Friday, June 15, 2012

Sermon for 6/3/12--The Feast of the Holy Trinity

Looking for Good News
John 3:1-17

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

Not everything the world says about God is Good News. "God is great!" That's not Good News. It just means He is God and you are not. "God is Love." That's also no Good news. If God is love, does that He loves you? How do you know? "God is everywhere.” “God is almighty.” “God knows all things.” “He can do all things." Still no good news yet. Just because there is a God and He is all-powerful that doesn't mean He's going to do you any good! So then…what is the Good News? The Good News is exactly what Jesus teaches us: "For God loved the world—God loved the world like this—that He sent His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through Him." That is the Good News, dear Christians: God loves you so much that he sent His Son to rescue you from everlasting wrath and condemnation.

The world is full of people trying to get a handle on God. The religions of this world work very hard trying to figure God out and then figure out how to get on His good side. Some say God is like a heavenly Santa who is supposed to give you whatever you want. Others think of God as an impersonal Force that has to be learned and manipulated. It doesn't really matter who or what people suppose God is. The end result is the same: the religion of this world asks the question: What do I have to do to manipulate God so he or she or it will be nice to me and let me live forever? This is what Nicodemus came to Jesus at night to ask. He thought that Jesus must have some secret knowledge, some special teaching, some hidden insight, some kind of "in" with God. That’s what Nicodemus is looking for. Nicodemus, like the rest of the world, wanted to know what sort of piety he was supposed to practice in order to be acceptable to God. If that is what brought you to worship this morning—to figure out some trick to getting on God's good side—you're going to be disappointed. You’re wasting your time if you think your pastor has some clever insight into God's mind so you can make Him happy with you. Brothers and sisters in Christ, if your religion is an attempt to find some secret to obtaining the love of God, repent! Repent and hear Jesus' words that rescue Nicodemus and us from such thinking and believing that will damn us.

"Unless a man is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot go into the kingdom of God." With these words, Jesus has shut the door to all of your calculations. With these words, the Lord rescues you from worthless, man-made faith. With these words, Jesus saves Nicodemus and you by teaching you that it is God who saves you by giving you a NEW BIRTH, a birth from above which is through water and the Spirit. That's Holy Baptism! Holy Baptism is your salvation from the judgment of God which no man can escape. Consider Isaiah: He saw the Lord on His throne and in all His glory! It terrified him. The glory of God is not good news. But the Lord sends a coal from the altar to touch Isaiah's lips. Now Isaiah is clean, forgiven. Only the Lord can do that. In the same way, Jesus tells Nicodemus and us: your self-made religion ends with me. You are born of water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism—water applied to you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. By water and the Word, the Spirit gives you Jesus, and you become a child of the heavenly Father. There, in the waters of salvation, the Triune God into Whose name you are baptized saves you from sin and death.

There is no big secret that man can figure out to obtain God. God comes to you and gives His life for your sins. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save it through Him. Jesus Christ is the only way in which you can talk about God's love. Apart from Christ, the world cannot know the Father. It cannot have the Spirit. It cannot be saved. It stands condemned. But in Christ, to Whom you have been joined through your Baptism, your sins cannot condemn you. The Spirit has given you Christ by water and the Word of God. Christ has made you a child of the heavenly Father. In Christ, no sin, no iniquity, no trespass can condemn you. He was lifted up on the cross to pay for your sins. He shed His blood so that you will not have to shed yours for your sins. He lays down His life for you and takes it up again so that you can now be born of water and the Spirit at the font. And you were, the day you were baptized!

That's what the Feast of the Holy Trinity is really all about. It's not about figuring out God. If you want to know what is right and wrong to say about God, then just pay attention to the Creeds that we confess or the Te Deum which we will pray shortly. That will keep you from saying something about God that isn't true. But recognize this: the faith you confess isn't just words; it expresses the very love of God which is yours in Christ Jesus. Baptized into that Triune Name, you have been given the very salvation and forgiveness accomplished by Jesus. And that is the Good News about God. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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