Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
teaches us to be humble. “Whoever
exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be
exalted.” His apostle
Paul teaches us the same thing. “I
beseech you to have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were
called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing
with one another in love.” Humility
is the opposite of pride. Pride
insists on its own way. Humility
gives in to others. Pride
does all the talking and never listens.
Humility listens to others.
Pride is harsh, impatient, and intolerant.
Humility patiently puts up with the faults of others.
St. Paul urges us to live a humble life that is worthy of the calling we
have received as Christians, he relates this to the unity that we enjoy
in the Holy Spirit. “Endeavoring
to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
He then speaks of the nature of this unity.
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in
one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and
Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” The number one is used seven times. Seven is a holy number that signifies God’s relationship to
His world. Three is the
number for God. Four is the
number for the world. God
desires a relationship with the world He made, and this relationship can
be known and enjoyed only within the fellowship of His church.
is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and
one Father who is above us all, through us all, and in us all.
The one body is a
reference to the one holy, Christian, and apostolic church. The church is a body. Each
part belongs to every other part and no part suffers alone without the
rest of the body. The one
Spirit is the Holy Spirit, who is the Creator of the one body, the
church. The Holy Spirit
calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on
earth as we confess in the Catechism.
The one hope to which every member of the one body is called by
the same Spirit is heaven. There
is only one heaven. The one
Lord is the one Lord Jesus Christ, whose body the church is.
The one faith is the Christian faith that every Christian holds
in his heart. The one
baptism is the means by which the one Spirit calls the one body to the
one hope through the one faith in the one Lord Jesus Christ.
The one Father is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is over all, through all, and in us all.
These are wonderful
words. They are higher than
anything the human mind could conceive.
They are more beautiful than any words a mere man could weave
together. Yet, they are so
simple that they can teach any child whose heart is open to divine
instruction. God’s instruction must be received in humility.
Pride won’t be taught. He
already knows everything he wants to know.
Only the humble, only those who admit their ignorance, can be
taught by God. And when God
is the teacher, he unites us as one.
divides. It divided Satan
from his fellowship with God and caused his fall into hell.
All false teaching stems from sinful pride.
Pride is what prevents us from submitting to authority, bearing
another’s burdens, or accepting the cross that God lays on us. What
do I think, or say, or do? It’s
not more important than what anyone else thinks, says, or does.
I am not the center of the universe.
When I think I am, I am headed for a fall.
This is not a
uniquely Christian teaching. The
ancient pagans taught that pride was the downfall of everyone who gave
in to its temptation. In
most of the classic tragedies, pride plays a prominent role.
You may know of the ancient Greek myth about a very handsome
young man named Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection in a
pool. Narcissism, or
self-love, used to be considered a rather pathetic kind of thing.
Nowadays, it is advanced as a positive thing. It’s called self-esteem.
Pride has become a virtue. Humility
a humble faith is the only way to receive these wonderful words that
tell us so plainly of the unity of God and of His holy church. Humility lets God be God and every man a liar.
Humility believes God’s word even when what we see, feel,
sense, and experience say something quite different.
us take a closer look at these words that God gave to St. Paul for our
is one body. That is, there
is one church. That is hard
to believe. How can we say
that there is only one church, when what we see is the church divided
into many different competing and disagreeing churches?
How can this be true? God
said it. That settles it. There is one body. We
may see that the church is divided, but what we see is not so.
What the Bible says is so. There
is one body. We sing in the
hymn, “Though with a scornful wonder men see her sore oppressed, by
schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed.”
This is what people see. But
this is not what is. Listen
to how Martin Luther confesses the wonderful truth of the church’s
unity in these words from the Large Catechism:
is one Spirit. Since the
Holy Spirit is the Creator of the Church, there could not possibly be
more than one Church. The
Holy Spirit cannot be divided. Neither
can the Church. He is the
Spirit of truth. The Church
is built on the truth. Truth
and error don’t mix. Whatever
is false does not belong to the Spirit or to his Church.
False doctrine cannot but divide folks from the true Church.
Those who mark and avoid all false doctrine are falsely accused
of being divisive. The very
opposite is the case. Those
who promote and tolerate false doctrine cause division by contradicting
what the Spirit of truth teaches.
is one hope. It’s not
here on earth. It’s not
in any political, social, or economic solution to our troubles.
