Wednesday, June 18, 2014
The Holy Trinity
If you ever catch one of those silly so-called reality shows on TV, don't miss "Say Yes to the Dress." The point of the show is to get the bride into the wedding dress of her dreams and spend a few thousand dollars along the way. Over and over the hosts remind you it is all about the bride, but, like another reality show, "Bridezilla," there is no bride who needs to be reminded.
If original sin is being oriented toward self – what we might call self-absorbed or self-obsessed or narcissistic – then actual sin is talking about ourselves and loving ourselves, and trusting ourselves to death – literally.
They say the best advice to those dating is to get the other person to talk about himself or herself because there is nothing we like to talk about more than ourselves. They will love you for it. We even pay people to listen to us talk about our favorite subjects – ourselves. Is it no wonder that we have made God into our image – a God who is as self-obsessed as we are?!?
Today is the Sunday of the Holy Trinity. All our focus is on the God who has made Himself known to us through His Son, Jesus, who reveals the mystery of the Trinity by revealing the Father and sending the Spirit. Jesus gives us God's name, the gift of an identity, an end to an old life, and the start of a new life. In all things God is revealed not as selfish ogre but as generous Giver.
Jesus says "All authority in heaven and on earth is mine..." Who would not want to be able to say that? Jesus does not claim this authority but won it. It is His by the gift of the Father to the Son who earned it by His righteousness of life, His suffering for our sin, and His death that gives us life. The authority of Jesus is the reward of His faithfulness but note how Jesus uses that authority. God gives our Lord this gift of authority and Jesus gives that authority to His Church.
"Go, make disciples of all..." His authority is to be used for the sake of the sinners captive to death. He does not use this gift of authority for Himself but for you and me – for all who would be saved by what His holy life, suffering, death, and rising won. He is jealous not for Himself but for us, for whom He died and for whom He now lives, never to die again.
As the Father has given this authority to Jesus, Jesus gives it to us. His name is our gift in baptism and with it the vocation of new life born from the font. It is an authority not for self but for the sake of the world. It is the authority to wear the name of God before the world. We bear to the world our new life in baptism, by which the sinners are forgiven, the dead raised, and eternal life bestowed.
He gives us the authority of His name, His water, and His Word. We are called to teach the Word of the Lord, faithfully and in all its fullness. We dare not pick and choose from this Word nor does He allow us to alter the Word to fit the times. Note here teaching is primarily verbal. We forget that until modern times people did not read the Word on the page but heard it in their ears. We are the voices whom the Lord sends forth with His Word on our lips. The Word of the Lord is heard in the ear; hearing the Word, the Spirit works faith in the hearer.
He gives us the authority of His presence. We are not left to our own devices. We are not orphans. Our blessed Lord does not start the ball rolling and then turn it all over to us. No, He is jealous about this authority. He does not abandon His Church but bestows upon us the Spirit, the helper, who enables us to hear and believe, to believe and to live obediently to the Word. We are not left to screw it up because His Word, His Name, and His Sacraments remain His own domain. Our voices, but His Word. Our hands, but His work.
"Lo, I am with you always. . ." This is not some generic promise. It is the promise that has a shape. It looks like the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments. These are His means by which He is always here, bestowing His gifts and grace. He delivers us from our past but He also promises a future. At the end of time, when time gives way to eternity, this world to the new world to come, and when this flesh to the glorious flesh our Lord already wears, we will still be His.
We are tempted to see these words as marching orders. Jesus did His bit and now it is up to us. How much damage has been done to the kingdom of God by such foolishness! Jesus does not turn operational control of His Church over to us. Instead He does something greater. He invites us into His work, using our voices to speak His Word, our hands to pour the water of baptism, and our hands to make and give the bread and cup of His meal. He takes us into Himself and His saving Work so that all we do in faithfulness to Him is Him working in us.
God made all things as an act of selfless love. He redeems us and all His creation as an act of selfless love. His authority acts in love – even when the answer to us is "no."
This is not our Church but His. He extends to us the privilege of being His partners. He gives us His name, His Word, and His Spirit that we might know Him by faith and serve Him.
The miracle here is that the very name of God IS the saving Word of the Lord, applied in water to a sinful people living in captivity to death that they might rise, forgiven, free, and new. The miracle here is that God continues to use our voices and our hands for what remains His work. His authority is use to save and He works His saving grace through us. What privilege!
On this Sunday of the Holy Trinity we also celebrate Father's Day. How appropriate. The spiritual headship of the home is in terrible shape. We earthly fathers have abused the authority given to us and used it for privilege instead of responsibility. Jesus shows us that the only real authority acts to seek, save, and sanctify a people to be His own sons and daughters. Earthly fathers take note. The spiritual headship of the home is lived out by teaching Jesus, bringing your sons and daughters to Jesus, and living the sacrificial life of Jesus toward your wife and your family. Indeed, the only lasting gift we give to our children is to teach them the name that saves, the love that forgives, the name of the Trinity.
Sin lies to us and says that all authority is really about "ME" but the work of God is just the opposite. Our Lord casts aside all right to serve the Father by saving us. He sends forth the Spirit so that we might believe and be saved. Though we are perfectly free, this freedom is lived out in service to God by serving others in His name – bringing the good news of the Kingdom to bear where the Name, the water, and the Word of the Lord deliver that Kingdom to us. The tyranny of "ME" can only be defeated by the Name that saves and the new lives lived out in and under that name... today, tomorrow, and forever.
Blessed be the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.