The Holy Trinity
June 11, 2017
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Today is Trinity Sunday. Today we use the third of the creeds of the Christian Church, the Athanasian Creed, to define who God is. It is a creed that makes you slow down and consider what you are saying. “Just as we are compelled by the Christian truth to acknowledge each distinct person as God and Lord, so also are we prohibited by the catholic religion to say that there are three Gods or Lords.”
There are thick books, thicker than phone books, that is, when there were phone books, which try to take this great teaching of the Bible – the Holy Trinity – and define it. But the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which is wonderfully true, is also amazingly confusing. We believe there are three separate beings – unique from one another – but there is only one God. But of all the people in the world who have ever written about this, and debated it and defended it, I think that I have the clearest word about who God is. (Talk about arrogance, huh?)
God is…Great!! He is not mediocre. There is no “C” material in Him. He is amazing, wonderful, and frankly, great. God is great. Our word from Ephesians, which follows a great Trinitarian word (See Ephesians 3:14-19), says, “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)
He is not average, He is not even above average, God is great!! He is able to do far beyond what you can even ask or imagine. In Romans 11, the concluding paragraph in that chapter goes this way, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)
Together, the three persons in the Trinity are great. But also, individually, they are great. Genesis chapter one, the account of creation, is a word about a great God. “In the beginning GOD created the heavens and the earth…And God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light.” (Genesis 1:1,3) It assumes that God can make stuff out of nothing, simply by the power of His word. He speaks and everything, one by one, is made. Just consider this for a second. God made all things – the largest and the smallest – in His genius and by His design. Yes, God is great. From God the Father life is given.
God the Son is great. All by Himself He is great. I know He can do anything – there isn’t a miracle that Jesus can’t do – but His greatness is seen is His humility and lowliness and service. “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) After Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, He defined greatness in a deeper way, “When He had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Teacher and Lord, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet.’” (John 13:12-14)
We often overuse the word “great”. Some can sing or play an instrument – they are “great”. Someone can act – they are “great”. Someone can fix our darn computer – they are a step beyond great. The Rockies – great. The Broncos – they were great a few years ago. The Nebraska Cornhuskers – great – only you have go back to the last century.
We are not exaggerating when we say that God is great. In one of the earliest creeds, written right in the Bible itself, the superlatives about Jesus are not hidden. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)
God, the Father, is great. He made all things. He cares for His creation. The Son – Jesus? Great!! He receives sinners. He fought the battle against the devil and came out on top. He freely restores us and gives us free forgiveness and eternal joy. Just before our text Paul prays, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17b-19)
This month marks the first anniversary of the death of Muhammad Ali. Ali called himself “The Greatest.” Ali was an exceptional boxer. He won the World Heavyweight Boxing Title three different times. On June 3, 2016, in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona, he died. Eight years ago the detailed preparations for all that had to happen at his death were written in a large manual titled “The Book.” It was much more than a will – it was about how he would go from this life to the next.
But “The Greatest” didn’t know Thee Greatest – he didn’t know Jesus. Ali converted to Islam as a young man and didn’t know how great God was. He didn’t know the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. The man who washed the dead body of Ali, meticulously, three times, all with different elements, believes that for every body that he washes 40 of his sins are forgiven. Ali’s huge headstone in the Louisville, Kentucky cemetery is inscribed, “Service To Others Is The Rent You Pay For Your Room In Heaven.” Sadly, he never knew the greatness of God.
God is great simply in who is. He is great in what He does. The Holy Spirit is the one who makes this God, our God. I met with a young lady recently who told me that she was “spiritual, but not religious.” She believed in God but not in a whole lot of the specifics. Though I can’t judge the heart – God does that type of thing – what she told me was she wasn’t a Christian. God is great because He takes the great truths of God’s actions and makes them ours. We don’t believe in a God who is nameless, faceless, or far-away. We believe in Immanuel – God with us – Jesus. We believe that His death and resurrection are sufficient for the new life we must have. We believe that God justifies the ungodly, us, through faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit confirms in our heart that our God is great.
Trinity Sunday, this day when we confess that God is the greatest is not a Sunday for an academic exercise. It is the great moment of God taking our faith and making it stronger, brighter, bolder and much more confident. But I believe that this is also the day for pure adoration and praise. There is emotion to this day. Just think of that, Lutherans with emotional responses. See, God is in the business of miracles!! Our word in Ephesians has great emotion, it oozes with joy, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we can ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (ESV Translation)
I wonder how many different ways you could have completed the title of my sermon, God Is… Let’s see – God is powerful. God is loving. God is just. God is mysterious. All of those, and many others, are true. They convey a God who is amazing and wonderful… and great. Here’s my challenge to you today – get to know who God is in a richer and fuller way every day that He gives you life.
This morning I conclude with Psalm 95, a word that says that our God is great!! “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our maker; for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care.” (Psalm 95:1-7)
God is…Great!! Amen!!