Sunday, June 7, 2020

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.
The Holy Trinity is the greatest mystery of the Christian faith. And yet, belief in the Holy Trinity is necessary to salvation. Indeed, one cannot be a Christian and deny the Holy Trinity. For, to deny the Holy Trinity is to deny that, along with the Father, the Son and the Spirit are also, and at the same time, God. Thus, to deny the Holy Trinity is to deny that Jesus is God’s Son, and that He is true God and true man, and, thus, to deny the Holy Trinity is to deny that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind.
And, to say that the Holy Trinity is a mystery, is to say only that it cannot be fully explained or understood, least of all by human reason. Nonetheless, it should not be thus assumed that the Holy Trinity cannot be, or that it is not, but only that it is beyond human reason, perception, knowledge, and understanding, although these do approach and understand the Holy Trinity in part. For, it is the nature of a mystery, not to shut you out, but rather, to draw you in, deeper, ever deeper, so that, as you begin to understand, to comprehend, and to believe, then another layer of the onion is revealed for you to ponder, to meditate upon, and to worship.
Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith. Whoever does not keep it whole and undefiled will without doubt perish eternally. 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. It is necessary to confess the Holy Trinity, and what is necessary to confess has been revealed by the Holy Trinity. That is to say, you may only say of the Holy Trinity what God has said affirmatively in His Word, and you can only say negatively that which contradicts what God has said affirmatively. For, the Holy Trinity is a mystery and an article of faith. It cannot be comprehended by the human mind, for it is before the human mind and the source and creator of humanity. And yet, your Holy Triune God reveals Himself to you in creation, in spirit, and in Word.
You must receive what God reveals in faith. Thus, Jesus taught Nicodemus “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,” and “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”. The gift of faith comes in the manner of the gift of life: It is received, not earned. It is given, not apprehended. It is revealed, not reasoned. The Holy Spirit of God calls, gathers, sanctifies, and keeps in faith those He chooses, where and when He pleases. Thus, you are the recipient of His gracious workings, just as you are the recipient of the cooling breeze of the wind, and as you are the recipient of life itself. Jesus asked Nicodemus, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” and He taught Him saying, “we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.” According to his fleshly wisdom and understanding, Nicodemus could see, with his own two eyes, and reason with his fleshly mind, that Jesus was a great Rabbi and teacher blessed by God. But his human flesh, wisdom, and reason could not comprehend that God was not only with Jesus, but that Jesus was God in human flesh, sent by the Father, and that upon Him the Holy Spirit had descended and remains and abides.
Nicodemus was a learned and pious man of faith, yet, he struggled to believe what he could not confirm with human observation and reason. So, like Thomas, like Peter, and like all the Apostles, and like you, he was limited by what he could know and by what he could see, and he demanded, implicitly if not explicitly, a sign or a demonstration of Jesus that would conform to human reason, wisdom, and expectations. But Jesus did not chide Nicodemus, as He did not chide Thomas, Peter, or you, but He invited Nicodemus to stop trying to earn, take, and apprehend, but, instead, to receive the testimony of the Holy Triune God in Word and Spirit and Truth. For, faith and belief in the Holy Trinity is a gift of God’s grace, just as is forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake. Isaiah received the gift of absolution when the seraphim touched his lips with a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. Nicodemus received this gift when he was born again of water and spirit in Holy Baptism. In the same way you too have received this gift. And, in Jesus Christ, the whole world has been given the gift of God’s love for forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
In today’s Collect we acknowledged the gift of grace that God has given to us in revealing Himself in Trinity; we prayed, “Almighty and everlasting God, You have given us grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by the confession of a true faith and to worship the Unity in the power of the Divine Majesty.” And, we also prayed that the Lord would “keep us steadfast in this faith and defend us from all adversities” that we might keep the catholic faith whole and undefiled. For, you are daily buffeted and assaulted by godless doctrines and secular humanism which makes no allowance for what human reason cannot comprehend.
But your Holy Triune God has given you yet another gift of His grace and love. He has raised up for you on the cross His only-begotten Son that all who look to Him will not perish but will have eternal life. Where human reason and wisdom see and comprehend only a dead man upon a pole, just as the Israelites in the wilderness saw only a bronze serpent, you behold God Himself in death, and you receive His life. And, because of Jesus’ death, what human reason and wisdom see in baptism as a mere washing with water, you see and confess as a lavish washing away of sins and the bestowal of faith and eternal life. And, in what human reason and wisdom sees and comprehends merely as a morsel of bread and a sip of wine, you see and confess as Holy Communion with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God in human flesh, flesh of His flesh and bone of His bones for the forgiveness of sins, the strengthening of your faith, and for your life today, tomorrow, and forevermore, world without end.
For, the God who is before all things, who made all things, who sustains all things, and who fills all things, the Holy Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is present to bless you with His life and His love and His forgiveness. 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.

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