Wednesday, May 30, 2018

They Mystery Is Revealed by the Truth Confessed. . .

Sermon for the Feast of the Holy Trinity, preached on Sunday, May 27, 2018.

    We live in a world in which big things are compressed into no more than 140 characters or, perhaps 280.   It is a world of sound bytes that has helped to diminish our already short attention spans.  And then you come to Holy Trinity Sunday and it falls to the unlucky pastor to try to explain the Mystery of the Three in One and One in Three in 10 minutes or so.  To make it all worse, you opened your bulletin and saw the longest of the creeds is the one we confess on this day.  Will it ever end?  Maybe...

    We will not attempt to unpack the Mystery today but simply to speak of it as God Himself has revealed and rather than make the incomprehensible simplistic, we will confess the Trinity and leave it at that.  The errors are to easy to fall into and the temptation great to trivialize what is the most awesome and majesty Mystery of all, God’s self-revelation as one yet three, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    What is important to know is that God is able to be known, that He does not remain cloaked in unapproachable majesty.  God has made Himself known, not leaving up to us to define Him or to explain Him.  We can and do know the Lord and we can and must confess the doctrine of the Holy Trinity or we will not be saved.  But at the same time, we cannot reduce God to a proof text or a tweet or a hashtag that eliminates the mystery. 

    Like the Mystery of our Lord’s incarnation, how the Son of God, God of God and Light of Light, True God of True God, can fit into the womb of the Virgin, the Mystery of the Holy Trinity is hidden.  It is certainly not a secret.  No less than Jesus Himself reveals the name of God with which we are marked in baptism.  The secret has been let out of the bag by God Himself but the Mystery remains.  It is not because God has not done enough to reveal Himself but we cannot know what is beyond our knowing.  That we cannot know, we are able to confess, as we do in the Creed.      

    The Mystery of the Holy Trinity is not so remote that we cannot worship it.  As the Athanasian Creed says, the catholic or universal faith is that we worship the Trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity.  God has not revealed Himself so that He may be understood or comprehended but He has revealed Himself so that we may worship Him in spirit and in truth.

    The math does not add up.  Three is three and it is not one.  But God, even the God who has become small enough for the Virgin’s Womb, is too big for human philosophy and science.  The words we would use to explain Him would be stretched beyond all semblance of reality.  Yet the Mystery of the Holy Trinity is not far off but near, as near as the water of baptism and the name placed upon those washed in Water and the Word.  It is the name we invoke as we begin our gathering every Sunday and it is the name we confess before the world in witness. 

    We confess the Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity not as some convoluted theory but as the Father who delivered up His beloved and only Son and who sends the Spirit in His name so that we may believe.  It is the awesome mystery of the God who is fully complete in Himself and yet who desired to create all things and even you and me in order to love what He had made.  It the amazing mystery of the Love that refused to discard His creation when our first parents rebelled against the Lord and sought a life without Him.  It is the wondrous mystery of the God who became His people’s Savior by standing in their place to fulfill the Law and by suffering in their place to pay sin’s awful price.  It is the hopeful mystery of the God who claims us as His own, enables us by baptism and faith to be His own and live under Him in His Kingdom, and to pass with Christ to our own joyful resurrection and everlasting life. 

    God is love.  He is the first love that loved us when we loved Him not and, indeed, did not know what love was.  He is the eternal love begotten of the Father and proceeding from the Father for you and for me and for our salvation.  When we confess that God’s ways our higher than ours or His thoughts higher than our thoughts, we are not talking about knowing more than we know.  Of course that is true also.  But it is precisely because He loved us when we loved Him not that God is incomprehensible.  It is because He loved us when love required the ultimate sacrifice of His one and only Son that God is incomprehensible. 

    God should be judge but should not be Savior.  We expect Him to punish but we cannot every figure out why in the world He would take the punishment of the sins of the whole world upon His own Son.  We expect God to be unapproachable and the fact that God comes to us, makes His home with us, calls us to Him, cleanses us from all our sin, and raises us up to everlasting life – that is pure mystery.  Who would do that?  Not me.

    Who would counsel the Lord and lie saying that we were worth the cost of redeeming?  Who would plead the cause of those who had become enemies of God through sin.  Who would predict that when Adam and Even abandoned the Lord in Eden, He would continue to seek them out and all their sons and daughters with the promise of redemption?  Who can figure out such love?  God is love.  The Trinity is the shape of this love.  But it is not what we know and it is not what we would expect.  This is the surprise that we confess when we call Him Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    Earthly love always has limits.  Husbands and wives know the limits and know their lives crumble when pushed beyond those limits.  Children know exactly how far they can push their parents.  And, by the way, parents are not so stupid as to be in the dark about the manipulation of their children.  But God’s love is without limit.  He first loved us when we were loved Him not, He saved us not because we were worth saving but only because of His divine and tender mercy, He is patient with our weakness and He restores us when we fall.  Who can know the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge and love of God?  Who can know His mind or speak to Him as He speaks or act as He acts?

    Even though the Mystery of the Holy Trinity remains, it is not unapproachable.  God has put His name on us in our baptism.  He has covered us with the alien righteousness of our Savior.  He is given us the Spirit so that we might believe and rejoice in what His love has bought.  This is how we confess the Trinity.  We say back to Him what He has said to us but with the Spirit teaching us to believe this, to rejoice in this, and to anticipate the very future He is bringing to pass.

    The heart of the Trinity is not something to be explained but the love that has reached us and reaches us through us to others.  The Trinity is not something we prove or explain but how we live, the redeemed of the Lord who have been washed in His blood and to whom has been given the new vocations of worship, witness, love, and service.

    We confess the God who is Three in One and One in Three because that is how He has revealed Himself.  We guard this confession against those who would try to explain God to us.  We rejoice in this confession because it is love, the purest love, that binds Father to Son and Son to Spirit and all in one.  And we are filled with gratitude because that love has found room for you and me.

    Nicodemus wants to know how this can be.  God wants Nicodemus to surrender His desire to understand – moved by fear as much as curiosity.  But in it he misses who is standing before him and the joy of this encounter is lost to him.  Jesus invites him and us to participate in this blessed mystery of love by being born again, from above, through water and the Word.  That is where we too must stand.  Those who worship God in Spirit and in truth are those who meet the grand mystery where God has revealed Himself, where He has promised to be, and there live together formed and shaped into His Church and body.

    Blessed be the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and to the end of all the ages.  Amen.

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