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Worship Theme: The Ministry of the Gospel Proclaims the Triune God
Sermon Theme: Life with the Triune God is Triple-Blessed
May 21, 1995 was a special day for me! That was the day that I was confirmed. For a lot of reasons, it was a special day, but I remember especially feeling very blessed - blessed to have sponsors, family and friends surround me with such support and love. I got so many encouraging cards and generous gifts that day. The pile of checks that I took to the bank the next day was something that my 13-year-old eyes had never seen before! It was a pretty incredible feeling to be cared for and loved so much!
June 27, 2004 is day that I’ll remember for a long time too! That was the day after my wedding. The whole weekend was a highlight in my life, of course, but I’ll never forget feeling so blessed! Besides the best gift of the weekend, having the love of my life become my wife, we were showered with many other gifts as well. We did a gift opening at my in-law’s home in Marshfield, WI and then decided that we would open the cards in the car as we headed to Milwaukee to catch a plane for our honeymoon trip to Hawaii! So many people came to show us love and support on our special day. We got a lot of great gifts that would be especially useful for our new home, we read those cards and greetings from so many people. To sit side by side with the woman that God had blessed me with on the first day of our new lives as one, to be heading for the sunny beaches of Hawaii. It was all so profoundly wonderful. I felt so incredibly blessed!
And it’s Trinity Sunday, so we have to do things in 3’s! I’m going to add May 19, 2019 to the list. That was the day that I was installed as a pastor here at Grace. And I’m not just pandering to you by saying that, I mean it. We felt the biggest hug from you, our new church family. We weren’t quite sure what we were getting into, big church ministry in a big city, but you put us at ease on day one, showering us with generous gifts, packing the Grace Center for a meal, throwing a Milwaukee Brewer themed welcome party, you even thought to invite Bernie Brewer! It’s like we had known each other for years! Our whole family saw and felt and experienced the love that you people extended to us – we were and still are so blessed to be a part of this family!!
But I’m not here to talk about me! What about you? What are your dates? What are the experiences that will go with you no matter where life takes you? What are the memories that stick out for you? What are your days of blessing? I’d be glad to give you a moment or two to think!
Did you include June 7, 2020? I know that dates in the COVID-era are hard to keep track of, so I’ll come out and tell you - that’s today! Did you include today? You could and I’m going to make it stronger – you should! Not because I know something you don’t! But because I know something that you do know! You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! You know the peace that is ours with God the Father! You know the fellowship and oneness that the Holy Spirit gives! You know those things and you experience them every day. The reality is my friends, you have been and are daily blessed by God – with real and lasting and eternal blessings. Even the best of our days of blessing, are nothing compared to the joy that is ours everyday as we consider life with our Triune God! His blessings for us are far more than three, but these three – grace, peace, fellowship, are the ones that are spot-lighted by the Apostle Paul in today’s reading and so we’ll bask with him in their glory and celebrate that Life with the Triune God is Triple-Blessed!
Paul wrote this letter that we know as 2 Corinthians to a congregation that he dearly loved! He loved them so much for the ministry that they shared. He loved them for the partnership they had in the gospel of Jesus. He loved them enough even to speak the difficult words of law to them, to call them to repentance and identify the sin that was lurking in their midst. Even in the closing chapter, he begs of them to speak the truth to each other in love, so that he doesn’t have to be harsh with them when he comes again to see them in person.
The words before us are Paul’s parting words. They are words of hope and joy. They are the assurance of being blessed by the Triune God.
Grace is a term that is near and dear to us here at this church. It’s a term that the founders of our church loved so much and cherished so much that they used it as our name. Grace! God’s undeserved love.
Undeserved - because we haven’t lived up to the standards of God’s law. Undeserved – because we aren’t perfect like God demands. Undeserved because we daily sin much and deserve only his wrath and punishment. We deserve to have God remove his hand of blessing from us! We deserve to be left on our own to struggle, left on our own to suffer, left without God to die and to spend an eternity away from him in hell!
But the Lord Jesus Christ gives us his blessing anyways! He blesses us with not just words but actions. Not just words but a life lived in our place! He blesses us not just with sympathy, but with a willing desire to suffer in our place and to take our suffering away! He blesses us, not just by raising his hands symbolically, but by lifting his hands to be nailed to a cross. He gives us not just words, but actions. Not just words but blood to pay for our transgressions and sins. He gives not just words, but gives us his all, himself, his very life! Jesus is love! And the cross and the tomb that he made his - though they should have been ours - they show us who he is! They show us undeserved love! They are the biggest blessing that we’ll ever receive!
