Text: Matthew 28:16-20
Date: The Holy Trinity + 6/11/17
Who is God? We do not begin with the question of only whether there is a God since we have two reliable sources of evidence or information about God available to all. And the first is what is called the natural knowledge of God. Romans 1:20 says, “For [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” I usually put it this way: everyone has it built in, or we say written on our hearts or in our DNA, first the awareness that there is a God. “Where did everything come from?” “Where did I come from?’ But there is a limit to our natural knowledge of God for we cannot discover His essence or attitudes other than coming to the conclusion that “He is mighty and He must be mad at us.” Hence every religion’s system of sacrifices to appease this angry God. For that the second necessary and reliable source of information about God is God’s own Word, the revelation of Himself in the inspired Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
I like the three readings appointed for today for together they tell the whole story. First, that God created us. God created everything but Himself and created everything out of nothing. How did you come to be? You had nothing to do with it. Ever since God set into motion the divine command, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” He continues in that way to create every human being. The first reading from Genesis tells of our creation.
Then the second reading tells how God has redeemed or saved us from sin and death. St. Peter puts into short sentences the entire plan of the death and resurrection of Christ for our salvation, the salvation of the whole world.
Thirdly, today’s Gospel tells how this knowledge of and faith in God comes to all people, namely, by means of the ministry of the Word, the ministry of the Holy Church throughout the World; the ministry of administering the sacrament of Holy Baptism and the ministry of teaching and preaching God’s Word, His entire Word by which God reveals His nature, being, will and glory.
This is Trinity Sunday. No human being has ever or would ever come up with a “triune” God! Hence the many efforts to deny it. But here, from the very start, God reveals this fact. You notice, as in today’s Introit, often the Bible refers to God as Lord spelled with small capital letters. When you see that form of printing our translations are saying they are translating the divine name of God sometimes translated Jehovah or as we prefer the Hebrew pronunciation “Yahweh.” But now notice that in Genesis 1 it refers not to the Lord but only to “God.” “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” “And God said, ‘Let there be….’” The word here in Hebrew is “Elohim.” And there, right off the bat we learn the mystery of the Trinity. For this is a plural word, yet it is translated as a singular. There is a plurality in God. In verse 2 we hear about the Spirit of God. And most mysteriously is the conversation God was having within Himself at the creation of human beings, saying, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” So the first thing we must say about God and our relationship with Him is that He is the creator, our creator.
Not much further into Genesis then we learn of the fall into sin with the result of death. Yet this God is not only the all-powerful creator and judge who is to be feared, but we are to learn that He has harnessed His power with His love. God is love. In fact He loved His fallen creation so much that He came into our world to rescue us, to free us from the grip of sin and death and restore eternal life in loving fellowship with Him. So it was that the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity was “incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man” so that He now is both God and man.
We heard the second half of St. Peter’s Pentecost sermon where he proclaims that this man, Jesus of Nazareth, came ultimately to die for us, “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God,” being crucified on the cross. But this Jesus God raised up, “loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”
Finally, then, we hear the most explicit words of the doctrine of the Trinity in today’s Gospel. The risen Jesus appeared to the apostles one last time before His ascension and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” that is, the Son of God, true God and true Man in one Person. This is the crowning goal of the Gospel. Our sermon title reflects this coming from the hymn,
At the name of Jesus
Ev’ry knee shall bow,
Ev’ry tongue confess Him
King of glory now. (LSB 512)
The apostles were then given their marching orders as He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” All people are God’s creation. All people are to receive God’s salvation. This is accomplished through the mighty Word of God. The same mighty Word by which God created everything now must deliver the Good News of salvation to everyone in every corner of the world.
We are all familiar with the baptism of repentance begun by John the Baptist. Baptism was around for a long time serving different purposes. But it is only here where we are commanded to “make disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” In that command Jesus instituted baptism as the sacrament of initiation where God with the water and His Word adopts us as His own and creates the gift of saving faith in us.
So we baptize everyone. But then there is also teaching. We baptize infants and then teach them what their baptism means. Normally we turn that around for adults. But the teaching is to be of “all that I have commanded you.” And so this teaching takes a lifetime.
Jesus is our only connection with God. As that hymn says, He “from the beginning Was the mighty Word.” At His voice creation Sprang at once to sight…. Humbled for a season, He came to free us from our sins. Now risen from the dead He lives and reigns at the throne of Godhead. By faith He becomes enthroned in our hearts. Looking for His final return “our hearts confess Him King of glory now.”
Glory then to Jesus,
Who, the Prince of light,
To a world in darkness
Brought the gift of sight;
Praise to God the Father;
In the Spirit’s love
Praise we all together
Him who reigns above.