Home > Trinity 16-End of Church Year > Who is Your God? Giving, Serving, Witnessing. Trinity 21, 2015

Who is Your God? Giving, Serving, Witnessing. Trinity 21, 2015


21st Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Genesis 1:1-2:3

October 18, 2015

“Who is Your God? Giving, Serving, Witnessing”

Iesu Iuva

Who is your God? If someone asked you that question, would you be caught flat-footed? You would not be, because you know the Creed. In it we confess that God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And if you were pressed to say more about God, you could begin with the First Article: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.”

Those words teach that God, first of all, is the Maker of the whole universe. As the Maker, He is almighty, all-powerful. If someone asks who your God is, that would be a place to begin. “My God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is almighty. He has all power. There is no other God, because there is only One Almighty.”

But as Maker, God is more than just powerful. As Maker He is giver. He is the God who gives all things.

He is the God who gives because in six days He made the earth and the heavens and all that dwells in them. But He didn’t make the world solely for His own pleasure. He gave the world. He shared it with the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, the livestock and the beasts of the earth. He gave them life and breath and gave them the world in which to live and move and have their being. And above all other creatures, God gave the world to man, whom He created in His own image.

Moreover your God is a God who serves. When He had created the heavens and the earth, “the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” What was the Holy Spirit doing? Descending on the dark, barren, lifeless earth. Descending to the depths, preparing to bring order and life out of nothingness. There was no life in the earth then, but the Spirit of life stretched out His wings over the abyss, preparing to serve creation and make it take form and make it live. And so throughout the first chapter of Genesis. God serves the creation with His Word, making the light appear, separating the dry land from the seas, making green plants on the earth, filling the sky with the two great lights and the stars, filling the sea with swarms of living creatures and the air with flocks of birds, filling the dry land with livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth, until at last He said to Himself, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” He served creation and made it take shape, and He continues to serve it. It is only by the constant goodness of God that the world continues to exist and that the laws of nature continue to hold. God’s goodness causes the crops to grow in their seasons and makes the sun shine on the just and the unjust. He serves and He gives. “From His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” (John 1:16). “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

God is the giver and the One who serves. He gave to us when He created us and put us in the world. He serves us by providing for all our needs day in and day out. He also created us to give and to serve. Again and again the first chapter of Genesis says He created “according to their kinds”—”The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds.” (Gen. 1:12) “So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds” (Gen. 1:21). The different animals and plants were created according to their kinds, each to give and to receive from one another. Everything was created to receive and give out from the goodness God bestowed on each creature. And man was no exception. Being created in the image of God, he was to be the chief giver and servant. God blessed Adam to be fruitful and multiply on the earth, subdue it, and have dominion over the animals. This means that he was supposed to care for the creation by ruling it, watching over and tending it as God’s steward.

We have received everything we have from God, from our very lives, to our gifts and talents, to the clothes on our backs and the food on our tables. Everything we have comes from God, including our very lives. So what do we owe God in return? As Luther taught us in the catechism, “For all this,” for all God’s gifts and service to us, “it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.” We were created to serve God, to fulfill the task He assigns us, to occupy the place in which He has placed us. God does not need our giving and serving, since it’s by His gifts and serving that we possess everything we have. But God gives to us so that we may give to and serve our neighbor. God doesn’t need your wealth, time, and ability. He is the one who gave them to you. But HE gave them to you not so that you could hoard them for yourself but so that you could serve your neighbors. He has a purpose for you. It is to honor and love your father and mother, to love and care for your children and teach them God’s Word. It is to serve your neighbor in your work as an employee or employer. And it is to serve and love everyone you come into contact with in whatever ways are available for you to serve.

But what has happened? Look at the world around you. Who even thinks about serving God? Very few. And people who think about serving their neighbors are in short supply. Children fail to honor and serve their parents. Come visit the nursing homes with me and see how many parents have children who have forgotten or abandoned them. Children living with their parents fail to honor their parents as precious gifts of God. Look around and see how many parents neglect the one most important thing in raising their children—to teach them the fear of the Lord. Employees think not about how they can help their boss succeed, but only how they can get as much as possible for themselves with the least amount of effort. Businessmen think not about providing service to their customers, but how they can make a profit. And so it goes. People are not out to serve, but to get for themselves. This is the heritage left us by Adam, our first father, who received all God’s gifts in creation and then, in ingratitude, stretched out his hand to take the fruit that Satan said would make him equal to God.

And you prove yourself to be a child of Adam. Haven’t you lived trying, most of your life, to get for yourself? Did you trust that God would give you what you needed and focus your energy on loving Him and serving the people around you? No. The fear was always eating at you that if you didn’t make sure to get what was rightfully yours, no one would take care of you. You would get the short end of the stick. After all, what happens to those who trust and wait upon the Lord? Look around! Don’t they live under the cross? Other people get ahead, and they stay behind, don’ t they?

