Sermon: “The Barrier Is Broken”
Lectionary Series A; Holy Trinity Sunday
Sunday, June 7, 2020
Gospel Reading: Matthew 28:16-20
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This coming Friday marks thirty three years since President Reagan stood beside the Berlin wall and delivered one of his most famous Cold War speeches. As the Cold War had pressed on for over four decades between the United States and the Soviet Union, the country of Germany still found itself divided into two very different countries. East Germany and West Germany. Between the two countries stood a wall to separate one from the other. The Berlin wall which had stood since August of 1961 was the great barrier between democracy and communism. It was built to keep citizens of East Germany from escaping to West Germany. And so after 36 long years in 1987, as he stood on the western side of that wall, President Reagan issued a directive to Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” It was a little over two years later, on November 9, 1989, that the Berlin Wall finally did come down. The barrier between East and West Germany had finally been broken.
The barrier is broken. We have longed for the barrier to be broken for us to gather once again in the house of the Lord, and now here we are. Here we are in God’s house. Thanks be to God!
Here we are on Trinity Sunday, and once again, God’s Word brings us to that great barrier breaking moment as Jesus ascends into heaven to be seated at the right hand of God the Father. No longer are we separated from God. Jesus has given us access to the Father Himself. Through water and the word of Baptism, our sins have been washed away, and by the power of the Spirit, we have been given life and salvation. We gather here today, both in person, and on-line to rejoice that that barrier has been broken.
Yet, even as we gather here once again, it is hard, isn’t it? We currently live in a world of barriers all around us. Pews are roped off. Social distancing signs are posted. Plexiglas is everywhere. People are in isolation and quarantine.
For example, my wife Emily has to have laparoscopic surgery tomorrow. But, before having the surgery, she had to have a Covid test on Thursday. We have had to quarantine as family away from everyone since that day. Then on Saturday, I moved to the basement of our home so that I could go in and out of the sliding glass door to prep for and lead the services today. So we have this barrier of living in the same house, but on two floors. I am guessing she will be thrilled when I can move back upstairs, because from what I can hear downstairs, she might want a hand with the kiddos. J
But as much as these barriers may seem inconvenient in our lives, we know that they are in place to help keep people healthy. There is a pandemic that remains ongoing. So all these extra measures are being taken to make sure that we are safe, and we do what is needed to love our neighbors. And isn’t that what this world needs these days…safety and to love our neighbors?
We have all been rocked recently by the events that took place when George Floyd lost his life and the protests and riots that have ensued since. The images have been heartbreaking. Lives lost, buildings burned, people hurt.
We also know that many of our congregational members work down in the Cities, and there is a wave of fear that no doubt creates mental, emotional, and physical barriers as they make their journey to work. Please be in prayer for all who are impacted by these tragic events.
What’s been additionally unfortunate throughout these events is that we once again see the barrier that exists because of race in our country. Instead of seeing that each individual is created in the image of God, walls are built instead of bridges. Such instances that we have witnessed on the news ought to lead us all to ask: Where do we stand on the barrier of race? Do we love our neighbors without question of race, or do we pick and choose based upon our sinful prejudices?
Yes barriers are all around us. And when we start to search our hearts, and examine our lives, we see that the greatest barrier that exists is sin. The Berlin Wall or any other barrier has nothing on the walls that we often build because of our hardness of heart. Though we may not have ever participated in something like the riots we have seen on television, there is a riot of wrath that often wages on in our hearts as we build barriers in the relationships all around us. Most especially, when we sin, we build a barrier between us and God.
In our Old Testament lesson, we heard of how God created the heavens and the earth. Before God acts, all we have is formless and void. But He changes all that with His Word. With the Word that became flesh, He spoke, and it came to be. All the while, the Spirit of God hovered over the darkness of the deep, watching over all of creation as it came into existence. And through it all, we heard of how our Triune God did all of this for us. We are His most prized creation.
But only a couple of chapters later in Genesis, the barrier of sin entered the world. And with that one sin, every human thereafter has inherited the penalty that came from it: Death.
The current numbers from the pandemic now list that over 100,000 people have died from the coronavirus. On top of that, people have died needlessly during these unfortunate riots. The wage of sin is all around us. So, where do we turn when the barriers of sin and death surround us?
People of God, we turn to the great barrier breaker. We turn to the Triune God. We turn to God the Father who created us and preserves our lives and secures our salvation. He takes chaos and delivers order in the person of His Son. For God so loved the world that He gave…He gave His Son.
We turn to God the Son, who faced the wrath and riots of the crowd calling for His crucifixion by entering into our death willingly and voluntarily even though He was innocent. He gave his life sacrificially so that we could be saved. In a world of violence, our Savior faced the most violent of deaths by being crucified on a cross…doing so with our best interest upon His heart and mind. He did so because He loves us. And that’s why He also sent us a Helper.
Yes, we turn to God the Spirit. Baptized into the name of the Triune God, sin no longer separates us from God. The Spirit has given us faith. And living out that faith in this world of barriers, the Spirit brings us together to support, encourage, and build each other up.
Not by our reason or strength can we understand why He would do such a thing. Not when we consider all of the barriers we have built with our sins. But our God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Psalm 103:8). His ways are far beyond our comprehension. Just like the Triune God Himself. In no way can we fully understand Him or His ways. All we do know is that what He does, He does for us and for our good. And because of that, we can be at peace in world filled with barriers.
You see, our God has not lost control one bit. There He stood before the eleven disciples on that mountain in Galilee and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always to the end of the age.” And then He ascended up into heaven.
I couldn’t help but think about Jesus ascending as I watched the Space X Falcon 9 rocket lift off from Cape Canaveral last weekend. It was the first ever commercial launch of humans into orbit. It was simply breathtaking to watch with 1.2 million other viewers as the rocket went faster and faster up into space. But, what I found most interesting was the need for an additional boost to make it through the barrier of the ozone. Once through, they were travelling at nearly 17,000 miles per hour.
Jesus didn’t need to travel that fast. Nor did He need an additional boost of speed along the way. But as He ascended into heaven, He revealed that He had broken through much more than an ozone layer. He showed us with His very self that the barrier between heaven and earth had been broken. Salvation is now ours to be had. That, my friends, is the greatest news ever in a world filled with barriers all around us.
May we bring this message of hope in Jesus to our world filled with barriers as we work together to make disciples of all nations. And as we do so, may we be encouraged that He will be with us always to the very end of the age.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.