If I were to ask you this morning if you believe in God, I’m sure that you would all say, ‘yes.’ If there are any atheists in the congregation this morning, I apologize for lumping you in with the rest of us theists.
For all who said, ‘yes, I believe in God,’ I say, ‘that’s great. So does the devil. So do the Muslims, the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Unitarians and the Jews.’ And so do your boyfriends and girlfriends and friends and neighbors and coworkers who are none of the above but who don’t hesitate to jump into religious discussions, because after all, they believe in God.
As the Psalmist says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no god.” (Ps.14:1; 53:1) And no one wants to being a fool.
So, what I really should have asked you this morning is not, ‘do you believe in God,’ but, ‘what God do you believe in?’ And it’s at that point that all of the happy unity that we THINK WE SHARE with all BELIEVERS quickly becomes an argument about ‘who’s got the REAL god and why it really, really matters.
But then again, who’s to say? Maybe it really, really DOESN’T MATTER. Maybe all gods are basically the same, and all religions are basically the same, just different roads that all lead to the same place. Different strokes for different folks. For the sake of peace and harmony, let’s all ‘agree to disagree.’
That of course is a long way from saying what WE just said, “Whoever will be saved shall, above all else, hold the catholic faith. Which faith, except everyone keeps WHOLE AND UNDEFILED, without doubt he will perish eternally.” The “catholic faith” is then spelled out in great detail. “And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God, in three persons and the three persons in one God, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance…” etc. etc. etc. And then we concluded by saying, “This is the catholic faith which, EXCEPT A MAN BELIEVE FAITHFULLY AND FIRMLY, HE CANNOT BE SAVED.” (Athanasian Creed).
The Bible is God speaking to us through His prophets and apostles. And the consistent message from beginning to end is that God is very INCLUSIVE when it comes to the people whom He wants to give His gifts of forgiveness and life and salvation to. Every age, every nationality, every gender, every stage of physical and mental development. It doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, gay or straight, democrat or republican, conservative, liberal or independent. God wants you to come to Him and receive His gifts and He intends to unite us all as one body, recreated in His image.
But the same Holy Scriptures make it very clear that God is very EXCLUSIVE when it comes to the gods whom we are to worship and His perfect jealousy when we do.
Moses repeatedly tells Israel, “You shall have no other gods besides me.” “The LORD is God, there is no other besides Him.” (Deut.4:35, 32:39).
Speaking for all the prophets, Isaiah writes, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I am the first and the last; besides me there is no god.’” (Is. 44:6)
St. Paul speaks for the New Testament Church saying, “Although there are many ‘so called’ gods in heaven or on earth, yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things and for whom we exist, one Lord, Jesus Christ through whom are all things and through whom we exist.’” (1 Cor. 8:6).
So, the Christian Church has never asked its people to say, “I believe in God.” James says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19). We are only ever asked if we believe in God the Father… and Jesus Christ, His only Son… and the Holy Spirit.
We believe and confess that God IS Trinitarian and not Unitarian or Binatarian or Vegetarian, solely because this is the way the Bible speaks about God. From its ‘grand opening,’ it’s God who created the heavens and the earth; and the Spirit of God that hovered over the face of the deep; and the Word of God that spoke everything into existence.
It’s the holy conversation between Father, Son and Holy Spirit who, in perfect agreement says, “Let US make man in our image…” (Gen.1:26) and “Come, let US go down and confuse their language…” (Gen. 11:7) Whom the prophet Isaiah heard to say, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for US?” (Is. 6:8).
This is the God who SPEAKS AND LISTENS within Himself and then LEAKS the holy intell to us. “For all that I have heard from the Father I have made known to you,” says the Son. (John 15:15). “The word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” (John 14:24) “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you and remind you of all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
And then the whole thing works in reverse. Whoever hears what Jesus says hears the Father and whoever rejects what Jesus says rejects the Father.
So when Christians worship, it’s ALWAYS AND ONLY the Triune God whom we worship and adore, THE LITURGY BEING OUR GUIDE.
We begin by ‘INVOKING’ “the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
We receive the ‘ABSOLUTION’ TO OUR ‘CONFESSION OF SINS’ in the ‘name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’
We attach our “glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit” onto the end of the Introit and the Psalmody and the Canticles which come from both the Old
and New Testaments, testifying that the Old Testament CONTAINS the New and the New Testament REVEALS the Old, and that it is the same triune God in both.
When we pray we come to the Father, ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.’
The hymns that we sing direct us to the love God in Him in clear, Trinitarian prayer and praise, and when they end in a Trinitarian verse we come to our feet in
reverence for the ‘holy, holy, holy’ name above all names.
And yet for all of the attention give to the ‘triune nature’ of the ‘one, true God,’ on this Trinity Sunday, the focus of our worship and our life of faith is always on the 2nd person of the Trinity – God the Son. God the Father points His finger at His beloved Son and declares, “listen to Him.” “He is the image of the invisible God…” (Col. 1:15) “The radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…” (Heb. 1:3)
Only in the Son of God, can we see what God is like and how He thinks and speaks and acts, and most importantly, how He deals with His sinful and rebellious people. With his characteristic bluntness, Luther chastises those who want to know God apart from the Son. He writes,“They want to poke their heads through the heavens and look around up there, but when they find no one there, since God is lying in the crib and nursing at His mother’s breasts, they come crashing down again and break their necks.” (On the Trinity)
Luther goes so far as to say that “to seek God apart from Jesus Christ is to the work of the devil.”
Apart from Jesus Christ, God remains hidden from us and a hidden God is always horrible God to deal with.
The hidden God reveals Himself in hurricanes and earthquakes and floods and disasters and sickness and tragedy and war and pain and suffering and death, where all we can conclude is that HE IS ANGRY AND WRATHFUL AND A PUNISHING GOD WHO HAS TURNED AGAINST US.
The hidden God reveals Himself in the conscience that accuses and torments us and of wrong doing and wrong thinking but never shows us where to find relief OR how to be at peace with ourselves OR our neighbor OR our Creator.
The hidden God leaves you guessing as to whether He is for you or against you, because it all depends on the circumstances of the day, which change how many times a day.
And so we fix our eyes, not on GOD, but on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is ‘GOD NOT HIDDEN.’ He is GOD MADE KNOWN to us through flesh and blood and dwelling among us, who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, reveals God the Father who “so loves the world that He sent His Son that whoever would believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life.”
No one can ever imagine let alone discover that “God is love” apart from the love of God in Jesus Christ. But in Jesus, we see the heart of God, bursting with mercy and grace for His people, not because they are so good and loveable, but while they we were still sinners.
In Jesus Christ, we see THE GOD WHO REPENTS of the judgment that He pronounced on us when He said, “the day that you eat of it you shall surely die,” and instead, for the sake of His Son, forgives us and gives us His blessing, and life in His heaven, and a room in His house, and seat at His banquet table.
Through Jesus Christ, and only through Him, GOD REVEALS HIMSELF AS THE GOD WHO CREATED YOU JUST SO HE COULD REDEEM YOU AND SANCTIFY YOU. He is the God of love who created you to love you with the GREATEST LOVE by laying down His life for you –
the holy for the unholy,
the innocent for the guilty,
God almighty becomes the weakest of the weak, for the sake His beloved children.
“All the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Him” and “the whole fullness of the deity dwells bodily in Him.” (Col. 1:19, 2:9) When you get Jesus, you get all of God.
Which means that when we eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord this morning and every morning, we receive the entire Trinity in the body and blood of the Son, and the fullness of God dwells in us –
for our forgiveness and not our condemnation,
for our life and not our death,
for our good confession and not our denial,
for our faithfulness to Him who is always faithful to us.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.