Sunday, June 7, 2020

Sermon -- Holy Trinity (June 7, 2020)

GENESIS 1:1 – 2:3


In the name + of Jesus.

      Our Gospel reading contains the most explicit and concise reference to the Trinity: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:18).  It is in “the name,” not the names; for there is only one God.  Therefore, there is only one name.  There are, however, three persons.  This is a profound mystery, and human reason cannot grasp what the Lord plainly reveals.  We simply take the Lord at his word: This is who he is—one God, and three persons; Trinity in unity, and unity in Trinity.
     Of course, the Trinity is expressed and confessed throughout the Scriptures.  So, quiz question: How far do you have to page through the Bible before you come upon a reference to the Trinity?  Answer: Page 1.  In fact, you don't need to go beyond the first three verses of the Bible to see the Trinity at work.  “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” (Apostles' Creed)  “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2)  And God the Son?  He is the Word made flesh.  But before he became flesh, he is “the Word.”  So, when God “said,” God the Son was at work.
     The Triune God not only reveals who he is, he also reveals what he has done.  The Triune God has created this world and everything in it.  It did not evolve by chance; it was created by divine design.  A wise and loving God brought all things into being, and along each step of the way, he gave his assessment: “And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:10,12,18,21)  After forming what was without form and after filling what was void, the Triune God completed his creation with his crowning achievement.  In fact, the Triune God paused to take divine counsel, as if to proclaim: This is what it is all about.  This is what this creation is for.  Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our 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.”  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)  
     At the conclusion of all he had made, God gave his final assessment: “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)  The Triune God creates good things.  God's creation excelled in goodness.  And that was especially true of the people whom God had created.  They were in his image; therefore, they had to be exceedingly good.  A living spirit is what set the animals apart from the grass and the vegetables and the trees.  This is why we are outraged at the senseless killing of animals, but no one finds it outrageous to mow the law, to trim bushes, or to harvest corn.  But mankind is set higher than the animals.  For, God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27) 
     The Triune God creates good things.  The image of God is recognized in people having an intellect, a will, and emotion.  This is why people are able to build cities, design 767's, smelt precious metals, solve sudoku puzzles, and compose music.  More than that, people have a built-in desire to know God and a longing to know God loves them.  Some have even created their own version of God in order to fill that need. 
     When God first created Adam and Eve, they were the perfect image of God.  While they still had an intellect, a will, and emotion, it was completely perfect and without sin.  Their obedience to God's word was intentional and pleasing.  Their reason did not question or challenge God's word.  Their love for one another was sacrificial and joyfully so.  God created mankind to bless and love them.  And in turn, mankind was created to love and serve God and to love and serve each other.  This was no accident.  This was the divine design of our Triune God.  Our Triune God creates good things.  “And God saw that it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)  
     No doubt you have heard the statement: “God don't make no junk.”  But the world has gotten pretty junky.  Social distancing and masks are not necessary in a perfect world.  Nor are wildfires or allergies.  Rest assured, it is not God's fault.  It is man who has brought this condition on himself through his sinful rebellion against God's word.  When Adam and Eve reasoned that their lives would be better by defying God's command, they lost God's image.  They did not lose their intellect, will, and emotion.  It is just that sin and selfishness became the guiding force behind them.  This corrupted image now displays itself in wretched behavior such as racism and rioting, sarcastic comments meant to belittle others, and posturing to show how righteous we are.  We seem to have gotten to the point that if we disagree with people, they are evil—not just having a different opinion, but evil.  We have reasoned that our motives are always noble and our ideas are always right.  Therefore, we exert our will to get our way, convinced that our way is superior.  Then our emotions burn hot against those who disagree with us.  You and I are offended when we see such sinful attitudes in others, but we are blind to our own.  If all are sinners, that means we are, too.  Let us consider our words and our ways.  We have good reasons to repent.
     Our Triune God has created good things.  Even if you want to insist that “God don't make no junk,” you ought to recognize that sin has corrupted the good things God has made.  It would be like asking a carpenter to make a cabinet using rotten wood.  The carpenter might have the craftsmanship to make a beautiful piece of furniture, but the buyer will still complain about the quality of it.  The problem is not that the carpenter was bad, but the material he worked with was bad.  And so it is with us.  It's not that being a human being is bad.  In that case, it is true: “God don't make no junk.”  But our human nature has been totally corrupted by sin, and a lot of junk results from that.  When the intellect, will, and emotion are corrupt, everything that flows out of them will be corrupt too.  Even our best is impure.  It may not be criminal, but it surely is not righteous.
     Our Triune God created heaven and earth and everything in them.  He loves what he has created, even though it has been corrupted.  Therefore, our Triune God has acted to reclaim it and to restore it.  In order to rescue man from his damnable fate, God the Son became a man.  God the Son came into the world body and soul, but also with intellect, will, and emotion.  Jesus' intellect, will, and emotion were in perfect harmony with God the Father.  Therefore, he always submitted himself to his Father's commands and devoted himself to loving his fellow man.  Rather than foment disgust about how wicked people were, Jesus had compassion for sinners.  The only people Jesus expressed disdain for were the religious leaders who belittled people and exalted themselves over them.  That does not mean that Jesus gave sinners a pass; it means that he took up their sin for them, just as he does for you.  Jesus went to the cross to atone for the sins of racists and rioters, for those who are sarcastic, and for those who claim a righteousness they don't have.  Jesus gives his righteousness in exchange for all of mankind's wicked intellect, will, and emotion.  He endured the damnable fate of the sinner so that you would be set free from it.  Your sins are pardoned, and your judgment is heaven.  The Triune God did not carry out justice upon you, but mercy.
     The Triune God creates good things, and he has acted to make you a new creation.  By your baptism into the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Triune God has put to death your sinful nature and raised you up anew, just as Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.  Just as the Spirit of God hovered over the waters at creation to bring forth life, so in Holy Baptism the Holy Spirit works in the water to create a new life and to make you a new creation with a clean heart. 
     The Triune God creates good things, and he has begun restoring in you the image of God which was first given to Adam and Eve.  With this newly created image, we take every thought and make it captive to the word of God.  We assess our motives and put to death everything that is sinful, and strive after God's good and gracious will—not just what we think is good, but what God says is good.  Our emotions are no longer devoted to our pride, but to compassion upon those who are in need, who are suffering, or who are still slaves to sinful hearts and minds.
     Of course, we are not perfect.  Far from it.  Our sin continues to cling to us and still warps our thoughts and attitudes.  The image of God will not be restored in us completely until our bodies catch up to our baptism and we are raised from the dead on the Last Day.  Then we will dwell in the new heavens and new earth as perfected people.  We will enjoy a perfect intellect.  Our will and emotion will be in harmony with the Lord's.  And we will find great joy and satisfaction in it.  Until that day, we flee to the Triune God in repentance and for renewal.  He who created man still loves what he has created.  He who redeemed man still gives gifts to him for his good.  The Triune God creates good things.  He has borne your image so that you will forever be renewed in his.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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