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Holy Trinity–“Trinity” (John 8:48-59)

C-64 Holy TrinityGrace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

It’s that time of year again, when we pull off the Athanasian Creed from the shelf, dust it off, say it one time, then put it back on the shelf until next year. Some might wonder what’s the point in speaking this Creed or even having it if we only say it once a year. It is important that the Church have this Creed, as well as speak it, because it confesses all that is necessary for salvation.

As we look at our Gospel reading today, once again Jesus is coming under fire for what He has said and done. Stung by the unveiled truth from Jesus’ lips regarding who He is and who His Father is, the Jews resorted to name-calling. They call Jesus a Samaritan, something that is downright nasty. Why is this such a big deal, being called a Samaritan? When Jesus tells the parable of the good Samaritan, an expert of the Law tried to test Jesus and asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. The response was to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Wanting further clarification, he asked who was his neighbor. Jesus then goes on to tell the parable of the good Samaritan. In short, a man is beaten and left for dead. A priest and a Levite both pass by the man as he lays dying. It is a Samaritan, someone who is an outcast and considered public enemy of the Jews who helps the beaten man. Here, for the Jews to call Jesus a Samaritan, they sought to ensure that Jesus had no credibility among the Jews.

To make matters worse, they accused Jesus of being demon-possessed because He spoke such nonsense that He was the Son of God, that He knows the Father intimately, that He is, dare He say it, the Messiah. What Jesus says here is the proverbial nail in the coffin: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Surely this man must be a raving lunatic. Everyone dies, that’s the truth of it. Yes, there were the exceptions of Enoch and Elijah, but they don’t really count for the Jews here as they accuse Jesus.

Our Gospel reading for today shows how crucial the truth about Jesus is: Jesus, as the Son of the Father from eternity, gives us life. That is what Jesus tries to teach yet again, and once again, the people doubt and do not believe.

Rejecting the person and work of Christ rejects the Trinity. The Jewish leadership intentionally attempted to dishonor Jesus, referring to Him as a religious outcast and demon-possessed. They attempted to nullify His message. As a result, they were dishonoring the Father, in sum, the entire Trinity. Jesus comes to honor the Father. He does that by living the sinless and perfect life we were meant to live. He lives that sinless and perfect life in our place, dying on the cross having committed no sin Himself, but taking our sin upon Himself.

Today is no different than it was then. Today, various religious groups dishonor Christ and His work, thus dishonoring the Trinity as well. Islam views Christianity as distorted and calls Jesus merely a human prophet. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, who claim to be Christian, see Jesus as a good, but not the eternal Son of God being of one substance with the Father. You have the prosperity preachers and prosperity Gospel that views Jesus as some divine vending machine, that by saying the right things or doing the right things in life will reward our faithfulness with worldly success and happiness. This view ignores our sin and our need for a Savior from sin. It overlooks Jesus’ role in the Trinity as the truly divine and human Redeemer from sin.

Throughout her history, the Church has had problems with the understanding of the Trinity. Everytime there was serious debate regarding the Trinity, the Church produced a creed, a statement of faith acknowledging who the Trinity is and the work of each part of the Trinity. Beginning with the Apostles’ Creed, we have the breakdown of the Trinity and what each person of the Trinity did. However, the Church continued to argue who the Trinity is and what each part of the Trinity does, and so it produced the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed was due in part to the teaching that although the Son was divine, he was a created being and therefore not co-essential with the Father. This made Jesus less than the Father. To further combat the false teachings of the day, the Athanasian Creed was written. It is the first creed in which the equality of the three persons of the Trinity is explicitly stated.

But even before all of the Creeds of the Church, Jesus clearly said who He was. He identified from where He came from: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” I AM was a divine name of God. He also says in our text, “I honor my Father.” Throughout the Gospels, Jesus says that He is the Son of God, that He comes from the Father and that He will one day return to His Father. The Jews wanted nothing to hear of this and did not glorify Jesus because they didn’t really know their own God anymore. For them to say they knew God but then to reject Jesus made them liars. They had lost sight of the Word of God that promised Christ’s coming. They had kept God’s Word only selectively and added to it. Jesus was keeping God’s Word to the letter. Each claim Jesus made confirmed the feelings of the unbelieving Jews and their hearts continued to harden.

Does this sound familiar to you, having the Word of God before us but rejecting it? That is the picture of today. Here is God’s Word clearly presented before us and yet we continue to disbelieve. Jesus tells of His mission of salvation time and time again and yet we want nothing to do with it. Jesus was sent by the Father to give life. All who keep His word will never see death, that is, those who have faith in Him and His saving act of salvation will inherit eternal life. It is only by the forgiveness won for us by Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, are we granted eternal life.

