Jun07

Holy Trinity

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Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity

Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

        Today we celebrate the Holy Trinity of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Moreover, although the word ‘Trinity’ never occurs in the Scriptures, the invocation of the Trinity exists. Our very Gospel reading of Matthew 28 verse 19 and 20, quotes Jesus as he speaks to his disciples the great commission:

“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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

        Yes, the Holy Trinity is the one true God who was before the beginning of our existence and is with us now. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… and the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the deep. God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. [Gen 1:1, 2, 26] Where was Jesus? The very first three verses of the Gospel of John tells us:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. [Jn 1:1-3]

Christ himself tells us in Matthew 28 verse 18 and verse 20 that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me… And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Let there be no doubt that Christ is God with same power and the same eternal life as his Father, the creator of all things.

        As I was preparing for this message, I thought of some of the many different metaphors used to describe the Holy Trinity. How do we comprehend the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as three separate personae yet of the same substance? There is the metaphor of the egg, which consists of the shell, the white and the yolk, yet is still one. There is the simile of water, that can exist in the forms of solid, liquid and a gas yet still remain the combination of the life sustaining elements of hydrogen and oxygen. And even a man can be the son to his father, the father to his son and the husband to his spouse; three persons yet still one being.

        These are all fine examples, still, as with all of human wisdom, these metaphors break down when trying to define God in all his glory. When we try to explain God, we are only pronouncing our great foolishness in His eyes. As simple and as faulty as these explanations are, they can still be used as tools of our faith just as our worship and praise, although meager in comparison to what is due our God, allow us to testify to our belief in Him.

        I wish to stay true to speaking of the Holy Trinity, not as how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit exist as one, but as how the One God in three persons is involved in our lives. I submit to you to imagine our existence as a tapestry of cloth.

        God the Father weaves (creates) this tapestry of our existence. The thread he uses is the thread of life, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Spirit is the instrument or the needles that form our lives. Through the Spirit, the very knots and loops that hold us together give us our shape.

        As King David attests in Psalm 139:

For You formed my inward parts;

You wove me in my mother’s womb.

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Marvelous are Your works,

And that my soul knows very well. [Ps 139:13-14]

The Psalmist states that God the Father, our Creator, is active in our lives and knows us before we are even born. This is what God does; he continually works in his creation. It is an amazing and awe filled act within our lives.

        Dr. David Schmidt, a professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, wrote this in an article in the Concordia Journal.

“Such practical spirituality reduces Christianity to one among many systems of thought, one among many frameworks for the practice of belief. Hearers begin to pick and choose among beliefs in these various religious systems and try out different practices to see what happens to their faith. Such thinking obscures the active agent in faith. It hides the fact that there is something over which we have no choice and no control: God, who directly intervenes in human history. While people might personally select those things they find useful, whether they find him useful or not, God intervenes. … God is alive and active, at work in the world he created.

     Yes, it sounds silly, as if God would notice the lives of [His] people. That’s as silly as God noticing a bird of the air and providing it food, as Jesus noticing a widow’s mite placed into a collection box or a person sitting under a fig tree or a woman drawing water from a well. Our God works not only in the sentimental and the marvelous. He works in the mundane as well, and when you spend your lives in mini-vans that haul children all over the [city] and live among cracks in the sidewalk that need cleaning every spring, it is a comfort to know that God sees, God hears, and God acts even in, especially in, these ordinary situations. [Schmidt, Concordia Journal, pp. 111-112]

        God has not created a mere eco-system that self perpetuates. Our Creator is a living God who is in our lives every day. In each and every day He creates and recreates us into his likeness. He does this through his Son, Jesus Christ. Christ is the living thread of our world, there in the beginning to be woven and knit into the creation of our Father in heaven.

        Everybody wants to be in control of their lives. When times are hard. When chaos seems to rule every aspect of our world. When anarchy becomes the desired state of being, we blame others. We blame God. We blame anybody but ourselves.

        We say hurricanes, pandemics, and earthquakes are natural occurrences which we cannot control; but we try anyway. We think we can overcome creation with our own pride. When war and anarchy threaten our safe, comfortable way of life, we blame those in authority over us. We say we did not choose our parents, our society, or our government therefore we are the victims and not the cause.

        It is when we decide to take control in our creation, that we replace our thread of the living Christ with our own. The cloth that is our life becomes discolored and weak. The pattern of our tapestry becomes twisted and distorted. Stitches are dropped and holes become visible. The world becomes like a worn-out garment. We no longer are the complete cloth and we become worthless to ourselves and to others.

        When we reject Christ and try to take control of our world, we create our own demise. We may even find ourselves fighting against God for our own personal satisfaction, even to the point of cursing God for interfering in our lives.

        We fight God for control of our lives, thinking that we know what he wants for us. We think that God is not involved in our day to day moments and that we need to guide and direct Him. We want to change the very fabric of our existence thinking we know better.

        But there is a reason God sent his only Son into the world to be crucified and buried in the grave with our sin. God knows that we can not in any way come to him under our own power. He knows that thread of our being is defective and weak. This is why Christ replaces our deformed, sin-filled human substance with his own life. God re-creates us with the death and resurrection of his Son. The Christ, perfect in every way, makes us perfect in the sight of our Father in heaven.

        Now the Spirit of God, who hovered over the face of the deep, has been given to us by Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit has come to us through Christ to continuously form us into the body of our Lord. The Holy Spirit is given to us in our baptism to live in our hearts and knit us into God pleasing sons and daughters of the Word. As the Apostle Paul tells the church in Colossae:

[We][are] being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. [Col 2:1-3]

        We are all connected by the thread of Christ. We are one piece of cloth, one body in Jesus. The Holy Spirit works throughout the body of Christians so that we in:

…speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. [Eph 4:15-16]

        We are connected. Our actions and inactions affect all the family of God. By pulling on the thread of Christ woven through the Spirit, we not only unravel our own membership and relationship in the kingdom of God, but we threaten to undo those who surround us. This is why it is important to love our neighbors. In order to be a strong and useful garment of the Word, we must strengthen those about us who struggle with the knots and torn cloth of their own lives.

        In the first two verses of our Gospel reading this morning we are told:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. [Matt 28:16-17]

        ‘The verb translated by both NIV and ESV as “doubted” suggests being divided within oneself about what to do rather than the kind of unbelief we associate with doubt. (This word is not used to describe, e.g., “doubting Thomas.”) The commentator R. T. France, suggests the translation “hesitated,” provides a helpful discussion of this word. The verse, especially reinforced by other passages from Matthew, gives us a picture not of disciples refusing to worship Jesus because they did not believe in him, rather of disciples who were so confused and overwhelmed by the sight of their risen Lord that they did not know what to do.

        Recall that the last time these men had seen Jesus they were fleeing for their lives, abandoning him to his captors. What is the proper greeting when you meet someone whom you have betrayed and denied and handed over to the cruelest of deaths but who is now risen from the dead? Hesitation is, humanly speaking, quite understandable here.’ [Dr. Jeffrey A. Oschwald, http://concordiatheology.org/category/library/cj/homhelp/, June 19, 2011]

        But what does Jesus do right after this doubt is professed, in verses 18-20? Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Jesus comes to them He does not leave them in their hesitation. He lets them know that he is God.

        He then invokes the Trinity in his great commission,

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

He is letting us know that we are all connected through him and that we are to bring the Holy Spirit to our brothers and sisters in baptism. This is a promise which does not fail and does not end for he says, “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” [Matt 28:18-20]

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. [Ga 3:26–29]          

        Therefore, let us put on the clothing of Christ, woven by our Father in heaven so that we may continue to be formed and re-created by the Holy Spirit.

Amen