It is possible to be blessed by a dead person! The founding fathers built our nation from infancy to what it is today. Our country is a blessing to us and so that means that we are being blessed by them. The civil rights leaders of the 1950s and 60s are almost all dead and gone, but the work that they did and the ordeals they endured are a blessing to us. We have a lot of work to do to defeat racism, to level the playing field and to provide justice for all. The events of these past weeks show that pretty clearly, but the work of those now gone has not been in vain. The family member who remembered you in their will and left you an inheritance is a blessing to you, even from the grave. Clearly a person who is dead can be a blessing.
But it’s not that way for Jesus! Jesus could give us no blessing from the grave! If his body remained lifeless in the grave, if he was still dead, then so would be our hope! There’s nothing he could give, no lesson he could teach, no legacy that he could leave if he lay lifeless in the grave!! Paul says it this way in 1 Corinthians 15: 17 “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, you are still in your sins.” But our faith is not futile because we have a living Savior! He suffered sin’s curse and paid its debt! He defeated Satan and now lives! He lives to give us another thing that we don’t deserve – life! We have power over death in Jesus’ resurrection from the grave! We have the promise of life because Jesus lives! We have real blessing from a real living Savior!!
Our Triune God blesses us with Grace and with the next blessing - Peace! That’s why Paul says: And the God of love and peace will be with you. Our Triune God will be with us! Paul says it here! Jesus says it in today’s Gospel reading: And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
God will be with us! We have his blessing! God will be with us, that gives us peace!
Peace is more than just the absence of war! Peace is the presence of something! It’s the presence of a calm, the assurance of comfort, the promise of safety. Ask the soldiers at the de-militarized Zone between North and South Korea if they have peace. Ask the soldiers on foot patrol in Baghdad if they have peace! I wonder what they’d say!
But we have peace with God! We have an end to hostilities because our sins have been paid for! But it’s deeper than that! We have a presence of a calm, the assurance of comfort, the promise of safety because nothing can separate us from the love of God! We have the guarantee that he will never leave us and that heaven is our forever home. That’s more than just the absence of war with God, it’s the presence of peace with him that is a wonderful blessing from his hand.
And a third blessing for which to rejoice is fellowship. We have fellowship with God. We could never have a kinship, a relationship a fellowship with him, but he has made it to be so!
The word fellowship means to have a friendly relationship based on common interests. That’s not something that we could have with God if it were up to us. That’s not something that we’d have the power to accomplish on our own. We couldn’t even do halfsies. But God has come all the way to us. He has done all that is necessary to bring us himself. The Holy Spirit has put faith in our hearts to know and believe that Jesus’ work saves! We’ve been washed clean in the waters or Holy Baptism and are strengthened in the power of God’s Word. We have the joy of knowing that God is on our side and that’s the safest and best place to be.
There’s certainly a connection and progression in these gifts from the Triune God! He showers with his Grace – his undeserved love! His love gives us peace! That peace flows from the unbreakable fellowship that God creates between us and him!
But Grace, Peace and Fellowship don’t just come to us, they come through us! They are blessings that we can pass along and enjoy in our lives with one another. Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings.
I haven’t checked what the CDC guidelines are on holy kisses, but I’m guessing we aren’t going to be doing that anytime soon!! I’m quite certain that the hand shake, which is the modern-day cultural equivalent, will be back sooner than the holy kiss. But it shows the relationship that the gospel creates with one another in the church.
While we can’t show the same measure of divine grace that Jesus did, we can seek to show love to those who need it, who aren’t like us, maybe even you could say to those who don’t deserve it. We can show forgiveness and grace as we interact with one another. It’s a way that we can now pass along God’s blessing to others.
We can be a people at peace. We don’t need to carry around grievances against one another. We don’t need to fight our way to the top, rather we can celebrate peace with one another. We are all blood-bought souls. We are all dearly loved by God. We’ve been forgiven much and so we can seek to live with a Spirit and a mindset of forgiveness. The peace that God gives allows us to be at peace with one another. We can live in humility and rejoice in the gifts of others.
Fellowship with one another is a foundation of the church. Remember what we said fellowship was? A friendly relationship based on common interests. We can most certainly have that in the church. The fellowship groups that you might be involved in are a great example, but even zooming out, we have a common interest with all who gather here. We are loved by Jesus and want the world to know that they are loved by Jesus too. We are poor people who have been made rich in Christ and we therefore want to share what we have and the blessings that we have received to enrich the lives of those around us. We are a family of believers that genuinely cares for one another and genuinely wants the community and world to know that Life with the Triune God is Triple-Blessed!
Receive, celebrate and hare the blessing of our Triune God! May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
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Thank you again for joining us for worship, until we meet again--God's Blessings!