Sunday, May 22, 2016
The Feast of the Holy Trinity
John 3:1-17; Romans 11:33-36; Isaiah 6:1-7
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
To celebrate the Rite of Confirmation on the Feast of the Holy Trinity makes complete and perfect sense, for the young people who will soon make confession of their Christian faith in the Holy Triune God this day were given the gift of faith when they were baptized eleven or twelve years ago in the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. There will be no new, fuller, or more complete bestowal of the Holy Spirit and His gifts, for each of these young people received the fullness of the Spirit when they were baptized, as did each of you. The LORD does not dispense His Spirit is dribs and drabs, but He pours Him out fully upon those whom He chooses in Jesus Christ.
Indeed, faith itself is the creative handiwork of the Holy Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is what it means to be “born again.” However, that word “again” is a rather unfortunate translation of the Greek word anōthen which truly means “from above.” Thus, what Jesus truly says to Nicodemus is, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Clearly, Nicodemus missed Jesus’ point – as do many today – and thought that it was necessary for him to be physically born again of his mother, just as many believe that they must do something, understand something, believe something, or confess something in order to receive the Holy Spirit. Therefore Jesus elaborated and emphasized the spiritual nature of His words saying, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” The “birth from above” of which Jesus speaks is a spiritual birth, a birth caused and gifted by the Holy Triune God. This truth is emphasized and clarified in Jesus’ choice of being born as an analogy for justification and spiritual regeneration, for being born is a passive act, it is something that happens to you, wholly apart from your will and choice, even apart from your knowledge and faith. You do not choose to be born. Being born is something that happens to you wholly apart from your choosing.
Thus, Jesus continued teaching Nicodemus saying, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” And, here, Jesus plays on the Greek word pneuma, which means wind, breath, and spirit all at once. Jesus’ point is that the Holy Spirit blows upon and causes the birth from above, justification, and the creation of faith in the hearts of those whom the LORD chooses in Jesus Christ. That is what happens in Holy Baptism. Faith is created. The Holy Spirit is given. You are adopted into God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ in communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That gift of baptismal faith is what these young people will make confession and confirmation of this day.
The Holy Trinity first revealed Himself in His first words recounting creation through His prophet Moses in Genesis chapter one: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light.” God the Father created through His Son, His creative Word, and God the Holy Spirit hovered over the face of the waters. The same three persons were present and working at Jesus’ baptism as the Father spoke His word, the Holy Spirit descended, and the Son was baptized and anointed in the Jordan River. So also did Jesus command His Apostles to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” You do not chose to be a disciple, but disciples are made by the LORD through Holy Baptism, a work of the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This is the Name of the LORD. This is the Name that was placed upon your forehead and upon your heart when you were baptized. This is the Name and the promise that you remember and confess when you make the sign of the cross in remembrance of your baptism. This the Name that marks you and seals you as a child of God, a member of God’s family in Jesus Christ, that protects you from the assaults of the Evil One, and blesses you all your days, even through death unto life everlasting. The Name of our Holy Triune God is invoked at the beginning of the Divine Service, and you are sent out with its blessing at its end. You should remember and take comfort in that Name when you rise up in the morning and when you lie down at night.
For, the Father loved the world in this way: He “gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” And as the LORD commanded Moses to raise up the bronze serpent on a pole so that all who were bitten by poisonous serpents might look to the bronze serpent and live, so, Jesus taught, “must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.” You are baptized into the Triune Name of God. God has become your Father, Christ has become your Brother, and the Holy Spirit has become your Comforter.
Therefore, you must, like Isaiah before you, confess your uncleanness in heart and word and deed. For, even the six-winged holy seraphim veil their faces and their humble parts before the thrice-holy LORD. How much more, then, must you enter His presence in humility and repentance, in faith and trust in the Son, Jesus Christ, lifted up on the tree of the cross for the sins of the world. You may do so in humble repentance and confidence, for your lips have been touched by the blood of Jesus, who drank the cup of the LORD’s wrath against your sin until it was finished upon the cross. You are clean, your guilt has been taken away. However, yours is a borrowed righteousness. Jesus’ blood cleanses you of your guilt and uncleanness. Jesus’ righteousness covers your sins. Jesus presents you to His Father radiant and holy, innocent and without blemish.
And so, to preserve you and keep you in your baptismal grace until He come, today a servant of God's Word, without wings, at God's direction, will take from the this altar the fiery sacrifice of God and touch its fire to your lips once again that your guilt may be taken away and your sin atoned for. For, you partake of that which was sacrificed in your place: Jesus' Body and Blood. It is put into your mouth and it makes you clean. That which has appeased God's wrath on your behalf is joined to you. Thus you, too, can sing: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of your glory. For, like the seraphim, like Isaiah and Nicodemus, you are holy. You have been redeemed. You call the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnate God of Moses and of Abraham, the only-begotten of His Father from whom the Spirit does proceed, Brother. You belong to God. You have been spared. You have been Named by Him. You belong to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. You have been born from above through water and the Word by the intervention of Love. Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity. Let us give glory to Him because He has shown His mercy to us.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.