Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Holy Trinity

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen. +

Text: John 16:12
Theme: How Much To Bear?

Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”1 So acclaims St. Paul in witnessing to the majesty of God. “Uncreated, eternal, almighty, incomprehensible,” says the Athanasian Creed in addressing some of the characteristics of the Triune Deity. From the Scriptures we know that God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, immutable, indivisible and infinite. God is holy, just, faithful, merciful and gracious. And, God is love. This God, the Holy Scriptures reveal as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. On this Trinity Sunday we rightly pause longer to ponder the magnificence of God’s existence, and thus the status of our own.

Our worship is in vain if we have not come at least a bit closer to appreciating this paradox: As we stand spiritually naked before the unveiled majesty of God, our existence is infinitely insignificant; but as we stand before Him clothed in the righteousness of Christ we are invaluable treasures. To presume that of our own accord we have some strength or ability to stand before God is to be the worm that seeks to tell the elephant where it can and cannot tread on the jungle floor. Yet to presume that though we are loved in Christ, and through Christ, and because of Christ, our lives do not matter is to insult His very life, death and resurrection on our behalf. It is to deny compassion to the parent willing to give his or her life for the dying child. In the first case we forfeit the favour of God through our presumption. In the second case, we deny it.

The ongoing presumption of sinful humanity is that the difference between humans and God is only relative; only a matter of degree. We are thus resistant to recognizing God’s superiority or seeking His help. That is the sin of idolatry. Einstein developed the theory of relativity, but as sinners we try to apply it spiritually. Yet the difference between God and us is not one of degree, but one of category. We might ponder briefly just one of His characteristics; that of eternity. Perhaps you have attempted to wrap your mind around the concept of eternity, to ponder what forever would be like, how it could be possible? Remember this distinction: Eternity is not simply an endless progression of time; it is a reality without time. It involves a dimension apart from time. This basic mental exercise shows us how quickly we come up against the limitations of human capacity to probe the incomprehensibility God. The Scripture says, “Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?”2 And so we are wholly other from God. God is in everyway independent. We are in everyway contingent. God is in everyway absolute. We are in everyway relative. God’s life is self-existing and self-subsisting. Our life is derived and adopted.

As sinners, we seek also to develop this theory of relativity among each other. The thinking, consciously or subconsciously, goes like this: at least I have a little more to offer God than my neighbour. I am more moral, more religious. I do not drink as much. I do not cheat on my taxes. I volunteer my time at the church. The list of possibilities is endless. I am not perfect but I have more to negotiate with God with than most others; and on this basis He will decide in my favour. There was a judge several decades ago that opened court with this announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, I have in my hand two checks- you may say they are bribes. One is from the defendant for $15,000, the other from the accuser for $10,000. My decision is to return the $5,000 to the defendant, and decide the case strictly on its merits.” Both parties forfeited what was at the time a considerable offering without gaining the judge’s favour. And so it is with us. When God judges us on our own merits are offerings to Him are nothing and none of us is in better standing than the other. God is wholly other from us, but we are wholly like one another.

But the story does not end there. The story of salvation is the story of God’s willingness to lay aside His complete otherness. Here is the paradox: In order to rescue creation the Almighty, unchangeable and limitless God assumes the condition of lowly, frail and limited humanity. Jesus Christ is the “Enthroned One” that becomes the “Cradled One.” As the “Cradled One” He exalts human beings and sets them before the throne of the Eternal Majesty. The One who sits at the right hand of the Almighty Father, rests in the arms of a human mother. “Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.”3 The paradox of Christian doctrine is that God is the one who is humbled that we might be exalted. The Holy Trinity works in concert to accomplish our redemption. We have a description of the Trinity’s work in our gospel today. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to Me by taking from what is Mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is Mine.”4 In good Lutheran fashion we might ask, What does this mean?” And in honest humility we might answer that we are not completely sure. No wonder Jesus said forthrightly to His disciples, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.”5

This we do know; the Father has entrusted all things to the Son and the Spirit makes known only those things that the Son possesses and gives. What are these things with which the Son has been entrusted and that He possesses and gives? He has been entrusted with every human soul. He possesses the means to redeem them. He gives the gifts which sustain them. Regarding the stewardship of souls the Scripture says, “You have granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those You have given Him.”6 Regarding the means to redeem the Scripture says, “It was not with perishable things that you were redeemed…but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”7 And regarding the gifts by which our faith is created and sustained, the Scripture says, “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ,”8 and “Take and eat; this is My Body…Drink from it all of you. This is My blood of the covenant.”9 Our epistle summarizes in this manner, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”10

Dear friends, these facts transform your life. As you stand before God, in your life, in 2010, in all you frailty and weakness, you stand already redeemed by the One who exists in eternity. Live your temporal life understanding the immortality you will be granted. As you stand before God, you need not worry about becoming like unto Him, for He has become like unto us. You need not fret about what your status is in relation to others for He has equalized all things in relation to Himself. You are able to humble yourself for others, for He has humbled Himself for us. You are empowered to love because you have first been loved. You are able to give because you have been given to. You are freed to divest yourself of all temporal resources so that those lost in darkness might be enlightened by the Eternal One “who dwells in unapproachable light.”11 “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God [Father, Son and Holy Spirit], be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”12

+ In nomine Jesu +

The Holy Trinity
30 May, 2010
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 1 Timothy 1:17 2 Romans 11:33-34 3 The Athanasian Creed
4 John 16:13-15 5 John 16:12 6John 17:2
7 1 Peter 1:18-19 8 Galatians 3:27 9 Matthew 26:26-28
10 Romans 5:1-2 11 1 Timothy 6:16 12 1 Timothy 1:17 (June 6, 2004)