** To listen to the sermon, please click here The Feast of the Holy Trinity **
Bulletin: 2016-05-22 The Feast of the Holy Trinity
Text: Is. 6:1-8; Jn. 3:1-17; The Creed
“Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith. Whoever does not keep it whole and undefiled will without doubt perish eternally. And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.” Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity – a day set aside to focus not on an event in Christ’s life, but a teaching. Most of the other Church holidays celebrate a part of Christ’s life (such as Christmas, Epiphany, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost), but today we focus on a dogma of the Church, a doctrine that has been held by all Christians since Adam.
Just a few moments ago we recited the Athanasian Creed. It’s probably most well known for being the longest of the three creeds. But, it’s also one of the best and most clear opportunities we get to confess our faith in the Triune God, the Living God of the Bible. In our time, because of its length, this creed usually gets confined to Trinity Sunday, but in times gone by it was the regular creed to be confessed on Sundays. In fact, that’s how Trinity Sunday came to be. It’s not celebrated because a bunch of pastors got together and decided to hammer people with one of the hardest teachings there is, but because the lay people wanted to talk and hear about the Trinity. At first, the pastors resisted, but I’m glad the day took root.
The Trinity is not something that we’re going to fully understand this side of heaven. It’s just not going to happen. In the new creation our minds will be restored to what they were created to be in Eden and we will know God fully even as we are fully known, like St. Paul says. Nevertheless, we can still believe and confess the doctrine of the Triune God from Scripture, which is vitally important. It’s important, because as the Creed said, you cannot be saved without believing in the Triune God. It doesn’t say you must totally understand it, but we must believe it, for the Triune God is who is revealed to us in the Scriptures. But, I think there’s another reason why the doctrine of the Trinity is important, and it’s what I’d like for us to take away today. The mystery of the Holy Trinity is the foundation of our faith and it comforts us in every distress.
It is true, however; you will not find the word “trinity,” in the Bible. Not because the doctrine isn’t there, but because the word “trinity,” simply didn’t exist. There were no false teachings floating around that called the Triune God into question, so the Church never had to say anything other than, “We believe in one God: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” But, after Christ, many false teachers popped up – just like He said would happen – and they began to call our belief in God into question, particularly how Jesus was God, and then also the Holy Spirit. This is when the language of trinity started to appear; the word simply means “three.” Or, in the context of the Creed, “three-in-one.” We believe in one God, who exists eternally in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – The Triune God. We get this from Jesus when He says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
The First Person of the Trinity is the Father. Though all three persons are to be prayed to, we most often pray to the Father. We call Him Father because that is the language that Jesus gives us. For a number of weeks we were in John 15 and 16, where Jesus repeatedly taught that He was going to the Father. Jesus also says after the resurrection, “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.” There are many other places we could go, but for the sake of time we will leave that ‘till later. As I said in the beginning, the mystery of the Trinity is the foundation of our faith and it comforts us in every distress; so how does our understanding of God the Father comfort us?
As we confess in the Small Catechism, we ascribe to the Father the work of creation and preserving creation. That isn’t to say that the Son and Holy Spirit aren’t involved in those, just that when we talk about the Creator we are often talking about the Father. We confess that it is God our Father who forms us in our mother’s womb. Psalm 139 says that God knits together our inward parts. The Father is the one who provides us with food and drink, house and home, land and animals, and all that we need to support this body and life. Jesus teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount that we don’t need to be anxious about these things, for our Father in heaven knows what we need and will provide. Why does God the Father provide these things for us? Because He loves us. That is the comfort of believing in God the Father – we have a God that we can call, and truly is our Father, who loves us and takes care of us.
We also believe in God the Son. The Son is Jesus, our Lord and Savior. In our Gospel today we have one of the verses that teaches us about the Second person of the Trinity. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” We have a clear picture of Christ and His work in the New Testament. Repeatedly, He calls God His Father, and teaches that He and the Father are together one God with the Holy Spirit. In John’s Gospel Jesus even shows that He was the one who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. King David speaks the Father’s words to Jesus in the psalms when he wrote, “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool,’” and again, “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’” Those words we know from Jesus’ Baptism.
How does the doctrine of God the Son comfort us? Hopefully you answered that question before it finished. We believe that God created all that there is, both visible and invisible. He created everything perfect, but creation rejected Him and fell into sin through the disobedience of Adam and Eve. As a result of the Fall, each and every human being is born corrupted by sin, with the desire to sin and despise the things of God. Since God is holy and righteous and cannot tolerate sin, He has vowed to judge sin and pour out His wrath against all sinners at Christ’s Return. But if God is a God of righteousness, then He is also a God of love and mercy. That is why He sent His Son.
We recognize the Son of God as our redeemer. The Second Person of the Trinity took our human nature upon Himself – not by turning from God into man, but by bringing humanity up into Himself. By becoming man Jesus took upon Himself our frailties and weaknesses, our sinfulness and the wrath and displeasure of God against our sin, and He died on the cross for us. This is our comfort, for because of Christ, we are at peace with God. Our sins are forgiven, and through His blood we will enter eternal life. The doctrine of the Second Person of the Trinity also comforts us because it teaches us that when we suffer in this life, we don’t suffer alone. Our God suffers with us. He is with us in every affliction and trial, every distress and tribulation. And, rather than sit off in the heavens doing nothing about human pain and suffering, our God does something about it. He took on flesh to be one with us in our suffering, so that we can be one with Him in His life.
We also believe in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is not just a power, energy, or force, but is fully God and Lord with the Father and the Son. One God in Three Persons. The Spirit should be fresh in our minds. Last week we celebrated the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles to preach in many different languages and to the ends of the earth. Before that, we spent half the Sundays in Easter in the chapters of John where Jesus speaks most clearly about the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. The Holy Spirit is spoken of in the Old Testament as being present at Creation, “hovering over the face of the waters,” and speaking through the prophets. King David said on his deathbed, “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; His word is on my tongue.” St. Peter says that all of the prophets spoke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And, what did the prophets prophesy about? Jesus.
That’s what the Holy Spirit’s job is, to point us to Christ and God our Father. The Holy Spirit is the one poured out on the Apostles’ to preach the Gospel and on every Christian through the preaching of the Word and in the Holy Sacraments. It’s His job to continually direct us to the Son of God who died for our salvation, and to help us by pointing us to the same. St. Paul wrote these familiar words to the Romans, “The Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us…the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Today is the Feast of the Holy Trinity, an opportunity to confess and praise the name of our Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This mystery is the foundation of our faith and a great source of comfort. For, we do not have a God who is distant or uninvolved or uncaring. We have a God and Father who creates all things and provides for us in every need. We also have His only Son, our Lord, who has redeemed us from our sins and is with us in all trial. We also have God the Holy Spirit who speaks to us and points us to Jesus in the Word, and who comforts us through the Word and the Sacraments. So, as we sang, we have one God in three persons, the blessed Trinity. Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity: Let us give glory to Him because He has shown His mercy to us. Amen.