Trinity, 2013 (May 26, 2013)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
TITLE: “From Grace to Joy in the Holy Trinity”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. John chapter eight. Today we will be talking about the joy of the Holy Trinity, and how we enter into and receive that joy by faith in Jesus Christ.
The Holy Trinity is a mystery. That is no secret. Once you start talking about one God in three persons, most peoples eyes begin to glaze over, even Christians who understand it. For us sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, the inner workings of the Holy Trinity remain to us as shadows, bits and pieces that we understand here and there, but can never fully comprehend.
This is why when God reveals Himself to us, He doesn’t do so as a doctrine or a teaching, but as a person, namely, Jesus Christ. God isn’t a chart or a diagram. Jesus Christ is God made flesh for us. He is the exact image of the Father, and the Holy Spirit delivers Jesus to us, His children. So you do not need to fully understand the Holy Trinity in order to worship Him. You need simply to believe, and wonder at God’s grace in coming to sinners like us.
So this is how we enter into the divine life, the life of God for us. Each one of our readings, from the Introit at the beginning of the service, all the way through to our Gospel today, each one of them have variations of the word joy in them. Listen to these different places and what they mean:
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalms 16:10–11 ESV)
This is a Psalm that talks about the resurrection of the dead. The way of death to life in Jesus is the way of joy. Even in the midst of death, there is a fullness of joy because we are in His presence. We hear this again in Proverbs,
“I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,” (Proverbs 8:30 ESV)
Here we have a picture of Jesus as the master workman whom God the Father uses to create and sustain the world. They delight in each other, and rejoice in the divine presence. And we hear Psalm sixteen quoted in Peter’s great Pentecost sermon from Acts:
““‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope.” (Acts 2:25–26 ESV) (this is quoting Psalm 16)
To be in God’s presence is joy. Jesus, the very Son of God in the flesh, rejoices to be in the presence of God the Father. This is no passing happiness that will come and go. No, this is the joy that comes from knowing that you are in God’s strong right hand forevermore, and that nothing can shake you from His grip. Even Abraham himself saw this as Jesus said in our Gospel. Jesus spoke to the Jews about the day of His death and resurrection. Jesus said,
“Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”” (John 8:56 ESV)
So in each of these texts, we see the joy that can only come from being in the presence of God. And that is what God delivers to you today by His Word and Spirit.
In order to understand this, we need to do a little word studying. The word for “joy” in the Bible is the word “xara”. And the word for “grace” in the Bible is the word, “xaris.” We get the word charismatic from this word. If we say that someone has a charismatic personality, we are really saying that they have been given the gift of joy and that it is, well, it is contagious.
But joy and grace are always tied together. Grace means that God looks upon you with favor because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. And because God looks upon you with a kind heart, you have joy. And this joy no one can take away from you.
Joy, beloved, is a gift that can only come from God. It doesn’t mean happiness, as kind of an emotional state. It doesn’t mean always being in a good mood. It certainly doesn’t mean that you have it all together. What it means is that you know the end of the story, and that it is a great ending. It is a story, really, that never ends.
This is what led one pastor to write that all true theology is doxology or praise to God. Why? Because if we are studying and learning of the God that reveals Himself to us in the Bible, then we are learning about how God comes to us know to forgive our sins, to bring us to heaven, and to give us the fullness of joy which has no end.
Now this perspective, this way of looking at your life in Christ, it changes how you look at the world, at yourself and at your fellow Christians. This way of looking at things means you can take the long view, and don’t have to feel desparate to get things fixed and figured out right away. Why? Because you have God’s grace, and in that grace is great joy. You don’t have to fret and worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow is in the hands of the One who orders all things mightily.
Today the world tries to take your joy away from you. The world wants you to believe that things are bad and getting worse. Tornados lead to tsunamies and earthquates. Violence begets violence. Anger leads to hadred. Frustration can lead to hurt and harm, broken relationships, divorce and more. And death leads to more death.
But God has something to say to you this day. Peter wrote in his sermon from acts, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”” (Acts 2:36 ESV) You crucified Him by your sins, but He has risen from the dead and given Himself to you in His holy Word and Meal. You are unclean, unholy and don’t deserve God’s love. But God gives it to you anyway, because He loves His Son and you now have the name of Jesus put upon you in Holy Baptism. So now when God looks at you, He sees Jesus and all of His great works for keeping the Law for you.
This, dearly baptized, is why you have joy. You have joy not because of what you do, but because of who He is and what He has done for you. So rejoice this day and be glad, sing His praises and remember all of His mighty words for you. And come rejoice with feasting at His table, where He lives and reigns to all eternity. Amen.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.