Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Third Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 3)


Luke 15:1-10; 1 Peter 5:6-11; Micah 7:18-20


In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

“Not all those who wander are lost.” Or, so goes the oft-quoted poem from J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” which today is frequently pasted to the bumpers of motorhomes and a multitude of recreational vehicles traveling our nation’s highways and byways. Unfortunately, while this may be true of Tolkien’s mythological Ranger/Messiah/King figure Aragorn, it is unequivocally untrue of every human being who has ever lived, save one – the one that Tolkien’s Ranger Aragorn served as metaphor of, the only Son of God made flesh, Jesus Christ.

Truly Jesus is the only man who has ever wandered far from His home so that He had no place on earth to lay His head, and yet, Jesus was everything but lost. Indeed, Jesus came to seek and to find, to save and to restore, and to bring home those who were lost – you and I. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who seeks, finds, and saves His lost sheep. Jesus is the woman who diligently searched her house until she found her lost coin. Still, the key thing to recognize and to confess today is that you were lost, but now you have been found. Jesus has found you. His Holy Spirit has called you by His Gospel, enlightened, sanctified, and kept you in faith. Before Jesus, without Jesus, you were a straying, wandering, and lost sheep – and often still you stray and wander. Before Jesus, without Jesus, you were as completely helpless as an inanimate coin dropped between the floorboards, lost to all – and often still you become spiritually listless and lifeless. But, you are precious to Jesus and His Father, and He has forsaken everything to find you, to purchase you, and to restore you. Jesus wandered far from heaven, far from His Father’s home, to seek and to find His Father’s lost children, His own lost sheep. He found you, and He did what was necessary to save you and to restore you. He gave all that He had, even His very life because He loves you, and He loves His Father who loves you, and you are precious to Him, you are precious to the Holy Triune God. You are His sheep and His children, and He will never let you go.

But, there are many layers to the onion of Jesus’ parables of the lost. And, I will but scratch the surface of them with you today. Jesus told these parables to the Pharisees and the scribes who grumbled that tax collectors and sinners were coming to Jesus and were eagerly listening to and receiving His teaching. However, what really offended them was the fact that Jesus welcomed these people and joyfully ate and drank with them. Jesus treated them as equals, as brothers and sisters, as fellow children of Abraham and children of His heavenly Father. Those lost and broken people were precisely the people Jesus came to seek, to find, to save, and to restore. Ironically, that was the work the Pharisees and the scribes were supposed to be doing! The Pharisees and the scribes were supposed to be the shepherds, pastors, and teachers of Israel proclaiming the Gospel, the Good News, that God was seeking, saving, and restoring His people just as He had promised after man’s fall in the Garden. But, somewhere along the way, the shepherds of Israel became hardened in their hearts and self-righteous. What they failed to see, to remember, and to confess was that they themselves were also lost and needed to be found, saved, and restored. They believed that they kept God’s Law pretty well – and, truth be told, they did, except that they bent and lowered the bar of the Law repeatedly in order to make it more do-able in their eyes and in the eyes of men. And, so, the reality is that they did not keep the Law of God – for, no one keeps the Law of God – but they deceived themselves into believing that they did keep it. They were lost, but they could not see that they were lost; therefore, they could not be found. They were sinners, but they did not believe or confess that they were sinners; therefore, they could not be forgiven. And, because of their self-righteousness – which is no righteousness at all – they judged others guilty of sin and of failing to keep God’s Law, and they condemned the very children of Israel that they were called and sent to seek, to save, and to restore.

Jesus compared them to shepherds, which offended them, for they did not see themselves as shepherds and they considered shepherds to be lowly and beneath them and unclean. Moreover, Jesus accused them of losing a sheep. You see, He didn’t say that the sheep wandered off and got themselves lost, but that the shepherd lost a sheep. The lost sheep Jesus was referring to were the sinners and tax collectors that were lost and needed to be found, whom the shepherd-Pharisees refused to acknowledge, let alone look for or take any risk to find, save, and restore. And yet, Jesus’ parabolic shepherd leaves the ninety-nine sheep in his flock in order to find the one that he had lost. Now, I don’t think that most anyone would consider this a wise move – to abandon ninety-nine sheep in order to find one; it just doesn’t make good economical sense. And, yes, there are many biblical commentators who suggest that there were other shepherds to watch the ninety-nine. Well, maybe, but Jesus does not say that. Therefore, I think that we can take from this a deeper theological meaning – the ninety-nine sheep are just as lost as the one. Yet, the shepherd in Jesus’ parable picks and chooses which sheep to care for and which to simply ignore and abandon. The Pharisees and the scribes did just that in practice, because they considered themselves among the ninety-nine sheep that were safe and secure in their own self-righteousness. They could care less about those they judged and condemned as sinners and unclean. They were not the Lord’s sheep in their eyes, let alone the children of Israel, of Abraham, and of God.

