Summary: Trinity Sunday is of highest importance; it causes us to center on the core of our faith. To reject what is presented today is to choose eternal death over life. Far from being irrelevant, today is as practical as drinking water.
Sermon: Salvation, Revelation, and Adoration
Text: Rev 4:1-11, John 3:1-15
Occasion: Trinity Sunday
Who: Mark Woolsey
Where: Arbor House
When: Sunday, May 22, 2005
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We all know that the most important day of the church year is Christmas, when Jesus is revealed to the Jews. More important than that is Epiphany, when He is revealed to the Gentiles. The ultimate in importance is the next season, Lent, when we truly repent of our sins. Higher still is Palm Sunday when our Lord is honored by the populous as King, only to be topped by Easter and the resurrection. Having reached the top, the church year climbs higher still at the Ascension and Pentecost. All kidding aside, I’m being a bit fasicous because each feast day cannot be the most important. I would like to make a case, however, that what we celebrate this Sunday is of highest importance. Today we celebrate not so much an event but an illumination, not so much a feat but a fact, not a victory but a vision. Today causes us to center on the core of our faith. To reject what is presented today is to choose eternal death over life. Far from being irrelevant, today is as practical as drinking water. Today is about salvation, revelation, and adoration. Today is Trinity Sunday.
The Scriptures chosen by the church for today are somewhat suprising at first glance. Indeed, concerning the Gospel lesson, the great reformer Martin Luther said in his 1532 sermon, "I don’t know why this Gospel lesson was selected to be read on this Trinity Sunday, for it really doesn’t deal with the subject of Trinity." Then he goes on to give a masterful exegesis, focusing on what and how one is born again. Possibly the most famous passage in all of Scripture is found in this chapter,
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Dr Luther is right in that this passage is about salvation, yet hovering just below the radar the doctrine of the Trinity permeates it. In these verses we find that God sends, Jesus saves, and the Holy Spirit gives birth. Again we see that God reigns, Jesus descends, and the Spirit moves. The claims of each Person is that of deity, for who else rules, who else can save, and who else can give second birth? Yet it is utter blasphemy to confess anything other than,
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!
Here we have a great mystery that we cannot begin to penetrate, but neither should we shrink back or be ashamed of it. The church rightly asserts this "mysterium tremendum" all throughout her liturgy. Every Sunday you and I repeatedly invoke Father, Son, and Holy Spirit until it becomes warp and woof of our very spiritual being. If you can remember no other doctrine, no other truth out of Scripture, remember this: God is one in substance, and three in persons. The Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Spirit, and yet each is fully God almighty, not simply 1/3 of God. Nor are there three Gods. God forbid that we should ever even hint at that! Why is this so important for us to not only know, but also confess? Because the two great themes of this chapter, regeneration and Trinity, are intricately woven together. To reject one is to lose them both. The Fathers of the church understood this. Listen to St Athanasius:
Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic Faith. Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.
While this truth, as impossible as it may be to understand, jumps out of John 3, grabs us by the shoulders, and forces its way into our faith, I would like to focus the remainder of our time on the other passage for today. I am tempted to say about this passage what Martin Luther did about John 3, when he questioned it’s appropriateness for today. Indeed, Jesus is not even explicitly mentioned at all. But this chapter in Revelation is so rich that ignoring it would be like someone putting a piece of Lindz’s 70% dark chocolate on the table in front of me and expecting me to not eat it. It’s not going to happen. I am indebted to David Chilton’s commentary on this book, "Days of Vengeance" for his many insights and connections that he brings out. It is the best commentary, not only on Revelation but on on any book of the Bible, that I have read.