Pastor's Sermon
June 4, 2023
2 Corinthians 13:11-14

Trinity Sunday/Baccalaureate
Rev. Matthew C. Rauh

Your Relationship with the Triune God Spills Over into Your Life
     11 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.  12Greet one another with a holy kiss.13 All God’s people here send their greetings.   14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
     It is that time of the year.  We are in the midst of high school and college graduations.  Today we honor our seven members graduating from high school. Well-wishers will say to these graduates, “Congratulations,” or “Well done,” or “Good luck.”  “Good luck.”  I find that an odd wish.  I understand saying “good luck” to person placing a bet at Mystic Lake or buying a lottery ticket.  But why say “good luck” to a graduate, or to a couple on their wedding day, or someone going into surgery?  Is life one big roulette wheel?  “Around and around she goes; where she stops nobody knows.”
     Our Corinthian text are the very last words of Paul’s second letter.  These may be the last words will ever say to this congregation.  Notice he didn’t said, “Good luck.”  This would tell them that life is a big gamble.  Maybe God will work it out; maybe not.  Maybe you will survive; maybe not.”  Awful.  No, Paul wants to leave them with the surest, most confident words they will ever hear. On this Trinity Sunday we want to look at the relationship you have with the Triune God, and then to let that relationship spill over to your life.
  1. Our relationship with the Triune God.
      Paul writes, … the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  There are not too many people who have not heard of Jesus.  But they don’t really know him.  They may respect him as a great man or a profound teacher.  But Jesus is more than that.  He is true God, the Lord, equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit.  He is distinct and separate from the Father and Holy Spirit, but only one God.  
     And he gives us grace.  Earlier Paul had written about this grace, For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for you sakes he became poor, that through his poverty you might become rich.  Let that sink him.  The Lord left his glory behind in heaven and came into our world as a true man, and he did so to do something that will never happen to God, die. Soldiers and first responders rush into situations where they may die.  But most survive.  Jesus came without any hope of surviving.  He came to die for sins he did not commit, but for sins the world commits. 
    What does that mean for you?  Look at the person in front of you.  Do you think he or she deserves heaven more than you, or less than you?  Why? Pick out anyone else in this building and ask if he or she deserves heaven more than you or less than you? You are saved by grace.  It doesn’t matter if you are a big sinner or a small sinner or bigger sinner or the biggest sinner.  Grace means you have a free ride to heaven.  It cost Jesus his life.  It costs you nothing.
    Paul continues with, … and the love of God.  Everyone knows what love is, or do we?  I fear we use it too freely.  I love cheese.  I love basketball.  I love gardening.  We usually use “love” when we really mean “like.”  I suggest the world doesn’t really know what true love is.  How many wives felt betrayed when the man who swore he loves her leaves her for another woman?  
     Not the love of God.  God defines this godly love for us in Romans:  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  God had all of eternity before creation to think about what he will do when mankind sins. But for God there was no debate. He willed to save mankind.  Love wants best for the other.  We also see that love sacrifices.  God so loved the world that he gave his only Son for us all. And there is a third aspect of this out of this world godly love.  It is unreasonable.  He loved objects of his wrath.  He sent Jesus to die for atheists and agnostics. He exchanged him for murderers, adulterers, fornicators, the worse.  That is unreasonable.  If you had a chance to donate an organ to someone and you get to pick, who would it be, that young mother of three or that guy doing twenty years for abusing his children?  God picked both.  
     Nothing is more important than being loved.  We look forward to being greeted by the dog who missed us all day or to see the faces of those who love us.  The Father loves you with the most intense love.  Just look at the cross.  And that love goes with you in thick or thin, in good or bad, even through the valley of the shadow of death.
     And then Paul said, … and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  Fellowship, just what is it?  It is basically sharing.  It is used to describe how the bread iand wine n Communion also shares the body and blood of Christ.  What does the Holy Spirit share with us?  He takes the deepest things of God and makes them real to us.  We still don’t understand much like the Trinity, but we believe it.  We don’t just think Jesus is the real deal.  We believe it.  That is the work of the Holy Spirit.
