“Only, Only, Only”
SERMON: The Holy Trinity May 30, 2021
“Only, Only, Only”
Have you ever woken up and just not felt or acted like yourself? Ever got up in the morning and been especially grumpy? Ever get up and been in an especially good mood? I’m guessing that is rarer. Have you ever noticed this same thing in someone else—that they just weren’t being themselves? Have you ever said to someone, “Hey, that’s just not like you”? We know who people are by what they do. What we do is a measure of who we are.
This is true of God also. We know God by what He does. Do you want to know God? We can’t just go somewhere and find God and then take Him apart and find out what He is made of. No, we know Him by the Holy Spirit (we talked about that last week). We know Him by what we read in the Bible. We especially know Him by what He does, by His actions. He shows us who He is by what He does. He reveals Himself to us in His saving work, and in His Word which He spoke to us. Today we focus on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and as we do, we are reminded that we are saved Only by the Triune God, Only by the Triune God, Only by the Triune God.
You may have noticed our Old Testament lesson was from Isaiah. The reading for Trinity Sunday used to be from Deuteronomy 6:4-9:
4″Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
God invited His Old Testament people to trust in and confess Him. He did not do this so that He would feel better about Himself. He didn’t do that because His ego needed the boost. God did this, invites His people to trust and confess Him, because He loves His people. He knows that there is only one place to turn for help in our lives and difficulties: to the one true God. While lots of people do not see this, God knows there is no Allah, there is no Buddha, there is no Vishnu. There is no God but the True God, the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All others are false gods, idols that fail and disappoint. If you want to know God, there is only One.
Some folks don’t see this. There are many who say these are all different names for the same being. Not true. It works kind of like this: Say you want to buy a new grill, and you want a Weber Grill. And you go to the store and they have one that LOOKS like a Weber, but is actually a Happy Cooker (They used to make those a few years back). Not going to work out for you, because the thing just doesn’t work as well. If you want a Weber, buy a Weber.
Or say you want to buy a BMW and you go to a car lot and they have a car that looks like a BMW but is a KIA (Stinger), or Hyundai. Now these cars are acceptable cars, but if you want to buy a BMW you need to get a car made by Bavarian Motor Works, or Bayerische Motoren Werke.
And if you want to believe in God, you need to believe in the only one that really is, The True God, the Triune God. And again, for those who think all these are different names for the same thing…uh uh.
When we turn to the Gospel reading, we see Jesus in His famous discussion with Nicodemus. Let’s review these verses:
3:1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. . . .13No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
16″For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Now recognizing that there is only one God, we still want to know and still need to know what He is like. We must know what kind of a God He is. In the Gospel reading, Jesus leads Nicodemus to learn who this one God is: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Nicodemus understands that Jesus comes from God the Father (v 2). Jesus points out to Nicodemus that He is the Son (v 13). And then there’s the matter of the Spirit, the one who comes with water (v 5). Jesus is talking about the whole Holy Trinity here, if you don’t see that. And what holds all three together is love.
In other religions, we see gods depicted who are spiteful, temperamental, lacking patience, and generally acting like we do. The real God is different. John writes, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8), and in the baptism and transfiguration of Jesus, the Father says, “This is my Son, whom I love.” The God who is a Trinity is a God of love. Thus He is “being Himself” when He sends His Son to die on the cross and rise again, and we can trust and rejoice in His never-changing love. God loves us!
So we know God is a God for us because He is a God who loves us. But I also know it is hard to figure out this three persons, one God thing. Let me try and put it to you this way. Erica and I had a lot of fun a few years ago when Christopher was being taught math the Common Core way, and there was nothing common about it. It was different. Math can get a little weird, no matter which method you were taught. For example, math whizzes came up with something called the imaginary number which is the square root of -1. Well, math in the Bible is not always the same as our math. Marriage is an example. The Bible says that because of the God-given love in marriage, the two partners become one. In marriage, between a man and a woman, 1+1=1. So it is with God Himself. Because God is God, who reveals Himself in three persons in Scripture, the three persons are united in one God. Father, Son and Holy Ghost. One God. 1+1+1=1.
While we cannot really understand this, just like I never under stood how i squared =-1, we do know this is how God is because the Bible says so. As Luther pointed out, He creates us, He saves us from our sins, and He brings us faith, forgiveness, and eternal life like we talked about last week. The Bible is clear: Our God, the True and Only God, is the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and it is a good thing for us that He is this way. He is the God we need to give us what we need and to save us from our sins.
I ran across a story about a little boy who, at the age of five, decided he wanted to go and meet God. Now this was a wise little boy and he knew that going to meet God would mean taking a long trip. That’s why he had the wisdom and foresight to pack his little suitcase with two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and, in case he got thirsty, not one but two cans of root beer. The little boy who wanted to meet God started out boldly. He walked a great distance, a whole four blocks, and found himself at the city park. There, in the park, he saw an old man sitting on a bench. The boy sat down next to the old man and, thirsty from his long travels, opened his suitcase and retrieved a root beer. He was about to take a sip, when out of the corner of his eye, he saw the old man watching him.
Now, this five-year-old boy knew that he was not supposed to talk to strangers, so, without saying a word, he took one of his root beers and offered it to the man. The old man smiled a big smile, took the root beer, opened it, and drank deeply. They sat in silence, just drinking, until the boy remembered his sandwiches. He was hungry; perhaps the old man was hungry, too. The boy reached into his case and took out the sandwiches – one for him, one for the old man. The old man smiled again. So they sat eating and drinking, without either saying a word. The boy went home. It had been a good day, and his mother asked why he looked so satisfied. The boy said, “I went to the park today and I had lunch with God. And you know what, Mom, God has the biggest smile I’ve ever seen.”
Now as the boy was telling about his visit with God, the old man returned to his son’s home. That’s where he had been living since his wife of 53-years had died. The old man walked in, smiling from ear to ear. His daughter-in-law noting the smile, asked, “It looks like you’ve had a good day. What happened?” And the old man said, “I went to the park to talk to God and had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with God. You know, God’s much younger than I thought.”
I like that story. It’s a nice story. Of course, there is a problem with that story. You see, the old man with the big smile, he wasn’t God. And the boy, the boy with the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – he wasn’t God, either. Oh, I’m not saying that they weren’t nice people. They were that; but they weren’t God.
If you want to really see God, if you really want to know God, it’s necessary to turn to His Holy Book, which is The Holy Bible. (Not the Koran, not the Sutras, not the Vedas.) And the Bible says God is an Awesome God, a Loving God, and the Triune God. He creates us, saves us, and makes us holy. He is the Only, Only, Only God.
In the Name of Jesus.