Monday, May 27, 2013

Sermon - Holy Trinity - John 8:48-59

Holy Trinity Sunday – May 26th, 2013
Messiah, La Crescent, MN
"Do You Know God?"

Friends, do you know God?  Now don't answer too quickly.  In light of our Gospel reading from John 8, it's a question worth pondering.  The Pharisees thought they knew God, but Jesus said they didn't.  But he does.  He calls them liars.  He confesses the truth.

Today, who does know God, and for that matter how do we know him and what do we know about him?  Who is God, anyway?  Which god are we talking about?  Buddha?  Allah?  Yahweh?  Is there a difference?  Are they all the same?

All of these questions are also important and appropriate on Trinity Sunday, in which we confess the Triune God, the God who is three and also one.  We take great pains to confess what Scripture teaches about this mystery, but not to go a step further than God's word goes.  So we know God by his word, and by the word that we confess in our creeds.

In many and various ways God spoke to our fathers of old.  But now in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.  Jesus.  Jesus is the exact image of the Father.  He says here, “before Abraham was, I am”.  He claims the name of Yahweh.  Perhaps the clearest confession of his own divinity in all of Scripture.  So if you want to see the Father, look to Jesus.  “No one comes to the Father but by me”, Jesus says.  And anyone who has seen him has seen the Father.  And through Jesus we have access to the Father, are adopted as sons by the Father, receive an inheritance from the Father.

So too with the Spirit.  If you want to know the Spirit's will, look to the words of Christ.  For there the Spirit will always lead you.  If you want to know the Spirit's power, it is found in the words and promises of Christ, in the Gospel, in the forgiveness of sins won at the cross and poured out at the font and served to you in the meal.  Here the Spirit works, to bring us Christ, and to therefore bring us life.

We act as if we don't know all of this.  We act as if we don't know God.  We neglect and despise the Father, by abusing and taking for granted the manifold gifts of his creation.  We think we sit over it, as if it is our own – lording our dominion over created things instead of seeking to be faithful stewards.  It's my money, not yours, God.  I earned it.  It's my body, I'll do what I want with it.  It's not your temple, created and redeemed.  And so we tear away at life, and sin even against the people God creates for us to share a life together – our own family.  We misuse our reason and senses.  We live thankslessly.  For these sins of the first article, forgive us, oh Father!

But we sin also against God the Son.  When we would shove Jesus off the cross to make ourselves the martyr, as if our own petty sacrifices carried nearly enough value to pay the price.  When we glorify ourselves as savior or as partner in salvation – Jesus did his part, now I've got to do mine.  This steals the glory that is rightly his for being the only sacrifice worthy, the only one strong enough to save, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  But we would often prefer the god of me, who explains away the sins of my own.

And we sin against the Spirit.  Yes we despise the gifts he brings.  We get bored with the Holy Word of God.  We are jaded at the table when receiving the very flesh and blood of Christ.  We ignore the guidance and direction the Spirit would give us, deciding it's more important to go have brunch at the diner.

Who knows God?  Certainly not the Jews with their manmade laws and legalisms.  Who knows God?  Certainly not the tax collectors and prostitutes with their greed and impurity.  What sinner of any time and place can claim to know God.  Not even Lutherans.  Not even pastors.  Not even you or I.

But he knows us.  He knows us, of course, for he knows all things.  He knows your sins – the ones that burden you, and the ones you don't even realize you do.  He knows what you should be doing that you don't, and don't even know.

But he chooses to know us in mercy.  To know us so well as to become one of us.  To know our sorrows, our griefs.  Jesus comes to know God's wrath over sin so that we would know it not.  He swallows up death so that we would not see or even taste it, and he invites us to know it, and to know him, through his word.

Knowing God isn't so much about knowing him, as it is about being known by him.  He knows us, for he created us.  And he knows our flesh is fallen.  He knows our need for salvation, and provides for it in Christ.  He knows we need his comfort and guidance and peace, and so he sends us the Spirit, who brings us to know Christ through his word.

Abraham knew it – by faith.  And we too, children of Abraham, by faith.  We know the true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The one God who creates and redeems and sanctifies.  The coeternal, triune, undivided majesty.  The one who was “I am” before Abraham ever was, and the one who will be forever and ever.

We don't know him in the sense that we understand him.  He is far above and beyond that.  But we know what he tells us of himself, and that from his word.  What we know, we confess.  What we confess, we believe and teach.

And there are those that do not know, who have not heard, who have yet to believe.  To them we also confess.  For Christ would know them too.  They are friends and neighbors close to us, who live as men without hope.  They are strangers in far off lands who are lost in falsehoods and the devil's snares.  They are people created by the Father, for whom Jesus bled and died, and who the Spirit would call to faith through the Gospel.  We pray that in some small way the Triune God would use us in service to them.

So back to our original question.  Do you know God?  Maybe we could answer this way.  According to my sinful flesh, I don't know him at all.  But in Christ, God has known me in mercy.  In the Spirit he creates me anew, to know him and serve him and love and trust him forever.  It's not so much that you know him, but that he makes himself known to you in Jesus Christ.  To him be all the glory, with the Father and the Spirit, this Trinity Sunday and always, One God, forever, Amen.

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