I BELIEVE IN THE TRIUNE GOD
A woman once told me how she became a member of the LutheranChurch. She grew up in a Christian home. She went off to college and fell away from the faith. She pursued a career. She married in her early thirties. Her husband was much like her. He graduated from college and was employed by a company that constructed nuclear reactors. There was a lot of brainpower and drive in that household. They had a baby in her mid-thirties. With the birth of her daughter Mom wanted her daughter to know the Lord. They were living in the middle of Mormon country. She went church hunting – anything but Mormon. She went to a LutheranChurch.
Her experience was not good. No one talked to her. No one acknowledged her. She said she went home and thought about her experience. She could not understand why anyone would want to go there. People sometimes refer to the frozen chosen; that church was a good example of what that phrase means.
She said she needed to find out why people would even go there. She went again the next Sunday. She was again ignored but came to the conclusion that they go because of what they were taught. She saw how they took the Bible seriously. She decided to take membership classes and became members. Eventually they moved to Orlando where I became the family’s pastor.
It is rather miraculous that they gave the church a second and third chance. Thank the good Lord that his truth is stronger than our obstacles. God led her and her family back into the fold. Today is Trinity Sunday. We take a good long look at our God and the great blessing it is to be part of this family. We confess “We Believe in the Triune God” and we see 1) how he molds our attitudes; 2) how he supplies what we most desperately need.
Paul wrote thirteen letters that God wanted in the Bible. They were written to people and to churches to admonish and encourage. Corinth was written two letters. The church there was a mess. Paul had founded the church and lived there eighteen months. Satan did a lot of damage after he left. I Corinthians is a letter of one problem after another. There were cliques, marital messes, lawsuits against one another, open sin that no one was correcting, false teachers, false teaching. Paul wrote the church three letters to them, but God saw fit to include the latter two in the Bible. I Corinthians laid it on the line. For some it did not sit too well; some gave some push back.
As strained as their relationship was with Paul, Paul knew they still had God’s Word. Where God’s Word is the Holy Spirit is at work. Where he works there are Christian people. It is not surprising that these are the concluding verses, “Finally, brothers, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”
Weak as they were Paul still called these people his brothers and sisters. I saw a phrase this week that is so true, “As God’s children we have peace of conscience; yet a war rages inside of us.” We see cartoons where a good angel sits on one shoulder and a bad angel sits on the other and whisper in the ear. That’s does illustrate what happens inside. As God’s children we are a result of a remodeling job. Through his Spirit God created the new self that wants to follow the Lord. Yet on this side of the grave the evil is there too. The Bible calls it the old self. The conflict rages on between them. The apostle Paul explains this spiritual reality like this, “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”
As goofy as this sounds, the war is good. Let me explain. Iraq is falling. Our military was there for eight years to give it freedom, but a militant group called Isis is storming through the country and the soldiers we trained are simply throwing in the towel. The good guys, at least that is what we thought, don’t think that freedom is worth fighting for. A half a million people are fleeing. There is no fight! There is little difference between them and anyone who isn’t fighting sin. If there is no fight to keep the freedom and fight for our souls won by Christ, then the blood doesn’t mean anything.
Brothers and sisters in Christ as we are, we fight our souls’ enemies. There is a reason for the hymn “Onward Christian soldiers.” If people aren’t fighting the sinful nature one of two things has occurred – either we have died and gone to heaven or we have given up and Satan has won.
Jim Valvano, the likeable and dynamic college basketball coach fought a losing battle with cancer and just weeks he before he died he said simple and famous words that would do well to be our mottoes, “Never give up! Never give up!” brothers and sisters in Christ.
There is a better way. Paul says, “Rejoice!” It is interesting that some translations have “Greetings” instead. The Greek word “Chairete” seems to be like the Hebrew “shalom.” Shalom means “peace,” but you can say “hello” with it and “good bye” with it. “Chairete” can do that too. I prefer “rejoice.” Remember who you are. The war has been won. Christ has taken out our enemies. There are good days and there are bad days. Today is good. We are in church. We hear the word of God. A baby has been baptized. But things can change in a second. Yet God remains in heaven. He has a master plan for his people to give us hope and a future.
