Posted by: Johnold Strey | May 23, 2016

Sermon on Romans 5:1-5

Holy Trinity Sunday — May 22, 2016 — Sermon starts at 31:25

A THREEFOLD BLESSING FROM OUR TRIUNE GOD

  1. Peace before the Father
  2. Access through the Son
  3. Hope from the Spirit

Text: Romans 5:1-5

Introduction

fireworksAlthough we are just a week away from Memorial Day—the holiday that marks the start of summer in the minds of many people—I’d like you to move your minds ahead to the holiday that occurs in the middle of summer, Independence Day. Imagine that, after the sun has set, you are taking in a spectacular fireworks display, the likes of which you can’t remember seeing before. The family is all together for the Fourth of July, and one of your children or grandchildren are seated on your lap as this master lights display is bursting before your eyes. Do you think that, at that moment, you would begin to explain how fireworks work in a scientific way with proper academic language? Or is that the moment to sit back, enjoy the time with family, ooh and ah at the fireworks as they blossom in the sky, and just soak in the moment?

Last week was Call Day at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary—the day when graduates of our church body’s seminary find out (in a special service with 1,000 other people present!) where they have been assigned to begin their ministry as pastors. A son of St. Mark’s congregation, Gunnar Ledermann, received his divine call at that service to be pastor at a congregation in Rockwall, Texas. Imagine you are there, hearing the voices of a thousand fellow Lutherans sing the hymns with vigor and enthusiasm, feeling the nervous excitement in the room as life is about to change in a big way for those graduates. Do you think that, at the moment the list of assignments is being read, you would turn to the person next to you and ask them to explain the in’s and out’s and policies of the call process to you? Or is that the moment to sit back, absorb the emotions and energy that permeate the rom, and soak in the whole experience?

C38b-smallToday is Trinity Sunday. The Christian Church has been celebrating this particular Sunday, eight weeks after Easter, as Trinity Sunday since 1334 A.D. officially, and unofficially even earlier than that. And there are two ways we could celebrate this day. We could turn worship into an academic experience, and slice and dice our way through the Athanasian Creed and other precise Christian statements of faith about the Trinity. There is no doubt that there are definite times and places for that! But we could also celebrate like an incredible divine fireworks display of the Triune God’s existence and mystery and blessings on us. That’s really what we’re doing in this service today, and that’s the direction our sermon today will take us in. Our meditation on God’s Word today will be more like celebration rather than education. We want to marvel in the mystery of our Triune God, and also bask in the glow of all his blessings to us. To do that, let’s take a closer look at the Second Lesson for this service, from Romans 5:1-5. That’s where the apostle Paul helps us to celebrate this day by focusing on a threefold blessing from our Triune God: peace before the Father, access through the Son, and hope from the Spirit. 

I.

Citrus Heights was in the news last Thursday evening, and it wasn’t for something good. Just down the street in the apartments, a crime had taken place—and I’ll trust that you heard about it in the news. When you hear about crime like that, it makes you want to “throw the book” at the person. It makes you want to hear that some judge or jury is going to lock that criminal up and throw away the key. We’re not going to tolerate that kind of violence in our community!

God doesn’t tolerate violence—or anything else. God has a zero-tolerance policy for sin. Some people try to argue that God’s no-tolerance policy only applies to really evil things that people do, or that God isn’t fair when he demands that we never do, say, or even think about something that goes against his Word. But God’s no-tolerance policy still stands, and if you break it, you’re facing life behind bars with no parole in the eternal prison called hell!

But listen now to what the apostle Paul says in today’s Second Lesson. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” God’s zero-tolerance policy demands that sin be punished. But as we stand in heaven’s courtroom, accompanied by our defense attorney, Jesus, an amazing thing happens. We are acquitted! No, God doesn’t ignore his zero-tolerance policy. Paul says we are acquitted through faith in Christ. Jesus’ life and death met all the requirements of God’s zero-tolerance policy. Jesus met all the standards set in God’s zero-tolerance policy, and then paid the penalty God demanded from us for all the times we’ve broken God’s policy against sin.

If you’ve taken a good look at God’s zero-tolerance policy for sin, and then taken an honest look at your life, the idea of meeting God face to face doesn’t sound too appealing. Paul says just the opposite. “We have peace [before] God through our Lord Jesus.” Anyone who has ever walked this earth and whose trust rests in the saving work of Jesus doesn’t need to fear facing God. Their fears have been set aside, because Jesus’ victory over death declares that the terrors of sin have been overcome by the peace and tranquility that comes through faith.

On this Trinity Sunday, we’re not simply going to take our copies of Luther’s Catechism off the shelf and review the Bible basics about our three-in-one God. We want to marvel at the mystery of our Triune God, and we especially want marvel at the three-fold gift that our Triune God gives us. That three-fold gift includes peace before the Father. Think about the impact that this peace gives you in your spiritual life! So many people force themselves to worry and wonder about their relationship with God. They live in fear of God, because they only know him as an angry judge who hands out harsh sentences. Through faith in Jesus, our relationship before God is not one of fear, but one of peace. We stand before the Father with complete peace, a perfect peace that our Savior Jesus has given us, a powerful peace that overcomes my every sin, because my Lord Jesus has blotted out every one of those sins before his Father’s presence.

II.

If you are on the St. Mark’s campus but you are not a member of the staff, and you want to get on the internet, you need an access code. Fortunately, it’s not too hard to find. It’s almost always on the back page of the Sunday service booklet. And that’s true of Wi-Fi networks all over the place. Enter the password, and behold!—you have access.

