Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sermon -- The Holy Trinity (June 11, 2017)

2 CORINTHIANS 13:11-14


In the name + of Jesus.

     St. Paul's final encouragement to the Corinthians contains five imperatives: “Rejoice.  Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace...” (2 Corinthians 13:11)  These imperatives urge a unity that he wanted the Corinthians congregation to strive for and express with each other.  The Corinthian congregation was diverse.  Some were rich; others were poor.  Some were freemen; others were slaves.  Some retained their Jewish heritage and customs; others flaunted their Christian freedoms.  But diversity was not a cause for celebration; it produces a fractured congregation.  On top of these divisions, they were all struggling with how to live as Christians in a city which expected people to honor many unscriptural ideals.
     The bond that these Christians shared was strained because of the sins they committed against each other.  They held their own opinions in higher regard than they did their fellow Christians.  Of course, such strains are not limited to congregations.  Spouses know these strains, as do parents and children, co-workers, neighbors, and anyone you shares the road with.  Sin has wreaked havoc on the relationships we have.  All it takes is one word and a good relationship can be ripped apart.  Sometimes it is a bold opinion which insults someone.  Sometimes we get angry because we feel we did not receive high enough honor or praise from someone else.  Parents are particularly touchy about this.  If I offer a compliment to one parent, “Your daughter is a very gifted student,” other parents feel that their children have been slighted, as if a compliment for one person must be a criticism of another.  Relationships become strained because of words which are meant to insult and because of words perceived to be insults.  It all happens because we are more in love with ourselves than with anyone else.  Repent.
     As St. Paul encouraged these Christians in Corinth to love each other, he referred to a perfect relationship which has always lived in harmony, love, and devotion to each other.  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)  Our Triune God reveals himself as one God in whom there is a relationship of three distinct persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  They are not in competition with each other for glory.  Rather, they seek to glorify each other and are, in fact, co-equal in majesty.  There is perfect unity in this Trinity.
     Our Triune God created the heavens and the earth and all that dwells in them.  He put the man and the woman in this world to bless them.  He sought a relationship with them, perfect in unity.  God would love people and give them all they needed.  The people were to respond with loving obedience to God.  But sin destroyed that relationship.  Mankind does not trust God or love his word.  Much of mankind does not even like each other.  Sin has destroyed unity, love, and the bond of peace.
     What sin has destroyed, God has acted to restore.  There is perfect unity in this Trinity to save mankind and reconcile God and man together.  This is seen first by the love of God the Father.  His love does not mean that he ignores sins or relaxes his standard of good and evil.  If we are guilty of breaking his commandments, he knows it and calls us to account.  This is precisely what you do when your children break the rules of the house.  You do not dismiss their behavior.  You respond to it.
     God has responded to our sins not with wrath, but with mercy.  He sent a Savior.  God so loved the world, that is, God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son for you.  There is perfect unity in this Trinity, as the Son willingly came to do what the Father desired.  The love of God is made known by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace means that you get what you do not deserve.  Therefore, you get credit for work that you did not do.  Jesus lived in perfect obedience to the Father.  His holy life was in perfect harmony with the will of the Father.  There is perfect unity in this Trinity.  But it is you who have received the credit for it.  When you were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, this grace was poured out upon you.  You were covered in Jesus' righteousness.  Therefore, God the Father sees you as holy and blameless.  And therefore, you shall receive a place at the heavenly banquet since you are now children of the heavenly Father.  You did not deserve this, but you get it because of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ which reveals the love of God the Father.  Each desires your salvation because there is perfect unity in this Trinity.
     The God who created heaven and earth does not stand at a distance and leave it alone.  The Lord cares about what he has created and the people to whom he gives life.  He is very interested in you and in your eternal well-being.  He does not even remain close to you.  He dwells in you.  Through your baptism, you received the gift of the Holy Spirit.  You have fellowship with the Holy Spirit, which means that he delivers to you all that Jesus won for you and the Father desires you to have.  He creates in you a clean heart and renews in you a right spirit.  He marks you as God's own—both now and forevermore.  He continues to comfort, counsel, and correct through the word.  He strengthens and keeps you in the one true faith through the sacraments.  This is what your God wants for you, and this is what the Holy Spirit supplies; for there is perfect unity in this Trinity.
     The Triune God has a perfect, harmonious relationship within himself.  The Father so loves the world that he sent his Son.  The Son so loves you that he sends his Holy Spirit to you.  The Holy Spirit dwells in you to show you a gracious Savior in the Son.  And the Son, in turn, shows you that your Father in heaven is most merciful.
     It is no accident that God reveals himself to you in this perfect relationship.  God created people to be blessed by the relationships he establishes.  He wants you to love your neighbor, and then he gives you various neighbors to love.  This is good for your neighbor and for you.  And just as the Lord reconciled you to him through love, grace, and forgiveness, so the Lord also unites you to each other through love, grace, and forgiveness.  That is why St. Paul urged the Corinthians:  “Finally, brothers, rejoice.  Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11)  
     Two of those imperatives, “Aim for restoration” and “comfort one another” (2 Corinthians 13:11), are actually passive.  They sound like things St. Paul is commanding us to do.  But since they are passive, they are works that are to be done to us and for us.  It is like when someone tells you, “Be happy.”  In order to be happy, someone needs to do something to make you happy.  So, our Triune God, who reconciled us to himself, also binds and unites us to each other.  It is God who establishes unity among us by working agreement in us with his word and will.  Likewise, “Comfort one another,” is more accurately, “Keep on being comforted.”  It is the love, grace, and fellowship with our Triune God which brings us comfort even in a broken world with broken relationships.  When we comfort each other, the only true and lasting comfort we can provide are the promises of our Triune God.  That is where we find our encouragement and consolation.  It is his grace that moves us to be gracious.  He teaches us to “agree with one another” as we learn to think the same thing as God teaches in his word.  There is perfect unity in this Trinity, and he establishes this unity among us whom he has saved.
     The joy and the peace that St. Paul urges us to continue only come through our Triune God.  In this Trinity, there is perfect unity.  In this Trinity, there is a harmonious relationship as each seeks the glory and good of the other.  What is more amazing is that this Triune God seeks glory and good for you.  He has done all things for your consolation, peace, and salvation.  This Trinity, then, unites us to do the same for each other so that God's name is honored, so that God's people are served, and so that more can be saved.

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

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