And, then, Jesus hits them a second time by comparing the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees to a woman, to a woman who has also, once again, lost something – she has lost one of her coins. Again, the parable seems a bit exaggerated from the judgment of human reason: She has ten coins. Why the panic and fuss over one lost coin? Again, commentators speculate on the great value of the lost coin, or that the coin represented her husband’s pay for one week of work and that she was given the great responsibility of managing his money. Well, maybe, but, again, Jesus does not include any such details. The important point here is that the lost coin was important and precious to the woman so that she stopped everything and searched the whole house until she found it and it was restored to her treasury. The Pharisees and the scribes had no such zeal for the lost sheep of the Lord’s flock and the lost children of Israel. Consequently, Jesus ends both parables with the summary explanation of what they mean saying, “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

“Not all those who wander are lost?” The point of Jesus’ parables of the lost is that we are all lost and need to be found. Indeed, there is rejoicing in heaven over each and every sinner who repents. To be found is to repent. To repent is to recognize and to confess that you are lost, that you are a sinner in need of forgiveness. Notice, there’s no talk about good works, great faith, sincerity of repentance, etc. Jesus simply states that there is rejoicing in heaven over sinners who repent. To repent is to be found. Only the lost can be found. Only sinners can repent. And, repentance is not a work that you do, but it is something that is worked in you by the Holy Spirit through the Word of the Lord. Think of it as the Good Shepherd’s call to His lost sheep. The sheep remain lost until the Shepherd calls. Then, they hear – and, hearing is a passive activity – and they respond; but responding is dependent upon the call: no call, no response – period.

Thanks be to God that He has sent His Son, the Good Shepherd, to call His lost sheep, to call you and me, to repentance. Thanks be to God that He has poured out His Holy Spirit upon us, creating faith and trust in our hearts and turning us from our wayward path of sin and destruction back to Jesus who is the Way and the Truth and the Life. His Gospel call has gone, and goes, out to all through His undershepherds, His pastors and priests and ministers, and through you, the Priesthood of all Believers. Jesus continues to eat and to drink with sinners, and the angels of heaven continue to rejoice over each and every sinner who repents.

“Not all those who wander are lost?” You were lost, but you have been found. Now you get to participate in the searching and the seeking and in the calling and the restoring. Do not despise those wayward sheep who are sinfully pursuing their sinful paths – they are lost. But, go and find them. Call to them with your Master’s voice, His Holy Word which is the vehicle and means of the Holy Spirit. Call them to repentance by showing them mercy and compassion while sharing with them the hope that is in you. And, return here, to the flock, where your Good Shepherd is present with His Words and with His Wounds to forgive you anew, to heal and to restore you, to nourish you and to protect you, and to build you up for service in His kingdom to the glory of His Holy Name. Let us rejoice with the angels of heaven over each and every sinner who repents. To the glory of God the Father, through His Blessed Son Jesus Christ, in His most Holy Spirit.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Second Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 2)


Luke 14:15-24; 1 John 3:13-18; Proverbs 9:1-10


In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The social dynamics of the dinner party invitation are a fascinating case study in human behavior. As it goes, we inherently feel more comfortable being the inviter than the invitee. But, why is this? Is it not because the inviter is in control and independent, whereas the invitee is obligated to respond to the inviter and, supposing he accepts the invitation, dependent upon the inviter to some degree? We have a deep-seated aversion to this arrangement, for we do not like to be beholden to others or dependent upon them. Therefore, if we accept the invitation, what do we do but shuffle and scramble to ask, “What can I bring?” We feel obligated to bring something, and that makes us uncomfortable. We feel dependent, thus we are desperate to satisfy our debt and make ourselves independent once again. Truly, we’d rather not go at all, but, it is rude to decline without a good reason, and we are loath to reveal our true feelings and motivations. So, what do we do? Simple, we make excuses.

