Monday, May 19, 2008

Sermon For Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday
Genesis 1:1-2:4a.
Bror Erickson

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Today is Trinity Sunday. A Sunday in which we celebrate the revelation of God as three in one, a reality apart from which the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins, is an impossibility. Apart from the reality of the Triune God, the only reality left for us would be hell, hell on earth, and hell for eternity. Sadly, too often this is the reality for, I dare say, most of the people we know. They won’t hear the Gospel, and they won’t hear of God, for they are afraid of God, and not with a faithful fear balance with love and trust that is faith. They fear God with a hateful, dreadful fear. They hate God because God would not allow them to be god, either here or there. And what man wants most is to be god, if not of the world, at least to be god of his own life. But the reality for them is hell, hell on earth and hell for eternity. I say hell on earth, because such people live there whole lives in fear, and are incapable of enjoying life. For some there is never enough to satisfy them in this life. Never enough to satisfy their delusion that they are god, and therefore deserve it. Others are the exact opposite. So many people spend their lives denying themselves simple pleasures out of fear of God thinking that would please him. And if they please Him. He will let them be god of their own lives. Something they have already shown to be their desire in their arbitrary choices of what to sacrifice. Very rarely, if ever, having anything to do with what God says is right or wrong. Often times ignoring God’s own law, and replacing it with a taboo on smoking, dancing, card playing etc. (I do get a kick out of the stories my grandma used to tell me about the pietist pastor’s home she stayed in as an orphan, where she was forbidden to dance, play cards, or drink coffee. Yes believe it or not there used to be Lutherans (still are in some remote corners), who thought coffee was evil. Pietism is a heresy that shows up in Lutheran circles from time to time among those who fear the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins, is too easy. Pietism seeks to put God’s children back under the law. As a great Prof. Of mine used to say: “pietism, bad. It‘s just baaad!” ) Yet these sacrifices are in vain. God would much rather have them enjoy those simple pleasures, the pleasures He has given us to enjoy. But we like stuck up little children think we are too mature to enjoy those gifts God has given us. And then there are those who spend their whole life rebelling in excess abusing the gifts God has given us, trying to drown the pain brought on by fear of God. It really is hell on earth, only to be followed by eternal hell. But to save us from this, God, who created the heavens and the earth, became one of us, for the sole purpose of dying on the cross for us. So that once again we might enjoy life, and love life, the life He has given us. And in doing so He revealed one of the deepest mysteries of His existence, the mystery that makes it all possible, the Trinity, the mystery of the three in one existence of God.
Too often, much too often, the Trinity is treated like an abstract reality. A reality that is true, and is taught by the Bible, but has no real connection to the Gospel. Too often it is treated as law. It is put out there as something you have to believe, for fear of breaking the first commandment. Well true enough, but not quite the whole truth. No, to believe in any other God, aside from the Trinity is, sure enough, a breaking of the first commandment, especially as He has revealed Himself to us as the Triune God in the New Testament. It is even more dangerous and down right blasphemous to deny the Trinity, after He has revealed Himself to us in this way in the New Testament. Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or John 1:1-14 that delves deep into the mystery, finally showing Jesus Christ to be God in the flesh tabernacaling amongst us. But then the Jews did not understand the fullness of this mystery, and were saved despite any unclear understanding they had of the Trinity before Christ, in the promise of God to send a savior for their souls. You can see they understood the Gospel well; the introit today is full of the Gospel, in the 16th Psalm. “Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices, my flesh also dwells secure, for you will not abandon my soul to Sheol.” We would paraphrase this today: “We love life, we live life, we have no fear, for you have saved our bodies and soul from hell! Because of your Son, the Way the Truth and the Life, (the path of life if you will,) we are in your presence in the fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures for evermore.” But without the Trinity this reality is not possible. Without the Trinity, the Gospel is nothing, but a new set of rules for life. Without the Trinity there is no forgiveness of sins. But there is gospel, the forgiveness of sins, throughout the Old Testament, and there is the Trinity within the first line of God’s recorded history, the recorded history by which He makes Himself known to you. For you cannot know God apart from His word, and His word is recorded as history. And in the first line of the Bible we hear “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Sounds rather straightforward actually, at least in English. Ah, but that is why I went and learned Hebrew, slaved away, and spent twenty thousand at Concordia Irvine over two years. Twenty thousand, I’m still paying back. So I could go and mine the word of God in the original languages and share the Gold, I smelt from the ore, the Gospel in its purity burning red hot with the Spirit of God.

What is interesting in this little line is the name used for God. The Hebrew Bible has many names for God, there is El, there is Elohim, there is Yahwey, (I am) (or as the Jehova Witnesses like to make so much hey mispronouncing it, Jehovah,) there is Adonai. And all these names reveal different aspects, emphasize different truths about God. They are all his name! The funny thing about Elohim is that, grammatically, it is plural. Eem, is like the English s, if you add it to the end of the word or name you make the word or name plural. So you have horse and horses, in Hebrew you have suse, and suseem. And immediately one wonders why don’t they then translate it gods? It would almost make sense to do that, but for the verb before it (in Hebrew the verb almost always precedes the subject). The verb is in the singular. What does that mean? It means either Moses was a really bad grammarian who spoke the Hebrew equivalent of ebonix (not very likely, his Hebrew grammar is otherwise impeccable) or he was trying to reveal a mystery. The bad grammar jars you like it would if one says “the gods creates the heavens.” It jars you like fingernails on a chalkboard. We would say, “God creates,” or “gods create“, but not “gods creates the heavens and the earth.” It is bad Hebrew grammar. And there is no real way to translate this bad grammar properly. The only thing you can do is translate Elohim, as God and translate the whole thing in the singular.
But here on the very first page, the very first sentence you encounter God in all his logic defying majesty, you see a God who is a God of mystery, veiling Himself even as He reveals Himself. Veiling Himself in order to reveal Himself. As the eternal and infinite, steps into time and the finite, to make Himself known to us beloved children. Because in our sinful state, in our death bound world, we can not see the God of life in all his glory, or completely understand His glory. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but there face to face.” In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
But as if to reveal just a tad more, Moses breaks up the creation history to reveal a little bit more of God, “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
The Spirit of God? How peculiar. I say peculiar, because everyone knows God is not of flesh and blood. God has no body like yours and mine, at least not God the Father. Jesus tells us as much when he is speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well.
[23] But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. [24] God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:23-24 (ESV) And here Jesus isn’t talking about the Holy Spirit, but explicitly of the Father. The Father is Spirit. So why does Moses write the Spirit of God, would that not be redundant if it was not another reality within this singular Elohim. The Spirit of God hovering, This is the Spirit that proceeds from the Father and the Son, the spirit that goes out and does not return empty. The Spirit who is God, but not the Father, nor the Son.
And God said “Let there be light,” and there was light. I promise you I won’t go verse by verse here, though I could. The 1st chapter of Genesis is exciting there is so much in it all. God creating this great and glorious world we live in, with the majestic spring mountains covered in vibrant green and yellow, teeming with deer and mountain lions, and little red foxes running through the canyon woods. Not to mention the pine bud eating blue grouse, or the cheet grass eating chukar. It is a joy to live in this corner of God’s creation called Utah. But God spoke and it was. It tells you something about the power of God’s word. The power of His promise. It does what is says. And it brings to life. Lutherans are peculiar in Christendom for the emphasis that we put on God’s word. We don’t merely believe that it is true. Oh we believe God’s word is more true than any word you will ever here or read. You can bank on it. But we also believe it is powerful, living, creative, it’s a word that does even as it says. When God speaks, talk is not cheap. There is no disconnect in the talk and the walk when it comes to God, for his talk is the walk. He speaks and His word creates. It is absolutely beyond comprehension that God’s word is what created and sustained this world, but it is the truth. Or that there was light before there was the sun, the moon and the stars? Really, there was even morning and evening before there was a sun! And all one can say is WOW. It flips everything upside down, it doesn’t make sense but then who are you, who am I to question. God’s word is more than true, it is powerful, it is the foundation of existence. If God’s word wants to save a crying baby through the waters of baptism, God’s word saves that crying baby. If God’s word wants to forgive your sins through the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the form of bread and wine, God’s word forgives your sin with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. It does what it wants, where it wants and when it wants. Got a problem with that, take it up with God. In fact God’s word is God, it is Jesus Christ. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. So there we have it the whole Trinity acting together in the first 3 verses of Genesis.
