Sunday, May 30, 2010

“Beyond our understanding” (John 8:58).

S-1191 TS/3C Hymns 5/30/10, (O) #239; S #250; LS. #243; #238; #252; (C) #244

Texts: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Acts 2:14, 22-36; John 8:48-59

Theme: “Beyond our understanding” (John 8:58).

Question: “How is your gift of understanding?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the Gospel lesson: Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am’” (John 8:58).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, in his book From Hell to Here Benny Hochman a survivor of five years imprisonment in the Nazi concentration camp writes: “There were hundreds, if not thousands of Nazis, who seemed to enjoy watching others suffer and die. The guards would take babies from their mother’s arms, throw them up into the air while another guard would shoot the little one before it fell to the ground. If the marksman missed, he would then shoot the child on the ground. The guards also delighted in kicking the protruding abdomens of pregnant women and laugh at their shrieks of pain…(11) I watched guards take a baby from the mother’s arms and wager that they could throw the baby into the burn pit nearby. I watched guards throw a baby into the pit and then push the mother in after the baby when she would plead with them not take her baby. They would say: ‘go get him’. Some of the guards took particular pleasure commanding a naked man to spread his legs, kicking him in the [groin], and listening to his screams of pain. Many of the guards took pleasure in kicking or beating prisoners for no particular reason” (13). PAUSE.

As you listen to these horrific and horrendous stories, you wonder how in the world could any human being stoop so low and treat another in this manner. This is indeed beyond our understanding. It is hard for us to comprehend the depravity of man to inflict such pain on other human beings. This is nothing but being slaves to satan whose main mission in the world is to destroy life and cause us to loose hope in the God whom we worship.

It is beyond my understanding to read of a Muslim who wraps himself in bombs and blows himself up in the name of his god, so that he can get into heaven because he is fighting a holy war for his god. What kind of god is this that demands his subjects to commit suicide?

My beloved in the Lord, today, the Christian Church celebrates and observes the Festival of the Holy Trinity—that we worship One God in three persons. This too, is beyond our understanding. Our feeble minds can’t comprehend how is it that we have a God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet not three gods, but one God in essence and substance.

As you listened to the text today, John shares with us these precious and beautiful words of the Savior as He spoke them with those around Him, Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am’” With these words Jesus was declaring that He is God, not one among many, not one that man made up or imagined, but the true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the God of the Hebrews and the Gentiles. He is the One who created all things, and without Him nothing was made that was made (John 1:1).

Why is this beyond our understanding? Because for many, the tremendous advantages in human technology of recent years has made the idea of God outdated and unnecessary. The modern “miracles” worked in the areas of medicine and computer science alone simply bewilder our minds. Our ability to travel faster than the speed of sound, space exploration, and the fantastic world of the micro-sciences appears to some that mankind has moved far beyond any need for a God such as is described in the Bible. PAUSE.

In the Gospel of Saint Matthew we hear Jesus give this command to His disciples: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19), with these words Jesus give the name of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That is pretty amazing in view of the fact that the Bible insists over and over that “the Lord our one” (Deut. 6:4). There are not thousands upon thousands of gods as some oriental peoples believe; neither is there one supreme god with inferior gods under him as some so-called religious groups in our own land claim. As God reveals Himself to us in His inspired Word, He is one God in three persons. Of course, the statement is illogical and contradictory to our minds, but what else might we expect of God! People have tried to find ways of illustrating what our three-in-one God is like. Some falsely say, He is like steam, water, and ice, each so different, and yet all three are one thing: H2O. Someone erroneously suggest that God is like a clock with three faces and only one set of works to keep time. Here’s another illustration: I am pastor to many people, father to a few, and husband to another; yet I am just one man. However, all of these illustrations fall short, of perfectly and fully expressing what we know God to be. We must simply bow in humble adoration before Him whom we have come to identify as the Triune God.

At the same time we dare not shrug off the mystery of the Trinity, as if it really does not make any difference what God is like, as long as we believe in a supreme being or at least some sort of a God-in-general as many people do. Centuries ago the Christian church expressed its conviction that only God as He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures can be our God and receive our worship. Otherwise we in reality have no god. This was stated in the Athanasian Creed which we confessed this morning. Although found in our Lutheran hymnals, it is unfamiliar to most Christians. Nevertheless it clearly states: “The [universal Christian] faith is this, that we worship one God in three persons and three persons in one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit...all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.” With the psalmist we stand in awe of Him and proclaim, “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom” (Ps. 145:3). By the grace of God, we join the seraphim of heaven in their song: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory” (Is. 6:3). By that same Spirit, we bow before Him and worship Him with the apostle: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever” (1 Tim. 1:17).

To be sure, it is difficult to wrap our minds on the aspect of the Trinity. Some of us in this room may have no problem figuring out geometry, but to others it is beyond their understanding. Others might be able to figure out physics and calculus but to some it is a challenge. Some might be able to read Greek and Hebrew, but to others it is difficult and beyond understanding.

I am not here to try to explain and expound the Trinity, because I can’t since it is beyond my understanding. I am not here to convince you to believe in the Trinity, since this is not my work; it is the work of God the Holy Spirit. I am not here to attempt to help you figure it out, this is not my place. But, I am her today to declare to you that there is ONLY One God and one God only—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I am here today, to profess to you that this is the One God, who IS love and mercy. I am here today, to proclaim that the God we have is a God of grace and goodness. I am here today, to encourage you to continue to look to the One True God who is revealed in Holy Scripture that will meet all of your needs.

Honestly and sincerely saints in Christ, the Trinity is a mystery beyond our understanding. It is a good thing that we can’t understand it. For if we did, then our God would be one that we fashion and form in our image. If we could understand the Trinity, then our God is not big enough, strong enough or mighty enough to meet all of our needs. To truly have a god so small that we could understand him would be a tragedy.  That He gives grace, grace to us in darkness and sin, we who like the Pharisees who attacked Jesus were “liars”, is a love too deep to understand, but not too deep to delight in.

We can rejoice in the fact that our Lord NEVER calls us to understand Him! Our God is beyond our understanding. I can’t wrap my finite mind on the mystery of the Trinity anymore than you can. But then, again, there are so many things in Scripture that is beyond our understanding. I don’t understand a God who is LOVE. A God who loves us unconditionally. A God who reveals this love by sending His Son, His only, innocent, holy and pure Son to be the Lamb offered as a sacrifice on the Altar of Calvary. I don’t understand how God for the sake of Christ forgives all of my sins—for indeed they are many. I don’t understand how God can work a miracle in the water and the Word and give new life to a child. I don’t understand how God can come to me in the simple wafer and wine, and feed me and strengthen me and forgive me all of my sins. I don’t understand how God can be in heaven and earth at the same time. Sees all things, knows all things and hears all things. This too is beyond my understanding.

So while people sail along through life (the life God gave them) and take pride in what they have gained or accomplished, the fact is that we exist and have such abundant blessings and bounty only because our good and gracious God keeps us. We have life and being only because He maintains it. We have what is necessary for life, and our efforts are rewarded with success only because He makes it possible. We can do all the planning in the world, but it is finally our God who decides what shall be and when. Thus we must agree with Paul who said, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Without Him we are literally nothing. PAUSE

My beloved and His beloved on this Trinity Sunday we celebrate the uniqueness of our God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Though it is beyond our understanding, none-the-less we believe and confess with all Christendom that this is the only True God worthy of worship and praise for now and forever. Amen.

Now the peace…

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