Trinity Sunday June 6, 2004
243, 245, 366(1-4), 179
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Dear fellow-redeemed, beloved of God:
Today, as we have done most every Sunday since the inception of this congregation, we opened our worship in the name of the Triune God. We sometimes speak of “the mystery of the Trinity” and a mystery it is. It is a divine mystery which we can neither discern nor comprehend. It remains a true offense to the unbelieving world and its false religions, many of which bitterly assail the concept of the Trinity.
The Unitarians, for example, are opposed to Trinitarian beliefs on the grounds of pure logic. “How can one be three?” So they claim to acknowledge a single God. Beyond the Unitarians, the other false religions pretty much reject the pursuit of any definable theology in favor of social activism. “The world is hurting so badly,” they say, “that we should abandon all theological quibbling, and simply show the love of God to our brothers and sisters here on this earth.”
They claim to show the love of God when in fact they themselves know neither God nor His love. For it is in the Word of God, and its revelation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that mankind is confronted with the Love of God in it’s totality. Today we consider The Trinity of God’s Love I. The Eternal love of God the Father II. The Historic love of God the Son III. The Abiding love of God the Holy Spirit. Since this love of God speaks for itself, we will let it speak and pray the Holy Spirit to bless our listening.
The love of the Father says: I know no bounds, I have no beginning, and never shall I cease. Before there was a creature to love or be loved, when there was no husband or wife, friend or neighbor, I was. In God I have my being. I am the Eternal love of God the Father. Before the foundations of the earth were laid, before the first breath of life was given, it was I who conceived the creation of the world, with its beauties and magnificence. This world existed as an outlet for me. In creating man in His image, God prepared a vessel in which to demonstrate the bounty of His goodness and love.
God created a creature that could love Him in return and did so at first. But that soon changed. Man chose not to return His Creator’s love. He despised the love that was the very cause of his being. Even you people know how painful it is to love and not be loved in return.
But that is where I, the love of God, leap beyond all boundaries and all conception. For before there was a world for Him to love, God in His foreknowledge knew there would be a fall into sin. He knew there would be rebellion, rejection, and that sin and wickedness would spoil His creation.
Even from eternity, the Lord God would see that in time “the wickedness of man [would be] great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Mankind would spurn God and soon Cain murdered his brother, God sent a Flood in judgment on the entire earth and then fire and brimstone upon wicked Sodom and Gomorrah. In the days of Israel, God’s own people strayed as Egypt grew arrogant and Assyria grew in its cruelty.
But in the face of all this, I never faltered. I am a love which stops at nothing. From eternity God purposed to save fallen man. I am the eternal love of God and my greatness is that I long ago embraced those who, in time, would turn against me. I would comfort those who spurned me. I would use all the world’s events, whether good or evil, for the final well-being of sinners. You yourselves are among those sinners as you have already confessed this very day.
According to God’s mercy, you have been saved by grace (God’s undeserved, unmerited, ever-active love) which has been focused on you from eternity. More than anything in all the world, I would have you know that you are “Beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
The love of the Son says: I am the second love of the almighty God. I am the love that was given in time. I am the historic love of God the Son. My love is either believed or disbelieved. There can be no neutrality about me.
There are many great and notable events in your history. You measure yourselves by your place in history. Some of you went through the Depression and others remember Viet Nam.
But in Me God’s love made its mark in human history. It came with the incarnation of the Son of God—when the Son of God was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a woman and thus came among you as a brother.
The mission of this Messiah, the Christ, was “not to be served, [by men] but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). God, in Christ, devoted His whole being to you. Jesus Himself spoke of Me when He said “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).
When you look into the record of Christ’s ministry here on earth and realize what it meant for God to send His Son into this wretched world, then it is easy to see that every moment of Christ’s life was living evidence of God’s love for mankind. When you look to Jesus’ life and ministry you realize what it cost God to “make Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21) and thereby redeem all people.
All of what Christ did has given you “access into this grace in which you stand.” [v.2] The historic event of Jesus’ death and resurrection has a result that touches your life. Paul writes: Jesus Christ “was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:25). Because there really was a Jesus Christ who was crucified and who really rose from the dead, you who hear these things have concrete evidence of God’s eternal love.
God is just in showing mercy to this world for it has been redeemed by the blood of His Son, who gave His life in love for mankind. It amounts to a treaty of peace from God which no outside power is able to disturb: “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:33-35).
Oh, you blessed people of the earth and beloved of God, what fear; what doubt; what trouble could you have that is not put at rest in the peace that is showered on you through Christ? In Him you have hope. It is a hope that does not disappoint because it rests on the historical act of God’s love in Christ!
The love of the Holy Spirit says: That great act of Christ dying for you, the historical love of God, is the treasure which, I, the third love of God, seek to bring into your hearts. I am the abiding love of God the Holy Spirit.
Jesus described my working as He described the work of the Holy Spirit: “The Spirit of truth…will guide you into all truth…He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13ff).
You have hope in Christ! That is why you meet here today. You have hope in Christ though others put their trust in money, or politics, or their own fine deeds. But how do you know that your hope is real? It rests, after all, in unseen things such as God, heaven, prayer, and forgiveness.
“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” [v.5] I am the working of the Spirit, showing you, teaching you, guiding you into the unseen, but unsurpassable love of God in Christ. I am the love of God poured into your hearts, to lead you to embrace the truth that God has loved you, suffered for you, and lives to gather you to Himself as His children.
Today you rejoice in the glory of God. You have something no unbeliever can know. “And not only that, but [you] also glory in tribulations.” [v.3] This truly sets you apart from the world. Whoever has the Spirit and has hope in God’s love has hope even when things appear to be against him. Those who live in the Spirit embrace God’s love, not only in the good times, but also in the worst of times when the world gleefully tells you that your faith is in vain.
I am the love that gives you faith. I confirm the relationship you have with your Lord Jesus. Working through the Gospel of Jesus’ work as it comes to you in Word and Sacrament, I lead you to know God. By this work I made you God’s child and keep you as His.
As pressure turns coal into diamonds, as fire purifies gold until it is pure, so I do my work with the Gospel in the midst of earthly tribulation. When your sins which are already forgiven bring natural consequence and chastisement, it is I who show you that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20).
When hardship or loss seem to steal away earth’s finest pleasures—be they health, wealth, friendship or family—it is I who confirm in your heart that one lasting treasure sealed to you through Baptism.
When trial and despair rob you of any place to turn, it is I who turn you to heaven and show you the face of a gracious God and loving Savior. He is always ready to hear, always able to save.
The Spirit says that “God is Love” (1 John 4:8). As God is three persons in one God, so also is His love. God’s eternal love, historic love and His love in you are one—the Lord God’s love for you His children. May this great love, dwell in your heart through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.