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Sermon for Holy Trinity Sunday Year C June 3 2007

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Sermon for Holy Trinity Sunday Year C June 3, 2007

Title:  Jesus Christ is the “ego eime”.

Children’s Message:  How can three become one, or one become three?

            Grace and peace to you in the name of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

          Illustration of the Holy Trinity from the construction industry:

o       The Father is the planner, designer and engineer.

o       The Son is the construction manager and contractor who builds what the Father has designed.

o       The Holy Spirit is the maintenance manager who is now in charge of what the Father planned and what the Son has built.  All three have participated in all that we see around us, but each one had a defined part that was unique to each Person.

          1)  We call our church Trinity Lutheran, so it’s especially appropriate for us, as well as with all other Christian churches that follow the Lectionary cycle, to set aside one Sunday each year to proclaim the glory of God revealed in the Holy Trinity.

A.   Holy Trinity Sunday follows Pentecost Sunday, which we celebrate as the “birthday” of the Church.

·        God the Father is revealed in the Old Testament (Gen 1:1)

·        God the Son is revealed in the Gospels (“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.")

·        God the Holy Spirit is revealed in Acts and the remaining letters of the N.T. Acts 2:4  

(“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”)

          2)  If you were to do a search for the word “Trinity” in any Bible that is true to the original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, you would not find that word.

B.   Trinity has been adopted by the orthodox Christian church as a descriptive term for a fundamental doctrine of our faith.

·            The Old Testament clearly shows that there is only one God who is the Creator and Father of all things—this as a means to separate the true God from any and all other gods that are made up by human beings for their comfort, pleasure and power. Deut. 6:4 (“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”)  But the O.T. also hints as to a “plurality” of persons in the world “Elohim” which is a plural form of the word commonly used for God “El”.  (“Let us (Elohim) make man in our image.”)

·            The New Testament, as the revelation of Jesus the Christ as the Son of God the Father, and the coming of the Holy Spirit of God as promised by Jesus the Son, affirms the “Oneness” of God revealed in three distinct but co-equal persons. Matthew 28:19  (“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, . . .”)

C.               The Apostles Creed is not only our confession of faith, but also our confession of God revealed by His own words and actions as a single Trinity. 

·        Luther used the Apostles Creed not only as a confession of faith but even more importantly as a key teaching tool for catechumens.

·        The Apostles Creed gives every believer a powerful evangelical tool with which to share the Gospel, and to point to our God who has revealed Himself as a Trinity.

·        The Apostles Creed separates all who are unable to accept it as God’s revealed truth as not being true believers in the authority and mystery of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

          3)  Confused?  Well, so were a lot of other people, especially those who were confronting Jesus as He taught in the temple. 

A.               They accused Him of being a Samaritan.

·        Samaritans were those Hebrews who had remained in the northern Kingdom after being defeated by Assyria.

·        They had their own system of worship, the result of the divide between Rehoboam and Jeroboam.  They had chosen to set up their own temples and gods.

·        The Assyrians brought Gentiles to live in the former northern Kingdom, resulting in a new group of people who intermarried.

·        The country and its people remained estranged from the Southern Kingdom, and later from the Jews of Jesus’ day, because they were not of pure blood, they were considered unclean in their practice of life, and they did not recognize the Jerusalem temple as the only place to worship God.

          Because Jesus had visited Samaria, and because many Samaritans had come to believe in Him, the leaders in Jerusalem considered Jesus to be unclean and therefore unfit to teach, preach and heal in Judea.

B.               These leaders also accused Jesus of having a “demon.”

·        Many people were thought to be under the influence of evil spiritual forces or demons.  Observed irrational behavior, great strength, afflicting harm on oneself, violent behavior, and great personal suffering indicated that a person was possessed by a demon.

·        The response to the work of Jesus’ great miracles of healing, of bring people to faith and new life, of His power over nature and His unique preaching, teaching and travels was misunderstood as being of Satan or of evil spirits.

·        Jesus’ great power was feared by the very leaders who should have clearly seen that God was at work in a new and loving way.

