Holy Trinity, Proper C
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Psalm 8 Sermon
May 26, 2013
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Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
243 "Oh That I Had A Thousand Voices"
245 "God Loved The World So That He Gave"
241 "Father In Whom We Live"
246 "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty"
WHAT A MESSED UP WORLD!
TEXT (vs. 3-5): “3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.”
Earlier this week, I received a very short survey by Email. This was called the Advocacy National Priorities survey, which basically dealt with the ideas people have with regard to the church and her ministry. Let me read some of the introduction to this survey:
“The survey allows you to voice what is important to you and share how you serve God's creation and our vulnerable neighbors. The advocacy ministries of your church want to hear from you: how does your service in community gardens, on mission trips, in local food pantries and homeless shelters inform your sense of important policy issues?
By completing the short, four-question…survey, you are helping to determine the collective priority issues for our active and growing network of…advocates.”
Before I continue, I want you all to keep in mind that this survey was not something that came out of Fort Wayne or St. Louis. I’ll leave the church body unnamed, because that isn’t the point of all this. Listen now to the areas this survey covered. Here’s the list:
Anti-hunger and nutrition, food policy in the United States; The national economy, debt, & fiscal strength; Job creation, job training, and unemployment services; Anti-poverty programs and initiatives (child care, housing, & utility assistance); Climate change and energy; Rural development & Sustainable agriculture; Protecting our air, land, and water from pollution; International relief and poverty-focused development; Debt relief & Responsible global financial practices; Global health initiatives (HIV and AIDS, malaria, child and maternal health); Global hunger and nutrition, Food security & Agricultural development; Immigration reform and refugee policy (support the lead of…Immigration and Refugee Services); Human rights and human dignity including human trafficking, torture and extra-judicial detention, international religious freedom, domestic violence, and gender equality and empowerment of women; Israeli and Palestinian relations & Middle East peace; And other specific conflict areas or Areas of tension.
One of the things that this points out, is that there are a lot of areas of concern in our world today. Our world as we know it is really messed up, and in need of some drastic help. I think that is obvious.
There are a lot of good things on that list, things that we as citizens of the United States should be concerned about. And for the most part, I think we are; maybe not each and every item, but we all have our concerns.
The thing that bothered me about this whole thing, is what was NOT on the list. I read nothing about bringing God to a godless world; I saw nothing about the Gospel of forgiveness and peace, and I did not see the name of Jesus mentioned even once (nor did I see the name of God, the Bible, or Christianity mentioned either). I also didn’t see some of the hot subjects amongst Christians today mentioned either, like abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, gay marriage, or anything that would be on the agendas of most conservative Christians.
With all that being said, I do believe that our church and congregation in particular has a duty in social ministry, and we do that as a part of our whole mission endeavor. You can’t walk in to the church through the narthex without seeing the big CROP poster on the notice board. Each month we have our designated food or supply item we collect for the Blue Valley Food Pantry. And as July 4th approaches, we will once again have our “lunch for a buck” fundraiser for the Blue Valley Food Pantry. These are the types of things covered on that big list I read, and these are all good things we need to be doing.
Generally speaking, I look around at the world we live in and I am concerned. I am concerned that all hell seems to be breaking loose all around us. There are wars and rumors of war, which I know we’ve all heard before; but when it’s actually happening, it’s kind of scary and unnerving. Just this past Wednesday a guy was beheaded in the middle of a London street in the middle of the day by a couple of Muslim extremists with meat cleavers. In their way of thinking, they’re fighting a holy war in the name of their god, Allah.
Added to this, we are seeing crushing poverty and unemployment, even though the spin doctors are trying to gloss over this cold, hard truth. There are rampant scandals in the public offices of the people who are supposed to be leading us and protecting us, and not just protecting their own reputations. And lest we forget the natural calamities striking blow after devastating blow; tornadoes, earthquakes, and wildfires, just to name a few of the deadly disasters in this past week alone.
And once again, the abortion issue is brought into the forefront when we hear of the slaughter of full-term live-birth babies in abortion clinics. This is happening right outside our back door! It is being disguised with the terminology “responsible and planned care, concern, and well-being for the family.”
When we look at things like this, I know we’re tempted to shake our heads and ask ourselves, “Where’s God in all of this mess?” What a messed up world indeed!
Today the focus of our worship is on the one true God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One God, three persons, which is the doctrine we know as the Trinity. Even though we won’t find the word “Trinity” in the Bible, it still describes God’s nature. “Trinity” or “triune” simply means “three in one.” That is the one and only true God of the Bible.
I thought that our Psalm for today was very striking indeed, especially when we consider just how messed up our world is. The Psalm begins: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” And what follows that, is the description of God’s sovereign power and the loving kindness he shows his creatures. He has given humanity a type of control over his creation, over all of the animals and other creatures. He has given people the power to use the world for their survival, to use it for a food source, and for other worthwhile purposes. Because of this, we also have a responsibility to be good stewards of this world, and to treat God’s creation with dignity and respect.
God did not give us a messed up world. God created a perfect world; we were (and still are) the ones who have messed it up, and boy have we ever done a bang-up job of it too. When mankind invited sin into the world, that’s when all of the problems started. It was mankind’s decision to bring corruption into that which was created perfect. So we have our share of problems, that’s for sure.
