth, the Lord claimed ownership of Israel.  It was not because they were a larger or more powerful nation than others.  And it certainly was not because they were better behaved than others.  Israel was a slave nation.  They were held captive by the Egyptians, but the Lord graciously delivered them from their captors.  At the foot of Mt. Sinai, after they had sworn their allegiance and obedience to the Lord, they rebelled against him by worshiping a golden calf.  Then on their way to the Promised Land, they complained against the Lord again and again.  They did not deserve God’s favor.  Instead, they incurred his wrath.  And yet, the Lord chose to put his name on these people.  How gracious our God is!
     God is just as gracious to you.  He has been pleased to put his name on you.  You were baptized into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  We invoke that name when worship, even making the sign of the cross on ourselves, to note that the Lord has marked us as his own.  It is not because we are smarter or better behaved than anyone else.  To this day, we dishonor God's name by our sins.  We confess the Lord as our Savior, but we still disobey his word so that others look at us and say, “That's how Christians act?!  They are no better than the godless.”  God's name is blasphemed because of the people who confess him as their Lord.  Repent!
     Even though we have dishonored God's name, he has not revoked his name from us.  He still summons us to call upon his name in every trouble.  Every service begins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  We hold him to his word and recall his covenant that he has made us his.  And every service ends with the Lord putting his name on us to bless us.  The Lord has put his name on you.  He is pleased to call you his own.
     In the New Testament, we have the clearest revelation of the God who claims you as his own.  He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In the Old Testament, it is the same God, though he usually only referred to himself as the Lord.  In the blessing he gave to Aaron and the priests to pronounce onto the Israelites, however, he alludes to the Triune nature: “The Lord  …, the Lord , …the Lord .”
     The Lord bless you and keep you. (Numbers 6:24)  The Lord is the one who has created you and given you everything you are and have.  He has given you your body and soul, eyes, ears, and all your members, your mind and all your abilities.  What's more, the Lord still has great concern for you.  He daily provides for all your needs, though he has proven himself much more generous than limiting you to daily bread.  And though the world is filled with many dangers and disasters, both natural and man-made, the Lord has protected you from most of them.  He is daily invested in your well-being.  He is daily interested in your welfare.  All this he does because he is your good and merciful Father in heaven, and not because you have earned or deserved it.
     The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. (Numbers 6:25)  Though we are sinners and will remain sinners until we draw our final breath, the Lord still causes his face to shine upon us.  In other words, he is committed to being gracious to us.  The Lord revealed himself most clearly when he became flesh to deliver us from our sins and their consequential curses.  It is the Lord who has borne your sins and the curses for you.  His love is so great for you that he endured damnation which he did not deserve so that you could have the heavenly glory you do not deserve.  And though you still do not serve him as perfectly as you wish you could, the Lord does not withdraw his favor from you.  You may be disgusted with yourself—and for good reasons!—but you are not an embarrassment or a disappointment to him.  On the contrary, the blood of Jesus always purifies you of all sin.  The Lord delights in calling you his own.  He puts his name on you and says you are his.
     The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:26)  The best way to get to really know someone is when you see his or her face.  E-mails and text messages just do not cut it.  You need to see one's face and one's expression to know them and appreciate them.  The Holy Spirit is the one who turns God's face toward you.  In other words, the Holy Spirit reveals God to you.  Through the word which he gave by means of prophets and apostles, the Holy Spirit enlightens you to know who God is, what he thinks, what he wants, and what he does.  Apart from the Holy Spirit, it is all guess work.  But the Holy Spirit has us know for certain what our Lord has done for our benefit.  The Father so loved the world that he sent his Son to secure our forgiveness and salvation.  The Son sent the Holy Spirit to reveal this peace to us.  Therefore, Spirit points us to the Son who redeemed us, and he points us to the Father who so loves us.
     The Lord [gives] you peace. (Numbers 6:26)  This peace which he gives is not iffy. It is God's doing, based on Jesus' redeeming work.  It does not depend upon your work, your sincerity, or your feelings.  Therefore, these things are sure: Your sins are forgiven.  Death is conquered.  Heaven is open.  You are God's children.  He claims you as his own by putting his name on you.
     When the Lord gave this blessing, it was to be proclaimed by Aaron and his sons, the priests.  Through his ministers, the Lord administered his blessing.  It is what God gives his ministers to do.  The people were not blessed because they felt blessed.  God's love for them was not based on their own opinion of themselves.  Just as God has to reveal himself to us so that we know who he is, so also God is the one who gives or withholds his love, his peace, and his salvation.  When you hear people insist that God does not judge and that God only loves, you do well to ask, “Based on what?  How do I know that God loves anyone and everyone?  How do I know that God does not judge me for my selfish and petty thoughts and deeds?”  Lofty opinions do not help you here.  Especially if you are lying on your death bed, you need more than pious platitudes.  You need rock-solid assurance.
     Dear Christian, you have it!  The Lord has put his name on you.  You have been cleansed of your sins and baptized into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  God has cloaked you in the righteousness you need to enter heaven.  He has purified you of all unrighteousness.  These are God's promises.  His blessing is not “May the Lord bless you....”  God has not commissioned his ministers to dispense wishes, but to administer his blessings.  He declares, “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:27)  
     It is no accident that the service ends with this blessing.  Some sermons will be duds, and you may not get much out of them.  Some days, parents are distracted by their children.  Some days, people are lost in their own guilt or sorrows or concerns and you don't even hear the promises of God proclaimed in the sermon.  But the final word is always the Lord's.  He does not let you forget who you are.  He puts his name on you.  He sends you home with his blessing upon you.  You are his.  He is yours.  Both now and forever.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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