What are excuses, but attempts to justify ourselves, to alleviate our guilt, and to deny or push off our obligation and debt upon another. Such was the tactic of our First Parents in the Garden when the LORD came a calling after them. Adam blamed his wife, whom the LORD had given him. Eve blamed the serpent and the LORD who had made it. And, that was but three chapters into the Holy Scriptures that started our perfect, righteous, and holy! Truly, the desire to be independent and in control of our lives and our situation is deeply ingrained in us. Truly, this desire is the fruit of the Original Sin that is deeply ingrained in us – Original Sin that is truly sin, and truly our sin, sin that truly hates God and hates our dependence upon Him, because what we truly desire is to be gods ourselves, to be independent and in control, beholden and accountable to no one at anytime.

Yes, this is why we make excuses. This is why, though we would never admit it, the worst thing in our estimation is grace. The very idea that we cannot contribute anything at all to our justification, to satisfy our debt to the LORD, or to gain independence, rattles and infuriates us at the very core of our being. And, so, we run and we hide, we make excuses to cover ourselves, to justify ourselves, but the LORD sees through it all. And, so, we have two choices: Keep running from the LORD in fear and hate. Or, let the LORD’s righteousness have its way with us and kill us, that He might raise us up to new and eternal life in Him.

“Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” This is most certainly true! Eating bread in the kingdom of God is blessedness, what it means to be blessed. Apart from this, nothing is blessed. Who could possibly not desire such blessedness? Who, indeed? Those who are not interested in being blessed by someone or something external to themselves. You see, Jesus told the Parable of the Great Banquet to the host and guests at a dinner party at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees. Jesus observed that the guests the inviter invited were other scribes, lawyers, and Pharisees, men of great wealth and repute. Jesus also observed how they each vied for seats of honor in relation to their inviter and host. He taught them saying, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the Just.”

Blessing goes both ways, but not in the ways our flesh desires. Those who confess that they have need and that they are dependent are blessed by those who have. Likewise, those who have are blessed in blessing those who have not. Further, as Jesus teaches in the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, there is blessing in poverty, hunger, thirst, reviling, and persecution, for those who suffer such are in the best position to receive blessing and grace. However, the flesh desires, truly, not to be blessed at all! To be blessed implies that one has need and is dependent, and that is something that the flesh denies, detests, and abhors. Therefore, those who believe that they are independent and self-sufficient invite those who are most likely to benefit them in some way – with their reputation, with their wealth, or with the likelihood of a reciprocal invitation. But, this is not an invitation of grace, but of selfishness and manipulation. The invitees are not guests to be blessed, but they are resources to be used to build up one’s own appearance of independence, reputation, and wealth. Thus, Jesus teaches that true blessing is in giving to those who cannot pay back, for that blessing comes, not from man or mammon, but from the LORD who gives all things to those who can in no way pay Him back.

Those who were first invited each made excuses and refused to come to the banquet. They dishonored the inviter and refused to be in his debt. They considered themselves independent and free. They were concerned only with meeting their own needs and tending to their own affairs. They thought themselves the originators of their own success and prosperity. They had no need for blessing, but that they were a blessing unto themselves. And so, the invitation went out to those who confessed their dependence and need. “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.”

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” This is First Commandment stuff folks! “You shall have no other gods before me.” What does this mean? “You shall fear, love, and trust in the LORD above all things.” There is only one Inviter, only one gracious Host, and that One is the LORD. To refuse Him, to reject Him for any reason at all is to fear, love, and trust in something or someone other than Him. That is why fearing Him is wisdom. That is why knowledge of the Holy One is insight. To deny Him is foolishness. To reject Him is death. Your excuses do not cover your sin any better than did the fig leaves Adam and Eve wove together to cover their nakedness. God can see right through them. Moreover, all those things you deem more important than the LORD, more important than His invitation, His banquet, they are even now perishing. Their end is death, and sooner than you think! The field bears weeds and thorns and poisonous herbs. It is depleted and bears fruit no more. Your oxen age and die of disease or predators. Even your spouse you cannot keep forever, but they perish and are no more.

