Sunday, May 30, 2010

Who Do You Make Yourself Out to Be?

The Holy Trinity
First Sunday after Pentecost
May 30, 2010
John 8:48-59

The Jews in today’s Gospel reading ask this question of Jesus: Who do you make Yourself out to be? His answer is that He makes Himself out to be God.

Jesus was a man. He was a person who walked and talked and had a job. He interacted with people, He laughed, He cried, He loved, He got angry. He was one person among a world full of men and women.

And yet, He made Himself out to be God. He lived fully as a man just we are fully men and women. But His beginning wasn’t in the womb of Mary. Before Abraham was, He said, I am. He is, He was, and He always will be. He’s God.

If a particular person made himself out to be God, we might think he had a demon. It just doesn’t fit into our understanding of reality that one man among them all would be a man like every other one but also God. Anyone who makes himself out to be God has serious issues.

But this is precisely why this is such a serious issue. Why, if you’re going to deal with God, you have to deal with the person of Jesus Christ. That long creed we just got through confessing, the Athanasian Creed, goes into painstaking detail to confess the true God as the Triune God, the one in three and three-in-one. And yet, it is as if the Creed can’t wait to get to the heart of the matter, which is that the true God became incarnate. The one true God became flesh and dwelt among us. The details of the incarnation are given in all their glory as well, the reason God became flesh: to suffer, die, and rise.

It is because of who we have made ourselves out to be. We have made ourselves out to be God. No, we don’t go around telling others that’s who we are, we don’t seek for others to give us all honor and glory. But we live as if we ourselves are our own God. This is why God became a man. God, who created men, became a man in order to save man. God the Creator, became part of the creation in order to redeem creation. We, who make ourselves to be like God, who would like to be our own God, are eternally separated from God because of our sinful aversion to submitting to the one true God. The people in today’s Gospel reading were doing the very same thing the people in the Old Testament reading we heard last Sunday were doing in attempting to build a tower to the heavens.

We do the same thing in our lives as we don’t submit to God’s authority and will in every aspect of our lives. We covet things that belong to other people as if those things should belong to us. And the thoughts of our hearts betray us as we even design ways we might get those things, already breaking the commandment against stealing in our hearts. We put ways to gain more money ahead of ways to serve others in simple ways in our lives, or fear what will happen if there ends up not being enough. God is a nice religious thought but not a real and practical help in those times where things aren’t coming together in our lives. We make ourselves out to God.

In our country tomorrow we commemorate those who gave their lives in service to our country. This is a great gift of God. It is His design of having leaders who serve to protect our welfare. This includes those who serve to protect our welfare by serving in the military, their service often abroad. And sadly, their service at times includes giving their very lives. Now if God loves the people He created so much to give them gifts like leaders and people to serve in the Armed Forces, how much more does He love us in giving us His very own Son to give His life on the cross for the sin of the world?

The Triune God is the very essence of selfless love and giving. Those of us who haven’t served in the Armed Forces marvel at the cohesiveness of the fighting unit in which those who serve fight. Without that cohesiveness there would be no real service to country. It would be every man for himself. It wouldn’t be selfless serving but serving oneself.

Now with God you have a fascinating thing because God is not a created being. He is the Creator. He is God. He is one and yet has revealed Himself in three Persons. The three Persons of the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are not separate but are distinct. And to the point of who God is, the Person of the Trinity are not “every man for himself”, but selfless in their service to their creation—you and me and the whole world. We are the recipients of the selfless love of the Triune God, the love that brought Jesus to the cross.

Jesus does not balk at the prospect of being the one to become a man. Of being the one to suffer and die. The Holy Spirit does not have sour grapes that He is the one who is sent as merely a helper. The Father Himself does not shy away from the agony of giving over His only-begotten Son to suffer and die on the cross. The Triune God is the true God, the all-powerful God, the one to whom belongs all glory, and yet is the one who is humble and merciful. He is merciful towards us, we who would make ourselves out to be God.

Daily you will fall into this sin. But your merciful God has given you a gift. Instead of asking yourself, Who do I make myself out to be?, ask yourself who God has made you out to be.

You were Baptized into the name of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You are of the devil except that God has saved you from that eternal corruption, making you His own child in Baptism. You were dead in trespasses and sins but have been joined in Baptism to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, united with Him.

You are renewed by your merciful God often in the Holy Supper of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He gives you His body and blood, the Holy Spirit delivers to you forgiveness and strengthens your faith. It pleased your Heavenly Father to offer His Son as the sacrifice for all of your sins on the cross, even as it pleases Him to offer Him to you in Holy Communion.

God and the fact that He is Triune is not a doctrine to be understood or debated. God is God. He is the only God and He is at His essence merciful. God is the eternal being who wants to be in relationship with you. That’s why He restores your relationship with Himself through becoming flesh and dying for the sins of the world.

When in your daily life you often seek to make yourself out to be God, you can pause and give thanks that God, who is forever the Lord of all, made Himself out to be a man. To live under the Law and abide by it in perfect harmony with God’s will and to suffer in the place of sinful humanity so that we might share a place at the heavenly Banquet of God. He is infinite and all-glorious and yet desires nothing more than to come to us right where we’re at so that we may be with Him forever. We may rejoice that He makes us out to be worthy of His eternal love and mercy. Amen.


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