Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Holy Trinity

The Holy Trinity (C)
May 26, 2013
Text: John 8:48-59

            There is one God, who is three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  There is one God and He alone is God.  There are not many gods.  There are not even three gods.  There is one God.  And any god that is not Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is not God.  This is the mystery of our faith.  We don’t understand this, how one God can be three Persons and three Persons can be one God, and that’s okay.  We can’t comprehend our God.  He cannot be explained by mathematical formulas, scientific theories, or philosophical treatises.  We cannot know and understand our God in His hidden majesty.  If we think we do understand Him in His essence, we’ve slipped into heresy, false teaching that replaces the one true God with a false god of our own making.  All we can know of our Triune God is what He has revealed of Himself in Holy Scripture, and in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God in human flesh.  And to know that is to know enough.  Our gracious God, the Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity, reveals Himself in Scripture and in the Savior as God for us, the God who loves us and saves us and makes us His own by the blood and death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
            This Sunday, Holy Trinity, is all about who our God is and how He reveals Himself to us.  He isn’t just whatever we want Him to be.  He is who He is, whether we like it or not.  And so the critical question for you and me is whether we have the right God.  That is the question addressed in the Athanasian Creed, and it is the question Jesus addresses with Jews in our Holy Gospel (John 8:48-59).  Because it’s very easy for us to fashion a false god who looks just enough like the one true God to fool us.  For example, many people say that the “three great monotheistic religions of the world” (that means the religions that believe there is only one god), Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, all believe in the same god.  They just have slightly different understandings of him and call him by different names.  Well, that sounds good and tolerant and loving, especially in our pluralistic society and to our politically correct ears.  But Jesus obliterates that theory in our Gospel.  He specifically tells the Jews in our text that they don’t have the right God (vv. 54-55), they don’t worship the God of Abraham as they claim.  And the reason?  They don’t have Jesus.  They believe Jesus has a demon (v. 48).  They do not believe Jesus is the Son of the Father.  They do not believe that Jesus is God in human flesh or that He has come to save them.  They do not believe Jesus’ Word, and so they do not have eternal life.  So much for all religions leading to the same place.  Jesus says rather, “if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death” (v. 51; ESV [emphasis added]).  Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (v. 58).  Now, don’t miss what Jesus is saying here about Himself.  He’s pointing to Himself and saying, “I AM YHWH, I AM the God of Abraham, right here visiting you in the flesh for your salvation.  If you would only believe!”  And the response of unbelief is this, that they pick up stones to throw at Him.  And not just to throw at Him, but to kill Him, for the penalty for blasphemy is death by stoning.
            It’s never popular to tell someone they have the wrong god.  That alone can get you stoned to death.  But then, for Jesus to say that He IS God…  It was infuriating to the Jews, and it’s infuriating to unbelievers today.  The Jews were infuriated because they didn’t believe God could become a man.  Unbelievers today are infuriated because Jesus will not share the stage with other gods.  He makes exclusive claims such as “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).  St. Peter preaches: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  Jesus is the only way.  Contrary to what the Pope said this week about “good people” who don’t believe in Jesus being saved anyway.  That’s just not what the Bible says.  That’s just not what Jesus says.  And I know it’s offensive.  But you don’t get to change the Word of the Lord just because you don’t like it. 
            And of course you don’t like it.  Because you may not be Jewish or Muslim, but you have your idols, too.  You have false gods that you have fashioned.  If you’ve ever said, “I just can’t believe in a god who would…” (fill in the blank)… “send people to hell,” or “not want homosexuals to marry,” or “tell me I’m sinning,” well, you’ve fashioned a false god for yourself.  And you’ve done it, haven’t you?  I certainly have.  Repent.  This is not a message of hate, as Christians are so often accused.  There is no hate here.  Only love.  But love also seeks the truth.  Love tells the truth, even when the truth is hard to tell, even when the truth leads to rejection and persecution.  And the truth is this:  “You shall have no other gods.  What does this mean?  We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things” (Luther’s Small Catechism [St. Louis: Concordia, 1986]), the God of Holy Scripture, the God revealed by Jesus Christ, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We should fear, love, and trust in Him above our reason, above our feelings about who He should be and what He should do and what He should say, above other people and things that so easily take the place of God.  Do you have the right God?  Because there simply are no substitutes. 
            And how do you know you have the right God?  He tells you in Holy Scripture.  You have the right God if you have Jesus Christ, Son of God, begotten of the Father from all eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, for your Lord.  You have the right God if you confess the Father who created you and sent the Son for your salvation; the Son who became man, lived, suffered, and died for your forgiveness, rose for your justification and eternal life, lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and is coming again to judge the living and the dead; the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son and who is active in His Church in the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, to give you living and abiding faith in Jesus Christ.  You have the right God if you confess the Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity, the God who saves you in Jesus of Nazareth.  And all of this graciously revealed to you in the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. 
            This is the Christian faith.  And it’s a gift to you from God Himself.  No mere man came up with this.  The man-made religions all make some sort of sense.  They’re reasonable.  They’re comprehensible to the natural man.  But as St. Paul writes, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned… But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:14, 16).  We didn’t earn that mind.  We didn’t come up with that mind ourselves.  We don’t deserve it.  It’s a gift, given by the Holy Spirit in His Word.  It’s a mind that believes even what it cannot comprehend.  So it’s okay that we don’t completely understand our God.  We aren’t called to understand Him.  We’re called to believe in Him, trust Him, and confess Him, and to have our very minds shaped by Him.
            For it is He who gives us life in Jesus Christ the Savior.  As Jesus says, “if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death” (John 8:51), which is to say, though you die, yet shall you live.  You live now in Baptism, your life being hidden with Christ in God.  You will live in heaven with Jesus when you die.  And you will continue to live eternally when the Lord Jesus raises you from the dead.  And then you will see for yourself what you cannot comprehend, what you have believed and confessed.  You will see God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  And with Abraham and Ted Steffens and all the saints, you will rejoice in His presence and sing the song of the blessed: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Is. 6:3).  Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!Amen!  Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever!  Amen” (Rev. 7:10, 12).  You will sing this because Christ is risen.  You will sing this because your sins are forgiven.  You will sing this because Jesus Christ is your life.  And in Him you will never see death.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.         


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