Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sermon for 5/18/08 -- Feast of the Holy Trinity

Does the Trinity Still Matter?
Matthew 28:16-20

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

I’m sure you’re all very familiar with our text for this morning’s sermon. The last four verses of the Gospel According to St. Matthew are commonly called “the Great Commission”. Recorded here is the command of Jesus to the Apostles to make disciples of all nations. Evangelism is of vital importance, of course—don’t doubt that for a minute. However, our focus this morning is on the reason we practice evangelism: we focus on God Himself.

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity. The Feast of the Holy Trinity is one of the highest festivals of the Church year, right along with Christmas and Easter. That means it’s one of the holiest days of the Church year. All of this raises one very important question: What on earth is the Feast of the Holy Trinity? It’s not necessarily an easy question to answer. After all, the word “Trinity” never appears in the Bible—not even once! Despite this lack, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is arguably the most important concept in the Bible. The Feast of the Holy Trinity is a celebration of God Himself, because we see God as He has revealed Himself to us in His Word: as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God has, indeed, revealed Himself to us through the Word. However, He does not reveal everything about Himself. Therein lies the problem with celebrating the Feast of the Holy Trinity: we sinful human beings tend to do away with those things we don’t fully understand. How many of us still use that Spanish we learned in high school? How many of us use more than basic mathematics in our lives? And how do you stay interested in a sport if you don’t understand the rules? These are all unfortunate, of course. But we don’t understand how the Trinity can be three Persons in one God, either, and it would be terrifying if we did away with the name of God. If we don’t believe in God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—then we believe in a false god. That’s how important God’s name is. If you weren’t baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, then you did not receive a valid Baptism, and you do not bear that name upon you. If Pastor Rudnik does not forgive your sins “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, then your sins are not forgiven.

Jesus addresses that Himself. When he tells the apostles to make disciples, he tells them to baptize all nations and to teach them “to observe all that I have commanded you.” This means more than just teaching people to observe the Ten Commandments. All that I have commanded you includes everything God has revealed to us through His Word. This means, whether we like it or not, whether or not we think it will be a popular message, we must teach the world that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. We must teach that homosexuality and abortion are sins. We must teach that God does not Call women to be pastors. We must teach that Jesus is God, and that anyone who does not believe in Jesus is not going to heaven. None of these are popular messages, but we do no favors to anyone if we love them into hell by withholding the truth of what God reveals to us in His Word. If we offend visitors by the preaching of sin and forgiveness, we must continue to preach that message to them in hopes that the Spirit will work in them and bring them to repentance and faith.

I’ve been a member of Grace long enough and have been your fill-in preacher enough times that you probably know by now that I’m fairly conservative in my theology. I consider doctrine to be a matter of deathly importance. It’s not because I think I’m better than anyone else. It’s not because I want to be a pain in the butt when someone asks me about things like why the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod practices closed Communion or if we should attend worship with Muslims or Jews or Mormons. At my Ordination I promised that all my preaching and teaching and my administration of the Sacraments will be in conformity with Holy Scripture. Sinner that I am, I would love to let everyone off easy. But I promised God and the Church that I wouldn’t, and I take that promise very seriously. Abandoning even one point of what God has revealed through His Word is enough to make me a false teacher. And practicing even one thing that differs from what God has commanded us makes the Church evil. That’s why we unceasingly strive to keep our doctrine and practice pure.

So where does all this leave us? We’ve got a lot to live up to—everything God has revealed to us in His Word, everything Jesus taught His disciples. There’s no way we can be obedient to all that Jesus has commanded us. That’s why we are especially blessed that we have been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That name is now upon us. The power of that name upon us is that we have been given faith to believe everything that God has revealed to us in His Word. The power of that name upon us is that, when we fail to observe everything Christ has commanded us, the pastor, speaking in the stead of Christ, places the forgiveness of sins upon us “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds lay it all out for us in a simple form. God the Father has created us, given us everything we need to support this body and life, and has sent His Son. God the Son has redeemed us, being born in the flesh as one of us to redeem us with His precious blood and innocent suffering, death, and resurrection, feeding us with His body and blood which are given and shed for the forgiveness of sins, and has sent His Holy Spirit. God the Spirit continues to call, gather, enlighten, and sanctify the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity. In doing so, we do not merely celebrate an incomprehensible concept; we celebrate a loving, merciful, forgiving God who generously gives us more than we can ask or imagine. In doing so, we confess the truth that God has washed away our sins in Holy Baptism, placing His name upon us, marking us as His own. We confess that God has done for us what we could not do for ourselves: forgiving us, giving us eternal life and salvation. Let us carry the spirit of the Feast of the Holy Trinity with us throughout the year; for in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, all that God offers to His children is yours. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

This is how I want my children to grow up.

There was garbage on television Sunday night, so I was watching SportsCenter on ESPN in the twins' room. Most of it was the usual highlights and scores, and they did this feature on LeBron James. But all through the show they were talking about this home run that everyone is talking about.

Sure enough, they did another feature, this time about a home run during a Division II women's softball game. This girl, Sara Tucholsky, hits a home run--and it's the only home run she's hit in her 4 year career. She's running the bases, and she misses first base. She goes to turn around, and she blows out her knee. The way the umpires on the field interpreted the rule, it seemed only two things could happen.

1. The trainers could run out on the field and help her, and she'd be out.
2. She could make her way back to first base, and they could put in a pinch runner. She'd have a two-run single instead of a three-run home run.

But then a third option arose. One of the players from the other team, Mallory Holtman, walks up to the umpire and says, "Could we carry her around the bases?" And sure enough, Mallory and one of her teammates picked up their opponent and carried her around the bases, allowing Sara to touch each base with her good leg. Mallory did it just because she felt Sara deserved to get what she'd earned. It was the right thing to do.

This is what I love about sports. Sports, when played the right way, are (and please, my female friends, pardon the expression) games for gentlemen (and ladies, I suppose)--not for "playaz" and "ballaz" and selfish people. Mallory Holtman is a wonderful example of what's right with sports--what's right with the world. This is how I want my children to be when they play sports.

And yes, I did get weepy when I watched the report.

Here's the video: