Holy Trinity, 2019
Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center
The Rev. Dr. Jason D. Lane
(Sermon adapted from + the Rev. R. M. Hintze +)
IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. AMEN.
Some people seem to think that they’ve got to make room for God in their lives. But who’s got a room that big? Some people think that they can intellectually wrap their mind around God. But who’s got a mind big enough to wrap around the Infinite Majesty? We may be clever, but after a long discourse on the mystery of our salvation in Christ, all St. Paul can say is “OH!” “OH, THE DEPTH OF THE WEALTH OF THE WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE OF GOD!”
The astronomers say that space goes on forever in every direction, so that it’s infinite, except that it isn’t, because it bends over on itself. Our physicists can give us a complicated explanation for why that is, and we can’t really comprehend it, but it’s perfectly simple to God.
I know, people say, “Why can’t things be simple? I mean: space and time and spirits and sub-atomics, and time lasts longer the faster you move, not to mention the Holy Trinity. Why can’t things be simple?” Thus says the Lord, “They are simple. They’re perfectly simple – to Me.”
It’s all perfectly simple to the God who WORKS ALL THINGS TOGETHER: The billions of accidents that aren’t accidents, and the trillions of our free choices that, from eternity, He’s watched us make, and miracles and sickness and weather and human obedience and human sin and economics and world history and the things you liked and the things you didn’t like at all. And it’s all so simple to God, who WORKS ALL THINGS TOGETHER FOR THE GOOD OF THOSE WHO LOVE HIM. And those who love Him are so often saying, “I don’t see how!” Or as Nicodemus, they say, “How can these things be?” And the Lord says, “I’m not surprised. Your mind is too small.”
Beloved, when there’s room in our hands for the Milky Way, then there’ll be room in our minds for the DEPTH OF THE WEALTH OF THE WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. Until then, as St. Paul says, V. 33] HOW UNSEARCHABLE ARE HIS DECISIONS AND HIS WAYS BEYOND TRACING OUT!
Are they really? Are HIS WAYS really BEYOND TRACING OUT? Scripture says, HE WALKS ON THE WINGS OF THE WIND. I can follow that. Scripture says, HIS PATHS ARE IN THE OCEAN DEPTHS. You can follow that. Good.
Then follow this: God has a Father, Who is God, Who has a Spirit, Who is God. Follow this: God is always fathering God and from Them God is always proceeding. Follow this: CHRIST IS GOD OVER ALL, BLESSED FOREVER; and there is no other God. And THE SPIRIT IS THE LORD; there is no God beside Him. And there is ONE GOD AND FATHER FROM WHOM ALL THINGS COME, and THERE IS NOTHING LIKE Him. HEAR, O ISRAEL, THE LORD OUR GOD, THE LORD IS ONE: who is always being fathered and who is always fathering and who are always pouring out a Spirit and who is always coming forth alive! THE LORD IS ONE, and He is never alone. They, the Three, have always and do always and will always love each Other, vastly, tenderly, limitlessly, and joyously. The Father loves the Son and the Son the Father and the Father the Spirit and the Spirit the Son and the Son the Spirit and the Spirit the Father: and if you’re getting dizzy, it’s due to the altitude. OH, THE HEIGHT!
The Holy Trinity! The Blessed Trinity! The Joyous Trinity! The One who invented dimensions we can’t even comprehend and who bent space back on itself, whatever that means, and who is as far above those kindergarten things AS THE HEAVENS ARE ABOVE THE EARTH: SO ARE HIS WAYS ABOVE OUR WAYS.
St. Paul cries out, as if he were standing with Isaiah in the Temple and saw the LORD, HIGH AND LIFTED UP, “WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD? WHO HAS BEEN HIS ADVISOR? WHO HAS EVER GIVEN TO GOD, THAT GOD SHOULD REPAY HIM? They’re all rhetorical questions. And the Law this Trinity Sunday is that you and I, faced with that mammoth, three-fold Glory – that every one of us has had the gall to answer those rhetorical questions.
WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD? I have, on occasion. WHO HAS BEEN HIS ADVISOR? Who has told Him how and whom He should save and destroy and restore? WHO HAS EVER GIVEN TO GOD THAT GOD SHOULD REPAY HIM? I, at least, expected something for all my hard labor.
WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD? Haven’t I made up my mind what I thought should happen, and so, of course, I knew that that was God’s plan? And when it wasn’t, I got angry. I mean, I’ve barely comprehended some of what He’s actually told us – and I’ve gone ahead with my own guesses about things, speculated about a bunch of things He’s never so much as mentioned. Oh, but I knew what was in His mind, and I acted as if He weren’t here at all. But if He were, this is what He’d say...
In my sinful flesh, I’ve assumed that what He had in mind was to ignore me, or use me for some secret plan of His. But I acted as if I knew all along what that plan was, regardless of what He said to the contrary, no matter how much He’s done to the contrary. WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD? I guess I have.
And WHO HAS BEEN HIS ADVISOR? Haven’t you? Haven’t you reminded Him of things He’s apparently forgotten to take care of? Haven’t you let Him know that something He was doing was really unwise? Haven’t you suggested alternatives to Him that perhaps He hadn’t thought of? In your time, haven’t advised God as to how He ought to act, or how He ought to think, or what He ought to be? WHO HAS BEEN HIS ADVISOR? I guess you have.
And WHO HAS EVER GIVEN TO GOD ANYTHING, THAT GOD SHOULD REPAY HIM? Well, haven’t we all? If we haven’t, then why have we ever told Him that He was being unfair? As if He owed anything to us or to anybody we know? Not as though any Christian would ever talk about Him owing us anything – not out loud. Not as though any Christian would admit to thinking that we’ve given Him enough and it’s somebody else’s turn now, or that we’ve done enough for Him and it’s somebody else’s turn now. But, beloved, the very idea that any of us have ever given Him a thing that wasn’t His already is ludicrous. As St. Paul says, V. 36] ALL THINGS ARE FROM HIM, AND BY HIM, AND TO HIM. Second by second, and by His mere say-so that keeps ALL THINGS existing. ALL THINGS ARE FROM HIM, AND BY HIM, AND TO HIM. ALL THINGS: FROM the Father, BY the Spirit, TO the Son. And FROM the Spirit, BY the Son and TO the Father. And FROM the Son, BY the Father, TO the Spirit are ALL THINGS, including my next breath and the neural patterns in your brain. None of us have ever given Him a thing that He wasn’t making at the moment: except, of course, for our sins, and our death, and our damnation. Those are the only things They’ve taken from us that weren’t already Theirs.
And right there, more than anywhere else, HOW UNSEARCHABLE ARE HIS DECISIONS! Why did He decide to make this tiny dot of space and time that we call “the universe”? Someone will say, “So that we could exist.” Yes, but why did He decide to make us? It’s not that He was bored or lonely. He’s Triune! He has Each Other! And having made us, why did He decide to save us?
Your little word processor – if it thinks you’re leaving your computer, it asks, “Save?” And if you press “No”, you don’t feel remorse about it. After all, the only reason that document was on the screen at all is because you put it there for as long as you chose to keep it there. Yes. And the only reason that you, human creature, and I go on existing second by second is because God decides to put us on His screen and to keep us on His screen, and to hit “Save.”
But why? That DECISION is, as St. Paul says, UNSEARCHABLE. I mean that I save things if I’m going to need them. But the Holy Trinity is never, ever going to need me. Or I save things, if maybe they turn out pretty well – because I know there’s going to be a limited number of those. But whatever God makes – including me – there’s infinitely more where they came from. And in any case, I’m a document that hasn’t turned out all that wonderfully. Certainly, He’s pressed all the right keys, but all too often, what’s come out in me was all wrong. And I can understand if it was: “Garbage in; garbage out.” But what do I make of, “Grace in! Garbage out.” So, why, why, why did the eternal Father, when He saw the eternal Son being led to a cross – why did He press, “Do Not Save” and save me instead?
