Trinity 2 2020
June 21, 2020
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
Have you gotten used to sitting far apart each other yet, standing 6 feet away in the stores that you go to? For some people, I’m sure the extra personal space is welcome, the personal bubble expanded just a little big more. While things like technology, and phones, and internet are being used in new ways to help people stay connected to one another, it really is no substitute. Jesus doesn’t socially distance Himself. He draws people to Himself, into a personal union with His people.
St. Paul writes in Ephesians 2, “You who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Notice the verbs here, “have been brought.” That is passive. You are not the ones doing the bringing, but God is the One who is doing the work. Luther explained this well in his explanation of the 3rd article of the creed, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him…” You see, Christianity is not like a ladder that we climb to try to reach God. That is what the tower of Babel attempted, and we all know that didn’t work out well. Luther continues though, “but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”
This is what St. Paul is talking about. But remember this: your sin separates you from God. And your sin keeps you from God. Dead in our trespasses and sins, separated from God, far away. But in the incarnation, God draws close to us. He comes down from heaven to dwell with sinners. And He draws sinners to Himself, He draws sinners together around Himself, He invites sinners to dine with Him in the Kingdom of God.
God gathers a people to Himself. These people are to be holy and blameless. Notice what He doesn't say. He doesn't say God gathers the perfect. He doesn't say God gathers the righteous. He doesn't say God gathers those who have it all together. But God gathers strangers, aliens, those with no hope, the poor and crippled and lame. Broken by the weight of our own sin and that of the world. Needy. Beggars. Not even able to go to God.
You want to draw closer to God? Good. But this only takes place when and where He comes to you. “It is not enough for God only to have his work take place in us people and to fill us with his gifts, with his light, his power and his comfort, he wants himself, with his nature, to enter our hearts. It is not enough for God only to make people his priests, who come before him and serve him, but he also wants to make them his temples in which he serves them. It is not enough for God to someday receive his people into heaven where they shall look upon him, who is enthroned in glory, face to face, but he himself, already here, wants to make them into his heaven and establish his throne in them. (Walther, From Our Master’s Table, 75)
This is what Jesus is doing today, here, now. From heaven to the Word to your ears. From heaven to font, poured out upon your head. From heaven to the altar to your mouth. The means of grace are the means by which a person is justified, they are also the means by which the new character and nature are given. Worship is the primary context for the granting of new character and the strengthening of it. Worship strengthens and develops the new character not through mere habituation or practice, but through the operation of grace, which develops a new way of being. This formative character of worship centers on the word of God and the sacraments.
We find ourselves brought near to God, but also to each other. No longer are sinful divisions to exist among us, because Christ has died to bring us together. “When you try to maintain your hatred or your anger or your separation, it’s as if you are reaching into the wounds of Jesus—where all of that sin went—and pulling it out again. Give the separation up! Let go of the anger! Leave it in the wounds of Jesus. He has reconciled you to God, His Father, through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. In the temple, there was a wall that separated God’s people and the Gentiles into the inner and outer courts. But in this spiritual temple of God’s church, there is no separation. He has broken down the wall. Through faith in Jesus and by His blood, people are no longer divided in the worship of God, nor from one another. Christ has abolished the law, that is the curse of the Law, by perfectly fulfilling it. He unites us into one man, into Himself.
In doing so, God builds you up into a temple of living stones, who breathe with the Spirit’s breath, a people in whom God Himself dwells. Israel not of the flesh, but of the Spirit, a church incorporating children of Abraham who believe as he believed in the Christ to come. Built upon the prophets and apostles, founded upon Christ Himself, with the cross standing high and proud.
There is a place for you here, because there is peace and reconciliation for all in the body of Jesus. All believers have been brought near—to God and to one another—by the blood of Jesus (3:13). He killed the hostility for all on the cross. No longer is any believer a stranger or a foreigner here in the assembly of the baptized. All share the same foundation, the same cornerstone; Jesus Christ. It is through the bestowal of the Triune name of God in our Baptism that we receive our place in the temple, the dwelling place of God. That’s why we begin our service with the Trinitarian invocation and make the sign of the cross. It’s not just a tradition, not just a reminder, but it is reality. You belong here. You have been invited. There is place for you in the kingdom of God because of Jesus. Christ has come near to you and brings you near to Himself.