Sermon on 2 Peter 1:16-21
Ninth Sunday of Easter / Trinity Sunday
June 16, 2019
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! Amen.
In the name of our Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, dear friends, the lesson for our meditation this morning is recorded in 2 Peter 1:16-21.
Here's an illustration I've used before, but since our faith is based on facts, not feelings, it is very apt: “Just the Facts, Ma’am.” So went the signature line of Detective Sargent Joe Friday. Now, in case you've never seen that classic television program Dragnet, let me tell you a little bit about Sgt. Friday. Sgt. Friday was a painfully direct, no-nonsense detective who didn’t want to hear what you think happened, or hoped happened; he didn't want conjecture or opinion—he wanted “just the facts.” Ideally speaking, a court case, criminal or otherwise, is founded and won on the basis of verifiable facts and the statements of credible witnesses. When we’re talking about matters of faith, too, we want to be certain that our faith is based on something true, that is, factual.
And it’s not wrong for us to want just the facts. The problem is, many things that human beings accept as fact are, in fact, what Peter calls “cleverly invented stories.” And make no mistake, we are surrounded by them: from scientific theories based on conjecture instead of evidence; to false teachers within and without the Church; to the re-defining of what is considered socially acceptable and moral; and even the so-called "demythologizing" of biblical truth, our lives are full of attacks on the truth. So, in order to protect believers from the fanciful tales made up by others, our God has provided us with a sure, prophetic Word, the Word of Truth which is the Holy Bible.
Only the facts presented by witnesses in the Holy Bible can sustain us in a world full of what is false. And so in the light of the Word of our resurrected Easter Lord, Jesus Christ, let’s review the truths, nine truths: the facts that define our faith and our life of faith, a faith which is centered on the Holy Trinity.
Fact (1): You are a sinner, and no amount of psycho-babble or redefining sin as “error in judgment” or “mistake” will change that. It is a truth that we might find difficult to stomach, at times, but Jesus left no room for doubt when he explained how even our thoughts, whether we act on them or not, can violate his commands. That is what the 9th and 10th commandments are for—even when you don't act on your desires, wanting what is not yours is still sinful;
Fact (2): Since you are a sinner, you are imperfect and thus completely unable to live up to God’s standard of perfection. Remember that we are told that violating his law to even the smallest degree is a violation of all of it! And so by yourself, that is all you are capable of doing; so how are you to save yourself?
Fact (3): Because you cannot save yourself, you need a Savior; this is the real purpose of God’s Law as presented in his Word—to show you that no matter how hard you try, you cannot keep the Law, and so you need someone to keep it for you, and to pay the price for your failure.
That's why we celebrate Christmas, friends. God the Father gave us his Son to be the payment for sin he demanded. That payment was made on Good Friday, with the culmination of a perfect life, Jesus’ life, lived under the Law, and during which the whole Law was kept, capped off by Christ’s innocent death on the Cross.
And what does that mean for you? Again, it’s all about the facts!
Fact (4): Jesus Christ is God, as he demonstrated before the eyes of Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration, when he shone in all his divine splendor. That’s the event Peter is referring to in our lesson; his witness is our assurance that those events really happened;
Fact (5): Jesus Christ died on the Cross of Calvary before the eyes of his mother Mary and the apostle John and countless other witnesses – facts verified by the thrusting of a Roman spear into his side, and reported by John himself in his Gospel; and because we know it was God himself dying on that Cross, shedding God's own priceless lifeblood, we can also be sure that the punishment for sin has been paid in full;
Fact (6): Jesus Christ rose from the dead and appeared to many witnesses, including the 11 surviving apostles, Mary Magdalene, and hundreds of others; and since by his resurrection he defeated death itself, we know that we, too, are not subject to death;
Because “just the facts” of Christ’s life, death and resurrection are recorded for us in the Bible, and not a lot of conjecture or speculation or mystical gibberish, we have the unvarnished truth that saves, and we are saved because the Holy Spirit works through these facts to create faith.
There's our Trinitarian faith in a nutshell: God the Father gave us his Son, God the Son gave us his life and his death, and God the Holy Spirit gave us faith that believes these things.
Do you wonder, then...is there anything left for me to do? Well, accepting that God does not need your help, nevertheless, he does provide opportunities for you to do some work in his name. You have been witnessed to by God’s prophets and apostles and by the Son of God Himself, in the Word; and now he tells you to be a witness to others from that same Word. You know, I don’t often agree with the Pope, but even he can get it right once in a while, as when Pope John Paul II stood on a beach in Spilt, Croatia and dared to tell a million and a half Croats and Serbs, blood enemies of one another, that “we are all witnesses of Jesus Christ.” That is, if you are a Christian, then it doesn't matter what your gender, race, nationality or political leanings are—you are a witness of Christ.
And just in case you might think this is optional, let’s look at a few more facts:
Fact (7): There are billions of unbelievers in the world, millions in this country, thousands in your area, dozens or hundreds in your neighborhoods—and perhaps even a few in your own household;
Fact (8): You have the truth that can save these unbelievers, and you have a mouth and a tongue and a voice that can speak this truth;
Fact (9): The Holy Spirit works through his Word whether you are eloquent or tongue-tied, sociable or a wall-flower, called worker or layperson, adult or child, Croat or Serb or Taiwanese;
Brothers and sisters, let the light of truth that has taken root in you bear fruit in the world. Continue to report just the facts, the wonderful gospel facts of forgiveness for sin and the promise of eternal life to those who are dying around you. Sing the praises of our resurrected Lord and Savior, so that they too may listen and believe and be saved, to add their highest praise to yours, as we sing to the glory of the most holy Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, in his eternal kingdom.
And may the peace of God be with your spirit. Amen.