Festival of the Holy Trinity
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Matthew 28:16-20 Sermon
June 11, 2017
Click here for service internet broadcast/podcast.
Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
239 "Come Thou Almighty King"
243 "O That I Had A Thousand Voices"
541 "O Blessed Holy Trinity"
246 "Holy, Holy, Holy"
THE WORLD'S LAUGHINGSTOCKS
TEXT (vs. 19-20): “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
If you've been following the news this past week, there is one name you might have heard. A gentleman by the name of Robert Vought has been under some intense scrutiny. The scrutiny regarding Mr. Vought has nothing to do with the FBI, or the Russians, or obstructing justice, or leaking government secrets. Mr. Vought is being attacked because he is a Christian, and he had the sheer audacity to stand up for what he believes.
In using this story as a sermon illustration, Mr. Vought's name is the only one I'm going to mention. I don't want to be seen as mounting an open attack against specific individuals. However, these attacks against him pose a very real threat to not only you and me, but to everybody who bears the name "Christian" and is committed to Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
So what happened? Well, Mr. Vought wrote an article in 2016 for a publication called "The Resurgent," where he defended the position of his alma mater, WheatonCollege, which is a Christian institution. In the article, he described Islam as a "deficient theology." He wrote: “This is a fundamental problem. Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.” I don't think that any of us would find any fault with that statement, or have a problem with Mr. Vought writing it in his article.
But we're not on the floor of the Senate in Washington. There are those who DO have a problem with it, even though similar Muslim statements don't seem to raise so much as an eyebrow amongst the same people.
Mr. Vought has been nominated as the new deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, a position that requires Senate confirmation. The dialogue between Mr. Vought and one senator is interesting to read; but it ended with the senator shouting at Mr. Vought as he calmly defended his faith.
One commentator had this to say: "Salvation through Jesus Christ is a core biblical tenet held by Christians for millennia. Yet [this] Senator is making it clear that he believes the U.S. Senate should disqualify nominees who express this most basic biblical belief. Americans should never be forced to choose between their faith and public service. Nor should the U.S. Senate try to impose a stealth litmus test that says ‘you can be religious as long as you don’t actually believe or talk about what the Bible teaches.'"
It makes a person wonder how many Christians voted for this Senator. How many do you think will vote for him after hearing him viciously attack the Christian faith?
We just got done confessing the words of the Athanasian Creed, the longest statement of faith that the Christian Church has. Listen to the first two sentences again: "Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all else, hold to the true Christian faith. Whoever does not keep this faith pure in all points will certainly perish forever." And the creed concludes with this statement: "Whoever does not faithfully and firmly believe this cannot be saved." I wonder how the Athanasian Creed would stand up to a U. S. Senate confirmation hearing?
So what does the world think about us? To the outside world, we're laughingstocks. Yes, that's right, we're regarded as laughingstocks, and it doesn't apply only to us sitting here this morning. In fact, we're in good company. This holds true forSt. John, and the Rock, and Holy Cross, and Middle Creek, and the entire Seward Circuit. We can take that further to include the district, the synod, and those in fellowship. It's true for the entire Holy Christian Church & the Communion of Saints. That's a lot of laughingstocks.
So what are people laughing about? We just got done reading that very long account of creation, which comprises the entire first chapter of Genesis and a little more. We also confessed a very long creed about what it is we believe, and it nails things down pretty hard.
The creation account as it is stated in Genesis is the story about what happened. The Bible isn't a science book; it doesn't tell us the mechanics of how it all happened. We don't have all of the scientific formulas at our disposal. And since creation happened in the past, we have no real scientific tests we can use to attempt to figure it all out. In fact, scientists have mused over all of this for years and tried various theories, all of which have come to a dead-end somewhere along the line.
What we do have is what God said. We know that God would never lie to us or lead us astray. Furthermore, we know that God is omnipotent, that he can do anything he wants in any way that suits him. The words "God can't" should never be in our vocabulary, and I repeat that often.
But still, people laugh. "How can you believe in some supreme being that you've never seen? How can you accept things as factual if they can't be scientifically proven?" And so people have gone chasing their tails and spending a fortune in an attempt to prove their faulty theories, attempting to eliminate God from the picture.