Think back to that list of concerns I read at the beginning. There are things like unemployment, inflation, crime, pollution, and many other concerns. The problem society has, is they look to the very faulty human beings and faulty logic for a solution, the very things that caused the problems in the first place! It makes about as much sense as spending your way to prosperity—I think we’ve all heard how warped that line of thinking is.
I can go back to the logic of the 60’s and 70’s, where people contended that the only thing necessary to fix all the problems was centered on people loving each other. You’d hear people say, “Oh, if only everybody would just quit fighting and hating and just love each other, then all would be okay.” It sounds good on the surface, but we know that because of the sin that infects everything, such a plan will not work. Sinful human logic does not have the solution.
I mentioned before the biggest problem with that list of concerns is with what’s not on the list. God somehow has gotten shoved back into the corner in the whole process. And this comes from some misguided ideas about God. 1) People have come up with the notion that God is a powerless figurehead in the world’s problems, and that he is disassociated with the real world. When this happens, then the shirt-tail believers can operate with the same agenda as the atheists and agnostics. As far as these people are concerned, God’s just not part of the bigger picture. Some even understand salvation as being a type of deliverance from earthly oppression, and it is up to us to make it happen.
The second problem stems from a type of deistic and universalistic school of thought. So you’ll hear people very sincerely make this statement: “Oh well, we all worship the game god; we just have different ways of going about it.” As good and noble as that may sound on the surface, I don’t think there could be a bigger slap in the face of the one true God. People are trying to lump all the world’s religions together under the “same god” umbrella, completely ignoring the fact that the “gods” of the different religions do not resemble the Christian God of the Bible at all.
One of the things to remember, is that God is a package deal: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You cannot, absolutely cannot subtract any of the three persons from the divine being and still have the one true God. If Jesus is out of the picture, then the god is a false one. If the Father and the Son are there but the Holy Spirit is missing, then the god is a false one. The Athanasian Creed says it so well with the words: “Now this is the true Christian faith: We worship one God in three persons and three persons in one God, without mixing the persons or dividing the divine being. For each person -- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit -- is distinct, but the deity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory and coeternal in majesty.” The conclusion then drives the final nail in the coffin: “Whoever does not faithfully and firmly believe this cannot be saved.”
If we examine John chapter 8, Jesus is having quite a dialogue with the Pharisees. To summarize it a bit, Jesus is in the Temple. They were ready to stone a woman who had been caught in adultery. But Jesus brings those plans to a stand-still, and incurs the wrath of the Pharisees. Let’s look at some selected verses: 41-42: “[The Pharisees said] We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.” 44: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” 54: “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’But you have not known him. I know him.” 58: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
The very fact that the Pharisees rejected Christ as the One True God resulted in them denying God completely. There was no partial faith here. It is an all-or-nothing proposition. And Jesus’ final remark to them was the real shocker: Jesus identified himself with the very name of the One True God! He says that he is the “I am” as God identified himself in the Old Testament. Jesus is flat out telling them that he is Jehovah, or Yahweh, those words that the Jews in Jesus’ day wouldn’t even utter for fear of blaspheming God’s name and using it improperly. That fear wasn’t a problem for Jesus. And if we look at Luke chapter 10, verse 16 Jesus tells his 72 disciples: “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” There can be no mistake here; if somebody denies Jesus, then they have denied the entire Godhead.
One of the reasons we take time on this Sunday once a year to look specifically at the Trinity, is so we make no mistake about who the one true God really is. We use the Athanasian Creed and the supporting texts that attest to the fact that God is indeed one divine being in three persons. That’s the One True God; and that is something that we must always keep in mind. That’s the way God describes himself, and that’s what we believe.
As powerful and far reaching as the Triune God is, he is still very active in our world, and personally active with each one of us. Verses 3 and 4 of our text today read: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”
God knew our sinful state, and so he responds to us out of love. He had to make salvation a reality for sinners the likes of you and me. Our salvation is a coordinated effort between all persons of the Godhead. As true God, Jesus came to earth and took upon himself human flesh so that he could win salvation for the whole world. As true God, the Holy Spirit worked faith in our hearts to accept Jesus as our Saviour. And all this is done to reconcile us to God as forgiven sinners who have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.
At our Baptism, we were baptized in the name of this one Triune God, baptized the way Jesus commanded us to be baptized. What we do here in our church today follows the exact same formula it has had since the beginning of the Christian Church. We were brought into God’s family through the action of the Triune God himself. He is the object of our faith for our entire lives.
We might seem so small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things; but we can take comfort in knowing that God indeed has a personal relationship with each one of us. God is indeed mindful of each one of us individually.
As citizens of this world, we will encounter many problems. Our world isn’t perfect; in fact it is downright messed up. When we look to ourselves for the solution, we can only add to the problem. But when we, as Christians, as children of the One True God see him as the source of truth and help, then we know where to turn in the face of turmoil. We can go forth as Christians into our messed up world, and be a positive influence and a beacon of truth and hope. When we bring Christ to the world and we act in his name, then our actions have purpose.
We can therefore exclaim with the Apostle Paul in Philippians chapter 4, verse 13: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”