Why did the Father decide to send the Son here in the first place? Or why did God decide to die for sinful creatures that are barely here at all? Why did God decide to come in Wind and Fire to save every little human creature that repents and believes in Christ – us, who He knew would still second-guess Him, and advise Him, and act like His creditors? Who did we think we were? Who did we think He was? Why would He want us with Him forever and ever? It’s UNSEARCHABLE. To us. But to Him, it’s perfectly simple. It’s love that was from Him and from the beginning. It’s just that we don’t know much about love, not about real love, not about His love. So we say, “Lord, why do You love me, when You know how little I’ve loved You? Lord,” we say, “I don’t understand.” And He answers, “I’m not surprised. It’s not just your mind that’s too small for Me. It’s your heart. Your heart’s too small, too.”
It’s no use to try to shrink Him down to the size of our thoughts, or to shrink Him down to the size of our hearts. It’s no use to try to shrink Him down to where He’ll fit in some part of our tiny lives and leave us the rest, all to ourselves. But our minds are too small; our hearts are too small; our lives are too small. If Christ has entered us, if we’ve received the Holy Spirit in Baptism, if the Father has come to dwell in us, it doesn’t mean that we contain Him. It means that He surrounds us like air, and we have finally and at last, inhaled.
Thus says the Holy Trinity, “Little ones, there isn’t room enough in your life for Me. But there is room in My life for you. And He opens in front of our eyes. You remember how it was at the Jordan River: God unfolded like a Flower, unfolding and showing Their heart; there at the Baptism of Jesus, GOD was standing on the ground in a wet, human body, baptized the sake of God’s love, and GOD called down His love to GOD from out of Heaven, and GOD crossing down the air between to GOD, resting on GOD in love, when GOD was baptized in our sins, baptized with us little things, and GOD cried out, YOU ARE MY BELOVED, and GOD embraced GOD and us, who are baptized in Him.
One Person sends His Son to fetch us, another Person joins us here on the flickering screen, and another Person descends with power to lift us high: And They are One. The Son becomes a man, the Father loads our sins on Him, and the Spirit offers up the sacrifice: And They are One. GOD on a cross for us, and GOD cursing GOD, and not us, while GOD upholds GOD in His agony. While GOD is opened, while GOD was opened up literally with nails and spear, GOD opened wide to let us in. To let us in from the dark, to let us in from the cold, to let us into the Ocean of His Triune love, baptized into Him who is Holy, Holy, Holy, and who counts our tiny faith as righteousness enough to live with Them forever. And we’re in over our heads. But this much we know from His own mouth: GOD IS NOT ASHAMED TO BE CALLED OUR BROTHER, and GOD is not ashamed to call us HIS CHILDREN, and GOD is not ashamed to call us little things under His wings all the way to Paradise.
All the way to Paradise, joined to a Son – TO HIM BE THE GLORY! – and carried upward by a Spirit – TO HIM BE THE GLORY – to the waiting arms of a Father – TO HIM BE THE GLORY! and HEAR, O ISRAEL, THE LORD OUR GOD, THE LORD IS ONE and we are in Him, caught up in Their love, baptized IN THE NAME OF THE Blessed Trinity. Our minds are too small for this! Our hearts are too small. Our lives are too small. But there’s room in Him for the whole of me and the whole of you, and for our whole lives, and for all eternity, where we, beloved, are going to see Their Triune Face in splendor and shout AMEN to words we’ll begin to understand at last:
OH, THE DEPTH OF THE WEALTH OF THE WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE OF GOD!
HOW UNSEARCHABLE ARE HIS DECISIONS, AND HIS PATHS BEYOND TRACING OUT!
FOR FROM HIM, AND BY HIM, AND TO HIM ARE ALL THINGS!
TO HIM BE THE GLORY FOREVER! AMEN!