Why Creeds? Why the Trinity? First Saint Johns May 31, 2015

[click on the above link for the audio version of this sermon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit, and all those who know One God, in Three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit said … AMEN!!

Today is “Trinity” Sunday, this caps off the Easter/Ascension/Pentecost part of the calendar, this is when we remember that there is One God, the Great Shema. The central prayer in the Jewish prayerbook, and we can say “Hear oh Israel the Lord is God, the Lord is One.” From the beginning there has been One God, but we know this as the “Godhead”, one God, made up of three person, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. As the Introduction in your bulletin this morning points out, the word Trinity, doesn’t appear in the Bible. Quite often when you get someone who wants to debate Christianity, they will throw that one up as some kind of a trump. This isn’t going to be terribly charitable, but if brains were dynamite that person wouldn’t have enough to blow his nose. Anyway, No! The word simply describes what we read in the Bible. Certainly we see the Trinity in the narrative of the Bible. We see God the Father, certainly as He is portrayed in our reading in Isaiah, high and lifted up. Many people like to play around with the idea that well, the Father was portrayed in the Old Testament, but not the Son or the Holy Spirit. We would make the case that there are many, what are called Christophanies throughout the OT, for example Wil Pounds describes in Joshua 5: 13-15 when a mysterious armed man shows up at the Israelites camp, who identifies Himself as the “captain of the host of the Lord”:  “Joshua immediately recognized the supernatural character of this visitor. Joshua was in the presence of God. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, ‘What has my lord to say to his servant?'” (v. 14b).” As Pounds points out, this mysterious man removes any doubt of who He is, and we say this is a Christophany, because first “Joshua fell on his face and worshipped”.[1] We only “worship” God. Jesus in His incarnation often received worship from people. Remember when Thomas fell on his knees and said: “My Lord and my God!” (ESV) But the “captain of the host of the Lord”, also directed Joshua to; “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” What other episode in the Bible does that remind you of? … Yes, Yahweh telling Moses to do the same thing in Exodus 3:5. The “captain of the host of the Lord” is clearly telling Joshua that he is in the presence of God, the Incarnated Person of the Godhead and that would be … Jesus!

We see the Holy Spirit all through the Bible as well, Genesis 1:2, you can’t get much earlier in the Bible than that, says: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (ESV) There are two other references to the “Spirit of God” in Genesis. King David in Psalm 139:7 writes: “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?”

Then we have writings that we can readily visualize, Jesus’ baptism, Mark 3:16-17 “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Much the same again at the Transfiguration, where Jesus clearly appears as divinity, with the Father affirming that “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” The Holy Spirit becomes a very tangible presence, as the result of Jesus’ promise on the Day of Pentecost. Now that Jesus has died for our justification, now we are fit to be indwelt by God the Holy Spirit.

Another issue that is raised is about “creeds” in general. It has become trendy today to dismiss “creeds” and/or “confessions”, which is really the same thing except for some odd reason, people who should know better try to divide them. We are a “confessional body”, here, at First Saint Johns and in the LCMS as a whole. We confess the creeds, when you take your confirmation or membership vows, your vows are in the context of the Apostles Creed “Do you believe in God the Father Almighty” and it goes from there, you respond reciting the Apostle’s Creed. You promise to abide by the historical beliefs of the Christian Church. Many today, “oh we don’t need confessions and creeds” makes you wonder what the point is for them. Do they or do they not believe in God the Father Almighty, Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord and in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Catholic/Christian church. You are promising to abide by the fundamental precepts of being a Christian. If you’re not doing that, then you really have to ask yourself whether you’re in a Christian Church, whether you take the entire concept of Christianity seriously and what you’re really doing here. Today we remember the Athanasian Creed. For obvious reasons we don’t recite this creed every week, but we do take time to remember it at least once a year. The church has had to deal with heretical teachings since the beginning, people who have tried to undermine Jesus’ teachings with human rationalization. The early church especially stepped up to answer those heresies and didn’t worry about taking the hits from the contemporary society. The church is not here to be dictated to by the world, the church is to point to the truth in Jesus Christ and that is what the early church did in the Apostles Creed dated to about 200 AD, Nicean Creed 325 AD and then the Athanasian Creed about 500. All to answer heresies then, and certainly to answer them in this day and age. As the insert in your bulletin reads: “The Athanasian Creed declares that its teachings concerning the Holy Trinity and our Lord’s incarnation are the “catholic faith”…what the true Church of all times and all places has confessed.”

We subscribe to Creeds and Confessions in order to stay true and faithful to the one true catholic church, that church that was established by Jesus. If we want to commune with Jesus, then certainly that communion has to be with His Body, which is the church. These Creeds and Confessions unite us with Christians all over the world who truly know Jesus and His teachings, His Lordship and salvation in His church. We are one with Jesus’ martyrs through history and those who are being martyred at this very minute. We are one through the Creeds and Confessions with His disciples, His Confessors, His Missionaries, His teachers, all those who are His now and through history. The Holy Spirit has given us these Creeds and Confessions to give us our faith that points us to Jesus Christ as Lord of our life and our Savior to life eternal. If we forget these Creeds we set ourselves up to be our own teachers and disciples, to make ourselves the object of worship to decide how we worship and who we worship. Please take this insert home, take out your journal, read through the Creed and write about how this keeps you pointed to the One true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom.

[1] http://www.abideinchrist.com/messages/jos5v13.html

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