So instead of trusting God to give us what we need and focusing on giving to others and serving others, we have sought our own good and forgotten about thankfulness to God. And the wages of this sin is death, just as it was for Adam. We lost the image of God, His righteousness, and with it we lost Him and the life that comes from Him. And that is the reason why as we live, all that had been given to us is gradually taken away again. Our works fall apart; we gradually lose our health and our lives return to dust.

For those who do not believe the Gospel that is the end of the story, at least as far as they can see. They don’t see that death is only the beginning of their losing, that after death they will suffer the loss of every good thing forever. Their only gain will be the physical and spiritual torments of hell, the regret that will gnaw at them like a worm that never dies, because they despised God’s gifts and service and lived for themselves. And that is what we have deserved also.

But amazingly, God was not through with giving and serving us after we misused the gifts of creation and refused God’s purpose for ourselves. He planned from the very beginning to give us more, far more, and to serve us in the depths to which we had fallen. If someone asks you, “Who is your God?” you can say, “My God is the God who gives and serves. He not only gave us all creation, our lives, bodies, souls, clothes, shoes, food, drink, spouse, children, and all we have—He also gave us Himself to redeem us from sin and death.” Our God is not only the Father, the maker of heaven and earth, but Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord. He is the eternal Word of God through whom the world was made and formed. He is also the Word of the Father who recreates us and the world by coming into human flesh in the womb of Mary. The eternal God was not content to make us but to be made one of us. He gave Himself to us by becoming flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone. He gave Himself to us and His innocent, obedient life in exchange for our sinful, polluted lives. He gave Himself to us to live as we ought to have lived, as thankful servants of God. And He served us by bearing our self-seeking, our lack of trust in God, to the cross.

Because of the obedience and shed blood of God in the flesh, you are forgiven. The Father has forgiven all your self-seeking and mistrust. Through the giving and serving of Jesus the disobedience of Adam and his descendants is made right. It is as though you had fulfilled God’s purpose for you and always served and freely given to your neighbor. That is what it means to be forgiven by God. And He forgave you by nothing less than giving His only-begotten Son into death for you.

That is why Christians begin to live a life of serving and giving. In our flesh we don’t want to do either. Our flesh hates God, doesn’t trust Him, and tries to shore up its own existence by giving nothing away and serving itself.

But as Christians we receive the giving and serving of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit serves us by preaching Christ to us, baptizing us, absolving us, feeding us His body and giving us His blood to drink. Through these gifts He works faith in us, and we begin to believe God’s witness that we are forgiven. And being forgiven by God, we have everything. Everything in this broken world has to serve us, even our cross and suffering and dying. All the good things of the new world to come, so good that one cannot speak of them on earth, are ours because we are forgiven, because Christ has been given to us.

Being forgiven means having everything. So we Christians begin to give. We give of our time and our talent to serve the Church. We give of the wealth with which God has blessed us so that the precious Word and Sacraments through which Christ gives forgiveness may remain among us. How much do we give? We give freely and generously. Mature Christians learn to set aside a percentage of their money to give to God’s Church. The Old Testament example is ten percent. But because God has already given us so much, indeed, more than we could have ever expected or asked, we seek to excel at the grace of giving, knowing not only that the Church needs it but that it pleases our heavenly Father, who has spared nothing in His giving to us.

As Christians we are served by God. He not only makes the sun shine on us and provides what we need for this life, but He daily serves us so that we live spiritually. He has stooped down to serve us like a slave by being born for us in the lowly manger and by bearing God’s wrath against our transgressions. As we remember the service of Jesus by eating His body and drinking His blood as He bids us do in His supper, we learn from Him not to be ashamed to serve our neighbor. That includes gladly serving in our callings, as parent, as husband and wife, as employers and employees. Hearers of the word serve their pastors by diligently hearing and learning the word and providing for his living. Pastors serve their hearers by being diligent in study, prayer, and preaching, and providing examples of godly living to the Church. And all alike serve one another in the Church by bearing with one another’s faults, forgiving one another, and proclaiming the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins to each other on all occasions.

Finally, we Christians bear witness to the love of God in Christ to those outside the Church. We do our best to live upright lives, selfless lives, that make a good impression on those who are outside. But whether our lives are blameless or we are still maturing in Christ, we remain always ready to tell people who our God is. He is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who has given us our lives and every good thing we have. He has also given us His Son, and in Him we are forgiven and have the certain hope of eternal life.

As you can see, the Christian life is not sleepwalking. It is busy and active, marked by giving, serving, and witnessing. Make no mistake, these things are difficult. They are fighting against our flesh and blood. This is why we need constantly to be refreshed and strengthened by the Word of God and the Sacraments in the Divine Service and the study of Scripture. So I pray and urge that our congregation would gather together around the blessed Word and Sacraments for forgiveness and strength, and lift up holy hands together that the Lord would strengthen us to give, serve, and bear witness in this place as He would have us do.

Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

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