Sunday, May 31, 2015
Christ Lutheran Church – Manchester, PA
Last week the church celebrated Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit not just to the disciples a long time ago, but to all of us disciples here and now. Pentecost is still happening. The Holy Spirit is still speaking and moving. In fact, Jesus said, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Jesus is not just speaking to Nicodemus in answer to his question – “how can a person be born again?” – but to us today. Jesus is saying that the Holy Spirit is responsible for this process and yet we, like Nicodemus, have a hard time understanding this.
This Sunday the church celebrates Trinity Sunday – the believe in the three persons in one God. We profess it in our Creeds. We believe in God the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth. We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. We believe in the Holy Spirit. Yet this – like the question Nicodemus asked – is another question whose answer leaves us with more questions than answers. How can we explain the Trinity? Many have tried, yet the best theological minds cannot explain it. They are left with more questions.
I’ll never forget the answer to one important question asked in seminary. One of the professors, Dr. Sterjna asked, “Why are you a Christian?” Many answers started coming forward: Because my family is Christian and they raised me in the Christian faith, because of my Sunday School teachers, through reading the Bible, friends who led me to Christ….the list went on. These were all good answers, but Dr. Sterjna pushed us further. But why are you a Christian? Again, many theological answers were voiced. She finally said, “You are a Christian because of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has led you to Christ.” We never forget that. We are Christians not because of what we have done in the past or what we do now to earn that title, or what someone has taught us, but we are Christians because the Holy Spirit has led us to Christ. The Holy Spirit has revealed God to us by initiating the belief in our hearts. God in the person of the Holy Spirit has sought us out and called us to faith. Exactly how the Holy Spirit does that we don’t know, but Jesus says, “the wind (or Spirit) blows where it chooses. We can’t control it. We can’t try and figure it out. It just is and we are caught up in the blowing or dancing of the Spirit and as a result the dancing together of the Trinity.
You see the Trinity is all about relationships. God the Father is in relationship with the Son and the Son with the Spirit and all of them together. Combined they form the one God whom we profess to worship. And this same God created us to be in relationship with God too. There’s room in God’s family for all people and the Holy Spirit is continually calling and drawing all people into this relationship with the triune God.
This is why we in the Lutheran Church baptize infants. We baptize infants because it is not our belief that brings us into relationship with God, but it is the presence of the Holy Spirit that draws us into a relationship with God. Through water and the Spirit we are born again, as Jesus tried to explain to Nicodemus. It is not our intellect that brings us close to God, but it is the wisdom that we receive through the Holy Spirit that brings us to faith and feeds us spiritually on our journey of faith – a journey to be in a closer and deeper relationship with God every day of our lives.
God always comes to us. We do not go to God. God is always seeking us out. As John 3:16 says,“For God so loved the world that he sent his only beloved Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” God loved us that much. So much that God became one of us – in the flesh in Jesus Christ – in order that we would be saved from the punishments of sin and death and brought back into a relationship with God. God left eternity, so that we would also have a place in eternity.
I think it’s hard for many people to grasp that concept because we don’t know what eternity looks like. We know our physical experiences here and we know the joys and sorrows we experience here. So to grasp that we have a place waiting for us when our journey is ended that will be a place of eternal joy – well, we don’t know what eternal joy feels like. Our joy here on earth has a finite time span, but joy in eternity with God is forever. That is an unfathomable concept for our minds to grasp, but we need to believe it because that is what God has promised to us in the person of Jesus Christ.
Today we celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing Marshall Harrison into an eternal relationship with the Trinity. He will be baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He will be sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. He will forever be called a child of God – not because of what he does or will do, not because he will lead a perfect life without mistakes because he won’t, not because he will understand all there is to know about God, but because God loves him. Plain and simple. God loves Marshall Harrison and God loves each and every one of us. It is a gift – unearned and undeserved – and that is why it is called grace. St. Paul says in Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” This gift of God is something to boast about. It is something to tell people about. It is an amazing and wondrous gift that no one can take away from us. We don’t have to have all the answers. We don’t have to live perfect lives. We only have to live lives of thanksgiving and praise for this amazing grace that we have been given. That’s a gift worth boasting about!
And it gets even better, because not only are we called children of God, but St. Paul in Romans says that we are also heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” Like someone who receives an inheritance here on earth, we are given the inheritance of belonging to God’s family and everything that is Christ’s is ours as well. Through our baptism – made possible by the wonderful leading of the Holy Spirit, we are part of this great relationship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We too are part of that mysterious and powerful Trinity. Wow!
The Holy Spirit has called us – personally – and gathered us together, and sends us out to live lives of gratitude as we journey in faith with courage not worrying about what the future will bring, but trusting in the promises of God for we are born of water and the Spirit. What impact does this great inheritance and gift have in our lives? How will it change how we live today? This is a gift worth boasting about! Let’s journey in faith. Let’s journey in hope. Let’s journey in love. Amen!