31 May 2015
Text: John 3:1-17 (Isa 6:1-7, Rom 11:33-36)
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
The Christian faith is very inconvenient. We insist upon saying that our God is the only true God, and that “whoever desires to be saved” must “worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity.” And whoever does not believe this faith “faithfully and firmly cannot be saved.”
Our Athanasian Creed has something in it to offend just about everybody.
And in case you missed all the beheadings of Christian men, women, and children in the last few years, we’re hated around the world, and not just by Muslims. Totalitarian states of every kind revel in violence against Christianity. And while no-one is beheading Christians in our own country, we are being targeted as bigots, homophobes, insensitive, hypocrites, and – just as we were called in the days of the persecutions of the Roman Empire, we are today labelled as “haters.” Our people are being fined huge amounts by extrajudicial tribunals – right here in the United States – for refusing to violate their consciences, even as supposedly conservative governors throw our religious liberties under the bus.
Dear friends, this may come as a shock to you, but we Christians are not liked in our society. We insist on being different. We insist on being exclusive. We insist that Jesus be our top priority in life, and that there is no other way to be saved but through Him. And in our society, this is heresy.
For as the church confesses, and as Scripture testifies, Jesus is both God and Man. The Father is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and neither of them is a Man. There are three distinct persons who are clearly called “God” and “Lord” in our Holy Scriptures, even as God is not three Gods, but one God.
Our Lord Jesus Christ even went so far as to say, “I am the… truth.” At the Lord’s trial, Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” Our Lord answered Pilate with His silence. Pilate was looking truth in the divine face, and allowed truth to be crucified and put to death. Today, most people scoff at the idea that there is a single truth.
And according to our doctrine of the Trinity, Pilate allowed God to be murdered. For in the Christian faith, God can die, because God is a Man. And God does indeed die on the cross. And who kills God? Sinful men from every walk of life. The government killed God. Ambitious men killed God. Ordinary soldiers killed God. Religious people killed God. Priests and Scribes and Pharisees killed God. Ordinary Jews in the mob killed God. And in fact, you killed God. I killed God. We all killed God, from Adam and Eve, right up to those being born at this very moment. Our hands are stained with the blood of God, dear friends.
There is enough here to offend everyone. And we are also offended, dear friends, because we poor, miserable sinners do not like the truth and more than the rest of the world, comprised of sinful men, does. It is a most inconvenient truth that God is Triune, that God is Human, that God died, and that God’s creatures murdered God. And the greatest marvel of all is that God the Son foreknew this, and even planned to take human flesh and die a sacrificial death for us. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!.... For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?”
The world tells us this makes no sense. The world tells us we must repent of our foolish faith. The world tells us to shut up and agree with them that we are self-aware blobs of cells, that we have no purpose, and that our highest good is to do what’s best for us alone. But because we don’t submit to them, the world would like to kill us even as the world conspired to kill our God and Lord on the cross. The world does not understand love, sacrifice, or atonement. The world does not understand sin, or why death happens. The world certainly doesn’t understand Jesus or the meaning of His death.
Not even Nicodemus, the teacher of Israel, understood who Jesus is and why He came into the world. But to his credit, Nicodemus did come to Jesus in order to understand. Jesus explained to him: “No one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” And the Lord Jesus Christ revealed the great and glorious gospel to Nicodemus: “So must the Son of Man we lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have 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.”
The world should rejoice, brothers and sisters, because this Gospel is actually not exclusive, but rather inclusive of all who believe. The Gospel calls all people to repent of their sins and believe the Good News, regardless of one’s sex or sexual desires. The Gospel calls all people to become part of Christ’s bride, regardless of race, tribe, tongue, socio-economic status, or politics. The Gospel affords no-one a special privilege, but offers privilege as sons of God and heirs of eternal life to all sinners who confess and are absolved, to all who call upon the name of the Lord, to all who are baptized and who believe, to all those who faithfully and firmly hold the catholic faith.
“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
Because of who He is, we bow before our Triune God, dear friends, in humble and yet joyful worship. And we can indeed love God because He first loved us: by creating us in the garden of Eden, by redeeming us at the cross, and by sanctifying us in our very flesh where He comes to us. We join the prophet Isaiah in the Most Holy Place, singing, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth!” And even though we are men of unclean lips, the Lord uses His servants to place a cleansing coal upon our lips, even Christ’s very body. And indeed, our “guilt is taken away, and [our] sin atoned for!”
And, dear friends, the God who died for us men and for our salvation, also rose again, to defeat death and the grave, to conquer sin and Satan, and to deliver to us everlasting life. This is most certainly true, most inconveniently true, most gloriously true,
The Christian faith is most inconvenient, dear friends, and thanks be to God that it is! For the object of this faith is Christ Himself, God in the flesh, who breaks through sin, sorrow, and even the ultimate enemy death itself, to deliver unto us forgiveness, faith, salvation, and life that has no end!
For we have been baptized, dear friends, not in the name of the world, not in the name of a Unitary God, not in our own names, the name of our country, the name of our accomplishments, and not in the name of the world’s heroes and idols. But rather, we have been baptized, set apart, redeemed, and born again of water and the Spirit in that most inconvenient name, that most glorious name…
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.