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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

“Wisdom and Foolishness”

Holy Trinity Sunday


Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20


From the first Sunday in Advent through the Day of Pentecost, which we celebrated last Sunday, we’ve been reviewing God’s plan for our salvation. In our scripture readings, our hymns, our sermons – and in our visual aids, too, like our Advent wreath, Christmas tree, the drapes we hung on the cross, the Christ candle – all of these things have helped us review God’s great deeds for our salvation. We’ve looked at the promises of a Savior; His birth in a lowly stable; His baptism; His life and teachings; His suffering, death, and burial; His resurrection; His ascension; and His sending of the Holy Spirit.


But today is different. Today we look at God Himself – that is, His nature and His essence. Today is kind of a transition day.


There’s one thing that most people have in common: they know there is a God. Only people deprived of reason will deny the existence of a God. The Bible tells us, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” All but fools know there is a God because their conscience tells them so, and nature tells them so. How can you look at how we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” – or even the infinitely complicated make-up of a single living cell – and think that it ”just happened” from dead, inorganic matter? Or how can you look at the vast universe and see its intricate design and balance of what scientists now believe contains billions of galaxies – and think it all just happened by chance – by a “Big Bang”? “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament proclaim His handiwork.” So wrote the Psalmist.


Yes, almost everyone agrees that there is a God – but there human knowledge stops. There people separate to walk on 3 different paths, each path having many by-paths. The polytheist, the monotheist, and the trinitarian go their separate ways.


Who is the true God? Polytheism answers, “There are many gods – thousands of them – male and female, good and evil.” Monotheism holds that there is but on God. Trinitarianism teaches that God is one in essence, but 3 in person. The heathens have their many gods; Muslims, Jews, Unitarians, and others insist that God is one in essence and in person; only Christians believe in a Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


Left to themselves, people never find the right answer. Human thinking and reasoning can never lead people to the knowledge of God. The Greeks boasted of their philosophies and of their learning. But the learned Greeks and the wise Romans knew no more of God than the dullest barbarians!


If God hadn’t given us the Bible, you and I would probably be worshipping idols! How could we ever unravel the mysteries of God? All around us are mysteries in nature which we don’t understand. As a matter of fact, we’re even mysteries to ourselves. We really know little about our bodies, less about our minds, and still less about our souls! How could we know God if God hadn’t revealed Himself to us? Even our language can’t encompass God. The Bible itself doesn’t use the term “three persons.” The insufficiency of our language compels us to speak of “persons.” We have no words adequate to describe the Trinity!


You might ask, “Why didn’t God tell us more of His Triune being? Why didn’t He describe Himself in more explicit language? Well – what would be the use? My brother is a nuclear physicist, and I remember Carol asking him one time to tell us, in the simplest terms, what he did. He told us something, but we didn’t have the vaguest idea of what he was talking about!


Neither would we understand if God would more fully describe Himself to us. A tack hammer is a proper tool for tacking, but it isn’t much good for driving railroad spikes. The human mind is a proper instrument for the probing of many secrets, but it’s not capable of fathoming the depths of God’s being!


In His midnight conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus told him that there are heavenly truths which must be accepted by faith, because they can’t be comprehended by reason. And Jesus furthermore told him that only by the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit can we know God at all!


God doesn’t ask us to understand; He only asks of us to believe what He has revealed to us in His Holy Word. Jesus said, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” That’s what our Savior asks of us: a love that will take Him at His word and trust in Him. Jesus, who revealed God to us, is the only way to God for us.


He calls “liars” those who come with that Christ-denying platitude, “We’re all going to the same place by different roads.” Jesus said, “I am the way… no one comes to the Father but by me.” That’s pretty plain! Make no mistake; anyone who attempts to shake your faith in the Triune God would rob you of your faith in Jesus Christ, your only Savior!


If it wasn’t so sad, it would be funny to listen to the spiritual dunces who voice their opinions about God based on their feelings – and who love to create God in their image – but feel nothing of the awe and wonder which must have gripped the heart of St. Paul when he wrote, “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and how inscrutable His ways!”


The discrepancy between the thinking of the humble child of God, and the unenlightened unbelievers, is never more apparent than when they speak of the justice and of the mercy of God. To the Christian, the justice of God is far less mysterious than the mercy of God. The opposite is true of the unbeliever – to him the justice of God is a complete mystery, while he takes the mercy of God for granted. Let me give you a couple of examples.


Noah could understand why God would destroy a world which would not be led by the Spirit. He knew that divine justice had no alternative. While he was preaching repentance, he was also busy building the Ark, which would be his refuge when the anger of God should be unleashed. His unbelieving contemporaries, on the other hand, didn’t believe that God would destroy the Earth because they didn’t see any compelling reason for the display of stern justice. So, they went their wicked way until the flood engulfed them and silenced their cursing lies.


The Christians of Jerusalem readily understood that Jerusalem was doomed because it had despised the Word of God, stoned the prophets, and crucified the Son of God. To the crucifiers the threat of the city’s destruction sounded ridiculous. They refused to believe it. And when destruction came, they couldn’t understand why God should visit so great an evil upon them, when they were Abraham’s seed!


The thinking of believers and unbelievers doesn’t change through the ages. Their views of God’s justice are still poles apart. When a great calamity strikes some part of the world – war, famine, natural disaster – the Christian sees God’s answer to man’s wickedness and rebellion. He humbly acknowledges that believers merit divine chastisement and unbelievers merit divine punishment.


The unbeliever, on the other hand, accepts blame for nothing. He blames God! “How can God do such a thing?” “Why did God do this?” “Is this the merciful and loving God?” “God is not just!” To the Christian, God’s justice is understandable; to the unbeliever, it’s incomprehensible.


On the other hand, the child of God is always overwhelmed by the mercy of God – while the unbeliever takes it for granted! When a Christian thinks of his own sinfulness, as opposed to the holiness and majesty of God, he can only be astonished that God should be loving and merciful. He can only cry out with the Psalmist, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him?”


Prophets, priests, psalmists, judges, and kings could only speak in astonishment, wonder and awe of God’s mercy. They couldn’t say why God kept loving them. They couldn’t think of a single deed on their part which merited His mercy. They could only pray God to continue to be merciful, and not to bring judgement upon His servants.


The wicked in Israel, on the other hand, took God’s mercy for granted. Whether they knelt before the golden calf or before the idol Baal, whether they persecuted the prophets or turned God’s house into a den of thieves – they expected God to be good to them because they were Abraham’s seed.


And so, it is now! The Christian understands God’s justice, and can only marvel at His mercy, while the unbeliever takes God’s mercy for granted and curses God’s justice.


· Why did God adopt you as His child in Holy Baptism?

· Why did the Holy Spirit in Sunday school, confirmation class, and church service enlighten you with His gifts?

· Why does God daily forgive you all your sins?

· Why does the Spirit keep you in faith?


For these and a hundred questions you can find no answer! You can only say with Paul, “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever.”


“Who has known the mind of the Lord?” Always God is a mystery to us, far, far beyond our comprehension. “Now we see as through a glass, darkly.” But don’t be upset about it – one day we’ll see Him face to face. In the meantime, continue to ask yourself, “Who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid?” Is God’s mercy a payment for anything we first gave Him? No way! We gave Him nothing to merit His mercy – He gave us everything! He gave us His Son! He gave us everything we need for time and eternity. He gave us body and soul; He gave us faith; He gave us the forgiveness of our sins through the blood of His Son; He made us His children, and heirs of everlasting life.


Why? He did it all because He loved us; loved us so much “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”


And so, we say to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – to the Triune God – be all glory, forever and ever.


Amen

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