Trinity Sunday-HL, May 22nd, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
“Whoever wants to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith. Whoever does not keep it whole and inviolate will doubtless perish eternally. This, however, is the catholic faith: that we worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.” [Introduction to the Creed of Athanasius]
That dear friends is the truth that the historic Christian church has always declared and always defended. There’s just one problem though, and it’s a big problem; by nature, we don’t like to hear God’s truth because…
We are people of unclean lips, and we dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. And in the revelation of the One true God in Trinity and unity, we see the King, our King, the LORD of hosts and we know that because of our sin, we must die.
We know that we must die because unclean lips are only the symptom of the true disease… our hearts themselves are sinful and unclean. We have done things we should not do and we fail to do the things we know we must do. What we fail to do is to love God with our whole heart, soul, and mind, and we fail to love our neighbor as our self.
But God has sent His servants to you to declare a way out this sinful mess; a way out of no way. His servants have been called to teach you of God’s solution; to repeat the solution over and over. But to receive the solution and live you must receive the God who gives this gift. The solution is the hot coal of Holy Baptism that works to take away your sin; to wash you with simple water and the purifying flame of the Holy Spirit of God. But our sinful nature scoffs at such a simple solution to our sin problem. Simple?
God’s solution may seem simple to sinners such as ourselves; it may even seem to good and easy to be true, but behind the simple water and the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit is the life and death of the very Son of God, Jesus Christ.
This Jesus, whom you crucified with your sins, suffered and died for the sins of the world. On Good Friday, God in human flesh, our flesh did something that is impossible for our created sinful minds to comprehend… He died. God who is eternal, immortal, invincible, did the impossible… He died. Now before you say, “No, it was only Jesus body that died” remember, Jesus’ two natures are forever connected; that is they can never and will never be disconnected.
So on Good Friday, because Jesus died, God died.
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” [Romans 11:33-36] Indeed, how unsearchable and inscrutable He is, unless He reveals Himself to us. While we can never give a gift to God that would put Him in our debt, He has given us one; through the giving of His Son upon the cross, He also allows us to know Him as He is.
He is one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity.
Let’s get one thing stated from the beginning: The word “Trinity” won’t be found in the Bible. But the name of the Triune God is found in two of the most important passages of the New Testament. The first one is the baptismal command of our Lord, which we have by command repeated for all when they are baptized in the “name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” [Matthew 28:19] And the second is the apostolic benediction which has so many times been spoken to us: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” [1 Corinthians 13:13]
When we speak of the Trinity, we must first remember what the Bible so often insists, that God in His nature is inscrutable and incomprehensible. No one comprehends the thought of God except the Spirit of God. [1 Corinthians 2:11] What we know about the Trinity of God is simply what He has revealed to us. It is not a matter of logical deductions or deep philosophical thought. The simple truth is that what we know about God is only a fragment. About this fragmentary knowledge we must say, as of all such knowledge, that we cannot always fit it together into a logical and systematic doctrine that has no mysteries. We neither can nor need to fill in the revelation with our own theories. We can only confirm what God has already said about Himself.
God’s Word insists, first of all, that God is One. This was the core of the creed of Israel: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One Lord.” [Deuteronomy 6:4] Jesus says that this is the first pillar of the law of God. [Mark 12:29] The apostles claim the same as the most certain doctrine of all the faith, God is One. We know that there is only One God.
But it is just as clear in the Scriptures that there is a triune nature in God’s being, which is so essential and so profound that it can only be expressed by our word “person.” By person we mean, a being that possess both will and self-consciousness. This is why Jesus speaks of His thoughts and His will, just as the Scriptures speak of the Word of the Spirit, His comfort and warning, His decisions and His intervention. Both the Son and the Spirit speak with the Father. And yet the Son and the Spirit are inseparably bound together with the Father. They are One. How this can be is one of the many mysteries of God, a mystery which we cannot possibly understand completely.
Both the Son and the Spirit are as eternal as the Father is eternal. They were both present in the beginning and shared in the creation of the world. They are just as divine as the Father Himself. Therefore Christ has received the name of God, the Lord, and is worshiped as God by the disciples. So, the Word of the Spirit is God’s Word, and when the Spirit witnesses, God Himself speaks.
People usually first know something of the being of God the Father. He can be traced in the world of nature and in all the good gifts He gives to us. Christ too can be describe as a tangible figure, without too much difficulty. We understand that He is the Word that became flesh. But in regards to the Holy Spirit, as we discussed for the last two weeks, things get a little harder for our small, created minds to understand. The Spirit lives and is at work in the church, in Word and Sacrament; He works to point our hearts and minds to Christ. Therefore it is in the New Testament that we find the clearest report of Him. Yet still today, no one can truly know the Holy Spirit except as He lives in the life of the church and as He uses the means of grace to work upon our hearts. It is then that we first learn to know the Triune God—in as far as it is possible to know Him from this side of glory.
And that is why you are here today; you are here to know who God is through the proclamation of His Word, a word about His Son Jesus Christ.
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness to save sinful Israel from the venom of vipers, which was God’s punishment for their willful disobedience and their stubborn sinful natures, so the Son of man was lifted up for you upon the cross, for the sins of the world. [John 3:1-16]
Unless you are born again in the washing of the water and the Word you cannot see the kingdom of God. And even now, as your sinful nature is struggling with these truths of God because they are so beyond your comprehension, even now as that nature is silently asking, “How can these things be?” God is answering you with the next two verses that follow our gospel reading found in vs. 16 and 17: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
And now you know the rest of the story… God loves the world, He loves you, because He exists in a unified love for Himself. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father, and together they love the Holy Spirit who because of divine love, desires to come to you and share God’s love with you. But if it simply ended with you, where would the love of God be for the rest of the world that is lost in sin and death. No, the love of God can not stop with us, it must proceed out of us and to our neighbor so they too may be born of water and the Spirit and recreated in love.
“Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. AMEN!
Now, may “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” AMEN!