Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Holy Trinity

The Holy Trinity (B)

May 31, 2015
Text: John 3:1-17

            “Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity.  Let us give glory to him because he has shown his mercy to us” (Liturgical Text from the Introit for Holy Trinity).
            Nicodemus comes by night, under the cover of darkness, to converse with Jesus, the Word of God made flesh.  He comes by night, because he is afraid.  Nicodemus is a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin.  The Sanhedrin does not approve of Jesus and His ministry.  The Sanhedrin will very soon seek to put Jesus to death.  And, in fact, they’ll do it.  The Sanhedrin does not acknowledge Jesus for who He is: The Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the only-begotten Son of the Father, the Logos, the Word, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, Messiah come to save sinners.  And Nicodemus, though he does not oppose Jesus, does not recognize Him, either.  Nicodemus is a teacher of Israel, a theologian of the Church, but, as is all too common among theologians, he does not know God when he’s staring Him in the face.  To know God, you have to know Christ.  Apart from Christ, there is no God.  The Father is the Father because of the eternal Son.  The Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.  Three Persons, One God.  It is a mystery.  But our God is revealed in the Person of the Son who became flesh and blood and made His dwelling among us, Jesus of Nazareth, Christ, the Savior. 
            You can only know the true God in Christ.  To be sure, God has left evidence of Himself all around us in what we call the natural knowledge of God.  That is to say, we know there is a God by nature, because of creation.  Every house is built by someone.  The Builder of all things is God (Heb. 3:4).  There is an intentional design evident in creation itself, the way it all works together, the recurring patterns, the order, the symmetry, the symbiotic relationship of organic life, the very laws of science, and above all others, the fact that conditions on this planet are just right to sustain human life and the wide variety of living things in our world.  Evolution has no reasonable explanation for this.  This doesn’t just happen by accident.  I don’t know who built this building.  But I know there is a builder, or builders.  I know nothing about them.  But I do know that, no matter how many billions of years we sat around waiting for it to happen, this building would NEVER accidentally come together with running water and electricity and a scheme that in every respect is suited for the worship and life of a Christian congregation.  There is a design evident in the building itself.  And if there is a design, there must be a designer.  How much more complex is the created universe?  The design evident in creation tells us Someone must have put this all together.  We don’t know anything yet about him or her or them.  But we know that he, she, or they exist.  That is why everyone is, by nature, religious.  Atheists have to go to great lengths to convince themselves there is no god.  Every group of people in the history of the world has believed in some sort of deity.  There is not only the evidence of creation, but there is also the conscience.  If there is such a thing as objective right and wrong (for example, everybody knows you shouldn’t murder), then there must be some objective being or beings who determine what is right and what is wrong.  Whoever that is, that’s god.  So what do we know about God from natural knowledge?  We know He exists.  We know He is powerful.  We know He establishes right and wrong, good and bad.  Reflecting upon our conscience, we know that we have done the wrong and the bad.  We have murdered (in our heart, if not with our hand).  We have stolen.  We have slandered.  We have cheated.  We have exploited and used and abused.  And thus there is fear: Maybe God is against us.  Maybe that is why there are floods in Texas and tornados and earthquakes and nuclear missiles and sickness and death.  We cannot know otherwise by nature.
            And that is why it is such good news for us when Jesus announces: “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17; ESV).  We know we have a gracious and merciful God in Jesus, the Son.  Jesus is the revelation of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He is the Son sent by the Father, who gives the Spirit.  He is the Son sent to be lifted up on the cross (v. 14) for the sins of the whole world, for your sins and mine.  We know the one true God in Christ, by the preaching of the cross.  We preach Christ crucified, says Paul (1 Cor. 1:23).  That is how you know that God is for you, not against you.  “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:23).  Because Jesus died, you will not die.  Because Christ is risen, you will rise and live.  For whoever believes in Him has eternal life (John 3:15-16).  Such believing, such faith, is the gift of the Holy Spirit, who has given you new birth into the Kingdom of God.
            That happens in Baptism.  Our Lord says, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (v. 5).  In Holy Baptism, that which is flesh born of flesh is born anew of the Holy Spirit.  That is what Paul says and what you learned in Catechism class: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5; NIV).  That’s Baptism.  In Baptism, you are reborn in the death and resurrection of Christ, and God is your Father.  This all happens as the Spirit comes upon you in your own, personal Pentecost.  And the Spirit continues to grant you this faith, sustains you in the faith, as He blows through the preaching of the Word.  Remember that spirit, wind, and breath are all the same word in the ancient languages, and Jesus is giving us a play on words when He says: “The wind blows where it wishes” (v. 8).  He is telling us the Spirit blows where He wishes, just as He blew through the house that first Pentecost after our Lord’s resurrection.  He blows through with the living breath of the Holy Gospel in preaching and Sacrament.  Our Confessions put it this way: Through the Gospel and the sacraments, “as through means, [God] gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where he pleases, in those who hear the Gospel” (AC V:2; Tappert).  It is a mystery why some believe the Gospel and others do not, but we do know that wherever there are believers in Christ, that is because the Holy Spirit is doing His work, bringing sinners to faith in Christ for reconciliation with the Father.  It is a Trinitarian action.
            Now, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are in perfect communion with one another.  God, in Himself, as Holy Trinity is the very definition of love and union.  And in that perfect love, God fashions an object on which to pour out His love.  Love is not content to be hoarded.  Perfect love gives itself for the beloved.  God makes man.  God makes you.  In love, God molded the dust of the ground and breathed into it the breath, the Spirit, of life.  Adam was given dominion over the earth, but he had no one upon whom to pour out his love.  It was not good.  Therefore God put Adam into a deep sleep, and from Adam’s side God formed a helpmeet, a woman, a wife, Eve, the mother of all the living.  Eve, now, is the object of Adam’s love, and as Adam loves her, Eve responds in love, and both love and worship the God who walks with them in the Garden (that’s Christ, by the way!) in the cool of the day, who loves them and has given them this magnificent creation to tend and enjoy and upon which to be fruitful and multiply.  It all goes grievously wrong when Adam and Eve break their love for God and for one another, listening to the devil, eating the forbidden fruit, blaming one another for their fall, blaming God.  What does perfect love do when it is rejected by its object, when its object destroys itself?  What does God, who is love, do when beloved man falls?  God loved the world, Adam and Eve and all their children… God loved you in this manner: He gave His only-begotten Son, gave Him into the death of the cross as the payment for your sin, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:14-16).  He does not condemn the world.  He gives Himself in love in behalf of the world.  For you.  That you may be His own forever. 

            You can only know that in Christ.  You can only confess that as one born anew of water and the Spirit.  Anyone can behold a beautiful sunrise and exclaim: “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24; ESV).  That is the natural knowledge of God.  But only one who knows God in Christ can make the same confession when a tornado has obliterated their home.  This, too, is the day that the LORD has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Because those born of water and the Spirit behold God nailed to the cross, and know that Good Friday is the Day that the LORD has made.  We rejoice and are glad in it.  Because we also know Easter Sunday is the Day that the LORD has made, and so is the Day of our own Resurrection to come, when we will stand on our own two feet again, and with living breath rejoice and be glad in it.  Then we will stand before Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and ponder this mystery of the Trinity with our own eyes.  Therefore, no more fear.  You know God in the flesh of Jesus, in the Body and Blood He places in your mouth for your forgiveness and eternal life.  You know God who is merciful, who is for you, and not against you.  Nicodemus, don’t sneak around in the shadows.  Come into the Light that is Christ Himself.  Believe in Him.  You will not die.  You will live.  For God loves you.  He loves you in this way: He sent His Son.  He does all things well.  “Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity.  Let us give glory to him because he has shown his mercy to us” in Christ.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.                 

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