Pastor Vince Gerhardy
Several dads (including myself) took their sons (primary school age) on a camping weekend. With the Saturday evening meal out of the way, a night bush walk got under way. It was a dark moonless night but with about 20 boys with 20 torches, some of them more powerful than the driving lights on their dad’s four wheel drive, there was no danger of getting into trouble. We made our way down the dirt track with torches flashing through the trees on the lookout for any creature of the bush. None were seen. The bright light moving down the track scared them off long ago. We reached an open paddock and the leader told everyone to find a grassy spot and lie down on their back, but be on the look out for fresh cow pats as they did.
Then he told us to turn off our torches, close our eyes and keep them closed until he gave the word. After a couple of minutes, he told everyone to keep looking up and open their eyes. It was dark, very dark. There was no light whatsoever from nearby towns, farms or highways. There was a few moments of amazing silence as the boys just lay there gazing up at the sky – they were witnessing something they had never seen before. Up above were the stars. The Milky Way. There were so many stars that it was like a mist, a wispy white cloud. There were so many you couldn’t see the individual stars. This was really spectacular and everyone agreed it was a magnificent sight.
One of the dads, a high school teacher, gave an impromptu science lesson on the way back to the camp. He pointed things out like
– if you counted the stars in the Milky Way at one per second, it would take you 3,000 years (I think I’ll take his word for it);
– if you travelled at the speed of light (and that is very fast) it would take 33,000 years to get to the centre of the Milky Way;
– the light from some of the stars that they could see left the star on the night Abraham stood under the stars and was told that his descendants would outnumber all the stars he could see.
The God who made all this and more has given us life, has given us this world with all its beauty, has given us every good thing we need to live happy and confident lives. God is truly our heavenly Father.
He has given us these amazing bodies. It would take me forever to describe just a few of the amazing things about our bodies. But take our hearts as an example. The human heart is a pump that on an average beats 72 times a minute, 100,000 times a day, 35 million times a year, or two and a half billion times up to the age of 70.
It takes 18 seconds to pump blood to the foot and 8 seconds to push blood up to the brain. That’s amazing isn’t? And that’s only one part of the body. Think of your eyes and the 130 million light receptors; think about your ears, your brain; and what about a simple thing like walking, putting one leg in front of the other, balancing on one leg as we do that and yet not fall over. We can only marvel at the complexity and the beauty and the wonder of our own bodies.
A SUBSCRIBER SAYS: “I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciated the exegesis and the sermon for today. I even used part of your sermon – the part referring to the three times when Jesus told us to love our enemies and the quotation from Paul. I wanted to pass on the reaction from the congregation. Many people said that thinking of actions instead of feelings made things much clearer for them. I told them about agape and hina… Anyway, I always enjoy your exegesis. Usually I don’t read your sermons until I am well on my way with my own. This time I did and it was a real help.”
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Why has he given us so much, given us amazing bodies that exceed the complexity of the most recent computer?
Why has he generously given us this world with all of its beauty and wonders? The answer is simple. He loves us. He is the perfect Father who, like any father, wants nothing but the best for his children.
We heard a while ago that today is Trinity Sunday. It is a day when we focus on God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is not a day when we try to unravel the mystery of the Trinity, or try to work out how Father, Son and Holy Spirit could possibly be three persons but only one God. We shall never fathom out these details about God while in this life. Today, and every day by the way, we simply stand in awe and amazement at God our loving heavenly Parent who made us, daily looks after us, provides for us and protects.
Let’s join and state what we believe about God’s creating and protecting love as we say together the explanation we find in The Small Catechism.
I believe that God has created me and all that exists.
He has given me and still preserves
my body and soul with all their powers.
He provides me with food and clothing,
home and family, daily work,
and all I need from day to day.
God also protects me in time of danger
and guards me from every evil.
All this he does out of fatherly and divine goodness and mercy,
though I do not deserve it.
Therefore I surely ought to thank and praise,
serve and obey him.
This is most certainly true.
But you know what? For everything of beauty that we see in the world, there is also corresponding ugliness and distortion. I mentioned before the dads and sons camping trip. The beauty of the bush, the magnificent starry nights, the love shared between fathers and sons as we all sat around the campfire telling stories, singing songs and just being glad that we have a marvellous God who has provided all this. But in spite of all this beauty, the weekend finished with a horrible bug that was apparently in the local tap water (which we found was pumped out of the nearby creek). By Sunday night boys and dads were really sick, some even going to the hospital for help. The joy and wonderful experience of the camping trip, especially witnessing the handiwork of God in nature, suddenly fell into insignificance as vomiting and gastric took control.
In spite of God’s goodness toward us, we can’t presume that life is going to be 100% easy sailing. There is sin in our world. We have our moments of joy and pleasure, but we also have our fair share of sickness, injury, and disagreements with others.
We are hurt by the thoughtlessness of people, and plagued by greed, jealousy, intolerance, and say some awful things about others too often. God intended us to be happy, to be loving and considerate toward others, to be helpful and caring and generous. But what happens, sin gets in the way. And it is that sin that separates us from God and bars us from entering eternal life with God.
Our heavenly Father’s love for us sent us his Son Jesus Christ to free us from our slavery to sin that makes us keep on sinning again and again and again. Our Father’s love sent his Son to become a baby to be born in a stable in Bethlehem. He walked the dusty roads of Palestine. He died in disgrace, executed as a criminal.
That isn’t the way I would show my love for someone, but this is the way God did it. On the cross he paid the ultimate sacrifice for those he loves, he died for you and me to free us from our sinfulness, to win for us forgiveness and open the way for us to enter eternal life. He died to heal our lives and our world by bringing forgiveness and peace into our broken world. Without Jesus we would be lost forever, doomed to live in damnation, eternal punishment. The Apostle Paul sums up Jesus saving death in this way: God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us. … There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 5.8, 8.1).
Let’s go the Small Catechism again. Note also why Jesus did all this for us and what he expects of us. “Jesus did this so that I can belong to him and he can rule over me as my king. I can live under him and serve him, innocent and happy forever…” ** Let’s now say to one another and to God what we believe about Jesus, the Son of God.
I believe that Jesus Christ – true God,
Son of the Father from eternity,
and true man born of the Virgin Mary – is my Lord.
At great cost he has saved and redeemed me
a lost and condemned person.
He has freed me from sin, death,
and the power of the devil –
not with silver or gold,
but with his holy and precious blood
and his innocent suffering and death.
All this he has done that I may be his own,
live under him in his kingdom,
and serve him in everlasting righteousness,
innocence, and blessedness,
just as he is risen from the dead
and lives and rules eternally.
This most certainly true.
The story of the camping weekend and the fantastic time dads and their sons had enjoying the bush, hiking, making kites, playing games, gazing at the canopy of stars that filled the night sky have been the topic of conversations quite often. But along with those good memories there is the recollection of the stomach cramps, the dash for the toilet, and for some, a trip to the doctor. When that camp comes up in conversation both good and bad memories are called to mind.
The Holy Spirit is the bearer of bad news and good news.
The bad news is our sin and how often we damage our relationship with one another and with God.
The good news that he doesn’t want us to miss is how Jesus gave his life for us and has opened the way to eternal life.
It is the Holy Spirit who brings us into God’s family, the Church. Through Word and sacrament conveys to us salvation and eternal life and brings us into the fellowship of all those others who have been joined to Christ through their baptism. But that’s not the end of the Spirit’s work. · He is always calling us to come closer to God.
· He is there when things aren’t going so well for us and comforts us by reminding us of the love of the Father and the saving grace of the Son.
· He is there when we fail to fight sin and fall into temptation. He points out our failing and calls us to repent. He points us to the forgiveness that Jesus gives.
And there’s still more.· He calls us to respond to Jesus’ love with our love and obedience. · He guides us to live lives that are truly worthy of being called the children of God.
Let’s confess our faith in the person and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, in the church and in the world.
I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort
believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord,
or come to him.
But the Holy Spirit has called me
through the Gospel,
enlightened me with his gifts,
and sanctified and kept me in true faith.
In the same way he calls, gathers, enlightens,
and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth,
and keeps it united with Jesus Christ
in the one true faith.
In this Christian church day after day
he fully forgives my sins and the sins of all believers.
On the last day
he will raise me and all the dead,
and give me and all believers in Christ
This is most certainly true.
We can go on for a long time talking about our God. But today, on this Trinity Sunday, all we need is to just be quiet. Lie back. Stare at the stars and be totally filled with amazement. The creator of all that—loves the world. Loves you. Loves me. Loves the young people who will be baptised and confirmed today.
He is our God. He made us. He saved us. He calls us into his family. God does all this only because he is my kind and loving Father; I certainly do not deserve it. All I can do is thank, praise, serve and obey God.
Let’s pray this prayer together.
although you have revealed yourself to us
as Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
yet you also remain hidden to us.
You wrap your word
in the human words of the sacred Scriptures.
You hide your Son in the bread and wine.
You come as the mystery of the Trinity.
And you do it all as our friend,
to meet our deepest needs.
We bring our prayers to you
through Jesus Christ
our Lord and brother. Amen.
Copyright 2009, Vince Gerhardy. Used by permission.