God has his own access policy. There’s a correct way to gain access to God. It’s not a password! St. Paul says, “Through [Christ] we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” The peace we have before God through faith in Jesus is directly related to the second item of this three-fold gift. Believers in Jesus have complete access to God’s throne. Believers’ access to God isn’t like a Wi-Fi signal that only gives you access if you have a password and there isn’t an overload of people using the network. Christians received their access to God the very moment he called them into his family, and they can enjoy that access any time they need to approach God’s throne with their prayers, requests, and concerns.

On this Trinity Sunday, we’re not simply going to take our copies of Luther’s Catechism off the shelf and review the Bible basics about our three-in-one God. We want to marvel at the mystery of our Triune God, and we especially want marvel at the three-fold gift that our Triune God gives us. That three-fold gift includes access through the Son. Think about the impact that this access gives you in your spiritual life! So many people force themselves to worry and wonder whether or not they have access to God. They wonder if they’ll ever be good enough for God to listen to them, or if their past is so shaded with sin that God will never give them a hearing. Through faith in Jesus, our relationship with God is not one of access denied, but of open access through prayer, anytime, anywhere, for any reason. We can approach God with total access, because our Savior Jesus has permanently opened heaven’s throne room to us. Now he assures us that he hears every prayer we offer to him, and he will answer it in a way that will ultimately bless us and strengthen our relationship with him.

III.

Some people hoped for dry weather yesterday. Family picnics and rummage sales and other outdoor plans made them hope for the skies to stay clear. Others hoped for rain yesterday. Recovering from the drought is still reality, and the more rain, the better our situation becomes. But in both of these contexts, we say that we hope for the weather to be this or that. But our hoping really doesn’t change much, does it? Ask people in the Midwest if hoping for no snow in April actually worked. When we use the word “hope,” we often just mean that we want something to happen, but there’s no guarantee that what we want is actually going to happen.

God has given his children a special kind of hope. St. Paul says, “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” This isn’t the kind of hope that’s uncertain. This isn’t a “pie in the sky” kind of hope. Hope from God is a certain hope. It’s a hope we can even boast about.

That’s right, Paul actually says we can boast about our hopes. This isn’t an arrogant type of boasting. This isn’t Peter Pan boasting that he defeated Captain Hook! This is a positive boasting. Paul invites his readers to rejoice in the positive hope God gives.

Paul says that Christians can boast about two different things. First, we can “[boast] in the hope of the glory of God.” Believers can rejoice in the sure and certain hope that they will share in the perfect glory and bliss God will give them in eternity.

Paul also says that Christians can boast in something that might seem a little strange at first: “We also [boast] in our sufferings.” In order to demonstrate that truth, Paul lists a “chain of virtues” for us. The first link in this chain is that “suffering produces perseverance.” When Christians strive to work through the pressures and headaches of life, that striving works in them a patient endurance, a kind of character that keeps chugging forward even when the chips are down. The next link in the chain is that “perseverance [produces] character.” As a result of continually striving ahead, even through difficult times in life, Christians develop a kind of character that comes from passing through these tests of life. Finally, Paul says that this “character [produces] hope.” Children of God always have something better to look forward to. Whether life is going well, or not so well, believers can always put their hope in the sure and certain promise of the perfect life to come—heaven.

So where does this hope come from? Paul concludes our reading by giving us that answer. He says, “Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” A Christian’s hope comes from the Holy Spirit of God. In fact, the peace that believers enjoy before the Father, and the access believers have through the Son, are all blessings that flow from the faith that the Spirit of God has placed in the heart of every Christian.

On this Trinity Sunday, we’re not simply going to take our copies of Luther’s Catechism off the shelf and review the Bible basics about our three-in-one God. We want to marvel at the mystery of our Triune God, and we especially want marvel at the three-fold gift that our Triune God gives us. That three-fold gift includes hope from the Spirit. Think about the impact that this hope gives you in your spiritual life! So many people force themselves to go through life hopelessly. They put their hope in themselves, their abilities, their investments, their family, but they have no hope for eternity. Through faith in Jesus, our relationship before God is not one of hopelessness, but one of complete hopefulness. We walk through this life with a sure and certain hope. Despite the many headaches and heartaches we face, despite every curveball that the devil throws our way, you and I have an unshakable hope from the Spirit, who enables us to work through the pressures of this life as we look forward to the glories of the next life.

Conclusion

american flagEducation is important. So is celebration. It’s important that we educate our children about the history of our country. It’s important that we explain to them the symbolism in the American flag’s stars and stripes. But when July 4 rolls around, you’re probably not going to spend the day taking a quiz on the Revolutionary War or reading a book about Betsy Ross. You’re going to don your red, white, and blue, take in a parade, soak in the fireworks, and celebrate the freedom you have as an American citizen.

It’s important that we educate ourselves about the Bible’s teaching of the Triune God. When Trinity Sunday rolls around, we speak our way through the mouthful of precise words that teach the Trinity in the Athanasian Creed. But then we also celebrate. We don’t try to explain how God is three and one at the same time—we can’t! But we bask in the comfort that the God who is so great that he is beyond our comprehension has given us his gifts of peace, access, and hope that are just as beyond our comprehension—but not our appreciation! Let the message of this Trinity Sunday fill your mind with awe and your heart with thanks! Amen.

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