“Strive for full restoration.” That is a strange statement. Restoration refers to our relationship with God. But how can we strive for that when he is the one who restores us? So I have a problem with my tooth. So I get a mirror and a hand drill and put a bit in it and grind away. Am I going to fix the cavity? Of course not! I hand it over to Dr. Mazzukelli. To strive for full restoration means the same thing. Hand it all over to the Lord. How can we even consider we can help out when Jesus did it all?
“Encourage one another.” It is a whole lot easier to be a Christian when you are with Christians. Elijah, a man of God, wanted to die and go to heaven because he thought he was the only one left. He needed to know that there were still 7000 in Israel who had not bowed to Baal. in the Lord. Judy works as a librarian on a very liberal university where Christian belief and values are not appreciated. She wears her faith well. It was nice for her to hear a professor say, “There are more of us than you might think.” The example I gave you in my introduction should never have been treated so coldly. Be proactive.
”Be of one mind, live in peace.” Someone once told me that their family had quit going to church years prior because when she got home her stomach was tied up in knots. She didn’t want to live that way anymore. The reason? A split in the church! The preacher wasn’t always preaching from the Bible. Splits can also happen when preachers do preach from the Bible too. A lot of things can cause ill-feeling in church - gossip, false teaching, toleration of sin, ungodly living, not caring about the spiritually weak. There are sinful human traits like selfishness, egos, not sharing burdens, self-righteousness and a ton of others. And the devil loves it! He loves the festering and the fussing. He loves God’s church to be a powder keg ready to explode.
Paul says,”Be of one mind, live in peace.” Paul makes it very clear the church is not to be a place of unrest but of solace and peace. Peace is attained by letting the Word of God guide our thoughts words and actions. Let God guide and direct and unity will result.
Paul urged the people to greet one another with a holy kiss. That’s what they did - even men to men and women to women. In 1200 AD this custom of greeting one another was set aside because the pagans began to talk. However, in England in 1250 AD the Archbishop of York introduced a “pax-board” or peace board. The archbishop kissed the board and passed it from one person to another to retain what Paul said. I am not sure the Surgeon General would approve. Now we shake one another’s hand or we hug. Whether we shake hands or hug or even kiss, the church is a place where everyone ought to find acceptance. Our bond with Jesus Christ our Savior causes us to bond with one another.
Paul ends all of us his letters with a benediction. He reminds us how the only God there is, the Triune God assures us of his blessing. “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
There is something to be learned here from the original Greek. I believe that this translation is not as strong as it really was written. Often in Greek the linking verb like “am” or “is” is left out of a sentence and the reader is to supply it. For example, “the chair is green” can read in Greek, “the chair green.” The reader supplies “is.”
In the original Greek this benediction reads, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship with you.” You supply the linking verb. When the translators translated “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship be with you,” the translators treated it as a wish or a desire for everyone. I suggest that it ought to be stronger, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is with you.” This is not a wish, it is a fact. God’s grace, the Father’s love and the fellowship of the Spirit is with you. No doubt about it!
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is with you. Earlier in this letter Paul wrote, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” We just commemorated the 70th anniversary of D- Day. Did you listen to the stories on the many different news events that were produced? As our soldiers invaded the beaches of Normandy and OmahaBeach and others into Europe, our soldiers ran straight into a barrage of enemy artillery and gunfire. Our nation must never ever forget. As a matter of Christ’s love Jesus gave up his life so we could go to heaven. That’s a fact. You have been saved. It goes with you always.
The love of God is yours. The Bible says, “God is love.” You want to know about love, then look at God. The Bible says about God, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” The prophet says, “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” There is a golden oldie song entitled, “I Can’ Stop Loving You.” That truly can be said about God and his feeling toward us. He made a covenant not to stop loving us. It is sealed on the blood of Jesus.
The fellowship of the Holy Spirit is with you too. What fellowship is he talking about? He connects us to God. He blesses us with faith. Do you remember when Jesus asked the question of the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples said that people were saying all kinds of things about that. Jesus then asked but what about you? Who do you say that I am? Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus then replied, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man but by my Father in heaven.” Peter was able to say that because the Father had sent his Spirit who had revealed that to him. Peter and we are brought into fellowship with him by His Spirit. Little Blake received that gift today through Holy Baptism. We receive his Spirit through his Word and sacrament.
Stay close to God by remembering God promise to stay close to you.