Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Holy Trinity

"The Incomprehensible Mystery of the Trinity"

John 3:16-17

May 31, 2015

Can you believe everything you hear or read? Of course you don't. Why not? Although while the worst supermarket tabloid headlines usually contain a kernel of truth, you know that truth is twisted and distorted beyond recognition. We know only too well how often a story gets twisted with each retelling. What are we to believe? Now consider religious advertising. Would you believe after scanning these ads that these churches are worshiping the same deity? What and who can you believe? Who is God? What is He really like? How can we know Him? We have answers in today's Gospel.

Read text: John 3:16-17. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 

Today is the Sunday of the Holy Trinity. We believe and confess that God is One revealed in three Persons. This makes our faith unique. Although the three Persons of the Holy Trinity are equal in importance, Christianity focuses on Jesus Christ. He is the most visible member of the Trinity. Jesus took our humanity upon Himself and died on the cross for our sins. Without a right understanding of who Jesus is, we cannot have a right understanding of the Holy Trinity.

Throughout the history of the church, when theologians have tried to penetrate the mystery of the Holy Trinity, they have often fallen to the temptation of explaining the unexplainable. From these developed the cults and heresies. All of them have a mistaken understanding of Jesus. Either they stress His humanity at the expense of His divinity or they stress His divinity at the expense of His human nature.

This confusion is still with us today. Books and movies like the popular "Di Vinci Code" once again put forward the old idea that the Trinity is the invention of the early church so they could make Jesus into a god. If you wanted to do something like that, would you try to make up something so complex and difficult that people would scratch their heads? Would you make up a story so beyond understanding that others would think "you're nuts, who can believe this?"

Why would the early church fathers invent something they couldn't easily explain or teach? The ancient world was more philosophically sophisticated than is ours. They were deep thinkers. The mystery of the Trinity was no easier for these deep thinkers to grasp than it is for us. It would have been easy for the early church fathers to back down and redesign the concept of the Trinity if it were simply a figment of their imaginations. If the teaching of the Holy Trinity were man-made, the church would have died out long ago.

Nevertheless, the Holy Trinity is a mystery for us. This is not a mystery in the sense of a "who-done-it" where we gather clues and solve the case.This is mystery in its original sense. It is a reality that is incomprehensible. It is a truth that we cannot dissect nor fathom.

Holy Trinity Sunday expresses the Oneness of God. He is One God of three Persons. How can this be? It was a mystery for the early fathers as they tried to explain the Trinity. For example, Athanasius, whose name is attached to the Creed we just read, often used the illustration of light. Just as light and its brightness cannot be separated so is the relationship of the Father and the Son. Another used the illustration of fire. Fire gives us heat and light and energy. How do you separate them? Which is which? The elements are so integrated that they are one. In the end, God doesn't tell us to explain the mystery of the Trinity, we are simply told to believe it.

Often those who try the hardest to protect God from being misunderstood in the end misunderstand God. Mormons, Moonies, Jehovah Witnesses and a host of others have sought to explain the true nature of God. In their zealousness, they have tried to penetrate the mystery of the Trinity but they come up with a mistaken understanding of God. While they simplify the nature of God, they also remove the mystery. Because they recast God into an image they can understand, they take away His awe and majesty.

The most important things we need to know about God are recorded for us in John 3:16, 17. God is love. His nature is to love even the unlovable--that's us. To prove His love, God sent His Son Jesus into the world to die for our sin. If we cannot comprehend what Jesus did for us, why should we even begin to comprehend the mystery of the Trinity?

God loves us. He loves us not because of who we are but in spite of all that. He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins. Although God's Law demands perfection and we are certainly not perfect, He did not send Jesus into the world to condemn the world. He sent Jesus, that through His love, the world might be saved. We don't need to explain, rationalize or second guess why God did this. God simply would have us believe it. How blessed we are to be recipients of this amazing love.

Have you ever been surprised with a wonderful, unexpected gift? What was your response? Did you try to second guess the motives of the giver? Did you search your heart to see if you were worthy of such or wonderful gift? If you did, you lost the spirit of the gift and question the one who gave it.

Although we cannot know everything we'd like to about God, we do know everything we need to know. God is love. He sent us His Son. Through Jesus we receive the gifts of faith, forgiveness and eternal life. God gives us these gifts because He wants what is best for us. He asks only that we receive them with joy and thanksgiving.

The key to understanding what we need to know about the Holy Trinity is "keep it simple." We believe God is One. Within this Oneness, we have the dynamic relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God reaches out to us in love. He gives us His good gifts. He calls us to repentance and gives us faith to believe His promises. Although we can't fully comprehend or understand this profound mystery, He helps us to believe. The peace of the Lord be with you always. Amen.


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