The Second Sunday after Trinity: One Holy Church Gathered by Christ

Lessons: Proverbs 9:1-10, Ephesians 2:13-22, Luke 14:15-24
Hymns: 904, 510, 505, 622, 830

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

A couple decades ago, a man stopped by a Lutheran church in Minneapolis. He was not interest in the Lutheran church or her teachings; instead, this man wanted to know where the Mormon Church is. It turns out that this man heard the Mormons are against race-mixing, and so wanted to associate with those who will only allow whites into their church.

Just like there are many different Christian denominations and there are even very different Lutheran church bodies, so also there are very different branches of Mormonism. The main Mormon groups no longer teach racism. What is common among Mormons, though, is that they have added to the Bible with their Book of Mormon and they do not profess God as Triune. This means they are not Christian.

Some have falsely accused the Christian Church as being racist. Some have false accused the Christian Church as fostering the abuse of minorities. Granted, too many who have considered themselves Christian have espoused racist teachings or have engaged in harmful actions against those who come from other regions of the world. Some churches claiming to be Christian have even taught these evils. But this does not mean that true Christianity or true Christian churches have. God did not make a superior race of people. We will hear more about this in a little bit as we consider our Epistle reading.

Some have tried to point their finger at our church body, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, as being racist. Their evidence is that some sitting in our pews have said racist things and that our church body is one of the least diverse church bodies in America. I have heard many shameful racist slurs made by ordinary Lutherans. I have also heard many men make hurtful generalizations against women, and many women doing the same against men. Behind all this is Satan, who is trying to destroy marriage, family, and community. Satan knows that if he can destroy these estates, he can then also destroy society and weaken Christian churches.

To correct this, women need to honor men, men need to cherish women, and parents (especially fathers) need to work at rearing their children Christian. All must work to withstand the many assaults of Satan by holding God’s word sacred and gladly hearing and learning it. All must repent when they give in to their many temptations to despise God’s established order and His creation. All must learn to gladly receive and rejoice in the forgiveness of sins earned by Christ. And all must be equally forgiving of others.

It is true that our church body lacks diversity, in part because of our history. When our Synod was organized in Chicago in 1847, everyone involved spoke German. For the next 30 years, German would be the exclusive language of our Synod, even though our churches were located on American soil. But, from the 1880s until World War I, English was increasingly accepted. Most Lutheran schools began teaching English. Many churches switched to English services or offered both languages. The outbreak of World War I and ensuing anti-German sentiments in our country caused our churches to convert to English. This means that for a very long time, our Synod was inaccessible to all who did not speak German. This is a big factor in our church body’s lack of diversity. Another reason is that many of our churches are located in rather homogenous communities. Yet, we have clergy from many countries serving in our congregations, and we do care for those from other cultures. The mercy organizations of our Synod are actively working with all people groups across the globe. We actively engage in foreign missions. We are interested in translating the Bible into as many languages as we can.

For the Gospel of Jesus Christ is available to all. One LCMS pastor has been promoting t-shirts saying, “Noah family reunion,” showing how all humans are descendants of Noah. We are all family, regardless of how similar or different we look.

And the Gospel is available to all. For Jesus prepared a banquet feast and invites everyone. He invites the poor, the crippled, the blind, and lame. He invites the Jew and the Gentile. He invites all along the highways and hedges. For Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He did not bear a certain class’s sin or a certain ethnicity’s sin; instead, the Lord laid on Jesus all the world’s sin. There is not a single person in the history of the world who was left out. Jesus paid for the sins of all people of all time across the entire globe.

In the Old Testament era, there were some Jews who falsely believed that the Messiah would only come for them. They ignored the many passages of Scripture which talk about how Jesus would come even for the Gentiles, who would place their hope in Him. Because God chose to work with the people of Israel as His chosen people and the Messiah would be born from among them, many adopted the false belief that the Messiah was only for them. At the time of Christ, many Jews looked upon non-Jews with scorn and derision. The term for those who were not Jews by heritage was “gentile.” And when the Jews used the term “gentile,” they often did so with scorn.

When St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he addressed these problems. The church at Ephesus was not located in the Promised Land, but on the western edge of modern-day Turkey, near the Aegean Sea. It was an ancient Greek settlement, but there were Jews who also settled there. The Ephesian Church was composed of both Jews and Greeks. Many Jews preferred to keep themselves separate from all others. The Old Testament had required that if those from other cultures wish to adopt the Hebrew faith, they must be circumcised. In Jesus’ own ancestry, there were some foreigners who became part of the Jewish faith. Matthew reports four Gentile women as part of our Lord’s genealogy: Tamar the Canaanite, Rahab the Canaanite prostitute, Ruth the Moabite, and Bathsheba the Hittite.

Jesus removed the dividing wall of hostility (Eph. 2:14). As it is written in our Epistle, “He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one.” There’s no longer Jew and Gentile. Instead, there is one people—the people of God. All share Adam and Eve as common ancestors, along with Noah and his wife. Our Epistle also declares that Jesus “might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace” (Eph. 2:15). Again, these words show that there are not different classes of humans, but one. He has come to bring peace among His people, for, as I already stated, Jesus took away the sin of the entire world.

In writing these words guided by the Holy Spirit, St. Paul is showing how the Jews may not use term “gentile” with derision, nor can the Jews look down at those who cannot trace their ancestry back to Abraham. Basically, Paul is calling on the Jews at Ephesus to repent of their racist tendencies and recognize how all people are redeemed by Christ and created by the Father. No believer in Jesus is to be considered a foreigner, but all believers are “fellows citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, [with] Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19-20).

Now, God does not call on us Christians to hate those Jews or Mormons who reject the Triune God. Instead, He calls on us to tell them the good news of Jesus. In the same way, God does not call on us to hate those who are caught up in false belief, immorality, or other sins. He calls on us to tell them the Law and the Gospel, thereby inviting them to the Lord’s banquet feast when they repent and are ready to receive Christ’s forgiveness. Telling the Good News of Jesus ought to be of top priority among Christians.

Many today are angry at the injustices that have occurred to the blacks in our country. Such injustices are never acceptable. But this anger cannot be directed into the destruction of property or lives or hatred against whites. Instead, we all need to remember what God teaches concerning race in the Bible. We are all one in Christ Jesus. Jesus invites all to His banquet. He loves all and laid down His life for all. We are, by grace through faith, “joined together into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him [we] also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:21-22). Love is to prevail.

As the Lamb of God, Jesus paid for all sin by dying on the cross. He paid for the sins of hatred, national pride, ethnical pride, racism, and the unrighteous anger over sins committed generations ago.

Therefore, let us repent of the ways in which we are guilty, and go to the banquet feast to receive Christ’s forgiveness. Let’s partake of the Holy Sacrament, by which God joins us together as one people. The only way to true unity is through Christ, who joins us together as members of His Body. He does so through the Word which teaches us His truth and corrects us from error. Let us never asked to be excused or exempt from these blessings, but may we receive His gifts with joy.

St. John received a glimpse into Heaven when he was exiled to the island of Patmos. In it, he saw “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes” (Rev. 7:9). For God will soon gather His people together as one people, unified, and cleansed by Jesus. We will celebrate the banquet feast, which will have no end. There will be no division caused by sin. We will all rejoice in being brothers and sisters in Christ. For the Gospel has come to us and saved us from our sin. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting.  Amen