Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we rejoice that You have made Your Father’s love known to us by sending forth the Spirit of power to shower us with His strength. We rejoice that all three Persons of the Holy Trinity have revealed to us God’s singular purpose—the saving of our lost souls. Now armed with Your power, the power of forgiveness and love, may we be faithful soldiers of the cross who seek to extend Your kingdom by reaching out to other hurting souls who need Your comfort and strength, too. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM THE BLESSED, HOLY TRINITY!
TEXT: Matthew 28: 16-20
Fellow Redeemed Sinners Made Whole By God’s Grace:
In the world-famous Roman armies, the decisive act of becoming a soldier was called the sacramentum, that is, the military oath. The Christian church adopted this word for the decisive act of becoming a soldier of Christ; for baptism and especially the vows taken at baptism, were called sacramentum. By becoming a Christian through the sacramentum, we cease to be civilians, and we become soldiers, actively engaged in Christ’s battle for the world. The New Testament and the early church never admitted a distinction between active and passive members, either.
And yet, in churches all over the world, the great majority of those who have made the sacramentum in their baptismal vows, do not actively join in Christ’s struggle for the world. After taking the “military oath” many of them become deserters, conforming themselves to the world, and not being transformed by the renewal of their minds as Paul says in Romans. Others go on permanent leave, only returning occasionally to “check in.” They lead a double and sometimes a triple life, following various sets of ethics—one for their private life, one for Sunday morning, and one which they display in their work-a-day life. Still others always seem to remain in the barracks, becoming more and more knowledgeable about the “spiritual armor of God” but never leaving their Christian camp to fight for reconciliation in the world. In fact, under these circumstances, it sometimes happens that the only battles in which these folks fight take place right in the barracks!
Well, in view of all that, I have a question for each of you this Holy Trinity Sunday. It is this:
WHERE DO YOUR LOYALTIES LIE?
My job as one of Christ’s pastors is to put prospective soldiers through basic training. It is to spread the seed of His Word and thereby allow the Holy Spirit to transform meek, spiritually ignorant sinners into mighty saints who aren’t afraid to take on the devil, the world, or even their own sinful flesh. Sometimes the work is successful and sometimes recruits wash out of basic training. But, even then, I hold out hope that by God’s grace eventually they may return to their vows and actively embrace their General, Jesus Christ, once again.
Many years ago I confirmed a young woman who came to our church. She had a diverse past which one of my fellow pastors was aware of. That year when I attended our synod convention I was talking to that pastor and told him that she had been confirmed. His response to me was: “Did it take?” I told him at the time: “I hope so. I guess time will tell.” Well, time did tell. A year or so later she had become less and less zealous, attended only on a hit-and-miss basis. Then she dropped off the radar screen and moved away. Today I don’t know her status, but I know the Holy Spirit hasn’t given up on her.
My job is not to read your hearts. That’s up to God. But the fact is, all of us have stresses and temptations that seek to lead us away from our King. And one of the greatest temptations is to be passive in our faith. It’s the old “someone else will do it” syndrome. However, right in this famous text, Christ quashes that mindset. He takes the eleven remaining disciples up to the Mount of Olives to view His ascension. And right before He leaves earth, He gives them a very active command! “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
For most baptism is their entrance in Christ’s army of faith. It took place when they were infants and their parents or godparents made that vow because they could not yet voice the faith wrought in their hearts. Later they confirmed that vow with a public confirmation ceremony much like we had a couple of weeks ago here at church. Others came to faith later on in life and gave voice to their sacramentum vows with their own mouths. But in every case, God’s gift of the Spirit via baptism either began or renewed their allegiance to Christ.
So, what have you done with your sacramentum? Where do your loyalties lie? Going AWOL doesn’t bring honor to you or to your Lord. Being a second-guessing soldier of the cross who fears confronting evil mocks Christ Who says: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Engaging in a hypocritical lifestyle does the same. And being a barracks believer who trains and trains but never uses their skills reveals nothing more than an empty uniform.
If we’re honest, we must all confess that we’ve been cowardly and indecisive when it comes to standing up for our God. At times our loyalties have been misplaced. But the glory of this day is that God is always and has been always loyal to us! He never, ever, lets us down! Every step of our lives He is with us. He encourages us. He uplifts us. He motivates us. Yes, occasionally He gives us a kick in the pants to get us going. But, as the Good Shepherd He doesn’t follow His troops, He leads them into battle. And His powerful armor of light protects us at all times.
Think about it. God the Father creates and preserves us. God the Son has bought and paid for our souls by winning the eternal victory over evil and death on the cross, thereby winning us peace with God. And God the Holy Spirit arms us with the armor of immortality while also giving us His sword, His Word of power, to oppose the forces of evil, doubt, and despair. Yes, the Triune God is so loyal to His troops that He promises never to send them into battle alone. “And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”
When I was in grade school, junior high, and high school I was known as the history whiz in my class. In fact, I often knew more details than did my teachers because I had read more books than they had on the subject. And the one thing that always repeated itself was this: soldiers win and are victorious only when they really believe in their general. And winning generals really care about their troops and never ask anything of them that they themselves would not do. Well, we have the best General there is: Jesus Christ. We have the best God there is, the only God there is, Who willingly embraced death to lead us to victory! And because that God has arisen from death and claimed His victory, we have nothing to fear as we go forth and change hearts by proclaiming His love and light! Yes, the Triune God has proved that His loyalties lie with us! So, where do your loyalties lie? Amen