Tag Archives: Trinity Sunday

Picking a Fight with Jesus John 8: 48-59 First St Johns

[for the audio version click the above link]

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 and are creations of, saved by, sustained by and inspired by the all-powerful eternal God-head said, … AMEN!!

“Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” At least for the guys, there were things that you could say on the playground, or wherever for that matter, that if you were looking to pick a fight you would say this. Straight to the point, these are fighting words in first century Israel. Same kind of principle on the playground, or in a locker room or in a bar. Kind of in the same vein with someone saying something about your girlfriend/wife, mother. The people who were confronting Jesus at this point were looking for a fight. They had people in His time, as now, who had nothing better to do then go out and look for fights, and many of the people who confronted Jesus were just those kind of people. They were just looking for a fight and they saw Jesus then, the same way many people see Him today, sort of a cream puff, a Rabbi therefore He must be a Poindexter/intellectual, because bullies like nice soft targets and that’s what these people were, bullies and that is what Jesus encountered so many times in His incarnation.

Now bullies expect their targets to pretty much just turn and run, this kind of mentality really can’t cope with reality, they’re not about to get into a deep discussion. They are the ones who today who sit around and smoke marijuana, drink too much alcohol, and just want cheap amusement. That is a lot of the world. They had no idea what they were talking about, probably didn’t even know who a Samaritan really was, or a demon for that matter. But Samaritans at that time were, in popular opinion, the most contemptible, dirty, inferior, any kind of pejorative you could label them with, that was the Samaritan to the Jew.

Samaritans are part of Scripture in a few instances and always labeled with a negative connotation, or they feel themselves are somehow low-grade. Recall the woman at the well. Samaritans really did not have the kind of animosity towards the Jews that the Jews had toward them. So the woman at the well, John 4, was surprised that Jesus would even acknowledge her existence, let alone talk to her or, horrors!!, touch His water with her hands. Jesus, obviously, didn’t feel that kind of animosity toward her, and she became one of the earliest evangelists for Jesus.

These guys picking a fight with Jesus and they feel justified because obviously Jesus is not one of them, another sure sign of bullies, and they can’t tolerate anyone who would be so obviously different. Ya, much like the world today. Talks a good game, doesn’t know what they’re talking about, just trying to pick fights in order to look good with their little gang, but has no intention of getting caught up in any kind of deep/intellectual discussion. They can’t function at that basis and they’re just not going to.

This is Trinity Sunday, the day when, if it’s not clear yet, we make exceedingly clear just who Jesus is. Jesus is God, God the Son. He is one of three of the infinite, transcendent, immutable, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, eternal God head, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All of them God, all equal and individual and all in unity in the Godhead, one God. There is nothing more powerful in the universe, then our almighty God! So when Jesus is standing in front of the town buffoons or when we are reading His words 2,000 years later, the Creator of all creation is telling us what we need to know. If we treat Him patronizingly and just kind of play around His words, we are playing with fire and moving ourselves away from Him who is all powerful, moving away from relationship with Him and moving toward giving the world the same power that He, the Great I AM, really has. When we trust the world’s power be it in business, education, government, entertainment, we are trusting in something that will not only fail us, but will lead us to destruction. You can do that, but it’s simply the fast track to Hell. When, not if, the world fails you, it will leave you bitter, angry, and lost, out of connection with the real God.

You will have discussions with people to the effect that Jesus never said that He was God. That is nonsense, it is a completely disingenuous denial of what Jesus said. For those kinds of discussions, this is one of the passages that you can refer to.

The men who sat down to hammer out the Athanasian Creed had to contend with the same disingenuousness that we deal with today. The difference is that they wrote this in 325 AD, the Christian church had only just become the official church of the empire, but there were still plenty of people around who believed in all sorts of different gods/idols and there were even all sorts of people who called themselves “Christians” who were all over the map as to who Jesus was/is.