Maybe you've read about the "Piltdown Man" in various articles. Quite briefly, this was an attempt to manufacture a "missing link" in evolutionary theory. Various bones were put together in an attempt to defraud the scientific community. And they bought into it too, at least for 41 years until it was proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was exposed as a composite forgery. It was an attempt to sell a bogus idea to people who had long before put the idea of God somewhere on the back shelf. Okay, now who are the laughingstocks of the world?
You guessed it, the Christians still are the laughingstocks. Even though God tells us in Genesis that each creature was created and produce offspring according to their own species, people still buy into the idea that somehow fish morphed into human beings. Even science has disproved that, since one species cannot become another species. It is a biological impossibility. Simians and humans are genetically different, like dogs and cats are genetically different. They can't be intermingled. About the closest thing we've been able to do is to come up with a mule, a cross between a horse and a donkey. And even with that, they both are species of the equine family.
People can make us into laughingstocks by what we believe, but we can readily see the superior knowledge and logic of God. People attempt to make their own logic and ways superior to God, but we know that is futile. Psalm chapter 2 verse 4 addresses this: "He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision."
The thing that sparked the controversy on the Senate floor was that Mr. Vought presented Christianity as exclusive. He said, "They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ, his Son, and they stand condemned."
Faith in Jesus seems to be the focal point of the world's derision; but Jesus is also the focal point of the Christian Church. Without Jesus, we are nothing. We can have all the wishful thinking in the world, but it is void without our Saviour. There can be millions that practice any one of many heathen religions, and even do so with the utmost sincerity, but they are meaningless in the grand scheme of things. The old saying goes, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions," and that most certainly is true. Good intentions have never gotten anybody into heaven. When that final day comes, all good intentions will be left behind.
We are sinners in need of a Saviour, not a Senate confirmation. We need to look to Jesus as the source of our salvation, and not some nebulous "good teacher." We need to see Jesus, who suffered, bled, died, and rose again for the likes of you and me. We need to know how broad his love is for us, that he would willingly do that for you and me.
John chapter 14 is a very comforting passage of Scripture. I use this at funerals to give people the assurance that the deceased person's faith in Jesus has guaranteed them a mansion in heaven for eternity. Listen to a few verses: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also....I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me....Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
Jesus says that nobody comes to the Father except through him. Within these words of comfort, Jesus assures us that we are on the right track. Human logic places all religions on an equal plane, with none being substantially different than the other. However, heathen religions are inventions of human beings, and human logic places the importance on what we do for God. The Christian faith places the importance on what God through Jesus Christ has done for us. How we respond to that faith God has given to us is how we live as Christians in society.
Unfortunately for many people, Christianity is nothing more than fodder for being a laughingstock. People are just plain mean about it. Freedom of religion is now being changed into "freedom FROM religion" as the ACLU and society in general attempts to rout out any reference to Christianity or to the associated rules of conduct.
James Madison, who drafted the Bill of Rights, wrote these words regarding the first amendment that guarantees freedom of religion: "The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed."
When I read words like this, it makes me wonder just how well our law makers know the constitution. I have wondered this same thing in different areas too, but the defense of our Christian freedom is something that cannot be overlooked. Sure we might be laughingstocks by believing what we do. But isn't that what happened to Jesus and his disciples too?
I think the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians chapter 2, verse 14 hits the proverbial laughingstock nail on the head: "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned."
The first and last sentences of the Athanasian Creed are known in theological circles as the "Damnatory Clauses." Listen to them again: "Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all else, hold to the true Christian faith. Whoever does not keep this faith pure in all points will certainly perish forever." And, "Whoever does not faithfully and firmly believe this cannot be saved."
The Holy Spirit brings us to faith, and into fellowship with this "mysterious Godhead," the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have God the Father in heaven, the wise creator. We have God the Son, Jesus Christ our Saviour, the Redeemer of the world. And we have God the Holy Spirit who calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies, and keeps us in the true faith with our Lord Jesus Christ.
I chose as a text for this morning the words of our Gospel Lesson for today from Matthew 28. It's what we call "The Great Commission." As believers, this is what Jesus has asked us to do. Once again, verses 19-20 read, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Even though we might be seen as laughingstocks, we have a job to do. We are Christians living in a heathen world, and so we act like Christians. We love our fellow man. But more importantly, we are witnesses. We want others to come to Jesus, so they may know the only way to heaven, and inhabit their own mansion for all eternity.