But, Wisdom has built her house. She has hewn her pillars, slaughtered her beasts, mixed her wine and set her table. It is finished. The feast is prepared, for you and for all. Come, eat and be satisfied. Come, drink and be sated. “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But, will you come? Will you eat and drink? Will you be blessed by the LORD? Or, will you make excuses? Will you deny that you have need? Will you refuse to submit yourself, to indebt yourself to Him? The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, because fear, love, and trust in the LORD confesses the truth about yourself, what the LORD has said about you: You are a sinner in need of forgiveness. You are dead and in need of life. And, you are invited by the LORD to the feast that He has prepared for His Son – a feast at which He is both Host and Meal. Come, eat the Bread of Life and live. Come, drink the life-giving blood of Life Incarnate for the forgiveness of your sins, the strengthening of your faith, and for life everlasting. You are invited, but do not attempt to bring anything besides your wretched self. And, do not try to buy or merit your way in. This feast is by invitation only, without cost, and without expectation of reciprocation. However, do know this: If you eat and drink of the LORD’s banquet, you will not return home the same as you came. You will be changed. You will be filled. And, you will be blessed. You will be blessed to be a blessing to all who will not refuse the LORD’s gracious invitation. You will be His servants and His messengers. You will be His hands, and His heart, and His voice, loving, not in word and talk, but in deed and in truth, to the glory of the Father, in the Name of the Son, and through His Most Holy Spirit.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The First Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 1)


Luke 16:19-31; 1 John 4:16-21; Genesis 15:1-6


In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

It’s easy to stand back and to condemn the rich man. That is, it’s easy to condemn the rich man until you are brought to see that the rich man is you. For, your heavenly Father has clothed you in the royal robe of His Son, so that you are a king or a queen with Him over all things, and He has given you to feast sumptuously of His holiness and righteousness in communion with Him, so that all that properly belongs to Him, belongs to you as well. For, through baptism and faith in Christ Jesus, you lack nothing, but all is yours. You are the richest of the rich, by grace, through faith in Christ Jesus.

Why, then, is it often so very difficult for you to give, to serve, and to sacrifice to, and for, the sake of, others? Contrary to what you might think and what others may tell you, selfishness, stinginess, and greed are much less the result of weak faith, or a lack of faith, than they are the result of a lack of love.

St. Paul has taught you in his great treatise on love in First Corinthians, chapter 13, that love is even greater than faith, hope, and a whole multitude of other great and holy works. Likewise, you must not forget that it is love, and not faith, that is said to be the fulfilling of the Law of God. Thus, St. John reminds you in today’s epistle that God, Himself, is love and, that to love others is to love God and to abide in God and God in you. Indeed, St. John instructs you, “If anyone says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” It is true that it is faith that saves. But, St. James is also correct in teaching that faith without works is dead. You can have faith in God and yet not love Him. To be sure, the devil has amazing faith in God, yet he does not love Him, but he hates Him, and he hates you whom God loves.

And so, it is not that the rich man in Jesus’ story was a faithless man, for he was not, but he was an heir of Abraham. Indeed, Abraham even addressed him as “Child”. No doubt, he paid his tithe and gave offerings of his abundance. He was likely even charitable towards, and in the sight of, those who could return to him honor and praise. And yet, he had not love, at least not love in the selfless and sacrificial manner of God. Day after day he passed by the poor beggar Lazarus who was intentionally laid at his gate each day to collect alms and offerings of food. He would not even throw him the crumbs and scraps leftover from his daily feasts, which even his dogs enjoyed. And so, the rich man, richly blessed by God in overflowing abundance with all things needful to the body and life, did not even have a thought towards helping the poor man laid at his gate in any way.

The name Lazarus means “one whom God helps”. One way in which God helped the poor, widows, and orphans was by commanding His faithful to tithe. Farmers of crops, fruit, and livestock were commanded to give ten percent of their harvest to the treasury, out of which the poor, widows, and orphans were cared for and the priests, who had no land or means of providing food, clothing, and shelter for themselves, were provided for. The tithe was ten percent of a family’s increase, gain, or profit. However, also commanded were offerings, which were above and beyond the tithe, and were typically given out of a surplus. Ultimately, the purpose of tithes and of offerings was two-fold: To provide for the poor, widows, orphans, and the priests, and to remind the children of Israel that all things belong to God, and that they were stewards and managers of God’s providence.

