To Boldly Go
† In Jesus Name †
May we find our trust in God the Father and in the work of Jesus Christ growing to the point where we understand and rejoice in His mercy and Grace…for it means we can boldly abide in His presence!
To Boldly Go….
The last verse of the epistle reading,
12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence
Proving you pastor is a complete nerd, or geek, or whatever the term is these days, I heard an ancient voice echo through my head when I started my study of the passage…
“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
I have a slightly different version of that famous quote – which I will share with you at the end of the sermon.
We probably do not see life as such a great adventure, as we did in the various editions of Star Trek. Oh sure – we have a list of characters like Spock and Data, courageous leaders like the impetuous Kirk and the thoughtful Picard, people like Bones and Scotty and Number One.
Yet our journey together, is something more incredible – something that discovers treasures and new life. It is a journey, a mission we share, a journey that brings challenges and joys; a journey of our lifetime, and a journey that continually reveals something that is beyond belief…
SO let us look at this journey, and let us be encouraged on the mission we are on…
His Eternal Plan.. Revealed
The power – capability to know
When we talk of God’s plan being revealed – we often think of the last book of the Bible – the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Yet, in the epistle today – Paul talks of God’s plan being revealed. Not just to him, or to a select number of very special people – though it was revealed through the apostles and the prophets, it was revealed that it could be further revealed….to us, and like Paul – through us… to the world.
I love how verse four states it,
4 As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ.
In the original Star Trek – they did not know where they were going- they, like Columbus or Magellan, were simply heading off into the dark. They did not even know what they would discover, or what those discoveries would mean for them.
Sometimes, we do not know what we will discover on our journey, the people we will meet, the new life we see created as sinners come to understand God’s plan, and are cleansed and are brought to faith and life. We do not yet see the joys that will be shared, or the grief we will endure, together. Yet though we do not know the specifics, we know something even better, for by the power of the Holy Spirit, we understand the plan of Christ that Paul shows us.
It is what Paul was referring to – that God had given the responsibility of extending God’s grace – His gift of life, and faith and repentance and forgiveness that leads to that life, to us.
Paul actually does not identify the destination, and indeed the journey until the end of the passage – but what he does describes in verses 6-9, as he explains the plan, does give us incredible insight into the journey and the destination.
Despite many prophecies to the contrary, there developed among the people of God in the Old Testament the idea that only certain people were welcome into God’s presence, that if you did not have the right connections, you were not eligible to be part of the family of God. This was such a case, that in nearly every epistle, and definitely in the book of Acts of the Apostles, that this misconception has to be addressed.
Get it straight, there is no group that is excluded from the grace of God, shown to us in Christ. It is not just for the people of one continent, or one nation. It is not just for one economic bracket, for one age group, or for one gender. There aren’t levels – that pastors or elders get more grace, and then comes the choir – not at all!
We share equally in the riches – all who trust in the message of the Gospel – the message we sing in the memorial acclimation, that even as Christ has died, risen and will come again, so shall we. The phrase in Greek is that we have equal lots in the inheritance – all who trust in God’s message to us – that He loves us, that He is merciful.
If you have ever noticed that scripture repeats itself often, there is a reason for it – we need to hear it over and over again. We can hear the words that we are forgiven, that His body and blood were broken and shed for your sins, and we still need to hear them, our souls need to be reminded.
That is why Paul repeats the message here – yes – we share – equally – in the inheritance. He repeats it by saying we are part of the same body, Gentiles and Jews – two categories that compromise not just the diversity of a neighborhood or a community, but also that of the entire world. It is like saying Concordians, and the rest of the world, it contains everyone for whom Christ has died!
He goes on to include all those who would believe, all who would trust as those who enjoy – not will enjoy – but enjoy – the promises of the blessings – why? Because we belong to Christ! We have been made His in Baptism, we have been made His as the Holy Spirit gifted us with faith and repentance, and God re-created us.
Paul finalizes the description with one more reference that he was chosen to tell the gentiles – that is us folks – about the endless treasure available to us in Christ Jesus.
Carried out in Christ!
We trust in Him, and that trust delivers us – that we may boldly and confidently enter His presence!
