Monday, June 20, 2011

A Creed for All Seasons

T Holy Trinity Sunday – June 19th, 2011 T

In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

            The church counts in 3’s.  Divine Service begins the same way your life in Christ began: in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Consider this your homework this week: read through today’s service in the hymnal; count where and when you hear something in 3’s. The service is only half over - and here’s your hint - we’ve already hit at least 5, not counting the Athanasian Creed.
            This shouldn't be a surprise. For it is here in His Word, teaching, Baptism, Absolution, Holy Communion, where God pours out His divine life into us and brings us into His Triune life.  Take the Trinity out of worship and in time, the people of God will cease to glorify, praise, honor and understand that God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Generic worship produces a generic god, but a generic god offers no salvation. Salvation is found only in this Triune Name above all names.  Here the Trinity is in action from start to finish and every word in between.
            The Father sends the Son into the world to save the world by His death on the cross; the Son sends the Holy Spirit to grab a hold of you by the scruff of the neck, and brings you to faith in the Crucified Son. The Son brings you to the Father covered in His shed blood. Out from the Father through the Son, in the Spirit.
            We are gathered today like those disciples in Matthew 28 to worship at the feet of Jesus – to fall prostrate, that’s what the Greek says anyway - not hands waving and exalting ourselves, but knees falling, eyes, ears, lips, bodies - focused on the Crucified one, this is the posture of worship. And just like the disciples we are often plagued with doubt.  It is not a sin to pray: “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.”
            Notice the Athanasian Creed says: “the catholic faith is this, that we worship – not fully comprehend – worship, one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity.  This is what Trinity Sunday is all about.
            And before we go on much further we must say a few words about that “c-word.”  Many of you, perhaps, were brought up thinking “catholic” was a 4-letter word, but it’s not. It simply means “according to the whole”; it is the faith once and for all delivered to the saints, believed by all Christians at all times, in all places. Not popes, rosaries or indulgences. Don’t let this word or this creed trip you up and don’t think it’s too catholic, because if it is, then we had better be prepared to get rid everything in this church that makes it the Church.
            All of this underscores the fact that we really should confess the Athanasian Creed more often – not a once a year spring cleaning - but read, mark, learn and inwardly digest its teaching. The less we confess this creed the more confusing it is, the less we confess and teach the Trinity, the more we lack comfort in God’s personal revealed nature. However, the more this creed and doctrine are taught, the more we come to love and worship this Triune God rightly.
            From His first Word revealed in Genesis, this Triune God is creating through His Son, the Word, and breathing out His the life-giving Spirit - pouring out His divine life on His people – just like He did on the cross, at Pentecost, at Baptism. The message is the same through all the Scriptures: The Trinity is your salvation. No Trinity, no salvation.
            In this Triune God we live and move and have our being. We are made to be in communion – in relationship with Him as God Himself is in communion.
            And this is what our sinful flesh (Old Adam) finds especially offensive: that we are not our own, we live in relationship, utterly dependent upon someone outside ourselves. Mark Twain was right…in the beginning God created man in his image and ever since, he’s been trying to return the favor.
We are skilled idol makers. We like our pet gods. You know, the tame ones we can put on a leash when we have troubles and let loose when things are good; the abstract god we’re accountable to only when it suits our fancy.
            That’s the real disaster of human sin –that we destroyed our perfect relationship God created and far worse: we seek to usurp the throne and give praise and glory and honor to the unholy trinity: Me, Myself and I. All the 10 commandments flow out of and back to that first one: you shall have no other gods before Me. “Hear O Israel, O Christian Church, the Lord our God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is one.”
            God is one, but He is never alone, even with Himself. Love is His nature. The Trinity is a living relationship, a communion within God and with God. The Father begets His Son, the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Together this Holy Trinity – an undivided unity – creates, redeems and makes holy. Each divine person doing his personal thing – yet always as one. So, when the Father deals with you, so do the Son and the Holy Spirit. When the Son deals with you, so the Father and the Spirit. When the Spirit deals with you so do the Son and the Father. You can’t have one without the other.
            God is never alone. Which is probably the best reason you’ll find in the Scripture as to why it is that you come to Church and can’t just stay at home in your PJ’s and have a service by yourself in a chat room or whatever pleases you.  God creates us for, and places us into a community because He is a community.
            This Triune God comes crashing – flooding – upon us in Holy Baptism. Baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  That’s why Luther’s Small Catechism reminds us to make the sign of the cross in the morning and evening. It’s a reminder of who we are – I am the Father's. I am the Son's. I'm the Holy Spirit's. The Father is my God. The Son is my God. The Spirit is my God. I don't have three Gods, I have one God. And if God is your Father, you are His child.

            While your first birth made you children of Adam. Your second birth, Baptism, makes you a child of God. While your first birth delivered you into death; your second birth brings you into Life. You are born by water and Word by the Spirit. In Holy Baptism this Triune God places His Name upon you. Like Andy’s toys in Toy Story you are marked, special, a prized possession, you have an identity. We are no longer obstinate toy soldiers, rather new people, new creations, newborn sons – and newborns cry out: Abba, Father! What a blessed coincidence that Father’s day happens to fall on Trinity Sunday this year. Because in Baptism, in Christ, every day is Father’s day. Baptism takes everything that belongs to God and makes it yours.
            Baptism reveals this simple truth: the best way to know the Trinity is by what God has done to save you. In Baptism, the Name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is imprinted, engraved forever on your forehead and your heart. For God is not found in His unnameable, unknowable majesty but in the humiliation of the Crucified Christ. Without the cross we know nothing of God. On the cross we not only see the Eternally Begotten Son put to death to innocently suffer for our sin and salvation, but in the cross you see the very heart of your Creator and your Redeemer. By the cross you come to know this Triune God, for it is the door to heaven and the window into the heart, soul and mind of God. The cross tells us the Father is “for me” the Son is “for me” the Spirit is “for me”. 
            Through the cross, we behold the Lamb on the throne surrounded by angels and adored by the saints. Through the cross we are brought into this divine life. We are children of the heavenly Father.  Brothers and sisters of God’s only-begotten Son.  We are given the Holy Spirit - our Comforter, Advocate, Guide.  That’s why we have such a thing as Holy Trinity Sunday or creeds.  That’s why we confess the Athanasian Creed with all its eternals, and uncreateds and incomprehensibles. We are forever surrounded by the Triune God who made us, saved us, restores us and makes us holy in Himself. 
            This is most apparent at the Altar where heaven comes to earth.  Heaven is found in no better place than in the Holy Communion, where we meet this Triune God and rejoice with saints and angels, prophets, and apostles, martyrs and confessors.  Here we listen and join with Isaiah’s seraphim praising and singing: “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God of Sabaoth; Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.” For the liturgy is never our own, but heaven’s. Therefore, with angels and archangels…we magnify the Holy Trinity.
            Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity; let us give glory to him because He has shown us His mercy. His love. His Name. His promise: I am with you always to the end of the ages.

In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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