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The Only Way
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
If you remember studying fractions in school, you may recall the concept of the lowest common denominator. Say you have one quarter of a pie and one half of another, and you want to know if you have a whole pie. You have to add the two together. But first you have to make the numbers into a form that can be added. One half of a pie is two quarters. So you add the two quarters of the one pie to the one quarter of the other pie, and you see that you have three quarters of a pie.
Many who call themselves Christians--including many who call themselves Lutherans--treat the doctrine of the Church the same way. After all, we all want to get along, right? Jesus knew there would be divisions in the Church, but His intent was that all believers would be as one, even as He and the Father are one, as He prayed later in John's Gospel. But many within the Church try to create artificial unity. Christians of different denominations disagree about things. To create unity, these denominations figure out where they disagree, and then they disregard those things as unimportant. I believe that Jesus is truly present in the Lord's Supper, but you think He meant He would be present spiritually. Can we agree that our salvation does not depend on how He's present? Yes? Then let's get rid of that. See? We're more unified than we were two minutes ago! This also works when dealing with people of other faiths. You eliminate all the differences until you reach unity...also known as the lowest common denominator.
Unity in the Church is a good thing, but not at the price of doctrine. When speaking with our brothers and sisters in Christ, it is often easiest and safest to repeat that popular lie, “We all pray to the same God.” Much less popular and much more offensive are the Words of Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” These words divide the Church. Like it or not, those are the Words of Jesus. Like it or not, those Words speak about Baptism.
The unbelieving world wants nothing to do with God’s miracle of Baptism because the unbelieving world wants nothing to do with Christ. Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” Meanwhile, the unbelieving world looks for a compromise. We must defy the world and proclaim the salvation that comes through Christ alone. As you are about to confess in the exclusive terms of the Athanasian Creed, "It is the right faith that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at the same time both God and man… who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead."
Today is Trinity Sunday. Today we must hold the faith of the Scriptures, even in defiance of our own reason and senses and experiences. We would choke on the Words of Jesus in today’s Gospel, especially where He says, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” We all know of children who have died before birth, and therefore, before Baptism. We may even know children who were born but did not receive the Sacrament of Holy Baptism before they died. We have no choice but to commend such children to the Lord of Hosts, who abounds in mercy and compassion and steadfast love. Christ Jesus died and rose for the sins of the whole world—your sins, my sins, and even the sins of those whom we lose in utero. The blood of Jesus could not be delivered personally to them through Baptism, it is true, but the Triune God is greater even than Baptism. We must leave such exceptional cases to God. The Christian faith stands in defiance even against the reason and the senses of the Christians.
God has His own work to do, and we are not qualified to do His work or to judge how He does it. Instead, the Triune God gives us work to do. God tells us to cling to the Faith as He has given it to us. Our job is to confess, “Thus says the Lord,” and to do so without hedging, without wavering, without apologizing. The Scriptures teach that God wants all people to be saved. Today’s Gospel declares that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, whose forgiveness is now for you and for me and for all people.
Ours is not a God who can be molded or shaped. We cannot cut and paste Him to fit our desires. On this day, as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity, let us cling to the faith which was given to us by the Holy Spirit in our baptism. Let us confess God as He has revealed Himself to us in His name, the name into which we have been baptized and united with Him: 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.