There were a lot of oddball ideas even for Christians. For example there should be a chart in your bulletin, it’s in Latin, but all it says is that Pater/Father, Filius/Son and Spiritus Sanctus/Holy Spirit, are/est, in the middle, God. They are non-est, not the other person of the God head. There are some people out there today who try to make the case that each person of the Godhead is their own individual trinity, making it into a twelvinty, I guess.

At this point, 325 AD, something we talked about at the Men’s Network breakfast yesterday, Constantine had reunified the Roman Empire and had made Christianity the official religion of the empire, this was over all the other belief systems of the time and there were a lot. Was Constantine a nice, all-on board Christian man? Ehh probably not, he was, eventually baptized, his lifestyle was not that of the exemplar Christian. Many would say that it was a pragmatic, even cynical move on his part to make the empire unified in Christianity. His mother, Helen, was a devout Christian woman and many would claim that she kept him in line. Point is, that, perhaps, thinking he could make the empire more unified, he finds that there are all sorts of flavors of Christians who are just as contentious with each other as with other beliefs. Since Constantine is, effectively, the head of the empire’s church, he decides he doesn’t want the conflict and forces the real Christians to sit down together and hammer out the tenents of their beliefs in order to unify Christians. That kinda/sorta worked to his purposes, but more importantly it did motivate the Christians of that time to really work out what being a Christian was and more specifically, based on Scripture, articulate who Jesus is, that He is true God along with the Father and Holy Spirit. You will find another insert that gives you the entire Athanasian Creed. You will see how much they tried to define, the finite trying to define the infinite, the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The reason we have this passage for Trinity Sunday is to, again, point you to one of many passages where Jesus does declare Himself to be God. While He doesn’t straight out say “hey I’m God and you guys need to get with it”, He does make references that to first-century Jews say, without question, “listen, I’m God.”

Any good Jew of the time would, without qualification, say that he was a child of Abraham. Ok, that’s fine Christians would say that they are in the spiritual line of Abraham too. Jesus, however, says sure Abraham is great, but Abraham was only a man. In fact, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” Woe, wait a minute Abraham lived about two thousand years before Jesus, how could Abraham know about Jesus and why would Jesus dare to presume to claim that Abraham rejoiced about Jesus’ day? There’s only one way that could happen and that is if Jesus had been there with Abraham, told Abraham what was going to happen and knew his reaction. The only being that was capable of doing that was …? God! But to make extra special sure that the Jews He was talking to, knew exactly what He was talking about Jesus said: “”Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Dr Paul Arand gives a good explanation: “But what does it mean for God to say ‘I AM’? Often this is translated as Lord. And rightly so. He is the one who rules, He is the one who rules over all things. There is none who is like him. But why is there none like him? And why does he rule over all things?… It is because he is a more powerful god than all the others?”

“Here is where we need to connect the dots of the narrative. Why is God Lord? Why is he the ‘I Am’? Because he is the Creator! Here we would do well to remember that in Scripture, the title ‘God’ is not a reference to an abstract deity or a philosophical concept of ultimate being or anything like that. It is always rooted in a narrative. … To put it bluntly if you created everything … you are God.’ … So to confess that Jesus is God is to confess that he is the Creator of all things. And for that reason He rules all things.”[1]

You have to understand what is being said between Jesus and His antagonists in terms of first century, Jewish Israel. Not in the context of 21st century English speaking Americans. The people Jesus was talking to knew exactly what He was saying, the penalty for blasphemy was stoning and that is what they started to do, stone Jesus. Jesus made it perfectly clear to them that He was saying He is God, without any doubt. I lived before Abraham, Abraham knows who I AM, and I am calling myself by the name that God told Moses. I AM God! Jesus is God, the Trinity is the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Creator, sustainer and savior of all creation. On this Trinity Sunday go back to those journals, look through John’s Gospel, Jesus makes other references like this. Remember those references, because someone will come to you and tell you that Jesus isn’t really God, how will you answer that person?

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

[1] Dr Charles Arand   “Concordia Journal   Spring 2016 p 139

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