"Trinity in Unity for Us"
Perhaps you remember that song from a few years back, “God Is Watching Us.” Many thought it was a nice Christian song. After all, it mentioned God. But there was a major problem. It sang about God watching us “from a distance.” It ranked right up there with the old “watch-maker God” image—that God made the world, wound it up like a watch to run by itself, and then went somewhere else in the universe. How can we be close to a distant deity? How can we be attached to a detached god? We cannot. And we certainly cannot have our sins washed clean by a god who won’t get his own hands dirty with us. And we certainly won’t be made a community with him, if he won’t associate with us.
There’s a lot of mystery in the one, true, Triune God. On the one hand, Scripture says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Dt. 6:4). And, on the other hand, God also identifies Himself as three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—when He sends His apostles out to make disciples by baptizing and teaching (Mt. 28:19). Then get ready for how we will confess Him in the Athanasian Creed: “we worship One God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.” So far this might seem rather philosophical, even distant and detached.
So, what does it mean that we confess the Triune God? Do we want to be saved from sin, death, and the evil one? Then hold on to “the catholic faith.” And what faith is that? “that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity.” No, He’s not a distant deity. Our Triune God comes close to us. He attaches Himself to us. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit come to us in very real and personal ways. He dirties His almighty hands to cleanse us from our sinful weakness. Trinity in Unity for us.
Too often we like to compartmentalize God. We put Him in various boxes. There’s the Sunday morning box. Sunday morning is the time for God, we think, but the rest of Sunday and the other days of the week are ours to do with as we please. We think and act as if our ever-present God were rather absent and detached from our everyday lives.
Then there are the “Trinitarian boxes”—one box for each Person of the Trinity. As we learn in Catechism class, the Father created us, the Son redeemed us, and the Holy Spirit makes us holy. True enough! But then we box the divine Persons in. “Pastor, we’re supposed to pray to the Father, right?” “Right.” “And in Jesus’ name, right?” “Right.” Is it wrong, then, to pray to the Holy Spirit?” Not at all. Let’s remember that when we pray to one we pray to all, and when we pray to all we also pray to each one.
And here’s another thing to watch for. In some modern, “creative” worship services, God is almost divided into three gods. The invocation might be changed to go something like this: “In the name of the Father who created us; in the name of the Son who redeemed us; and in the name of the Holy Spirit who makes us holy.” At first we might think, “Wow, some nice variety.” However, if we take the words at all seriously, we end up having not only three Persons, but also three names. Three names can open the door to thinking of three different gods. The Biblical wording, though, still works best: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” One name, one God, and yet still three Persons. True God. True worship. Trinity in Unity for us.
You see, everyone has a god. The real question is: Is it the true God? Politicians, businessmen, and radio talk show hosts often give a lot of “god talk.” Pop music might even sing of “god.” Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses even speak of “god” and “gods.” But which god? Everyone has some kind of a god. It could be money, or power, or fame, or learning, or even the spirits found in a bottle. It might even be the ever-present “get-along-with-everybody-and-don’t-make-anyone-upset” god that wants to downplay the teaching of Scripture and the Church. As Martin Luther said in his Large Catechism: “A god means that from which we are to expect all good and in which we are to take refuge in all distress…. Whatever you set your heart on and put your trust in is truly your god” (LC I:2-3).
Today, Trinity Sunday, is about the true God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—making Himself known to us. Our God has a passion to make Himself known to us and for us. Jesus tells us about God loving the world and sending His Son, and He also speaks of being born again by the Spirit.
God makes Himself known to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—Three Persons. And yet He always works for a unified purpose: to love us and have us as His very own people. Because of His great love, He created us. After we fell into sin, and even in the midst of our daily sinful thoughts, words and deeds, He loves us to redeem us and bring us back to Himself. And in the Christian faith and life He works all things to keep us as His own precious people. As Scripture says, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will” (Eph. 1:4-5).
Now if that isn’t great Good News, I don’t know what is! Just think of it. All of your joys and sorrows now take on a new light. Whatever happens to you—good or bad, joyous or grievous—the true, Triune God is always working to keep you as His own. Take, for example the recent storms and flooding in Texas. Such disasters show the raw power of God’s creation, a creation that only He can control, a power that rightly humbles us. And yet Jesus the Son of God shed His blood to redeem everyone affected by storms, tornados and floods. And the Holy Spirit constantly works to make known the saving deeds of Jesus and bring true comfort to the devastated regions.
And best of all, the holy Trinity and blessed Unity worked most gloriously at the cross and empty tomb. God makes Himself known to us by rescuing us from our sin and death. God’s good creation took a rotten turn. We masterpieces said to our Maker: “We don’t want You anymore; we’ll be our own gods.” We still say that as we box God in, as we keep Him at a distance, as we try to detach ourselves from Him. It’s no wonder that when we endure sufferings, we think God has abandoned us or left us. The truth is, we’ve left Him.
So the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—all three together in Unity—work to bring us back to Himself. The Father shows His love for us by sending the Son to sacrifice Himself on the bloody cross for us. When Jesus the Son died for us, God died for us. The riches of God and His grace are in the blood shed for us for the forgiveness of sins, the very blood we receive today in the Supper. So the Son bowed His head and gave up the ghost. But then the Holy Spirit breathed life back into Him on the third day. Now He breathes new life into us. Three Persons of the Godhead work to rescue us from sin and death. That’s the new life we have when we are “born of water and the Spirit” (Jn. 3:5).
It’s also the new life of community in the Church. Just as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are a unified community, He joins us together in a community of loving and serving each other. We live in that community here at Hope as we hear God’s Word, receive His Sacrament, and care for one another, always learning in humility to count others more significant than ourselves (see Phil. 2:3). We also live in that community as we say farewell and Godspeed to brothers and sisters whom God has placed here these past several years—the Palmer family. Even as they must leave us, we still remain in the same family, the same community, of Jesus’ Church. Yes, we need each other, just as we need the Trinity in Unity. When our Triune God lovingly rescues us from sin and death, He also binds us together in His community called the Church.
God’s singular plan of making us, saving us, and keeping us holy comes from the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. As St. Paul says: “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” and “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:1, 5). Even today the Spirit delivers that peace with the Father in the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus. So, our lifelong prayer, indeed our way of life, echoes the hymn: “My Maker, hold me in Your hand; O Christ, forgiven let me stand; Blest Comforter, do not depart; With faith and love enrich my heart” (LSB 876:4). Amen.