But as if to confirm that there is more to all of this than figures of speech Moses continues with the creation of Man. Then God said “Let us make Man in our own image, after our own likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over the livestock, and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Another mouthful there. Enough of God’s word to meditate on, and mine for the rest of your lives. So simple on the surface so complex when the surface has been scratched.
God said “let us“? Wow the plural pronoun he uses to refer back to himself. And this is the monotheistic God of Israel who says in Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” These are things we cannot ignore. Or later on in Malachi 2:1 Have we not all one Father, Has not one God created us? Or in 1 Cor.
[6] yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 1 Cor. 8:6 (ESV)
But that one God is more complex than we can imagine. He does not bend to our will. He does not stoop to be understood by our reason. He is God and beyond all understanding, as His peace, the Gospel, is beyond all understanding. And He created us in His image, and likeness. That is with His glory, His honor, His dignity, a rational soul. He gave us dominion over the earth, for us to take care of it, tend it, garden it, plant and create with it. For this reason the foot print of man is a glorious thing as far as God is concerned. But all that was lost with the fall. The balance of the world was lost, you can only see a shadow of it now. If man doesn’t destroy it first, it will destroy itself, even as God has promised to destroy it in the end. We were created in His image, in His likeness. Therefore when we sin, we sin against Him. We dishonor His image, we dishonor His creation. So David the great psalmist, the adulterer, the murderer, the thief, He writes in the 51st psalm addressing God, against you, you only, have I sinned. Why because sin against fellow man is sin against God! When we abuse the men and women around us, we abuse God! When we steal from our neighbor, we steal from God what He has given to our neighbor. When we view pornography, or engage in sex outside of marriage, we degrade the blessed gift God has given us, when He blessed us saying be fruitful and multiply. It wasn’t a commandment it was a blessing, and we snicker at it. We abuse it. We degrade the women around us, and we abuse the image of God, by using them and throwing them to the curb, as if they had no more value than to give us a few moments of pleasure and become a trophy in the form of a notch on the bed post. And against God we sin. And when we murder, or despise and hate the brothers who occupy this world with us, we murder, despise and hate the glory of God with which they were created. We sin against God. And so it is that God is the one from whom we need forgiveness. It is from God we need atonement. It is from God and His wrath, His justice we need protection. But what could possibly atone for our sins against God? What could possibly bring us peace? What could possibly pay our debt to Him? We can’t do it. But God can. This is why the Trinity needs to be in place. Without it we have no Gospel. But the Gospel says God has done it for us. God became man. God died, and God has covered our sins not with mere mortal blood of a goat, or a lamb, a bull, or even a mere man, but God has covered our sins with His immortal yet human blood. God has made atonement for man, by becoming man and dying for us. The same God who created us on the sixth day of the week, has saved us on the sixth day of the week, by dying for us on Good Friday, and rising for our assurance on the eighth day, the first day of the new creation. The God against whom we sin by sinning against His creation, is the same God who forgives us, with His blood. For it is up to Him alone to forgive, and therefore without the Trinity, the doctrine of the triune God, there is no Gospel, no forgiveness. But because of the Trinity, we have the Gospel, we have the forgiveness of sins, and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, even as he surpasses all understanding.
Now the Peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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