June 19, 2011: A Godly Good-Bye is Really an Eternal Hello!

Let us pray: O blessed Trinity, how awesome You are! You dwell in total oneness, yet each of Your three Persons is distinct and each of You has special abilities and tasks when it comes to upholding the universe and saving little people like us. We cannot imagine You. We cannot grasp Your depth. But, by Your grace and mercy, we can worship You! Today we do just that with our voices, our hearts, and our souls. Amen


TEXT: 2 Cor. 13: 11-14

Dearly Beloved By The Entire Godhead:

What are words? They are a means of making concepts, ideas and brain impulses real and understandable both to us and other human beings. They are a form of communication between people. And depending upon the background and nationality of the communicator, the same word may sound different and may even have a slightly different shade of meaning, yet the truth behind such a word remains the same. Thus, the word: “good-bye” in English; “auf wiedersehn” in German, or “arrivaderci” in Italian.

Originally human language came from God. And no, we don’t know what His language sounds like to the human ear—but I imagine it is quite beautiful. Then, at the time of the Tower of Babel, God confused human language to thwart man’s arrogant hubris. So, today we have literally hundreds, even thousands of languages around the world—all seeking to describe the same thoughts, ideas, emotions, and things to one another.

In our lesson, which was originally written by Paul in Greek, the apostle says: “Good-bye” to that perennially troubled congregation that he had founded. Most of the time we skip over such perfunctory good-byes. My friends, that’s a huge mistake. Because if we take the time to examine these final words, we see that:



There is a huge, fundamental difference between human language and God’s Word. Do you know what that difference is? Well human language is merely informational. It shares thoughts, ideas, and emotional depth with others. Whereas, God’s Word is both informational and transportational. It has the added power to work and convey those thoughts into human hearts and change those hearts in the process. It’s as if God channels the power of the Trinity into the format of human language to make happen exactly what the words mean. This is especially the Spirit’s doing, but the entire Trinity is operational throughout the process. So, in Genesis when God said: “Let there be light” it immediately appeared. When He created the planets and stars, they suddenly were. Likewise, when we hear the message that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners like you and me by giving His life up for ours on a cross thereby making us right with God; well, as Paul writes in Romans: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe.”

This same power is exhibited in our midst each Sunday. Through the lessons and readings God tells us right from wrong and also works at convicting us of our sins. Through the words, His words of the baptismal rite, we are washed clean and our hearts are converted and changed for the better. Through His words of pardon in the absolution, God works peace of soul. Through His words of institution in the Holy Supper, Christ, God’s Son, joins Himself supranaturally to simple bread and wine so that it becomes His very self—again, for the forgiveness of your sins. Yes, when God speaks things really do happen.


In our lesson God speaks through St. Paul vital words to the Corinthians and to us. “Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints send their greetings.”

Good-by basically means farewell. It means fare-thee-well. Have a wonderful, blessed life in my absence. How can we achieve that and what does such a life consist of? Is it merely this: I hope you all get wealthy, have rewarding careers, and your children don’t disappoint you? No, Paul has higher goals in mind, eternal goals, as he writes these words. “Aim for perfection.” Perfection is found only in Christ. No human can measure up to God’s standards: “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” We can try on our own, but we fail daily. However, by putting on Christ through faith, His perfection is given to you. So, aim at His standards and not just your own. Paul’s appeal is for them to be of one mind and to live in peace. He’s not talking about fake worldly peace based on human niceities. He’s talking about having and cultivating the same values, morals, and truths. He’s talking about basing your lives on Christ alone. He’s talking about being responsible as Christ was for you, being kind as Christ was to you, being hard-working as Christ did for you. He’s talking about being forgiving above all else, as Christ is towards you. If you model your life after Jesus, you will live in eternal peace with God. But, Pastor, how is that possible since we’re sinners, children of Babel who always talk past ourselves and even talk past God? Well, you already know the answer. By clinging to Jesus in humble, Spirit-wrought faith, all Jesus has becomes your own possession. His rightness becomes your rightness. That’s why when we strive to live our faith and build it up daily: “the God of love and peace will be with you.” In fact, since He empowers love and peace to come upon us via faith, those very words give what they describe.


Finally, we come to a very familiar greeting, here used as part of Paul’s farewell. It’s as if Paul’s good-by is actually a huge hello! “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
“Grace, love, and fellowship.” Paul wants the mercy of Christ and His huge heart that gave birth to it to be yours and my possession. He wants the profound eternal love of God which underlies all creation to fill our souls. He wants oneness with each other and especially oneness with the Holy Spirit to overarch our lives. Because if we have these spiritual blessings from the Holy Trinity, peace of soul, peace of conscience, peace of everything will reign within us and the perfection of creation will once more dwell upon planet earth.

Recall that God’s Word is not just informational, but also transportational. So, by writing this blessing, Paul isn’t just telling us about some hoped for, vague ideal, he’s actually conveying it directly to the Corinthians and to us. This is God’s gift to you. It’s from the Father Who authored our salvation, from the Son Who accomplished our salvation, and from the Spirit Who worked the faith within our heart to possess this salvation. Since these truths place you and me into heaven and join us with all the saints of old, in this case A GODLY GOOD-BYE IS REALLY AN ETERNAL HELLO! Isn’t the Trinity amazing? Amen