Today as we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday, we take joy in the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and for the saving work they have done in our lives: God the Father creating us, God the Son redeeming us by His blood, and God the Holy Spirit giving to us faith, keeping us steadfast in our Christian faith so that we receive the Lamb’s crown of life. As we said in our Introit earlier, “Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity. Let us give glory to him because he has shown his mercy to us.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2013 in Sermons, Trinity

 

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Holy Trinity–“The Trinity” (John 3:1-17)

B-62 Trinity Sunday (Jn 3.1-17)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

The Christian faith always demands your very best. This is not a statement of the Law, but a description of reality. Christianity is dealing with God, and with the truth about God and His will. Because God is God and more than human, He can do and say and be more than we can conceive of. So, while a little child can know and believe enough to have saving faith, the brightest minds in the world, working at full capacity and brilliance, cannot exhaust what may be known, or understood, or believed, about God – and will never quite grasp the totality of God and who He is. You can give it all you got and never quite be finished, and you need to give your faith the best that is in you because the more you know, the more you can believe, and the more you believe, the greater your peace and comfort in the faith.

Today is Trinity Sunday, a day in the Church Year that focuses more than any other time of whom the Trinity is and what the work of the Holy Trinity is. Everything that needs to be said about the Trinity has already been confessed in the Athanasian Creed, a Creed that is confessed only on this day. The Athanasian Creed declares that its teachings concerning the Holy Trinity and our Lord’s incarnation are “the catholic faith.” We don’t mean the Roman Catholic Church, but rather, catholic with a lower “c”, which means universal. In other words, this is what the true Church of all times and all places had confessed.

As we look at today’s Gospel reading, we have a conversation that takes place between Jesus and a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus. Jesus had frequent encounters with the Pharisees, the work-righteous and often hypocritical Jewish religious elite. Usually they sought to discredit Jesus, but this time, one of them came alone secretly at night. Perhaps he feared the reactions of the other Pharisees who saw Jesus as a threat to them. Nicodemus, unlike the other Pharisees, came sincerely seeking the truth. Jesus’ teachings and signs had impressed him. He confessed that Jesus had come from God. He knew so because Jesus did miraculous signs no one could do without God.

As with see with this discourse, Nicodemus correctly states that Jesus is from God and Jesus answers him by saying, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jesus speaks of being “born again.” In today’s society, being “born again” is dangerous and deceptive language. Here’s what I mean.

Often in evangelical circles when one speaks of being “born again,” it means that moment in your life when you make that decision to follow Jesus or when you decide to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. However, that is not what Jesus means. Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” With these words of Jesus, He speaks about the wonderful gift of Holy Baptism, that sacred act where God chooses to make us His beloved child, where Jesus redeems us and where the Holy Spirit gives to us faith. Notice that it is the Trinity who is doing the work and not the individual. Being born again as Jesus explains is an act that is done completely from the outside, not the inside.

These words that Jesus speaks to Nicodemus teach us that the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, work together to bring salvation to us, the sinner. Each member of the Trinity has a role in our salvation: God the Father created us, God the Son by His blood redeemed us, and God the Holy Spirit by Holy Baptism has sanctified us to be His holy temple.

What Jesus said was profound and Nicodemus was left wondering, questioning what Jesus had said. Jesus spoke of glorious things, of divine things, and Nicodemus thought in terms of his own experience, relying on his own knowledge to grasp what Jesus was talking about. And so Jesus asks him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?”

Nicodemus isn’t alone in his ignorance of what Jesus says regarding the new birth of water and the Spirit. Many are ignorant of what Jesus means. Holy Baptism does something extraordinary, something that we cannot comprehend, yet we accept it by faith. But for as many as accept Baptism by faith, there are just as many who reject it or see it as nothing more than a human rite that a person does to confess their faith, and that’s where it stops. Jesus makes it clear that even as we don’t choose our physical birth, neither do we choose our new birth in Him either. It is God who does the choosing, not us.

Are we any different than Nicodemus? Do we question God and His work or do we accept it by faith? Do we have to have all the answers or are we content with knowing that God will work all things to His glory, even if that means we don’t understand it? Can you understand how the Son prays to His Father when He Himself is God? Can you understand how Jesus Christ, who is God, can die and rise again from the dead if He is also man? Can you understand how ordinary means such as water, bread, and wine, when combined with God’s Word, becomes something extraordinary that brings about salvation for a person?

Nicodemus still needed to hear just what Jesus was all about and God’s plan for salvation, just as we need to hear that even today. Jesus directed Nicodemus to the Scriptures for understanding of what He was going to do. Jesus tells him, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Everyone who looked at the serpent that Moses raised up was saved from the bite of deadly snakes. Everyone who looks to Jesus Christ in faith, given to them by the Holy Spirit, would be saved from the bite of eternal death and would have eternal life. This is the new life that begins with the new birth by the Spirit. The promise belongs to “everyone” who believes. It is universal. No one who believes in Christ is excluded.

All of this was done so that we would have eternal life. He did all this out of love for us, so that we would have life and have it abundantly in His name. This was done for us because we are sinners in need of salvation. We aren’t born with eternal life. Each and every one of us are born into a sinful world and we die in a sinful world. However, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have that gift of everlasting life.