     He also shares God’s holiness with us.  You and I have no holiness we can speak of.  Oh, humans have a worldly or humanistic goodness about us, but there is no holiness before God.  But there is a holiness available.  It is Jesus and his perfect life on earth.  The Holy Spirit shares that holiness with us when he brings us to faith. Those who believe in him have now been clothed with Christ’s holiness.  Yes, this means unbelievers are not clothed in Christ and are still unholy before God. But we have them.  The Spirit shares them with us through faith.
     Do you see the relationship you have with God?  He is not some impersonal, far away deity.  He comes to us.  He knows you by name and the number of hairs on your head.  And he loves you deeply.  He showers you with his grace.  He shares everything with you.  Now, let that relationship you have with the Triune God now spill into your life.
  1. Let the Triune God spill into your life.
     11 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.  12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.13 All God’s people here send their greetings.  He regards these believers as close as his own brothers and sisters.  That may surprise you.  Read 1 and 2 Corinthians.  This congregation was far from perfect.  They had many issues.  They were high maintenance.  And they tend to chew up and spit out called workers.  
     Yet, he regards them still his brothers and sisters. How?  Why?  Well, because God still regarded them as his dear children even though they tried his patience and sinned much.  Don’t think for a moment that a person stops sinning when he or she comes to faith. But those sins are still covered under that one sacrifice at the cross.  God still loves them.  His grace still applies to them.  Forgiveness is still offered them.    This church gave Paul fits, but God’s grace meant they were still forgiven and his children.  So Paul still considered them brothers and sisters because they were.
     But don’t think for a moment that it doesn’t matter if the believer still sins.  Strive for full restoration.  If mechanics spoke ancient Greek today, they would use this world to dig into a car that doesn’t work, fix it and get it into working order.  This is the believer’s goal in life, to get up and running and running well.  The believer knows he or she is holy because of Christ’s holiness.  He or she knows they will be in a perfect, sinless heaven. So, they want to live that way now. In the Army they may say, “Be all that you can be.”  The Christian says, “Be all that you already are.”  
     Encourage one another.  In the NBA finals, we see bench players.  They don’t sit there like an oil painting.  They are involved in the game, serving as cheerleaders, encouraging the team. Do the same.  In Hebrews the pastor told his congregation to keep coming to church.  And he gave the reason, so they may encourage each other on while in a hostile world until Christ comes back.  You need church, and your fellow believers need you at church to encourage them.
     And this goes beyond this congregation.  Paul sent greetings from congregations from all over the world to Corinth, most of whom they will never meet.  But they were still brothers and sisters in Christ.  Some of you graduates are going off to college. Good.  But look for a WELS or ELS congregation to be your home away from home. They are your brothers and sisters, too. 
     Be of one mind.  This word means to have an opinion.  All of you, especially our graduates, will meet people who have opinions.  Well, have an opinion as well.  You are blessed with the truth of God and his Word.  Let it shape who you are and believe and your opinion on things.  This congregation may have varying opinions on politics, electric cars, or on how to plow a field.  But they are of one mind.  We agree on Baptism, Jesus, Repentance, Communion, because we have it written down in our Bibles.  So, have an opinion before that professor, one based on God and his Word.
     Live in peace.  This is the result.  Jesus brings peace by removing the thing that separates the sinner from a holy God.  He removes its guilt.  That is how you have peace in the home, workplace, church, even in the streets as you drive.  Forgive the sins of others.  Repent of the sins you commit.  Bury the hatchet and be at peace.
     Graduates, congratulations.  But I refuse to say “good luck.”  Rather, I want to leave you with something better.  You’ve heard this blessings many times in church.  Carry it with you.  Your Lord loves you.  He covers you with his grace.  He shares all things, even the holiness of Christ, with you.  With that you can’t fail.  And the God of love and peace will be with you.  Amen.

Funeral Sermon May 31, 2023

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