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20240526 Holy Trinity Sunday

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!

Holy Trinity Sunday! We are officially half-way through the Church year already. The first half of the church year focuses on the great events in the life of Christ our Lord, this second half now hones in on His great teachings. And perhaps the most bedrock, fundamental teaching of all is that of God being revelead as a Holy Trinity, One God in Three Persons. I put up our Trinity banner that tries to depict this teaching visually. A hand reaching down from above, emanating rays into all the world, the Lamb with cross flag and a dove also coming down from heaven. The hand represents God the Heavenly Father, graciously creating and giving to this world. The Lamb represents God the incarnate Word, the Son, Jesus Christ by whose death on the cross and resurrection has redeemed this world of sin. The Dove represents God the Holy Spirit by whose power people are brought to repentance and faith and receive eternal life in the Sacraments. It’s absolutely foundational for our Christian faith that we experience God in this Trinitarian way. It’s very specific and not just some generic “higher power” type thing. God is Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Or more commonly said as “Three in One.”

The Ancient Church Fathers, those first Christians who followed on the heels of Christ’s disciples, they had a time and a half with this Doctrine. How can we express this truth that is too big for the human mind to grasp in words? God in His essence is mystery and our finite human brains do not do well with mystery. We like to understand things and dissect things and have everything in nice labelled jars. This fundamental doctrine of the Trinity was really no different. There was a guy named Arius from North Africa way back in around 300AD. He was struggling with this very doctrine way back then. He had concluded though that Jesus was not fully God like God the Father was God. He didn’t like the tension that God could be three in one, and so he eased the tension. Jesus wasn’t fully God, rather He was created before time.

Arius became the great Grandpappy of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who come bashing on your door and giving you Watchtower pamphlets. Those same JW’s, as pleasant and well dressed as they may be, still to this very day, do not believe that Jesus Christ is fully God, co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Arius was going around teaching his destructive heresy and the Church responded by having a council and writing a creed, a conciliar, universally-agreed-upon (aka ecumenical) statement of faith. Creeds are much like flags that we fly to show allegiance. Saskatchewan Roughriders. Moose Jaw Warriors. You fly those on your front step and people know a die hard fan lives there!

In this same kind of way, the Creeds of the Church fly the colors of the truth of the Christian church - what has been believed everywhere, always and by all. We will confess the Athanasian Creed today to more fully delve into the mystery of God being Trinity. But it is just that: a mystery. It can never really be fully explained, or totally understood.

The mind gets wrapped up and tangled in trying to build a box around the idea of God being Triune, but we can’t build a box that big! So, at this point, we must graciously tell the mind to hop into the back seat and let faith drive this stretch of the journey! In English we would say the heart has the advantage of being able to experience the mysteries of the God and simply enjoy them – like a little kid at the Moose Jaw Hometown Fair for the first time! The sights of the whirling, blinking rides, the sounds of people screaming and vomiting on the rides, the smell of the cinnamon & sugar mini donuts, the taste of the cotton candy, the feeling of money flowing out of the wallet! Wow! We just stand there in awe of it all, experiencing it and enjoying it.

This is the same kind of experience of God that the prophet Isaiah has in his vision of Heaven. All the way through the Scriptures we encounter the same things in visions of Heaven: God is sitting on His throne in awesome majesty and splendor! Angels are everywhere, six winged Seraphim flying around and praising God’s thrice-Holy Name: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Is 6:3). If you’ve ever wondered why we sing these words in our Lutheran Liturgy, now you know! Heavenly Worship and Earthly Worship are the same thing! It’s the same party, happening in two locations – with us here and with the faithful Saints, angels and archangels, and all the company of Heaven!

This is what Isaiah experienced, though he was a sinner like the rest of us - a “man of unclean lips” dwelling in the “midst of a people of unclean lips!” (Is 6:5). Isaiah experienced this awesome Trinitarian experience of God and God took away his guilt and atoned for his sin when the burning coal was taken from the altar and touched his lips. We too have this amazing experience of the Triune God as we receive the very flesh and blood of Christ from His altar! This is our ‘burning coal’ that cleanses and purifies us. The healing Gospel of Christ, given from the gracious hand of the Father, made present by the Holy Spirit in the bread and wine touches our lips and removes our sins from us. Not only does this make us clean, but it fills us with the desire to share the hope of everlasting life with this world! How can we not help others want to experience the Triune God and His amazing grace in the same way we have?! This is why Isaiah responds as he does! “Here am I! Send me!” (Is 6:8).

The natural response of the mind to all of this is much like how Nicodemus responds to Jesus’ teaching about being born again (literally born from above) of water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism – “How can these things be?” (JN 3:9). But the heart leads us to believe these things, to take God at His Word and trust Him. This is what brings us comfort when we are laying on our death bed, diagnosed with a terrible incurable disease. This gives us the peace that surpasses all understanding when we are worrying about where our teenagers are on Friday night. This gives us a blessed, Trinitarian assurance that God actually cares about little ol’ me, despite my sins and short comings. People get into trouble when they try to figure out the Mysteries of God, ending up either in the insane asylum or deep in the valley of heresy like Arius. The mind isn’t our highest spiritual faculty – the heart is! For the heart believes by faith that this Triune God who created us, died and rose for us and who sanctifies us in His eternal truth is indeed the Holy Trinity, One God in Three Persons. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts! Amen!

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