Jesus said to [the Jews] “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (Jn 8:58).
Jesus' closing words in our Gospel reading today can seem a bit confusing. How is it that He could say He was before Abraham? Abraham had been dead and gone for almost 2000 years before Jesus was even born. His words made no rational sense. They didn't agree with history and time. But the Jews weren’t confused at all. They knew exactly what Jesus was saying. When Jesus said, “I am,” He was saying He was God. He and the Father were One; and for the Jews, that was blasphemy deserving death by stoning.
The Jews knew exactly what Jesus was saying. With those two small words, “I am,” Jesus identified Himself in the same way that God identified Himself to Moses in the burning bush. With those two small words, Jesus was revealing the truth of the Trinity, our One God in Three Persons. This One in Three reality is confusing for us. It doesn’t make rational sense. It doesn’t agree with math. But it’s true. Our God is One in Three Persons. Unity in Trinity and Trinity and Unity. And this is what we celebrate today.
The Feast of the Holy Trinity is a celebration and adoration of our One God in Three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The purpose of this day isn’t to explain the Trinity, to figure it out so our rational minds can comprehend it. No, the purpose of this day is to acknowledge this mystery. The purpose of this day is to praise God for the gift of life He gives: our life that He has created, our life that He redeems, our life that He sanctifies.
If you were to search every word in Scripture, one word you’ll never find is the word “Trinity.” This word was used later on by church fathers to describe our One God in Three Persons; and yet, the Trinity is clearly revealed in Scripture, even from the very beginning. Before creation, our Triune God was there. God the Spirit was there, hovering over the face of the deep. God the Father was there, ready to speak all things into existence. And God the Son was there, the eternal Word spoken, by which all things were made, as John teaches us in his first chapter, and as we confess in the Nicene Creed. All Three were there, and they were all there for one purpose, for your life.
Just think about that for a moment. Before there was anything, there was God; the Almighty and All-powerful Triune God. And He chose to create life. He chose to speak everything into existence. He chose to form man and woman out of the dust of the ground and to breathe the breath of life into them. He did this, because of His love, because of His love for you. This is why He created everything. His love for you; His lover for all people.
God the Father didn’t stop creating life on the sixth day. His work of creation didn’t end with Adam and Eve. He continues to create. He has intimately created every single one of us. Our lives aren’t accidents. Our lives aren’t by chance. All of you are specific creations that God has made, because He wants you to have life. King David praises the Father for this work in Ps 139(:13-14), “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mothers’ womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” The Almighty and All-powerful God has given you life, because of His love for you. But His love doesn’t stop at your creation.
We know the world today isn’t exactly the same world that God the Father created in the beginning. After each day of creation He declared everything good; and on the 6th day, it was very good. But now, looking at the world, we don’t just see good, do we? We don’t just experience good, do we? No, we see hunger and thirst. We see pain and suffering. We see loneliness. We see senseless violence and war. We see abuse and neglect. We see natural disasters of all kinds that destroy homes and take lives. We see sickness and disease that take the lives of young and old alike. In short, we see sin and death. Because of our sin, this is the life we live. But this isn’t the life that God the Father created for you. And because of His Almighty and All-powerful love for you, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, born of Mary, to redeem you; to buy you back from sin, death, and the devil.
When we think of the Christian faith, more often than not we think it’s all about morality. The whole purpose of Jesus is to teach us how to live according to God’s will and commands. After all, that’s why He gave us the 10 Commandments, isn’t it? And to be sure, there is an aspect of our faith that calls us to that godly living. But Jesus’ purpose, God the Son’s purpose, isn’t to only be your teacher. He is your Redeemer. He’s your Savior, rescuing you from sin and death. His purpose is to win you the life God has planned for you, a life that is everlasting. And He did that with His death on the cross.
No verse in Scripture makes this more clear than Jn 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Because of His love for you, with grace and mercy, the Father sent His Son to die the death that we all deserve, so that your sins would be forgiven, so that death would be conquered, and so that you’d have the promise of everlasting life. This everlasting life, it is yours right now. This life is given to you by the Third Person of the Trinity, by the Holy Spirit.
During the Thursday Divine Service, we heard about Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and one of the rulers of the Jews. And Jesus said to him, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3). Well, Nicodemus didn’t understand what Jesus was saying. He was thinking about an earthly birth, being born from his mother a second time. But this isn’t what Jesus meant. He explained further, “Unless one is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (Jn 3:5). Christ was speaking about baptism. He was speaking about being born from above, receiving the gift of life by the Holy Spirit.
This is the very life that you’ve received in your baptism. You’ve been born again. You’ve been born from above, born of water and the Spirit. You’ve received the new and everlasting life that Christ won for you; and the Spirit nurtures and sanctifies that life, making it holy through His Means of Grace; His Word and His Sacraments.
Born of the water and Spirit, you live holy lives, not because your works are so great, not because you follow all of God’s Commandments, because you don’t. Your lives are holy because the Spirit gives you Christ’s righteousness. Your lives are holy because you live in God’s grace and forgiveness. Your lives are holy because you bear the fruits of the Spirit that He works within you. This is what God the Spirit gives to you, a holy, sanctified everlasting life.
In the Athanasian Creed that we’ll confess today, we say, “the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.” Our God is One; and at the same time He’s Three Persons. How this all works, we can’t explain it. It’s simply a mystery of faith that we confess. But what we do know is God’s love for us: His love shown in our life He’s created; His love shown in Christ’s redemption; and His love shown in the work of the Spirit, making us holy by His forgiveness in Word and Sacrament. This is what the feast of the Holy Trinity is about. We celebrate and praise our God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, because He has shown great love for us, and given us everlasting life. In Jesus’ name…Amen.