C.                            Finally, the leaders totally misunderstand Jesus’ reference to His Father as referring to Abraham.

Their view of Abraham was that He:

·        Was the first patriarch, the recipient of the original covenant from God.  Genesis 15:18 (“On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram,”)

·        Was the father of the nation and therefore greater than any man who had ever lived. Genesis 15:5-6 (“And he brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be.”)

·        As great as He was, Abraham also died.  All of the prophets died, too, so even their faithfulness had not saved them from death.

D.               When Jesus said that anyone who kept His word would not die, this was an affront to the leaders who desperately desired a new Abraham, but at the same time they were not willing to change their ways and turn back to God.  How could the young rabbi Jesus make such an outrageous promise about everlasting life when the great Abraham had died?  Just who does this Jesus think He is, anyway?  Clearly, only a Samaritan, or a man possessed by a demon, or a liar could make such statements and claim He was telling the truth.  Besides what He said, Jesus also liked to spend time with prostitutes, sinners, winebibbers, lepers and Gentiles. 

4)  How does all of this relate to us today?  The answer is found in the key passage from the Gospel text, vs. 58: “Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."  Jesus is using the same words spoken by God to Moses in Exodus 3:14 “God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.' “What was the response of these leaders?  They picked up stones with which to kill Jesus. 

Every Christian who has the courage to call out Jesus’ name, He who is the great “I AM”, runs the risk of being persecuted.  Yet there is something about His name that causes either great love or great fear within a man or a woman.  C.S. Lewis explains it well in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe:  When Mr. Beaver spoke the name Aslan, “everyone felt quite different.  Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels as if it has some enormous meaning—either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again.”  The name of Jesus, spoken or heard or read, has the power to bring a person great joy or great fear. 

          The reason we Lutherans place so much emphasis on life-long catechism is that we are commanded to share The Name, Jesus, and The Word, the Holy Bible, and The Revelation, the Holy Trinity, that is so contrary to our nature as sinners.  The simple proclamation that even mature Christians don’t like to hear is “All of my righteousness is filth” when compared with Christ Jesus, and “faith in Christ is a gift of God, a miracle given by the Holy Spirit”, so that no one can boast.  These are the two major stumbling blocks for us today, just as they were for the leaders who encountered the incarnate Christ 2,000 years ago.

The Holy Trinity is a very supernatural doctrine.  Dr. R.C. Sproul writes “The Christianity of the Bible is a religion that is uncompromisingly supernatural.  If we take away the supernatural, we take away Christianity.”  

Those who reject any portion of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity reject all of it.  Instead of embracing the “supernatural” of the Holy Trinity, people prefer to make up their own religion, and this even applies to many who say they are Christians.  Dr. Gene Edward Veith explains that there is a new spirituality at work in today’s culture.  “This new spirituality, unlike traditional “religion,” makes no demands, has no moral restrictions, and helps us feel good about ourselves. We get the good parts of religion—a sense of meaning, mystical experience, and life after death—without what Flannery O’Connor called ‘the sweat and stink of the cross’”.

          5)  As we gather today for the Lord’s Supper, in the shadow of the cross, to partake of the bread and wine, or to receive a blessing, let us be moved, to be stirred up, by the very Word of God that becomes present and active in the supernatural mystery of Christ’s true body and true blood.  In this Holy Sacrament, instituted by Christ Himself for us, we receive His righteousness, and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do those things that are a part of the Christian life:  attending the Divine Service, confessing our sin, hearing preaching and the absolution, loving the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and loving our neighbor more than ourself, and living in one’s calling to serve God and each other, to reach out to all people, regardless of race, nation, ethnicity, history, or domicile, sharing the Good News of Christ our Lord.

Psalm 8:1-9 (ESV)  A Psalm of David.

    O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

    You have set your glory above the heavens.

[2]  Out of the mouth of babes and infants,

you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.

[3] When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

[4] what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

[5] Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

[6] You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,

[7] all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,

[8] the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

    [9] O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

In the name of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

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