Sunday, June 16, 2019

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.
Just wait until your father gets home.How many of you, as children, have heard those frightful words? How many of you, as mothers, have uttered those frightful words? But, are fathers really as bad as all that, causing the hearts of their children to melt with fear and foreboding at the very mention of their father’s presence? Yes, that is, if fear is understood in the proper way. That is to say that a child should notfear being abused by his or her father physically, verbally, or emotionally. And, neither should a child fear that his or her father is against them or that he is their enemy in any way. But, indeed, a child shouldfear his or her father so that they revere him, honor him with their lives, and avoid what displeases him.
For, the proper fear of our earthly fathers serves to teach us children of God the proper fear of our heavenly Father. And, this is not to suggest that our earthly fathers are perfect – perfectly loving, perfectly good, and perfectly holy like our heavenly Father – for fatherhood, just as motherhood, just as marriage, and just as every other human relationship known to mankind, is tainted and corrupted by sin so that these institutions and relationships are but dim, murky reflections of their God-created ideals. Still, they are reflections none the less. For, even though tainted and corrupted by sin, the heart and the will of most fathers is still for the good of their children in that they desire to give them things that are good for them and to provide for them with what they need to support their bodies and their lives. And, this is a reflection, even if a dim and murky one, of our perfect, loving, good, and holy God and Father in heaven. To fear and to love our earthly fathers is to fear and to love God. This we confess in the Explanation to the Fourth commandment in the Small Catechism. In both Proverbs and Psalms, the Holy Scriptures equate the fear of the LORD with true wisdom. Consequently, the LORD promises that blessing comes in honoring and obeying our earthly fathers, for, when we fear, love, honor, and obey our earthly fathers, we fear and love God our Father in heaven.
Indeed, the presence of God our Father is a fearful thing. God the Father is to be feared for His measureless mercy and grace, compassion, and love. But, God the Father is also to be feared because He is righteous and holy and perfectly just. He is to be feared because, in contrast, as St. Paul has written, we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Thus, when Isaiah beheld the LORD in His glory, seated upon His throne, he feared for his life saying, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”Isaiah’s fear of the LORD was a confession. It was a confession, at once, of the LORD’s holiness and righteousness, but also of Isaiah’s own sinfulness and uncleanness. Therefore, Isaiah stood in the LORD’s presence in humility, with no claim of merit and with no offering in hand, in the full knowledge that he had no right to be there, but that by all right he should be destroyed, yet also believing and knowing that God is merciful and gracious, compassionate, and loving. Such humility and repentance are the signifiers of true fear, honor, love, reverence, and trust.
Upon Isaiah’s confession, the LORD remedied his problem; He forgave Isaiah and cleansed him of his sinful uncleanness as Isaiah recounts, “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for’.” Isaiah did nothing to merit or to deserve this merciful and gracious action of the LORD, rather, instead, he confessed his inability to make himself clean. But, the LORD had mercy upon Isaiah and graciously cleansed him and forgave him by means of the Sacrifice that He had prepared for Isaiah, and for you, and for all mankind before the foundation of the world. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!
For, the only altar in the temple of God from whence come the removal of guilt and the atonement of sins is the altar of sacrifice. And, the coals upon this altar were already burning, indicating that they had been used for sacrifice, and, upon touching Isaiah’s lips, his guilt was indeed removed and his sin atoned for, confirming the validity of the sacrifice. For, the High Priest who serves in the temple of God is Jesus the Christ who is both Priest and Sacrifice as the writer to the Hebrews states, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”Thus, for the same reason that God commanded Moses to make a bronze serpent and to raise it up on a pole, that all who had been bitten by poisonous serpents, when they looked upon the bronze serpent raised up on the pole, would be healed and live, for the same reason, God sent forth His Son as a sacrificial victim to be raised up in death upon the cross, that all who have been bitten by the poisonous serpent Satan, when they look to Jesus will find that they are cleansed of their guilt and that their sins have been atoned for.For in this way did God so love the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish abut have eternal life.
Jesus Christ, God’s sacrifice which has removed your guilt and which has atoned for your sin, is your heavenly Father’s gift to you by grace. You did not merit it or deserve it, but it is the truest and most perfect gift there could be, the gift of true and perfect and holy love, for no greater love is possible than this, that a man should lay down His life for His friends. For God did not just havelove for the world, but God acted inlove for the world in this way, He sent His only-begotten Son into your flesh, to live your life, to be tempted with your temptations, to be obedient to the Father’s will and command for you, to die in your place, and to be raised and returned to God as a guarantee that you have been redeemed, forgiven, and restored to God your Father.
This is what your God and Father in heaven has done for you. And, now you receive the benefit of His love, mercy, grace, compassion, and forgiveness by the working of His Holy Spirit in Holy Baptism. Jesus taught Nicodemus, “You must be born again of water and the Spirit,” for, just as your natural birth was not of your own will or work, and in conception and birth you received the guilt of Original Sin, so your spiritual re-birth was not of your own will or work, and in Holy Baptism you received cleansing of your guilt and atonement for your sin through Jesus Christ, God’s sacrifice and gift of love for you and the entire world.
Your God and Father in heaven is continually pointing you outside of yourself to Him and His gifts. He would have you confess Him as your Creator, your Redeemer, and your Sanctifier, and these three as persons in the one Triune Godhead, the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And, in this Holy Trinity there is unity even as there is trinity, three persons, yet one God, with each of the persons being equally God. And, these three persons work together at all times in creation, redemption, and sanctification, for from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.
On this blessed Feast of the Holy Trinity, that just happens to occur on this civic holiday of Father’s Day, we are thankful for the many and various ways in which our Holy and Triune God reveals Himself in love and mercy to sinners such as us. In our loving fathers we see an image of our loving God and Father who provides for us all that we need for our bodies and lives. In our spouses we see an image of our loving God and Savior as husband and wife sacrifice of themselves each for the other becoming one flesh. In our families we see an image of our God and sanctifier as the family is a sanctuary of love set apart from the world while in the world.
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 the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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