Once again, we reflect on the work of the Trinity. Just as the Father sent the Son to earn our forgiveness, so He sent the Holy Spirit to offer that forgiveness to us through the gift of faith. Jesus tells Nicodemus and us that the Holy Spirit must give us a new birth. All those who believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins are born again through the work of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

God has created you. Jesus Christ has redeemed you, “not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood.” You have been brought to believe in Him by the power of His Holy Spirit, poured out on you at your Baptism. What a mystery all of this is. We will never understand how this all works in this world. Fortunately, God does not ask us to understand it. He only expects us to believe and even supplies the faith that does the believing. What a wonderful gift from the Holy Trinity. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Holy Trinity–“Trinity” (Matthew 28:16-20)

A-59 Holy Trinity (Mt 28.16-20)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon this morning is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

Have you ever played the board game Life before? You get a car, spin the dial, and move spaces around the board. You get married, have kids, buy a house, and get regular paydays. The winner is the one with the most money at the end, and you retire to millionaire acres. But one of the first decisions you have to make in that game is whether to go into debt by going to college or just to head out into the world and get started right away. If you go to college, you typically have much better paydays and more opportunities to make money throughout the game. If you don’t go, you save a bunch of money at the beginning and get a head start on the rest of the players.

How you start the game of Life makes a huge difference in how the game goes. That’s true in real life as well. How you start makes a huge difference in what happens to your life.

That was certainly true for Jesus’ life. How He began as a human being made a huge difference in what happened in His life. He didn’t begin on His own, but with the unity of the whole Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is the Son right from conception. He is conceived by the Holy Spirit and the Father sends His Son to us.

That same triune God who was working together at His incarnation continues to do so throughout His life. Jesus begins His public ministry at His Baptism. There, the Holy Trinity is present. The Holy Spirit comes down as a dove and rests upon Jesus. The Father declares that Jesus is His beloved Son and that He is well pleased with Jesus. Jesus began His mission of salvation together with the Father and Holy Spirit, and all are active in completing our salvation. We see Him regularly in prayer with His Father, and the Holy Spirit is with Him every step of the way.

Then come the final days of His life. Now on the cross, Jesus is alone. Even His Father has abandoned Him as He goes through hell for us. But you can see the Father even in that loneliness and suffering – Jesus is carrying out His Father’s will by going to cross. On Easter morning, the Father raises Him from the dead. Later, when Jesus ascends into heaven, He sends His Holy Spirit into the Church.

Today, in our Gospel reading, Jesus gives to His disciples what is called the Great Commission. Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Most of the time when you hear this passage of Scripture, you think of one of two things: evangelism or Baptism. But this passage also teaches us something else: it teaches us the Holy Trinity.

In this text, the Lord Jesus Himself declares the identity of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and you can’t find a better source for this than the Son Himself.

So, on this day, we celebrate who God is: the Holy Trinity, one God composed of three persons. We do not worship three gods, but one. We do not worship one God who puts on three different masks to deal with us; we worship three distinct persons of the one God: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Today we celebrate what we cannot comprehend – the persons and identity of God. We know He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for He tells us. But beyond that, His being defies our logic.

How Jesus began His earthly life made a huge difference in what happened in His life. From beginning to end, the Trinity was wonderfully united in action for us. The same is true for our lives. How we start makes a huge difference. And for us in the Church, the triune God is our starting place. We begin by being baptized into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

This does something for us. It marks us as God’s beloved child. It gives to us His name, and connected to His name are a host of things. We have forgiveness of sins and everlasting life, granted to us by the work of the Son. We have the gift of faith, given to us by the Holy Spirit. This is work that is done on our behalf by a loving God who has created us. He desires to have the relationship with us that we had in the Garden. In order for that relationship to happen, Jesus had to come to be our Redeemer. Through His life, death, and resurrection, that relationship was restored.

Through all of history, the Trinity has been at work serving. Jesus, the Son of God, submits Himself to the authority of the Father. God the Father give His Son all authority in heaven and on earth. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son to fulfill their will. What do the Father, Son and Holy Spirit do as almighty God? They serve one another. But the Father, Son and Holy Spirit don’t just serve each other: They serve you.

For you, God the Father provides all good things for this body and life, as well as for eternity. Especially, He has sacrificed His Son for your sins, and continues to shower all sorts of blessings upon you. For you, God the Son has gone to the cross and died for your salvation, and continues to give you forgiveness by His means of grace, through His Word and Sacraments. For you, God the Holy Spirit continues to call, gather, enlighten and sanctify you with the forgiveness of sins, that you might remain a member of the one, holy Christian Church.

This is your cause for rejoicing: the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present Father, Son and Holy Spirit have made you their disciple. They have washed away your sins and declare your salvation. The works of man cannot save you, but the work of the Holy Trinity can; and what is this work of the Holy Trinity: to forgive all of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2011 in Sermons, Trinity

 

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