Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Our Identity in the Triune God

Sermon for the Holy Trinity, preached by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich on Sunday, June 11, 2017

[Jesus said] “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” (Mt 28:19).
    Today is Trinity Sunday, and on this festival day we contemplate the Triune God: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  God in Trinity and Trinity in unity; one God in three persons, this is the true and only real God; and we confess this in each of the ecumenical creeds: the Apostles’, the Nicene, and today in the Athanasian Creed.  Although we confess it, we often wonder about the Trinity.  How can God be one and at the same time three?  We try to explain it, but all of our analogies and explanations fall short at best, and at worst they’re heresy.  The Trinity is one of the great mysteries of the’s a mystery we simply confess.  But what’s not a mystery is who we are.  We’re God’s children, sinners redeemed, holy saints; and our very identity is found in the Triune God.
    In the creeds we confess who God is.  He’s the Father, the Creator, the Maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.  Everything we see around us, everything we need a microscope and telescope to see, everything that we can’t see no matter how hard we try, God made it all.  He made it out of nothing.  Just by speaking, God brought all of creation forth, and this includes you and me. 
    When we confess that God is the Creator, we also confess that we’re creatures.  We’re God’s creation.  He’s our Father and we’re His children.  No one who’s ever lived is without a father.  We all have a dad, otherwise we wouldn’t be alive.  This is a fact of life, but this doesn’t always mean that our fathers are around.  Because of divorce, children out of wedlock, death, because of sin, earthly fathers aren’t always there.  They’re not always there to care for their kids.  They’re not always there to provide them with what they need.  They’re not always there with comforting and reassuring words.  But this isn’t so with our Heavenly Father. 
    God the Father is always there.  He’s here caring for us, providing us with our needs, comforting and reassuring us with His almighty life giving Word.  This is how Luther explains God our Father.  He’s made us and all creatures.  He’s given us our bodies and souls, our eyes and ears, and all of our members.  He’s given us our reason and senses, and He still takes care of them.  He gives us clothing and shoes, our food and drink, our homes, our families and all our possessions.  He richly and daily provides us with all we need to support our body and life.  He defends, guards, and protects us from all evil.  And all of this He does out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy.  We don’t deserve any of this, and yet He gives us life and cares for it because He loves us.  He loves us so much that He doesn’t just give us an earthly life, He gives us an everlasting one through Christ Jesus His Son, true God and true man. 
    At the end of Luther’s explanation of the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed he says that it’s our duty to thank and praise God the Father, that we should serve and obey Him.  This is most certainly true, we ought to thank, praise, serve, and obey God because we’re His children.  All children are to honor and obey their parents.  Without God, we wouldn’t be.  But we don’t live as faithful children.  Instead, like our first parents who disobeyed in the Garden, we live like rebellious teens.  We live according to our own wants and desires, thinking we know best.  With original sin that we inherited and with actual sin that we commit in thought, word, and deed, we put ourselves in God’s place.  We don’t listen to His Word and we don’t obey His commands.  And with this disobedience we bring punishment upon ourselves.  The wages of sin is death (Rm 6:23).  This punishment isn’t a grounding with no TV or car for a week.  This punishment is forever, eternally separated from God in the torments of hell. 
    But God the Father doesn’t leave us in the guilt of our sin.  He didn’t want us to suffer this punishment, so like the father who pays the price for the window that their child broke with a baseball through, God the Father paid the price of our sin.  He gave up His Son Jesus Christ on the cross. 
    Jesus is true God begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages.  He was before creation and without Him was not anything made that was made (Jn 1:3).  Christ is fully God, and at the same time He’s fully man, born from the substance of His mother in this age.
    For us and for our salvation, Christ came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man, so that He could go to the cross and redeem us, so that He could buy us back from sin and death.  The guilt and punishment of our sin can’t be paid for with money like a broken window.  No the guilt and punishment of our sin can only be paid for with Jesus’ holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.  Christ, the perfect Son of the Father, died in our place.  He died our death, and three days later He rose from the dead, defeating death.  Christ died and rose so that we’d be forgiven, so that we’d be redeemed, so that we’d be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness for all eternity.  We live as redeemed sinners.  We live the life of faith, but we can’t do it on our own.  The Holy Spirit helps us.  He sanctifies us. 
    We don’t live holy lives on our own.  We can’t know Christ Jesus our Savior on our own.  God the Holy Spirit who is of the Father and of the Son, neither made nor created nor begotten but proceeding, He makes us holy.  He does this by giving us faith in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Hearing the Good News of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection for us and for our salvation, we trust in Christ our Redeemer.  The Holy Spirit gives us this trust.  He calls us to repentance and faith.  He enlightens us with His gifts, revealing to us God’s very grace, mercy, and salvation that He gives in His means of grace.  In the waters of Baptism God’s Triune name is place upon us and we receive forgiveness and are adopted, made God’s children.  In the freeing words of Absolution, we receive forgiveness for Christ’s sake because He sacrificed His life for ours.  And in the Holy Supper of the body and blood that Jesus sacrificed for us we receive forgiveness and the strengthening of our bodies and soul to life everlasting.  Through these Sacraments and the Holy Word of God, the Spirit keeps us forever in this faith, the very faith that confesses the one and only true God: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
 God in Trinity and Trinity in unity, one God in three persons, this is what we confess.  Even though we can’t fully understand it, we believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, one God because we’ve been given faith.  This faith is created and strengthened by the Holy Spirit.  This faith holds on to Christ our Savior who died and rose again for our forgiveness and salvation.  This faith trusts in the grace and mercy of the Father.  With this faith in the Triune God we know who we are.  We’re God’s children, sinners redeemed, and holy saints.  In Jesus’ name...Amen. 

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