Sunday, June 3, 2007

"Hear the Word and Never See Death"

SERMON for The HOLY TRINITY: June 3, 2007

"Hear the Word and Never See Death"

Whoever does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it. I do not know who first said it, but one can hardly deny the truth of this statement.

We are in the middle of an ugly war, and anyone who remembers anything about the Vietnam War can’t help but see the parallels. Whatever side you may be on as to the advisability of the war, how to conduct it, or how to bring it to a rapid conclusion – we are repeating history and it isn’t pretty, beneficial, or unifying.

This is even more true for us in the church.

Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said, "See, this is new"? It has already been in ancient times before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after. (NKJ)

At least that is the way unless those of us who have been taught to remember – and learn – bring the truth of history to the ears, hearts and minds of those hell-bent on repeating it.

In the little introduction of the Athanasian Creed contained in our bulletin today, we see that this ancient symbol of the one Holy Christian and apostolic church long that we dread as too time consuming, clumsy, and repetitious for our busy, 21st century lives, is in response to a "Christian" leader who taught that Jesus Christ could not properly be considered to be God.

In our Gospel lesson we see the Pharisees also denying that Jesus could possibly be God.

But of course the Christians of this day and age, with the benefit of twenty-twenty hindsight and a resurrected Lord would never fall into that trap right? So who needs such a rambling and old fashioned recitation of history cluttering up the hour or so we "give" to Jesus each week.

Today’s Christians do, that’s who.

If anyone thinks he is giving Jesus and the Father anything when he takes an hour or so of his precious time to tell God how much he loves Him and pat each other on the back to show each other how faithful they are, they are no better or different than Arius or the Pharisees.

The biblical scholars and pastors of our day who call Scripture a mere historical document written by men who wanted to explain God according to their inferior scientific and philosophical understanding -- they make the same mistake as Arius and the Pharisees.

Any Christian that does not believe that the risen Christ is bodily present to live and reign with His church where souls are baptized, the Gospel is proclaimed, and in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, like Arius, is limiting the divine, godly nature of Christ that makes all things possible for Him, and like the Pharisees is denying the presence of God among them.

Hear Jesus’ words from our Gospel once again as He speaks to the Pharisees, to Arius and his followers, and to His baptized children today:
"But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God."

Then the Jews answered and said to Him, "Do we not say rightly that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?"

Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges. Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death." John 8:45-51 NKJ

Those who hear God’s Word -- that is, the Word of Christ crucified, risen, and ascended to be present in His church throughout the world -- belong to God and will never see death!

Those who do not hear that Word are not of God.

There are two ways not to hear:
1. Not to be present where that Word is proclaimed and taught for the forgiveness of sins.
2. Not to believe what that Word has to say about Christ and His presence among us. This is what Jesus means about keeping it.

And here is the kicker for you and me today. In one respect, we are no different than Arius, the Pharisees, or those that do not hear and keep God’s Word today. For, you see, we cannot hear or keep God’s Word by our own efforts either.

It is most certainly true that "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. [Yet] How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" Rom 10:13-4

That is where the Holy Spirit comes in. Since we cannot believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him, the Holy Spirit comes to us, bringing the Word of Life to us and thus keeping us with Christ in the one true faith with all other believers unto eternal life.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Eph 2:4-7 NKJ

All this the Holy Spirit does for us in the hearing of God’s Word, for in the hearing and keeping of Christ’s teaching, the Son of God is with His baptized children forever, even unto the end of the age. [Matt. 28:20]

So as Christ tells His beloved brothers and sisters in today’s Gospel, "Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death."

So let us now hear and keep that precious Word together as we people of God’s kingdom of heaven on earth confess the Athanasian Creed together -- for to hear and keep that Word and never see death is what Christ means when He says "they that have done good will go into life everlasting." John 5:29; Matthew 10:32

The Athanasian Creed

Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith. Whoever does not keep it whole and undefiled will without doubt perish eternally.

And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in trinity and Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance. For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Holy Spirit is another.

But the Godhead of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit: the Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, the Holy Spirit uncreated; the Father infinite, the Son infinite, the Holy Spirit infinite; the Father eternal, the Son eternal, the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet there are not three Eternals, but one Eternal, just as there are not three Uncreated or three Infinites, but one Uncreated and one Infinite.

In the same way, the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, the Holy Spirit almighty; and yet there are not three Almighties but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God; and yet there are not three Gods, but one God. So the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord; and yet there are not three Lords, but one Lord.

Just as we are compelled by the Christian truth to acknowledge each distinct person as God and Lord, so also are we prohibited by the catholic religion to say that there are three Gods or Lords. The Father is not made nor created nor begotten by anyone. The Son is neither made nor created, but begotten of the Father alone. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son, neither made nor created nor begotten but proceeding. Thus, there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

And in this Trinity none is before or after another; none is greater or less than another; but the whole three persons are coeternal with each other so that in all things, as has been stated above, the Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity is to be worshiped. Therefore, whoever desires to be saved must think thus about the Trinity.

But it is also necessary for everlasting salvation that one faithfully believe the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is the right faith that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at the same time both God and man. He is God, begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages; and He is man, born from the substance of His mother in this age: perfect God and perfect man, composed of a rational soul and human flesh; equal to the Father with respect to His divinity, less than the Father with respect to His humanity.

Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ: one, however, not by the conversion of the divinity into flesh but by the assumption of the humanity into God; one altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person. For as the rational soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ, who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, from whence He will come to judge the living and the dead. At His coming all people will rise again with their bodies and give an account concerning their own deeds. And those who have done good will enter into eternal life, and those who have done evil into eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith; whoever does not believe it faithfully and firmly cannot be saved.

2 comments:

Someone who has been there said...

As a military member, I find you piggy backing your church political agenda off a very serious war against terror to be the height of disrespect.

I. M. Abaldy II said...

Dear Someone,

No disrespect for the military and you brave folk who serve intended.

I purposely did not present a position in my sermon either for or against the war we are currently fighting in the Middle East because it is not my place as a pastor to do so. The point is, we have not learned from history that we must be united against our enemies in order to defeat them, whether enemies of our country or enemies of the one true Christian and apostolic faith.

War is a necessary evil, so to speak, in both realms. Romans 12 tells us the government bears the sword for the welfare of its people. We speak of the church militant because of the battles for the truth of Christ that we must fight to preserve true doctrine for the salvation of souls.

In both cases we must clearly identify the enemy -- who they are and why they are our enemies (i.e why they are wrong and/or evil in specific terms -- otherwise we lack the will and ability to defeat them. Trying to soften our language and tactics in fighting for country or the faith once we take the fight to the enemy only causes needless casualties and in-fighting.

Thank you for your service, and the Lord defend you from all harm in body and soul, as you act as God's arm on earth for defense against those who have no respect for life or peaceful coexistance.

lm