Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Called to Serve and Protect Word and Sacrament - Matthew 28

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Dear Redeemed in Christ:

One of the aspects of parenthood more and more neglected — even rejected — by more and more parents is the calling, the responsibility, the duty to protect those placed by God under their care. Parents can be great friends to their children and grandchildren, important mentors and confidantes and guides and resources for their kids. But before any of that, there's the matter of protecting those who can't fend for themselves: those who are most vulnerable and at risk. Care-taking, protecting, and watching out for those who cannot yet take care of themselves is a constant responsibility, a 24/7 job, a life-long labor of love for the sake of those to whom we will pass the torch, in the same way our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were called to protect and defend and sacrifice for us and for all to whom they left their legacy.
"To serve and protect" is not some slogan only for the side of a police cruiser. That is why, last Sunday, we not only gave thanks to God for the good confession given by this year's five Confirmands, but also, by God's grace, renewed our pledge to pray for them and, as a congregation, continue to watch over them as they grow up in their Christian faith and life.
We take Confirmation — and youth group, and Sunday School, and Vacation Bible School and Preschool — seriously because we take seriously the spiritual welfare of those placed under our care, by parents and grandparents and by God himself. It's what we've been called in Christ and his mercy to be and to do.
And that means not only putting a security fence around the preschool and providing adult supervision when the youth group goes to Six Flags.
We, as Christ's Church, are called to "serve and protect" those placed under our care, those most precious to our Lord. That's the command part, the Law part, of the Great Commission given to us by the One who has been given all power and authority in heaven and on earth. "As you are going," Jesus says, "make disciples of all nations." It is as if our Lord is saying, "I am sending you out into the world, that I may graciously work 'in, with and under' you to create and sustain saving faith in my own dear children from every language and nation and people. I am calling you to be my ambassadors and servants entrusted with all that you will need to bring salvation to the ends of the earth."
And, as I have said before, Christ does not leave it up to our imaginations how he will accomplish this miracle of creating trusting hearts and minds from spiritually dead and rebellious people.
What does he say? "I will, through my Church, make disciples by means of healers who can talk with the dead."? By means of the believer's own will-power to turn their life over to God and believe in him with their whole heart and mind and soul."? By means of what my own fallen intuition tells me is the leading of the Spirit."? By means of what make the most sense to the world or the world's own religions."?
Christ clearly announces to Peter and the Disciples and the entire Christian Church on earth that disciples will be graciously made by the Lord of heaven and earth by means of — what? By means of Word and Sacrament, by means of the entire Word of God Christ has revealed to the Apostles and by means of the Sacrament of Baptism and the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper that is naturally to follow in the lives of the Baptized.
Christ makes disciples through his own, divinely appointed means: Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. "Salvation," Jesus says, "is to be found where I have established it and sustain it: in the grace offered and given through my Word of forgiveness in, with, and under water, my Word of forgiveness in, with and under bread and wine. Here you will find me with my gracious gifts, working in you and all my children the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Look for me here — at the Baptismal font, in that same life-giving water created from my all-powerful Word that water that gave birth to creation, to the heavens and the earth."
And, this morning, we are once again reminded that not only was the gracious creation of the world a trinitarian event, the work of the One true God in the persons of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, but the even more gracious salvation of the world was won in Our Lord Christ winning what he had been sent by the father to accomplish: redemption through the giving of his perfect life upon the altar of the Cross, that Cross upon which Christ handed over to his Father the Spirit, that it might be poured out upon all God's children on the day of Pentecost.
Our creation and our re-creation is by the gracious hand of our trinitarian God. That is what he has revealed to the prophets and apostles to be proclaimed and believed and defended by his Church until Christ comes again.
That's why every service here begins in the name (singular) of God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. That's why every Baptism in this sanctuary is administered in the name of the Trinity — because in his grace and loving-kindness, the greatest gift given to us by the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit is, as the second commandment reveals, his saving Name.
And that name is not kept holy when we smother it in bubble wrap and put it in the church's safety-deposit box. It is kept holy when used by Christ's Church and each of us Christians when we wake up in the morning and when we go to bed at night, when we gather for fellowship around the table and around the Scriptures, when we share the Word of God with ourselves and with our families and with our neighbor. When we use it daily (and this is the catch) — in God-given faith.
God the Father has called each of us and all of us together to treasure and protect and defend all that he has revealed about himself through Christ and his Word and Spirit. And, at the most fundamental level, that means upholding and guarding and singing and confessing and sharing the doctrine of the Holy Trinity: one God in three persons, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
And we keep and treasure Scripture's teaching of the Trinity as our precious treasure because so much of what calls itself Christian or spiritual or religious or uplifting has no need of Scripture's teaching of the Trinity, or even teaches against it.
The doctrine of the Trinity was the first great struggle of the early Church. And, by God's grace, the Church's confession as spoken in the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed was a faithful one, one that reflected the truth of the Holy Scriptures and no more than that.
In many congregations this morning, Holy Trinity Sunday is no longer recognized as anything special or great or precious or worth observing. It is simply another Sunday in some new series of sermons on how individual Christians can earn God's favor by making themselves nicer people.
But this morning, here, in this place, around lectern and font and pulpit and altar, God again reminds us of who he is and what he does as our gracious, redeeming, life-giving God — with his Word in, with and under water and bread and wine.
God has called us to treasure those he has placed under our care. And, by his grace, he will continue to preserve among us the teaching of the Holy Trinity, that we might feed the youngest among us with the pure, clear and sustaining Word given to us by Christ himself.
May we be found faithful in treasuring the only Name under heaven by which we must be saved, for God's glory, and the salvation of many, especially those entrusted to our care.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen