Wednesday, May 13, 2020

You are. . .

Sermon for Easter 5A, preached on Sunday, May 10, 2020, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

            Imagine, if you will, that we’re meeting for the first time.  We exchange small talk and slowly begin to introduce ourselves.  You tell me something about you, I share something about me.  We understand this social interaction.  We learn to answer that un-asked question that stands behind introductions: Who are you?

            We easily answer this un-asked question, but we have a hard time when it’s asked out right.  We have to stop and think about who we are; how to describe ourselves.  We answer by describing our relationships.  We identify with our family.  We answer by saying what we do: “I’m a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer.”  We answer by describing clubs or groups we belong to.  There are many different ways that we answer this question, but when you stop and look at these answers, you’ll see that most are based on our connections to other people.

            It’s a natural thing for us to understand who we are based on our relations.  God has made us social beings.  In the Garden, He said it wasn’t good for man to be alone.  All of us understand this, so we seek out social circles.  We pick and choose friends.  We find people who are interested in the same things we are.  We look for groups to belong to.  And we do the same thing in church.

II.        We have a habit of “church shopping.”  We look around to see what a church has to offer us.  Do they sing the songs that I like?  Do they have a large youth group for my children?  Is the pastor witty and entertaining in their sermons?  We look for these kinds of things, and when we find the church that as everything we want, we decide to join.  We choose to be a part of the church…at least that’s what we think.  But that’s all backwards; because we don’t unite ourselves to the Church.  God does it.  Christ does it.

            There are some associations we choose, but many that we don’t.  We don’t choose our parents or siblings or children.  We don’t choose classmates, or co-workers, or neighbors.  And in the same way, we don’t choose the Church.  We don’t choose to be one of God’s people.  In fact, we can’t choose this because we sinners.

We’re born sinners, that’s who we are.  Our sinful heart doesn’t want to belong to God.  We don’t want to be one of His.  We don’t want to be associated with Him.  No, we’re hostile to God, wanting to be on our own, wanting to be our own god.  That’s what the first sin in the Garden was, a rejection of God, choosing to isolate, choosing to take His place.  But in this sin what we really chose was death.  That’s what isolation from God is, it’s death.  Life is only found in connection to God.  It’s only found in connection to Christ.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  He is the life giver.  Without Him, there is no life.

It’s by God’s grace and mercy that we’re His.  It’s by the power of the Gospel that we’re brought to life and are made His people.  We don’t choose this.  We don’t pick faith.  The Holy Spirit gives it to us.  As St. Peter says, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pt 2:10).  You are one of God’s people.  He has made you His own.  God has mercifully overcome your sin that separates you from Him.  He has overcome the death of your isolation.  Through the sacrificial death of His Son on the cross, He forgives you your sin.  Through the waters of Baptism, He connects you to Christ, to His death and His resurrection.  And through Christ you’re brought to life.  In Christ, your identity is found.

You are a baptized child of God.  You’re joined to Christ, and you’re also joined to all those who are in Christ.  You’re not alone.  You’re part of the Church, part of God’s people.  You’re connected to your brothers and sisters in Christ here at Grace, and you’re your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world, throughout time.

The Church is because of Christ.  And the Church will continue to be because of Him, because of His forgiveness.  This forgiveness we desire, knowing that we’re sinners deserving only death.  This forgiveness we receive with repentance and faith, right here, in God’s Church, where His Word is proclaimed and His Sacraments administered, the only place where He gives us these means of grace.  This forgiveness we praise, thanking the Lord and sharing the good news of Christ with those outside the Church, so that others would be brought in through the work of the Spirit.  And this forgiveness we share with each other as united brothers and sisters in Christ.

So…who are you?  That’s a question we often have a hard time answering, but it shouldn’t be.  God has told us who we are.  Your identity is found in Him.  You are a baptized child of God.  You are forgiven in Christ.  You are part of God’s people, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.  You are a member of His Church.  And you are united together with all your brothers and sisters in Christ for eternity.  In Jesus’ name...Amen.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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