Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
The Festival of the Most Holy Trinity (June 7, 2009)
The baptism of Amelia Mary Noble
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE
TITLE: “The Divine Love of the Holy Trinity”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this morning is from the Gospel lesson just read from John chapter 3 as follows: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Jesus has a conversation with a man, Nicodemus by name. Nicodemus is a rabbi, a teacher of the Jews, and a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council. He is a man in the know, a man of influence and power, rich in both money and stature among his colleagues, friends and enemies. And he has come to Jesus by night, wanting to hear from our Lord what the story was about His work as the Messiah. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”” (John 3:2 ESV)
When it comes to our questions about God, who He is, what He does and how He works, you and I are not so different from Nicodemus. It doesn’t take a lot to figure out that there are grand and mighty things at work in the world. Some of these things are wondrous and beautiful: the gift of a new child, life, all of the freedoms that God has given us in this world, even the prosperity of our land this day is greater than most any other time or people in the history of the world. Yet at the same time, we can look at wars, sickness, death, heartache and trouble all around us, and recognize that things are not rosy, they are not perfect and everything happy. Nicodemus is on safe territory by saying that God is with Jesus, but it doesn’t answer any of the really tough questions of life.
God is not like us. I know this isn’t profound, but it is true nonetheless. And we need to understand this basic fact before we can really understand the nature of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. St. Paul writes in Romans chapter eleven, ““For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”” (Romans 11:34 ESV) Isn’t that the truth! God’s ways are mysterious to us, hard to fathom. Sometimes they are wondrous, but sometimes they seem from our perspective to be cruel or even vindictive. Why did one person die and another live? How come this person’s job was cut and not that person?
We don’t know the answers to these questions. Life is full of more questions than answers. But every time, like Nicodemus, you try to fit God into our little categories, our cookie cutter view of how the world is supposed to be, you are trying to be God and not worship God. Jesus tells Nicodemus that in order to see the kingdom of God he must be reborn. Nicodemus can’t get it yet, because he is trapped into trying to be God and not worship God.
So to help us worship God rightly, in a few minutes we will confess that ancient Christian confession known as the Athanasian Creed. One of the first sentences goes like this:
And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.
Notice the word used there, dearly beloved. Not the word catholic. Catholic just means general or universal. No, the word I want to draw your attention to is the word worship. We worship one God in Trinity. Three in one, triune. But the word is worship, not understand, not give orders to, not make into a pretty greeting card saying. Our God, the true God, is to be worshipped.
But what does that really mean, to worship God? To worship God is to live under Him in His kingdom. Worshipping God means receiving what He has to give to you. Worshipping God means being born again, or born from above, as Jesus tells Nicodemus. Worshipping God changes you, transforms you, makes you anew in His holy image, wrought in the waters of your Baptism, just as little Amelia received this very morning. Our Confessions put it this way:
So the worship and divine service of the Gospel is to receive gifts from God. On the contrary, the worship of the Law is to offer and present our gifts to God. However, we can offer nothing to God unless we have first been reconciled and born again. This passage, too, brings the greatest comfort, as the chief worship of the Gospel is to desire to receive the forgiveness of sins, grace, and righteousness. (Ap V, paragraph 189)
So in other words, when we talk about God, who He is, how He works, and what He does, the chief thing for you and I is to recognize that God’s work is to give us every good gift. The chief gift that God gives is His Son, Jesus Christ. Right after our Gospel for this morning we have that most famous of all Scripture passages, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but might have everlasting life (John 3:16). God loves so that He gives. He gives of Himself over and over again. Maybe we don’t always see it. Certainly we don’t always understand God’s ways. But do not doubt that God is at work this day, giving of Himself to you. Amelia reminds us of that this morning, as God puts His own name on her and makes her His own.
God is at work this day and every day, forgiving your sins, giving you Jesus, drawing you into His loving embrace. Come, partake of the meal which He has given of Himself to you. Feast upon the God who gives all things to you. Worship Him, for He loves you with an everlasting love. Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.