Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bethany Bullet - June 21, 2011

I have never been very good at math. Ask any of my teachers and they would tell you that I did not do well:

I struggled to subtract
My multiplication was a monstrosity
I couldn’t do didley with division
I was awful in algebra
My geometry was grotesque

My idea of real and imaginary numbers were far from what the teacher wanted. For all I cared, all numbers were imaginary. Now…negative numbers that I understood; only because they described my checking account for years. I remember how frustrated my father was that I could not get it. Studying theology, I thought I could get away from numbers, but in one of the fundamental doctrines of the faith…we find numbers.

From the Old Testament- “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)

From the New Testament- “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)

OK, I can handle ‘one’…

From the Nicene Creed- “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty…We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ…”

Now hold the phone…is God one, or not?

From our Gospel lesson- Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of Holy Spirit.”

OK, is it 1 or 3?

From the Athanasian Creed- “We worship one God in three person and three persons in one God, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.”

Well this person is confused.

On this Trinity Sunday, we dive in and we attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible. This day we confess with the writers of the Athanasian Creed, “Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped.”

For all you math people out there, that is 1 + 1 + 1 = 1!!

It turns out you don’t have to be good at math to describe solid theology.

Although the word ‘trinity’ or ‘triune’ never appear in the pages of Scripture, the idea of the Triune God is evident from the beginning. In our Old Testament Lesson we catch a glimpse, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

John, in his Gospel, gives us some more information about creation, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

These two passages tell us that God, in three persons always has been.

Let me be clear, this side of heaven we will never fully understand the Triune God. As Martin Luther once wrote, “This article is so high above human understanding and language that God, as a Father, will have to excuse the stammering and lisping of His children when we do the best we can, if only that which we believe is pure and right.”

Even on my best days, I can only stammer and stab to grasp the Trinity in Unity. But our loving Father is full of mercy, love, and grace…not a bad role model for our fathers.

Many have tried to explain the Triune God:

  • God is like the three parts of an egg, the shell, the yolk and the white…

  • God is like an apple, the skin, the fruit, and the seeds…

  • God is like a totem pole, one pole and three faces…

  • God is like the states of water, solid, liquid, gas…

Don’t feel bad for using them, I have and will probably again, but in reality our feeble minds and limited vocabulary can never do justice to describe the Trinity in Unity.

It is important to remember that this is something we are called to believe, even if it is not something that we are able to understand completely. We can believe it because God has revealed it in His Word. In Scripture we find two truths: there is only one God and that one God exists in three persons.

I am sure many of you remember the days when on Trinity Sunday we would stand and recite the Athanasian Creed in its entirety. You may want to review it again today and you can find it on p.p. 319-20 of the hymnal. Now there is some merit in doing it, but often times it just creates more confusion.

Why? Because of sin! Sin has corrupted our minds and made us incapable of understanding God. Try as we might, we will never understand the three-ness and the oneness of God. Even in the body of believers, sins grip holds tight. At times doubt creeps in and Satan begins to feed us the lie that if we can’t understand it, it must not be true.

But in the face of things we can’t understand we are called to hold on by faith. Faith is that gift, given to us by God that enables us to hold on to the truth when we desire to give up. Have you been there? Have you doubted the goodness of God? Have you wondered if all of this is true? Has your sinful nature fooled you into lethargy?

Today, I remind you to look to the cross. When everything else seems to be topsy-turvy, when you can’t make heads or tails out of the situation you are in, look to the cross:

+ At the cross we see a Father’s love.

+ At the cross we see a Son’s sacrifice.

+ At the cross we experience the Spirit’s power.

The cross is the place where we find forgiveness. At the cross we find peace and grace and access to God. The cross is where our God leads us in times of trouble to produce perseverance and character and hope. Our triune God brings us joy by bringing us to see our Savior and His wonderful work for each of us. That work is being done right now through the Holy Spirit working in God’s Word.

My dad may have been frustrated with my inability to understand math, but our heavenly Father is not frustrated or flabbergasted, but filled with love even when His children struggle to understand. As we celebrate fathers on Father’s Day, we also look to our heavenly Father who sent His Son who promised the Spirit to be with us to the end of the age.
So if the figures of life just don’t make sense. If doubts have crept in and the numbers don’t add up, come to the table, kneel at the foot of the cross, where Jesus has done all the work...

+ Where sin has been subtracted,

+ The devil has been divided,

+ Where love has been multiplied and

+ The real presence is given for you.

For we have a Triune God who calls us His children, who heals our brokenness and gives us His wholeness. There is nothing imaginary about it. It is real, it is whole and complete, and that is worth celebrating today.

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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