19. June 2011
The Festival of the Holy Trinity
John 3:1-17; Romans 11:33-36
On this blessed Octave or eighth day of Pentecost, we confess God as the Holy Trinity. It is true, the name “Trinity” is not found in Holy Scriptures. “Trinity” is really a mathematical word, created by the men in the church to explain the reality of God. Should we confess God as Trinity? Can we confess, as the Athanasian Creed put it: “whoever desires to be saved must think thus about the Trinity?”
While the term is created, the teaching concerning the Trinity is not. Our belief in God as Trinity is far beyond our grasp as creatures. To learn of Him, we must rely on the testimonies divinely revealed, the firm, clear, and certain teaching revealed to us in the Scriptures. By these Holy Scriptures, God teaches us of himself as Trinity. We dedicate a whole Sunday to a single doctrine precisely because it is necessary for salvation. Denial or ignorance of the Trinity is a denial of saving faith.
The heathen, the Muslim, and the Jew deny this Trinity and so do not believe in the same God. Whoever does not know Jesus as the Son of God, does not know the son who died to make satisfaction for their sins. A denial of Jesus is a denial of God. God does not demand a perfect understanding but rather faith, trusting in his revealed Word. This is the catholic (or universal) faith, which is necessary for us to be saved.
St. Paul understood that the salvation won by our triune God escapes our comprehension. Our Lord’s wisdom and knowledge exceeds our understanding. His judgments upon man are unsearchable. His way of redemption is unfathomable. No one has known the mind of the Lord. No one has told him what He should do.
Instead all things are of Him, through Him, and to Him, says St. Paul. These prepositions – of, through, and to – are significant. Three prepositions for the three persons of the Trinity. Paul is confessing the distinction of the work of the three persons of the Godhead for the redemption of the world. Our redemption is of the Father, through the Son Jesus, and bring us to Him in the Holy Spirit. This redemption is the stuff of our baptisms. In baptism, the atoning work of Christ is imputed to us in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God acts in unity of purpose, with one name but by three persons.
This great mystery was revealed at the baptism of our Lord. The Father spoke from heaven the words: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Spirit descended in the form of a dove upon Jesus. By the Trinity, John’s baptism of repentance transformed into a baptism of salvation. Faith that trusts in the truth of baptism. Scripture records this testimony so that we may know that Baptism is the work of all three persons of the Trinity. God is at work by water, Spirit, and the Word incarnate to bring about our salvation. When his name is placed upon us, we are restored as his sons, heirs to the kingdom and everlasting life.
Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night seeking signs and wonders. He wants to hear marvelous words of wisdom and knowledge from this rabbi come from God. God is certainly with Him. He must be a prophet. Yet, Nicodemus wants searchable judgments and comprehensible ways. Instead the Lord confronts him with the great mystery of Holy Baptism. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
God’s kingdom comes certainly without our prayers but we pray in the Lord’s Prayer that his kingdom come among us also. How does God’s kingdom come? It comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.
The kingdom of God comes by Jesus’s Word, namely these words: “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” These are great words, comforting words for all of us who have received them in our ears and trust in them by faith. We have received the water and the Spirit and have entered the kingdom of heaven. The triune God marked our foreheads and hearts with His name.
But the skeptic Nicodemus wants more than Jesus’ word. “How can these things be?” he asks. Prove your words. Teach me so that I know. Nicodemus should know that this is not how God acts. God makes commands and holds us to them. He promises and keeps them. Jesus rebukes him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?” You, of all people, should know that your Fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob acted in faith, trusting the promise of the Messiah to redeem the nation. They trusted not in signs but the word of promise.
You, who know the Scripture must know that not every day has been paradise for Israel. Life has been hard. Indeed, many years were exile in Egypt, wilderness, and Babylon. Foreign nations attacked and won. Thousands died of plague, battle, and famine. Do you trust in these signs that God loves you? No, Nicodemus, trust in the Word of promise that the Lord works for your salvation.
“We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.” The Trinity has spoken to your through your Scriptures that the kingdom of God will come by the Spirit, when and where He blows. This is the Spirit that grants us the revelation of the saving work of the Father and Son: the promise of our baptism.
Trust that the Lord worked in your forgiveness of sins in your baptism. He has testified of these heavenly things. We have received this witness, being born again in the Spirit. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
God the Son, sent by the Father was made man not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved. God the Father gave His Son to the evil, wicked, and murderous world for our salvation. The murder of God at our hands would seem to be His undoing. The evidence would seem to indicate the victory of sin, the world, and the devil.
But the testified resurrection of the Son of God proves otherwise. Sin has no victory over us. We, the chosen and adopted children of God now cannot die forever. Like Christ, the grave cannot hold us. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).
Trust in His testimony, the Word which speaks of His witness. The medicine of immortality, the elixir of life has been granted to us. The grave cannot hold us them or us either. For the baptized remain in the strong name of the triune God. “Whoever believes in Him should not perish by have everlasting life.”
It is most fitting that Holy Trinity coincides this year with the secular celebration of fathers. On Father’s Day our world rejoices in the blessing of fathers. We, too, rejoice in the blessing of our earthly fathers. Through the union to our mother they begat us into this world. They brought us to the font, to receive the promised rebirth. They nurtured us in life and faith. Faithful fathers brought us to church each week to receive the holy mysteries.
In this way, our earthly fathers are a shadow of the unsearchable love of our heavenly Father. Jesus says it this way: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)
Earthly fathers are imitators of our heavenly Father. Only by the Word and Spirit do we love our children as God loved us. Only by the Word and Spirit do we know how to serve our beloved as Christ loves his beloved. Only by the Word and Spirit do we faithfully carry out the callings our Lord has given us, to love him, to serve him, and to follow him all the days of our lives, by loving and serving our wives and children.
Fathers, love your children as God loved you. Give life to children as you received life and new life in baptism. Nurture your children in the love and admonition of the Lord, just as the heavenly Father has loved and admonished you. Care for your children as God the Father has tenderly provided all things needful for you.
Through this life by the Word and Spirit, you will know in part how your heavenly Father loves and cares for you. So also, your spouse and dear children will learn what it is to have a just and merciful Father, just as they have in their heavenly Father. The beauty and order of our families are a type of the love of the Holy Trinity.
On this side of heaven, the revelation of the Lord has trinity remains a great mystery. On this side of heaven, the gift of Holy Baptism is unfathomable. We know it only by faith, a faith grounded in the testimony of His Word. “For who has known the mind of the Lord?” His ways are inscrutable, his judgements unsearchable. His riches, his wisdom, and His knowledge are deep. Yet, we who are baptized do know! We may not understand. We may not be able to explain this mystery.
But we do know and believe that our Deliverer has come from Zion. The Son of the Father has come to banish our ungodliness and drive away our sin. He has shown great mercy on us. He has blessed us with the Spirit bears witness that God as Trinity has called us and granted us the gift of His salvation. BY the Holy Trinity peace with God is once more made. Thanks be to God. Amen!
In strong and holy Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church