Holy Trinity (Jn 3,1–17; Rom 11,33–36; Is 6,1–7)

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

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

INI + AMEN.

Holy Trinity Sunday is just another Holy Baptism Sunday. Holy Trinity Sunday is just another God saves you Sunday. Holy Trinity Sunday is just the Sunday when the Christian Church makes crystal clear who the God who saves you is. Now, this is obviously clear on other Sundays, too, but the Church uses the Athanasian Creed on Trinity Sunday in order to cut off all false gods who can’t save. The Athanasian Creed blocks you from putting your faith in a different god than the God who reveals Himself in Jesus as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You’re baptized. That’s who you are. You aren’t what you do. You aren’t what you’ve failed to do. You’re not your past. You’re not your mistakes. You’re not your vices. You’re not your sins. You’re not whatever you’re ashamed of. You’re not your guilt. You’re not your good works, either. You’re not your love for the people in your life, the service you give to those around you. You’re not your job, your profession. None of those things are your core identity. And you may be a parent, spouse, child, citizen, and so on, but even those aren’t who you are, because they can change.

No, you’re baptized. That’s who you are. That means you’re saved. You’re saved in baptism because through Holy Baptism God put His claim on you, put His name on you. Through the water and word of Holy Baptism, you have been given the LORD’s name upon your forehead. You are the cherished possession of the Creator of the universe. You’re His, and He is yours. That’s who you are. Nothing can undo that. You could walk away from it, deny it, but baptism remains as a Gift that is always there for you. In Baptism, you are now a child of the Father, a disciple and sibling to Jesus, the Son, and you’ve been given the gift of the Holy Spirit. As Christ says today, “Unless you are born of water and of the Spirit you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.”

Holy Trinity Sunday is about this, about Holy Baptism. Holy Trinity is about confessing the God who saves you. There’s one God who saves. The Father saves you in the sending of His Son and giving Him up unto death. The Son saves you by giving His life into death, “just as Moses lifted up the snake so also the Son of Man must be lifted up” on the cross. The Holy Spirit saves you by delivering this salvation to you, by delivering you into this salvation, by giving you the faith to actually believe it. “The Spirit creates faith through the Word and Sacraments where and when it pleases God in those”—you!—“who hear the Gospel, that [you] have been received into God’s favor for Christ’s sake” alone.

Holy Trinity clearly confesses this God. “The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; and yet there are not three Gods but one God.” And “there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.” The one God is at the same time Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, “neither confusing the persons, nor dividing the substance.” And here is the danger of Trinity Sunday. The repentance of Trinity Sunday. The danger is in the words of the Athanasian Creed.

They are good words, faithful words, confessing what the Scriptures teach. The Athanasian Creed is a gift. So, what’s the danger? Well, there’s two dangers, plus one. (Three dangers for three persons? Anyway…)

The first danger is to fool ourselves into thinking that if we understand all the words of this Creed (like “person”, “substance”, “unity”, “rational soul”), then we understand God, can wrap our mind around Him. Fit Him in a nice little box. Our right answers and knowledge then save us.

The next danger is to reject the words, not receive them as a gift. To either say we don’t need these words, at all, or to say, they aren’t for you. But they are for you because they lay out who God is and who He is for you in Jesus. Because Christ is, as Paul says (1 Cor 1:24), “the Power of God and the Wisdom God” for “in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” as Paul says (Col 2:3). Jesus reveals Himself not just a “teacher come from God,” but as the eternal Son of the Father who dies for you and who sends the Spirit to you, so that you would believe this. We rejoice in the words of the Creed just like we rejoice in studying God’s Word because there you’re told again and again about your God who saves you.

The third danger is the one I’ve already talked about. In fact, the first two dangers are symptoms of this third reason for repentance. We’ll use our knowledge of the Creed as the benchmark of our salvation, or we’ll reject the Creed because in our hearts we find meaning and identity and security not in who God is for us and what God does for us. And we do both those because we’d rather look at the things we’ve done or haven’t done, the things we do, or the things we know, experience, or feel.

The world would have you define yourself that way. The world can only define you according to the good you do, the ways you’ve messed up, how much you make, where you’re from, or even, sadly, who you’re attracted to. Our flesh falls for it. We’re used to defining ourselves by what we have or what we do. And we’re used to the labels of shame, worry, feat, and doubt that we carry around in our hearts. And we keep doing it because then we get to do whatever we want or keep running the familiar and comfortable rat race of making up for it. In ourselves, “we are people of unclean lips, who dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.”

But before the LORD, you aren’t what you’ve done—good or bad. You aren’t your job, your vocations, your works. You aren’t your shame. You aren’t your sin. You aren’t your guilt. You aren’t your fear. You aren’t even your death. For the LORD is the “holy, holy, holy”—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—“who pardons your iniquity and atones for your sins.” You are baptized! That’s who you are. God is yours, and you are His, now and forever, when you will see Him face-to-face like Isaiah and Nicodemus did.

That’s what Trinity Sunday’s all about! The God who does that for you! You bear His name—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Athanasian Creed confesses that God and what He does for you. You’re died for. (In fact, that’s all people everywhere. And so everyone we meet, we treat them, serve them, love them, as someone for whom Jesus, the eternal Son of God, shed His blood for.) Holy Trinity Sunday is about the God who saves you. The Father saves you in sending His Son. The eternal Son saves you by dying and rising for you. The Spirit saves you by delivering you through the new birth of Baptism into the Kingdom of God.

So, who are you? You’re saved. That’s Trinity Sunday. Or to put it another way: You’re baptized! That’s your core identity. That’s who you are before God, and what you confess about Whose you are before men. You’re born from above, baptized into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. You’re God’s. God is yours. You’re baptized into the Son, and “whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.”

INI + AMEN.

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