In verse 11, we find Paul describing how the plan came to completion – how it was made possible and guaranteed to those who trust in God.
This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.
John described it as well – as the fulfillment of the prophecy we heard in the reading from Isaiah,
32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” John 12:32 (NLT)
There is out mission – to be in the presence of God – brought there, drawn there, guided there, to the cross – and then eternally present with Him, never alone again.
Or as Paul says it, “12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.
We often talk of the mission of the church, as to go out into all the world, as Paul did – to share the gospel. That mission of the church happens because we are in the presence of God – that He is with us, that with us, He is bringing His presence to others, revealing to them His plan, through our words, even as we share the gospel that Paul did…..
I promised, at the beginning of the sermon, that I would, in the style of star trek, revise the phrase to fit us, – well here it is..
“Life: the final frontier. These are the journeys of the congregation Concordia. Its ongoing mission: to extend the grace of God, to see created new life, and deepened communion, to boldly go together into the presence of God”
We can do so, only because of Jesus Christ, only because He has claimed us, because we belong to Christ. This has been the plan for us, for all mankind, since the beginning. For so Paul has written to us, and so the Holy Spirit has given us the ability to know…
We are blessed to live in a time – where it has been revealed… where we know the peace of God, which passes all understanding, which guards our hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus. So rejoice – and enjoy the journey!
Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:
“544 The Communion of the Saints. How shall I explain it to you? You know what blood transfusions can do for the body? Well, that’s what the Communion of the Saints does for the soul.” Escriva, Josemaria. The Way
As a pastor, one of the things I do is to bring the Lord’s Supper to those who cannot make it to church, to those too weak or sick, to those who were once quite active, but now are counted as shut-ins. In doing so, the discussion always includes their asking about how things are going at church, it never fails to astound me, how concerned they are for their brothers and sisters in Christ. Often they talk of their desire to get well, to gain strength, just so they can once again commune in the sanctuary, with their friends, the people they love, with whom they have walked through their lives, even if they only knew the people at church for a small while.
We are on their hearts and minds.. and in bringing communion to them, they are reminded that they are part of the community. It is bittersweet, for they realize they are part of the community that Christ has established.
How I wish we were in the future, and we had transporter units like in Star Trek. Then we could beam them into the sanctuary, and fulfill a desire that they would have. (It would also be cool if upon “reassenbly” their ills and pains and weaknesses could be quarantined and separated from them!
St Escriva’s words hit home a lot today, as I consider one of the people I visit, who I can’t anymore. I know how much visiting him meant to me, how in many ways it was like the transfusion spoke of in this quote. Yet in bringing him communion, he two received a transfusion I am learning. The very life of the church was shared, the life we share in every time we gather and we eat together and drink together. For sharing in the Lord’s Table, kneeling at the Altar together is a community, thing, just as our life as Christ’s body is a community thing.
It is tragic that we don’t comprehend this blessing we have in sharing in the feast of Christ – that we would relegate it to less important than other things we do, that we place limits on its time, both the time we spend preparing for it, and the time we spend celebrating it. That we reduce the precious words to a formula, a incantation, rather than savor them, listen intently, and hear and absorb them. It is tragic that the gathering of God’s people is an afterthought in many lives.
As a pastor, I am partially responsible. If you know not why a priest, or a pastor, could describe the gathering of God’s people together around His sacrament as a spiritual transfusion, we haven’t done our job as those who proclaim the world well enough. If we haven’t taught you to treasure this incredible time, we have, in large part failed. If we don’t keep you in prayer, and help your prepare for this incredible gift, then perhaps we need to reconsider what our job is, to preach the word in its fullness, and to administer the sacrament – that those who are broken can encounter His healing, His mercy His presence.
Keep us, all the pastors and priests – and the deacons and elders and worship leaders who stand alongisde us, ready to serve, to minister to you… in your prayers. That we would feed you so richly that your heart would long for the next gathering the next time His people gather around His word, and His table.
“Lord Have Mercy!” we cry, and as we kneel and take and eat… and drink of the Blood shed that sins would be forgiven, we realize how much He has had the mercy we pray for!