Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sermon: Holy Trinity – 2014

15 June 2014

Text: John 3:1-17 (Isa 6:1-7, Rom 11:33-36)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the Undivided Unity: Let us give glory to Him for He has shown mercy unto us.  Amen.

Dear friends, this feast of the Holy Trinity may well be the most politically-incorrect day of the church year.  I know we tend to focus on the whole “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” thing – but it seems like those fights are often just about words and about our rights.

Today is not a day about words and the shifting sands of culture, but of eternal substance.  Today is a day in which we Christians offend the entire world by saying that the only true God is the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Today is a day in which we Christians exclude not only pagans and Buddhists and Hindus and Atheists who believe in no god, but also Jews and Muslims who worship one god.

As a chaplain, I know that some who serve in chaplaincy are pressured to never mention the Trinity nor to pray in the name of Jesus.  Such things are divisive and exclusive.  And as a Christian, I could never comply with such a request or order if it were given me.  For there is no generic God, like in the Pledge of Allegiance, no God apart from Jesus as many of our politicians would have us speak of, no “Father God” as many of our Protestant brethren pray to – just as there is no Zeus, no Venus, and no Flying Spaghetti Monster.

But there is a Creator, dear friends, for we are His creatures.  There is an exclusive God that has truly revealed Himself to us.  And He reveals His intimate mystery of “God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity”, of “Godhead of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.”

But what difference does this dusty old creed make, except to a few pastors and theology geeks?  Well, do you desire to be saved, dear brothers and sisters?  Do you want to know and believe that which is true?  Do you care what God Himself counted important to reveal to us in His divine Word?  Do you want to know your Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier?

It matters enough that our Lord gave us this holy and mighty name into which we are baptized: the name “of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  For we pray “in the name,” not “in the names.”  “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”  And yet, Jesus is also Lord, also God, who took flesh, dwelt among us, was crucified, died, and was buried. 

Jesus does what only God can do: forgive sins and work miracles – including the rising from the dead.  Jesus does what only a man can do: eat, sleep, hunger, thirst, suffer, and die.  It is God Himself who humanly teaches Nicodemus about the kingdom of God.  It is God Himself who humanly teaches Nicodemus about the mighty power of baptism: “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God… You must be born again.”  It is God Himself who humanly teaches Nicodemus “heavenly things.”

For this God is not a second god.  He is not a role that the Father is playing.  He is the Son, the eternal uncreated Son.  And like every Son, He has a Father.  On this day in which we reflect on the blessing of the vocation of fatherhood, we are often reminded of how children resemble their fathers – in physique, personality, temperament, and in how they raise their own children.  Many sons are the likeness of their fathers.  And the Son of Man is not only made in the image of God the Father, according to St. Paul, He is the “icon” of God the Father.

Our Lord Jesus also speaks of God the Spirit: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 

Dear friends, there is no other God.  Anything other than the Holy Trinity is a fairy tale.  And you cannot be saved by a fairy tale.  You cannot be redeemed by a fictional character.  You cannot be given eternal life by a legend or a myth.  You need the One who is true, the One who took human flesh, the One who shed His blood for you on the cross, the One Name by which you were saved through the waters of Holy Baptism. 

But what we have, dear brothers and sisters, is not only the command to be baptized in the name of the Trinity, but the promise of the Father, Son, and Spirit: “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.”

The Father did not die on the cross as a sacrifice for Your sins.  The Holy Spirit has no flesh to be nailed to the tree.  But Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, Son of the Father, did just that, dear friends.  It took a Man to live sinlessly in this world and to die as the one atoning sacrifice, and it took God to redeem us by mercifully forgiving us our sins. 

This Godhead is a great mystery that taxes our logic.  There is much that the Lord has not revealed to us, much that we do not understand.  But we are not called to understand, but to believe, to trust, to confess that which is true, and to look to Jesus as the Israelites looked to Moses’s serpent on the pole, for salvation and for everlasting life.

For our God is not merely Triune and mysterious, surrounded by smoke and angels, He is also loving and merciful, coming to us in His Word and sacraments.  Just as Isaiah trembles before the throne of the living God, so too do we confess: “Woe is me!  For I am lost.”  And just as the angel places the saving coal from the altar on Isaiah’s lips, so too does our Lord Jesus Christ take a wafer and  chalice from His altar, from the cross, and He places this bread of His body and this wine of His blood on our lips, transcending space and time even as He defeats death and the devil: “Behold, this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”  And we join with the angels in their Trinitarian hymn: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth!” here at this altar, before this cross, in the presence and praise of the Triune God.

And this good news, this Gospel, is the most politically-incorrect thing about this Christian truth, this catholic religion, this faith of which we confess: “whoever does not believe it faithfully and firmly cannot be saved,” even as our Lord Jesus promises that if we believe in Him, we will have eternal life, born again of water and the Spirit, and thus enter into the kingdom of God.  The world and our flesh seek to exclude sinners from heaven, and they also seek to exclude ourselves from the ranks of sinners.  But we are indeed, poor, miserable sinners, dear friends, even as we are baptized, believing, redeemed sinners who confess this Christian truth, this catholic faith, this “God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.”

God Himself said of Himself, “I am who I am,” and indeed, He is who He is.  We confess Him in His mysterious divinity, His loving mercy, and His eternal glory.  We confess Him incarnate, crucified, and risen.  We confess Him as our Father who art in heaven, and as the Sprit who blows where He wishes, as the one who baptized us in His triune name, promising us eternal life in His kingdom.

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be glory forever.”  Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the Undivided Unity: Let us give glory to Him for He has shown mercy unto us.  Amen.


on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

No comments: