Rev’d Mark B. Stirdivant, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Yucaipa, California
† sdg †
The celebration of Trinity Sunday is unique. Unlike Christmas, Easter and Ascension Day, there appears to be no historical event that has taken place upon which this church festival can build. The Trinity didn’t happen; the Trinity…just is. If a church happens to have been named Trinity Lutheran, like many are in the Missouri Synod, then this day can be a special namesake celebration for them, just like Good Shepherd Sunday last month was special for us. But we have all heard the true statement that is often pointed out- the word “Trinity” is not in the Bible. No that term is not there, but the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet at the same time one true God, most certainly is professed all over in Scripture. The name, which was constructed out of the words three and one, describes succinctly what our Triune God revealed to us His Church through centuries of prophets, apostles, and most importantly, the Son of God Himself who came to our world clothed in perfect, untainted human flesh.
Since the Trinity is a confession of doctrine more so than an event that occurred, and since our congregation does not go by the name of Trinity Lutheran, it may be difficult for us to find a clear reason why we should celebrate Trinity Sunday, other than, it shows up on our Church Year calendar. The Athanasian Creed goes on and on about three persons, one God, not three Lords, nor three Uncreateds nor three Infinites, but One Uncreated and one Infinite. Then, this third creed that we don’t see as often shocks us with the statement that we will have to believe this unwieldy, confusing, complex statement called the “catholic faith,” believe it perfectly or else we cannot be saved. Based on everything else you’ve heard preached in a Lutheran Church, it would be very likely that you might hesitate a second: just what is the purpose of celebrating Trinity Sunday, anyway?
Thankfully, the Bible, which is God’s Word from God’s mouth, produced by the work of God’s Holy Spirit, does not speak to us using lots of difficult terms like we read in the Athanasian Creed. The Bible, rather, unfolds for us a story, our true history, and little by little our Lord reveals more and more of Himself as He speaks His Word to us. We read about the Creation this morning—here’s the Trinity: God the Father, spoke forth His eternal Word with His Spirit fluttering over lifeless waters and then there was light, there was Earth, there was Sky, there were seas, birds, fish, land animals, creepy crawlers and, finally, Man in God’s image, created to be male and female, and it was all good! In that momentous event, the very beginning of our universe, God showed us a little of who He is, but the entire picture of Father, Son and Holy Spirit was not yet fully disclosed.
Jesus had called His disciples and said simply, Follow Me. At first, that’s all they had to go on. As He taught them, these students understood more about who Jesus really is and what He came to do for the redemption of the world. There was no complex doctrinal statement with legal jargon that they had to grasp perfectly and
then sign on the dotted line. They simply trusted that Jesus was teaching them the truth, beginning from the basics. These students of the faith needed to witness our Lord’s brutal crucifixion and death. They needed to meet face-to-resurrected face with Christ who conquered death. Jesus lovingly reminded them that all these things that they experienced came true because their Lord perfectly fulfilled His Word. And then something wonderful happened.
Finally, with all of those lessons learned, all of those precious gifts received from the great Teacher, then it was time to reveal the greatest mystery behind it all. Then, after all was completed, Jesus spoke of the Trinity. He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have handed on to you.” As we read today in the last chapter of Matthew. Only then did Jesus speak this full, majestic and excellent Name to the disciples. It was like the entire story from Creation up to that very minute had come to fulfillment, and then it was time for these apostles to spread out into the created world and make more students, more disciples just like they were.
Yet we read that they doubted, even while they were worshiping Jesus! Actually, it was more of a hesitation than it was a hardened, I won’t believe at all, kind of doubt. Sure, I believe, they must have thought, but something is just in the way at the moment. I need help. That’s what was troubling these disciples as they were coming closer to the moment when they will not see Jesus any longer.
Where has been your moment of hesitation? For some I would guess it might have come from a significant change in your life. For others, it has been a gradual gnawing at your spirit—sure I believe, but there seems to be some little thing in the way. I don’t feel it’s important to give a portion of my time or my treasure to the Lord. I’m confused about why the church teaches against living together before marriage or against homosexuality or transgenderism. I have questions that seem too tricky to resolve in my mind. I have friends or loved ones who challenge me and what I should think is right as I deal with them—I don’t want to lose them just because something they’re doing is going against God’s Word.
You are not alone with those hesitations and questions. You are not in danger of condemnation to hell if they pop into your mind. Jesus’ own disciples worshiped Him in those last days that they saw Him, but also they hesitated. It was a problem that they could not fix or resolve for themselves by their own reason or strength. Jesus Himself knew that about His disciples, and He knows that about you, His own dear children. That’s why even while His students were hesitating, Jesus came to them! He had said earlier that No one comes to Me…unless… unless God the Father draws him to me. He also said I am sending you the Comforter, the Holy Spirit who will guide you into all the truth. See, there’s the Trinity again! We confess that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit precisely to save you, and to help you in your doubts, questions and even slight hesitations. You didn’t have to grasp it perfectly and completely in your head, but your Lord made it possible for you to believe it with all your heart.
There was even an event that happened for you, an event in which the Holy Trinity actually came into your life and changed you forever! That was the moment of your Baptism; the moment when water was combined with God’s Word and administered with God’s Command- the Command to make disciples by baptizing in My Name, as Jesus said. So, when you celebrate the Church Festival of the Holy Trinity, you are celebrating again your own baptism. Every day you remember your baptism when you admit your sins to God in confession and believe that you have received forgiveness from the pastor as from God Himself in the Absolution.
Take a look at that Baptismal font as you leave today. There in Baptism the Father begets you anew. There the Son cleanses you from all sin and delivers you from every death. And there, in the waters of Holy Baptism, the Holy Spirit gives and delivers you into your Lord’s very own Body so that you also become true sons of God and are born of God. He is your only peace in all time of adversity and prosperity, during life and in death, when things go well and when things get scary. Remember your Holy Trinity event in your baptism when you leave this sanctuary after the Divine Service and pass by the baptismal font. Dip your finger in the water if you like—it’s not special holy water, but the water you touch can help you clearly recall to your mind and heart the powerful words that were once spoken with a similar splash: I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Your own personal Trinity historical event happened and you have never been the same since. On this Holy Trinity Sunday and every day of your life, confess with conviction along with the rest of us that God is indeed Father, Son and Holy Spirit as the Bible teaches; insist as a forgiven sinner that Jesus is true God at the same time as He is true Man, because that’s how your baptism truly does save you. Strap on the great Triune Name of God as your breastplate and armor, just like St. Patrick of Ireland did even as he faced the deadly evils of persecution. He sang this song about the Trinity which you can find in our hymnal:
I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.
The strong Name of the Trinity has saved you also this day, it fills your heart with joy over your forgiveness and everlasting salvation in heaven, and it will energize you to live for God and sacrifice yourself for the sake of your neighbor’s needs. To this Holy Trinity alone belongs all glory, honor, worship and praise, now and forever.
In the Name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit.