Sermon for Holy Trinity, May 22, 2016
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Sermon Theme: “Who Is Wisdom Anyway?”
(Sources: Anderson’s, Cycle C, Preaching Workbook; Brokhoff’s, Series C, Preaching Workbook; original ideas; Emphasis Online Commentaries; Online Religious Jokes; Explanation to Luther’s Small Catechism; Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 26, Part 3, May 22-August 21, 2016, Series C)
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today is Holy Trinity Sunday. How do you explain something that is essential but unexplainable? In today’s world, many people do not even know who Jesus is, — like the little boy is VBS who asked me who the naked man hanging on the pole was. So how do you explain Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three persons, one God.
There’s the story about the pastor whose financially-pinched congregation cut his salary. To make ends meet, he had to take a job delivering pizzas. He tried to make the extra job part of his ministry by telling folks about Jesus.
On the second day on the job, he was walking past a big construction site when he heard the workers using the foulest language he’d ever heard. So he stopped and asked the man closest to him, “Do you know Jesus Christ?”
The worker turned to look at his fellow workers and shouted, “Hey, does anybody know Jesus Christ?” He paused for a minute, and then announced, “His pizza is here.”
To a child who attends Sunday School and DOES know who Jesus is, the Bible can still be very confusing.
Having just joined a church and being a new Christian, Joey’s mom asked Joey what he learned in Sunday School.
“Well, Mom,” he replied, “our teacher told us how God sent Moses behind enemy lines on a rescue mission to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. When he got to the Red Sea, he had his engineers build a portable bridge, and all the people walked across safely. He used his cell phone to call headquarters and order an air strike. They sent in bombers to blow up the bridge after all the Israelites went across safely and the Egyptians drowned.”
“Now, Joey, is that REALLY what your teacher taught you?’ his mother asked.
“Well, no, Mom, but if I told it the way the teacher did, you’d never believe it!”
Even God’s miracles like the parting of the Red Sea and Jesus not only walking on water, but also changing water into wine are nothing compared to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
There is no particular place in the Bible you can turn to, to explain the Holy Trinity. We can cite chapters and verses regarding the gifts of the Spirit, justification by faith, etc., but there is no one place in Scripture to cite for an explanation of what Christians believe about the Holy Trinity, three persons, one God.
We can cite Scriptures that talk about the Father, and Scriptures that talk about the Son, and about the Holy Spirit, — in both the Old and the New Testaments, — but not one that mentions “triune,” “trinity,” or “Trinitarianism.”
The early Church Fathers came up with the Athanasian Creed as an attempt to explain the Trinity. For most folks, the Athanasian Creed doesn’t help much.
I hate to use the jargon of theologians, but it is important to discuss the doctrine of the Trinity, and the terms I’m going to mention, help us in that. “Monotheism” is the belief that there is only one God. “Polytheism” is the belief in multiple gods, like the Greeks and Romans, — they had a god of love, a god of war, a god of the sea, a god of the underworld, etc.
The Trinity is the doctrine that identifies a Christian No other religion holds to or teaches the Trinity. The Christian confesses that Jesus is God, the Holy Spirit is God, the Father is God.
As Christians, we believe in monotheism, but we are not Unitarians who believe that Jesus is not God and the Holy Spirit is not God. Instead we are Trinitarians, believing that all three persons are indeed God. Because of that, some non-Christians accuse us of believing in polytheism. So you can see why it’s important to discuss the doctrine.
We often explain the Trinity by saying that in God’s relationship to man, the Father is God above us, the Son is God with us, and the Holy Spirit is God in us. And we often explain God’s work by saying that God the Father’s work is Creation, God the Son’s work is redemption, and God the Holy Spirit’s work is sanctification. However that paradigm is too simplistic; God is far more complicated than that.
The Apostle Paul clarifies this for us in Colossians 1:16, where he says, “By Him [Jesus] all things were created, in heaven and on earth.” You see, before creation, Jesus was with God the Father, and all things were created through Him. Thus Jesus is the figure of Wisdom mentioned in our sermon text, the master workman who is with the Father before the world was created
The Father delighted in Jesus, and Jesus rejoiced before the Father. The world itself was created with exuberance and joy. Father, Son, and Spirit worked together to bring all things into being, and after the world was created, God called all things good.
Some way-out theologians like to confuse the doctrine of who God is by adding a fourth person to the Holy Trinity, the fourth person being “Sophia,” the Greek word for “wisdom,” personified in our sermon text from Proverbs as a woman. So they have the Father, the Son,. the Holy Spirit, and Sophia, three men, one woman. What a wacko idea!
Our sermon text from Proverbs begins, “Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise HER voice . . ‘To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man . . . the LORD possessed me at the beginning of His work, the first of his acts of old.’’’ In the text, “wisdom” is called a woman, but she is not one of the four persons of the Holy Quadruplets.
Who is “wisdom” anyway? The answer of course is Jesus. We see Jesus as wisdom in John 1:1-2, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning . . .” Jesus is the Word, and the Word is Wisdom. Jesus promised He would send His Holy Spirit after He ascended into Heaven, and that Holy Spirit brings us His wisdom.
Although the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is never mentioned in any chapter and verse in the Bible, each Person of the Trinity is mentioned numerous times in both Testaments. So Scripturally, there is no argument FOR Unitarianism, and certainly not for “Quadrupletarianism.”
God’s Holy Word introduces us to the Holy Spirit on the very first page. Genesis 1:1-2 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and THE SPIRIT of God was hovering over the waters.”
In Deuteronomy 32:6, Moses says to the people, “O foolish and unwise people, is He not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you.”
In Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah prophesies, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel [Immanuel means ‘God with us’].”
There are many, many more verses in Holy Scripture that identify the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as God. There are Scriptures that identify Wisdom as the Word and the Word as Jesus. That Wisdom is a woman is no different from Jesus comparing Himself to a Mother Hen.
Wisdom is God’s creative Spirit that beckons God’s children to plug into His creative wisdom. God’s wisdom cries out, “The earth is the Lord’s, use it wisely as a gift from God.” Wisdom cries, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, keep it holy.” Wisdom pleads, “your brother and sisters are also created in God’s image; love and respect each person, regardless of differences.”
Every day we hear on the radio or read in the newspaper the stupid things leaders of our government do, and the outrageous things American politicians say. Obviously, they’re not listening to the cries of God’s wisdom. But it’s not just dumb politicians; it’s also people like you and me when we permit our selfishness and sinfulness to turn a deaf ear to wisdom’s cry, or when we listen to the world’s distorted wisdom that openly defies and rejects God’s wisdom.
The Father has given us the Ten Commandments, the Son has given us His life for our redemption, and the Holy Spirit speaks God’s wisdom to us. Close your ears to the world’s mutilation of God’s wisdom, and tell the Holy Spirit, “You bet I’m listening!” Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.