The hope of every Christian, the hope of the whole Church, the
hope to which the one Holy Spirit calls us is everlasting life in heaven
with the blessed Trinity. The
Church is on her way to heaven. Only
the Church will go there. The
world won’t go there. The
world will be destroyed. Only
the Church will survive. Only
those called out of this world before this world is destroyed will make
it to heaven. There is one hope. There
are not two hopes. There is
not a hope for a heaven on this earth to be followed by a heaven in
word hope, as it is used in the Bible, means the same thing as faith,
except that it is always directed to the future, that is, to heaven.
Hope is not any less certain or sure than faith.
Hope is faith in what God has promised for the future.
There is one hope to which all Christians are called.
Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” Jesus tells us only the truth.
The place He is preparing is a place where there is no doubting
of God, there is no sinful pride, there is no death, no sickness, no
pain, or anything else that sin has brought into this world.
is one Lord. Jesus cannot
be divided. It’s not as
if there is the human Jesus and then there is the divine Jesus. No, Jesus is always true God and true man at the same time.
When Jesus stilled the storm, displaying his divine powers, it
was a man who did it. When
Jesus was crucified, suffering as a man for all mankind, it was God who
was nailed to that cross. Jesus
is one Lord.
is one faith. It never
changes. Every Christian
has it. The personal faith
of each individual Christian is always the same.
True faith may exist in a Christian’s heart along side of all
sorts of doubts and false notions, but there is only one Christian faith
and that is the faith that receives and lives on every word that
proceeds from the mouth of God. This
is the faith that receives Jesus, the one Lord.
Bible talks about faith in two ways: the faith that believes and the
faith that is believed. Faith
believes. “I am trusting
thee, Lord Jesus.” Faith
receives Jesus and with Jesus every spiritual blessing that God has to
give. This is the personal
faith that believes. The Bible also talks about the faith is believed.
St. Jude urged the early Christians to “contend earnestly for
the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3)
The word faith here means doctrine or teaching.
The doctrine is always the very same.
It doesn’t change. Any
new teaching must be a false teaching.
There is only one faith.
is one baptism. There are
not two baptisms: one of water and one of the Spirit.
There is only one baptism, which is of water and the Spirit as
Jesus teaches us in John 3. The
faith in the one Lord Jesus and the baptism by his authority can never
be separated. “He that
believes and is baptized shall be saved.”
The true faith always includes baptism.
Jesus has joined Himself to the waters of Holy Baptism.
Jesus alone has forgiveness to give and yet St. Peter preached,
as recorded in Acts 2:38-39), “Repent, and let every one of you be
baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you
shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who
are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
It’s not a question of believing in Jesus or believing in
baptism. Jesus joins
himself to Holy Baptism, as St. Paul writes in Galatians 3:27, “For as
many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
refuses to be divided from the one faith or from the one baptism. Jesus
won’t be divided. The
faith cannot be divided. And
neither Jesus nor the true faith can be torn away from baptism.
is one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in
you all. Who is this one
God and Father of all? He
is the God and Father from whom the Holy Spirit proceeds and who through
the Holy Spirit calls us into one body to share the one hope of eternal
life. Who is this one God
and Father of all? He is
the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ by whose authority we have
been baptized and have obtained the one true faith.
Who is this one God and Father of all?
He is the One who rules over us.
No other power or authority can displace His power or authority.
We submit ourselves to Him, we devote ourselves to Him, and we
love Him as our dear Father in heaven from whom all good gifts come.
He is the One who lives in us, who, with the Spirit and the Son,
has chosen to live in us and to remain faithful to us.
does this mean? Live as you
have been called to live. You
received something when God baptized you and made you his child.
You were joined to the Man, your God, who humbled Himself and was
obedient all the way to the cross.
So live as you are, joined to Christ, who in humility redeemed
you with His blood. You
have received Christ. Look
at His gentleness, as He leads confused, erring, and sinful people to
embrace His grace. You have received Christ.
How patient He is with us when we fall again and again into the
same old sins. Has he ever
denied us forgiveness when our hearts condemned us and we came to Him
for absolution? So we live
as we are called to live, being patient, bearing with one another in
love. There is one body.
We are joined to one another.
We hurt when our brothers and sisters hurt.
We want something more than having our own way, defending our own
pride, or vindicating ourselves. We
want Him who by His humility has taken away our sin and given us a sure
hope of eternal life. He
exalts the humble by His grace alone.
We bow before Him confessing our unworthiness and forgiving those
who have done us wrong. As
one body we partake together of His body and blood in the Sacrament of
the Altar. There our God
guarantees the one hope to which we are called and there we praise God
in communion with the angels, archangels, and our Christian loved ones
who have gone to their rest.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus