Trinity Sunday/ Welcome Back
A sermon preached on John 3:16, John 10:10, 2 Cor. 3:6 by Pastor Jonathan Werre at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, SD, on June 7, 2020.
Welcome back! Speaking for myself and Pastor Johnson,it feels very good to be back. For those worshipping via our livestream, it feels very good to be worshiping with you live rather than pre-recorded. Coming back together after having an empty Sanctuary for how long is an unusual situation. Gives us a chance to discover a couple things about ourselves.
For example, this is a good chance to ask yourself: “Why am I here today?” (physically or virtually). We came for worship, of course, but why? That’s a good question to ask, isn’t t? How will you be different by the end of this service?
I hope your answer sounds like this: “By the end of this service, parts of me will be killed once again and parts made fully alive once again.” The stark truth is–we come to worship to die and to be made alive. As the famous German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (the one who spoke out against the Nazi regime and got put in prison for it) said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Because there are parts of you and me that need to die, is this not true? The bossyness needs to die, the self-righteousness needs to die, the guilt, grudges, racism, apathy, lying, blaming, these things need to die; drinking too much, eating too much, eating too much, criticizing too much, needs to die; keeping score in your marriage, keeping pornography accessible, keeping my offerings low, being lame in our devotional-life–these are not just “things that need to be worked on,” these are things that need to die, over and over again. The Bible calls them forms of wickedness. And with our own internal wickedness, it is either kill or be killed. For our own wickedness has the power to mess up our lives, sometimes rather dramatically, and then to condemn us to an eternity of suffering in hell. These parts of us need to die, is this not true? As it says in Romans 8:13, “If by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body you will live.”
But how? A bullet will kill a person. Antiseptic will kill germs. But how do you kill a sin? By exposing it. To the truth. Truth kills sin, like bright light does microorganisms. Bring your sin out into the open; call your bossyness, your drinking too much, your lackluster devotional life what it is–“wicked, a sin”, that’s how you kill it. Call it what it is. That’s why we do that, in a general way, at the beginning of worship in the Confession of Sins. That’s what I hope you do each day privately with God, listing your sins as you confess them to God in prayer. That’s what you can do with one of your pastors in private confession. Because that’s how you kill sin. Exposing it, calling it what it really is.
And then you are open to be filled with life. For death is our Lord’s alien work. What the Triune God wants to do, has worked together to do, is to make us alive, very much alive, over and over again, by completely forgiving our sin. That’s why the Father sent his Son in the first place, as it says, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) That’s why the Son came and lived a perfect life for us and died the perfect sacrificial death for us…and rose again on the third day, as he said, “I have come that they might have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) That’s why the Holy Spirit works in us the grace to call our sin what it actually is and to believe that Jesus actually paid for it all; and because of that to be certain that things are A-OK between a sinner like me and a holy God, right now, A-OK; and that’s why you can really live life, right now, today, and for all eternity in heaven; aa we confess in the Nicene Creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life.” (2 Cor. 3:6) All three persons of the Trinity have the same goal—to love you and save you and tell you the truth through his Word. All three persons of the Trinity, this God who is beyond comprehension, who needs nothing and no one, who is completely happy as he is, all three Persons have the same preoccupation all day long—to love you, save you, tell you the truth. That’s why he gives you his greatest gift in worship—his Word and his Sacraments.
And that’s we are here, right? And why we keep coming back. Because the wickedness in us does not stay dead. And our need for life, real life through God’s forgiveness keeps being fresh. So we come back to worship, so that through his Word/Sacraments, the Triune God can kill the parts of us that need to be killed…again and then make us fully, completely alive again with his forgiveness, his salvation, his truth.
But there’s one more reason we are here together today, isn’t there? Didn’t you come to…be together? And for those worshiping with us online, isn’t that, in fact, why you are not here with us…yet? There is something very important about being…together, isn’t there. Zoom and online worship and Youtube are great tools; God has given them for such a time as this. But they are no substitute for being together.
And you know why? Because we are a body, the body of Christ, as it says in I Cor. 12. And while each individual body part is important in and of itself, all the parts of the body are meant to work together. You may sleep on your arm all night and wake up and can’t feel your arm at all, like it’s dead, isn’t part of your body, but that’s not the way it is supposed to be, is it. Your arm, like each of us, is important in and of itself; but your arm is not supposed to stay by itself; all the parts of the body are meant to be together. And by faith, we are the body of Christ.
Which gives you one last thing to learn about yourself—how much did you, do you, miss being together? I hope all of us enjoyed worshipping at home in our jammies, it was meant as a blessing. But some of us liked it a little bit too much. On the other hand, some of us liked it a little bit too little. Which were you?
Let this unusual time do one more good thing when it comes to our worship. Let it remind us in a permanent way that one of the biggest reasons to be together for worship is not for our own sake, but for everyone else’s. As it says in Hebrews 12:25, “Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the (last) day approaching.” Because there are plenty who will encourage you to live your life as if the Bible is irrelevant. You and I need to be a counterbalance to that. “Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the (last) day approaching.”
Once again, welcome back, whether physically or livestreamed. And whether it is today, or ten years from now, when you are asked, “Why are you here, at worship?”, may you answer, “I am here today to die and be made alive again. I came so that my sinful parts will die by being exposed for what they really are. And so that I will be made fully alive by the Triune God’s forgiveness, truth, and salvation, found in his Word/Sacraments, which we have here in worship, his greatest gifts.” Amen.