Holy Trinity (Jn 3:1–17)

Photo by Rachael Cox on Unsplash

Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO

INI + AMEN.

I don’t particularly like Trinity Sunday. It’s not that I don’t like the Trinity. It’s just that it’s a hard day for me. I fight against it because I’m fighting against myself. I’m fighting against my desire to go all STM on you. To dive into words like “person” or “substance” or “essence” or “rational soul.” All the fun theological buzzwords.

And I could get up here, and go all abstract and head down every theological rabbit hole about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the nature of God, and the Persons of God, and even the terms used. I could spend 10 minutes or so giving you a seminary style lecture. It’d be fun…for me, and maybe you’d find it interesting, too. But that’d be as far as it would go, right? You’d maybe have some interesting factoids for trivial pursuit. You’d all know that your seminaries gives pastors lots of knowledge, too. Maybe you’d even leave thinking how smart your pastor is, but only another pastor would really be able to tell.

Now, all that stuff does have its place within the Christian Church, even today—to keep us from going back to errors that were laid to rest some 1600 years ago. The words are important words, don’t get me wrong. I know them, but do they really have any bearing on your day to day life? In fact, if I’m honest in this little peak behind the curtain, do they really have any bearing on my day to day life? Well, only if I were defending what the Bible says in a very narrow argument about the nature of God.

That’s my struggle preaching every Trinity Sunday. Why I don’t like it. Why I struggle at it. I know the whys. They are important. But I’m tempted make the terms, ideas, and concepts the thing. But it’s not really about being right, or understanding, or that Trinity Sunday is only for pastor types. So, what is the point of it all? Salvation. But not salvation in this way: that we confess what we do so that we can be right and be saved. That’s not how it goes. That’s putting the cart before the horse. No one’s saved by knowing what “substance” or “person” or even “omnipotent” or “Almighty” mean, though they are important. The devil knows that stuff, too—better than we ever can.

Trinity Sunday is just another salvation Sunday this way: who’s the God who saves you? Well, there is “only one [God],” who saves you, “but there are three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” “The Father is God” who saves you in the sending of His Son. Jesus is the Son of God, and “the Son is God” who saves you by dying for you on the cross. “The Holy Spirit is God” who saves you by delivering what Jesus did for you and making it yours by faith. “And yet there are not three Gods” who save you “but one God” who saves you.

The Triune God saves you from your sins—your hurting others, your not trusting Him. He saves you from your being separated from Him, not just because of what you’ve done or haven’t done, but because of who you are: a sinner. He even saves us from being Nicodemus—being right all the time. Nicodemus looked at what he did and what he knew. To this Jesus says, “You must be born from above by water and the Spirit.”

We want to be right, too, whether that’s with stuff about the Trinity or with about how stuff should work at home or on the farm or at the church or at the school. We usually only admit we’re wrong as a last resort, and even then, we usually just say it without actually meaning it. Our having to be right is just us trying to save ourselves. But to all this Jesus says, “I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

In the words of Baptism, spoken by the risen Jesus, are the promise that God will never leave you or forsake you no matter what. Jesus makes this same promise John 3: “Unless you are born of water and the Spirit you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” And you have been brought into that Kingdom by the Water, Word, and Spirit in Holy Baptism. The Father isn’t just God. He’s your God, your Father, at the Font. Jesus isn’t just God. He’s your God, your Redeemer at the Font. The Spirit isn’t just God. He’s your God, your Spirit, your downpayment of eternal life at the Font.

The Father is God who created all things and sent His Son to suffer and die for you and for the whole world. The Son is God who gave His life for you, pouring out His blood for you. The Spirit is God who makes what Jesus did yours. We’re saved from having to work for it. We’re saved from having to be right through our terms and logic and knowledge. We’re saved from just having to be right all the time, no matter what it’s about.

The Trinity saves us. The Father does in the sending of His Son. The Son does in the giving of His life. The Spirit does in the delivering of it all in the Word and Gifts. Your Triune God is with you wherever you go. In good times and bad. Whether you’re wrong or right. Whether you know the buzzwords or not. And those words could be helpful to your neighbor, so it would be good to learn them. But even if you’re left scratching your head at them, or how to preach them, after 6 years or 60 years, you don’t have to scratch your head about what Jesus tells you in John 3:

The Father is your Father who saves you. The Son is your Redeemer who saves you. The Spirit is your Spirit who saves you. “And yet there are not three gods” who save you “but one God” who saves you. Saved by what the Son does for you when He was sent from the Father. Saved by the Spirit who delivers it at the Font. “Born of Water and the Spirit. Born from above.” “Baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” that’s really the Holy Trinity in a nutshell, and your eternal salvation in a nutshell, too.

INI + AMEN.

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