Understanding Biblical stewardship can help you to see how it is that failure to love your neighbor and brother is failure to love God. The truth be told, as Martin Luther confessed in his last written words, “We are [all] beggars: this is true.” We are all beggars, like Lazarus, who need, and who receivehelp from God. In truth, the rich man was as much a beggar as Lazarus; he was as much in need of God’s daily providence for the things that sustained his body and life, as well as the spiritual things that delivered, sanctified, and kept his eternal life, as was Lazarus, and as are you. Only a man who truly believed that all that he had earned, deserved, and merited by his own works, energies, and efforts, justified him before God, could then justify himself to pass by or refuse a brother or a neighbor who has come to him for help. But, such self righteousness is a delusion and a deception of the enemy. It damages and destroys your love for your brother and your neighbor, because it damages and destroys your love for God.

St. John teaches you, “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” Faith is absolutely necessary for salvation, for it clings to God’s gift of love in Jesus Christ and therein receives His forgiveness, life, and salvation. But, as St. James teaches, faith without works of love, is dead. Indeed, love, true love, the love that God is, is not an emotion, a feeling, or a sentiment, but it is a work, a selfless work of giving and sacrificing. It is because God is love that He is a creator and a giver of life. It is because God is love that there is something instead of nothing – and, what a marvelous and wonderful something it is! It is because God is love that there is forgiveness, life and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. For, God so loved the world in this way, He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.

Thus, there is no moralism in Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus other than the one command to love: Love God, and love your neighbor. Love others as you have been loved. And, this is much less a command than it is the result of communion with God in Jesus Christ. Through baptism and faith in Jesus you abide in Him and He in you – you abide in His love and His love abides in you. And so, you love your brother and neighbor with God’s love. You give to your brother and neighbor of God’s gifts. And you forgive your brother and neighbor with God’s forgiveness in, through, and in communion with, Jesus Christ. This was, is, and has always been the consistent message of Moses and the Prophets. Yet it is rejected by many, even though Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.

What keeps you from doing the right thing? What keeps you from loving your brother and neighbor with selfless, unconditional love. Is it not fear? Fear of losing? Fear of being taken advantage of? Fear of being swindled? Fear of judgment from your peers who might think you a fool? St. John teaches you saying, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Because God has given you all things in Christ Jesus, there is nothing for you to fear, but all is yours. But, before you can appreciate that, and trust that, and cling to Christ in faith, you have to confess that you have nothing to lose, that all that you have truly belongs to God, and that you, on your own, are a beggar, and the recipient of God’s love, grace, and mercy poured out in Jesus. There is no fear in love, because the one who loves knows that he has nothing to lose. And, as fear has to do with punishment, there is no fear in love, for in God’s love there is no punishment because of His love for you in Jesus.

Thus, “By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment,” confidence that is the fruit of faith in Jesus Christ. In Christ, you may stand boldly before the Lord without fear. In Christ, you may stand boldly before the assaults of the evil one without fear. And, in Christ, you may boldly, recklessly, and selflessly love your brother and your neighbor without fear – without fear of losing; without fear of being taken advantage of; without fear of being swindled – to the glory of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now, your Lord and God invites you, His kings and queens and sons and daughters, robed in the royal righteousness of His Son, to come and to feast sumptuously on the choicest of meats and the finest of wines, in the feast of His Love in the precious body and holy blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Feast of the Holy Trinity

