Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sermon -- Trinity Sunday (May 22, 2016)

NUMBERS 6:22-27

THE TRIUNE GOD HAS 
PUT HIS NAME UPON YOU.

In the name + of Jesus.

     Dearly beloved of God, and especially the youth who are being confirmed here today.

     The Triune God has put his name upon you.  You were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Through that baptism, the Lord washed away all your sin and guilt.  The Lord Jesus has clothed you with his righteousness, a garment on salvation wrapped around you.  The Lord drove out the unclean spirit in you so that now the Holy Spirit dwells in you.  You are God's temple, in whom God dwells, and on whom God has put his name.
     This has been your status even from infancy.  As you grew up and learned more about God's word, you learned more about the blessing of having the Triune God's name upon you.  Granted, you did not grasp this in your infancy.  Nevertheless, you had the benefit of God's blessings, God's promise, and God's salvation.  That is because God had adopted you into his family, and you received the benefits of that family.  As infants, you did not really understand the blessings you were given when you were born into your earthly family.  You did not really know or appreciate the benefits of having your family and bearing your family's name—that you had parents who would feed you, clothe you, bathe you, protect you, and console you.  You did not get it, but you benefited all the same.  In the same way, you have benefited, even from infancy, when the Triune God put his name on you and made you his own dear child.
     Now that you have studied God's promises and commandments, you know what it means that you are children of the Most High God.  You understand that having the name of the Triune God put upon you is not merely a status.  Faith is not mere knowledge.  The devil has knowledge, too.  In fact, the devil knows the Bible better than you and I do.  Faith is not knowledge of the facts that any Jeopardy champion can rattle off.  Faith is a devout trust in God's promises.  Faith believes that God is good and faithful, even when life is hard and unfair.  Faith is not mere theory.  Faith is living and active.  Faith is put to work, forming our attitudes and guiding our actions.  So, we not only confess that we are children of the Triune God, we also live as his children.
     Over the years, your parents have told you what they expect of you.  They have taught you how to behave.  They taught you to say “Please” and “Thank you.”  They made you apologize when you were wrong.  Your parents set a standard of behavior which you are expected to follow even when you are not with them.  That's because you bear the family name, and your parents don't want you to disgrace that name with rude or wicked behavior.  This is also how it is with the Lord.
     The Triune God has put his name upon you.  You have been adopted into God's family and you bear the family name.  The Ten Commandments declare what God's will is for all people.  If you bear God's name, you rightly take to heart what those Commandments say.  By them, God tells you how his children should think, speak, and act.  But they also show us that we do not do what we should do.  They highlight that we have sullied the family name. Our attitudes are jealous and petty.  Our words are deceptive, unkind, and vulgar.  Our actions are not for the love of our neighbor, but for the good and the glory of ourselves.  Perhaps you have even had people confront you about your sins, getting in your face and saying indignantly, “That's how you act?!  I thought you were a Christian!”  The Bible admonishes us: “You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.  For, as it is written, 'The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'” (Romans 2:23-24)  Repent.  The Commandments remind us that we are still sinners, and we are right to confess that to be so.
     It is not only amazing that our Triune God has put his name upon us; it is also amazing that he does not revoke his name from us.  Nor are we the weird relative that he will only acknowledge begrudgingly.  Instead, God's face continually shines upon us.  That is part of the blessing that is proclaimed at the end of every service: The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. (Numbers 6:25)  This is what Jesus Christ has done for us.  He reveals to us that our Triune God is most merciful to sinners.  Jesus took our sins and bore our shame and guilt and was put to death under God's curse for us.  Jesus hung from the cross in total darkness as the heavenly Father poured out all his wrath on Jesus for us.  In turn, the Lord's face shines upon us.  We have pardon for all our sins.  And since the blood of Jesus always covers us, the Lord is always gracious to us.  We are always God's beloved children.  The Triune God has put his name upon you so that you will always know that you are his.
     Today, dear class, you are about to vow that you will always be faithful to the Lord Jesus.  You will vow to conform your life to God's will, as the Lord gives you strength.  You will need his strength, because the devil will be fighting hard for the rest of your lives to lure you away from God.  And the devil plays dirty.  He lies.  He distorts God's word.  He wants to deceive you so that you believe that his ways are better.  He tells you that God only judges, the devil is accepting; that God only condemns, the devil loves; that God is a bigot, that the devil tolerates.  The devil mocks God's will for purity; the devil celebrates promiscuity and perversion.  God calls you to repent; the devil tells you to apologize for nothing.  And the devil's ways may very well be more popular.
     The devil will also employ your friends for his purposes.  They will mock you for following God's word.  They will beg you to forsake God's commandments and assure you that bearing God's name is unimportant or just plan stupid.  As I said, the devil plays dirty.  And to top it off, you will have your own sinful nature to contend with which will convince you that you have better things to do than to go to church, to be fed by Jesus, and to believe the Bible.  I don't mean to paint a dismal picture, but an honest one.  We do not call it “the Church Militant” for nothing.
     Your hope, however, has not changed, and it has never disappointed anyone who has kept it.  Your hope is the Triune God.  He is the one who blesses and keeps you.  He has not only made you, but he sustains you.  He not only provides for your bodily welfare, he has secured your eternal life.  You do well to vow to be faithful to him, but you will also find that you sin against him.  You will not need acquaintances to get in your face and tell you, “That's how you act?!  I thought you were a Christian!”  You will say that about yourself.  But you will find that your Triune God remains utterly faithful to you.  He will cleanse.  He will be gracious.  He will grant you peace.  And he will not revoke his name or his blessings from you.
     It is also worth noting how the Lord bestows his blessings upon you so that you always remain in his good graces.  The Lord commanded Moses to give these words to Aaron and his sons to proclaim to his people.  He concluded by saying, “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” (Number 6:27)  You will not remain a Christian merely by sitting at home and thinking about Jesus from time to time.  God's gifts are given by his ministers where God's people meet in God's name.  Here, the word which saves you is proclaimed.  Here, the Lord's Supper which feeds you is administered.  Here, the forgiveness which comforts you is dispensed.  Here, God's name which marks you continues to be proclaimed upon you.  Here, God's faithfulness is made known to you, and it is that faithfulness which will keep you faithful to him.
     Your confirmation vow will not save you.  It will not even comfort you.  You are saved and comforted and sustained and forgiven and blessed only by your merciful Father who sent his Son to redeem you who sends his Holy Spirit to create and strengthen faith in you.  Through word and sacrament, the Holy Spirit works to reveal to you the Son who proclaims to you your loving Father.  This is why you will always need the word and sacraments which are always in Christ's church.  The Lord desires this for you so that you will be his forever.  He is eager to bless and save you.  After all, that is why the Triune God has put his name upon you.

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

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