2 Corinthians 13:11-14
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come. Amen.
In the beginning the earth was ֹ֨ תה וּ֙ וָ ֹ֔ בהו : formless and empty. But that didn’t mean that there was nothing. Because there was God. Just as he always has been and always will be. The Triune God from before there was a beginning until eternity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26) But don’t think that there are three God’s. שְׁ מַ֖עּ֙ a יִשְׁרָ אֵ֑ל יְׁהוָָ֥ה אֱלֹ הַ֖ינו יְׁהוָָ֥ה׀ אֶחָָֽדּ֙ : Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. (Deuteronomy 6:4) Man, what is up with all of the Hebrew today? Just this: to listen to our God who says that he is three persons but not three separate gods. He is one God. The Holy Trinity. How is this possible? I have no idea. But when God describes himself this way throughout Scripture, I’m not going to argue. Our God who is one in purpose, one in plan, and having the same desire: salvation for the world.
And our sermon text for today is from the end of a letter that Paul was inspired to write to the people at Corinth. It was his second letter to them, and he tells them what God wants. Unity. “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice. Become mature, be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11) Be of the same mind. Want the same things. Strive for the purpose. Work together to accomplish God’s Will. And, as we heard, God’s will is exactly what we want: Salvation for the world. Of course we can all work together. Of course we can set aside our differences and our selfish desires. Of course we can put away our egos and just be of the same mind. Except that almost never happens. Watch children play. Give them toys, games, etc. They might get along for a while, but sooner or later there is going to be a melt down. Someone is going to complain about how everyone else is playing wrong.
And getting along with others isn’t easier as we get older. Just look at the world today. What a mess. Watching any amount of news right now you’ll just see a bunch of people yelling at each other. Everyone is angry that no one is listening to them but they also refuse to listen to others. And the sad thing is that there is a very large middle group of people who do want to talk. Who are willing to listen. Who do want to strive for a unified purpose. But their voices just get drowned out. So many people yelling and hating each other out. No one is willing to listen. Just shout. Despite our name, the United States is sadly not very united.
But that’s politics. Those are things of the world. Let’s talk about how the church is one in purpose. In fact, let’s go all the way back to the early New Testament church. Do you remember the awesome ministry team of Paul and Barnabas? On their first mission they traveled and worked together wonderfully. In fact they, other than the persecution they faced, they only really had one major bump. John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin. It seems as if he wasn’t quiet ready for the missionary lifestyle. So in the middle of that first missionary journey he decided to go home; which made things difficult for Paul and Barnabas. But they made it through and got back to Jerusalem. And when the were getting ready to head out together for another journey Barnabas says to Paul: “do you know what this Missionary Trip really needs? John Mark!” But Paul said, “No way! Don’t you remember what happened last time? If you bring him, I’m going the other way without you.” And so they split up. These two brothers in the faith. These two men who traveled together, bled together, saw God do amazing things on their trip. But they couldn’t see eye to eye. That wasn’t unity. That wasn’t being “of the same mind.”
But before we shake our heads at Paul and Barnabas, maybe we should look at ourselves. Because everyone has their own thoughts of how ministry should be done. Their way, and any reasonable person is going to have to agree. Because we all have our preferences, our own thoughts, our own plans. But what happens when someone else has different ideas, or different plans? It often leads to arguing and fighting. But God calls us to be of the same mind and to be peaceful! So why do we argue about how we should plan? Why do we get angry when we talk about what areas of ministry should receive more attention or what should receive more funding? We argue about how we serve God or who will do what. We complain when people don’t do things the way we like. We get annoyed. We get bitter. We insult others. Does God want us to be divided over such small things?
This is how we’re going to serve God? Our Triune God who, though three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit but One God, who has one purpose from eternity to eternity. And he tells us that he “…brothers and sisters, rejoice. Become mature, be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace...” (2 Corinthians 13:11) But are we always at peace? Or do we let our egos, our preferences, our arrogance get in the way of God’s purpose for us?
God’s purpose, his plan, his mission is and has always been Salvation. In the beginning our Heavenly Father created the world. From “ ֹ֨ תה וּ֙ וָ ֹ֔ בהוּ֙ ” to a place of perfection. A world that he knew would fall. But he made it anyways. Our Triune God who approached Adam and Eve immediately after their fall into sin and gave them a promise of sins forgiven. Punishment paid for. The Son who lived, died, and rose again to carry through that promise and took away every one of your sins. The Holy Spirit who comes and works faith in our rebellious hearts. Who changes us and makes us his. Who saves us and calls us to be part of his United Kingdom. The Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Not three gods. One God. One Purpose. And that purpose was your salvation. And the salvation of the whole world.
And God calls for us to rejoice. To become mature. To be encouraged. To be at peace. And to be of the same mind. So how do we imperfect creatures be of one mind and one mission together? I mean, if Paul and Barnabas couldn’t do it, what chance do we have? Will we always have the same ideas, the same plans? No. Of course not. But through God’s Word he has laid his purpose out for us. So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, let us work
together to serve our God. Let us speak kindly to each other. Let us discuss our differences of opinion and not ridicule and tear down. Instead let’s listen to each other. Let’s walk together in the mission that God has placed before us. Let’s be at peace and focus on God’s purpose: the salvation of souls. That is now our purpose. Jesus comes to us in the Bible and says, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Yes, there are many different ways we can do that, and we can explore different ways of reaching out to the lost and continue to encourage the saved. Let’s loving discuss which ways we can. Not with hurt feelings when someone disagrees. Not with arrogance that of course our way is best. Not with desire to be right, but with patience and rejoicing because we know what God’s purpose is. We have been saved! We have been set free from our sins. And the message we bring to the world is a message of hope, joy, and freedom! And our God has called us into service! And he makes his purpose known. Our God who created us, our God who died and rose again for us, our God who works and sustains faith in our hearts tells us to go and share his message of salvation to the world. To go to a world that is filled with hatred, and anger, and division and to tell them about our God who wants them to know peace, and mercy, and forgiveness. Be encouraged, God is with us as we tell the world his good news.
Let’s work together in peace and love because we strive for the same thing. Let’s look at ministry here at Mount Calvary not as a “what I want to do”. Instead let’s look for ways to work together to bring God’s purpose to Waukesha and to the rest of the world. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31a) That beautiful creation has fallen into death and destruction because of sin. God’s desire, and through faith, our desire, is to bring it the good news of our Triune God’s Salvation to the world that so desperately needs it. Out of love and thanks let’s be of the same mind and the same mission. “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice. Become mature, be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11)
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.