John 3:1-17; Romans 11:33-36; Isaiah 6:1-7

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Trinity is the greatest mystery of the Christian faith. And yet, belief in the Holy Trinity is necessary to salvation. Indeed, one cannot be a Christian and deny the Holy Trinity. For, to deny the Holy Trinity is to deny that, along with the Father, the Son and the Spirit are also, and at the same time, God. Thus, to deny the Holy Trinity is to deny that Jesus is God’s Son, and that He is true God and true man, and, thus, to deny the Holy Trinity is to deny that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind.
And, to say that the Holy Trinity is a mystery, is to say only that it cannot be fully explained or understood, least of all by human reason. Nonetheless, it should not be thus assumed that the Holy Trinity cannot be, or that it is not, but only that it is beyond human reason, perception, knowledge, and understanding, although these do approach and understand the Holy Trinity in part. For, it is the nature of a mystery, not to shut you out, but rather, to draw you in, deeper, ever deeper, so that, as you begin to understand, to comprehend, and to believe, then another layer of the onion is revealed for you to ponder, to meditate upon, and to worship.
Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith. Whoever does not keep it whole and undefiled will without doubt perish eternally. And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance. It is necessary to confess the Holy Trinity, and what is necessary to confess has been revealed by the Holy Trinity. That is to say, you may only say of the Holy Trinity what God has said affirmatively in His Word, and you can only say negatively that which contradicts what God has said affirmatively. For, the Holy Trinity is a mystery and an article of faith. It cannot be comprehended by the human mind, for it is before the human mind and the source and creator of humanity. And yet, your Holy Triune God reveals Himself to you in creation, in spirit, and in Word.
You must receive what God reveals in faith. Thus, Jesus taught Nicodemus “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,” and “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”. The gift of faith comes in the manner of the gift of life: It is received, not earned. It is given, not apprehended. It is revealed, not reasoned. The Holy Spirit of God calls, gathers, sanctifies, and keeps in faith those He chooses, where and when He pleases. Thus, you are the recipient of His gracious workings, just as you are the recipient of the cooling breeze of the wind, and as you are the recipient of life itself. Jesus asked Nicodemus, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” and He taught Him saying, “we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.” According to his fleshly wisdom and understanding, Nicodemus could see, with his own two eyes, and reason with his fleshly mind, that Jesus was a great Rabbi and teacher blessed by God. But his human flesh, wisdom, and reason could not comprehend that God was not only with Jesus, but that Jesus was God in human flesh, sent by the Father, and that upon Him the Holy Spirit had descended and remains and abides.
Nicodemus was a learned and pious man of faith, yet, he struggled to believe what he could not confirm with human observation and reason. So, like Thomas, like Peter, and like all the Apostles, and like you, he was limited by what he could know and by what he could see, and he demanded, implicitly if not explicitly, a sign or a demonstration of Jesus that would conform to human reason, wisdom, and expectations. But Jesus did not chide Nicodemus, as He did not chide Thomas, Peter, or you, but He invited Nicodemus to stop trying to earn, take, and apprehend, but, instead, to receive the testimony of the Holy Triune God in Word and Spirit and Truth. For, faith and belief in the Holy Trinity is a gift of God’s grace, just as is forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake. Isaiah received the gift of absolution when the seraphim touched his lips with a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. Nicodemus received this gift when he was born again of water and spirit in Holy Baptism. In the same way you too have received this gift. And, in Jesus Christ, the whole world has been given the gift of God’s love for forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
In today’s Collect we acknowledged the gift of grace that God has given to us in revealing Himself in Trinity; we prayed, “Almighty and everlasting God, You have given us grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by the confession of a true faith and to worship the Unity in the power of the Divine Majesty.” And, we also prayed that the Lord would “keep us steadfast in this faith and defend us from all adversities” that we might keep the catholic faith whole and undefiled. For, you are daily buffeted and assaulted by godless doctrines and secular humanism which makes no allowance for what human reason cannot comprehend.
But your Holy Triune God has given you yet another gift of His grace and love. He has raised up for you on the cross His only-begotten Son that all who look to Him will not perish but will have eternal life. Where human reason and wisdom see and comprehend only a dead man upon a pole, just as the Israelites in the wilderness saw only a bronze serpent, you behold God Himself in death, and you receive His life. And, because of Jesus’ death, what human reason and wisdom see in baptism as a mere washing with water, you see and confess as a lavish washing away of sins and the bestowal of faith and eternal life. And, in what human reason and wisdom sees and comprehends merely as a morsel of bread and a sip of wine, you see and confess as Holy Communion with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God in human flesh, flesh of His flesh and bone of His bones for the forgiveness of sins, the strengthening of your faith, and for your life today, tomorrow, and forevermore, world without end.
For, the God who is before all things, who made all things, who sustains all things, and who fills all things, the Holy Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is present to bless you with His life and His love and His forgiveness. Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity. Let us give glory to Him because He has shown His mercy to us.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.