May 22, 2016 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.”
Those who claim to perfectly know the mysteries of God or God’s hidden will should be viewed with far more suspicion than we reserve for the weatherman. They should be counted as heretics and avoided. In particular here you should be alert to those who claim to know the details of the end. You hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. Nicodemus was a teacher of Israel, but he did not know nearly what he pretended to know. Beware of teachers and pastors. Stick to the Scriptures and to the Creeds.
Test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.
Trust not in princes or bureaucrats or presidential candidates. Beware those who call for trust. Trust God and His promises. Test to see if the Spirit is from God by checking to see if the spirit is confessing that Jesus Christ has in the flesh. The test for orthodoxy is Christology.
At the same time, beware of mystics. Beware those who fake profundity and trade in ambiguity. God is knowable. Doctrine is confessable. We can and we should acknowledge the mysteries of God that He has revealed. Nicodemus feigned ignorance of what the Lord meant by telling him that no one could see the Kingdom of God unless he had been born again. Nicodemus was a liar who was trying to avoid accountability.
The mystery of the Holy Trinity, like the mystery of the Incarnation and of God’s love for us in Christ, is not a secret. It is a mystery. A secret remains a secret only as long as you don’t know it. Once you know it the secret is gone. A mystery remains a mystery even when it is revealed. The Trinity is hidden from our sight. He confounds, in a sense, our reason, but He is not unknown. He has revealed Himself to us in the Scriptures. We can know Him and we can confess Him and we not only should but we must for whoever desires to be saved must, above all worship the one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.
Confessing the Trinity is a bit like trying to describe the mystery of music. We can experience and know the strange syncing of the brains and emotions and even the bodies of musicians who perform together. We should realize this is something greater than ourselves. In a similar way we can know the affection and bond that a long-time married couple enjoys. Music and love are knowable. They are confessable. But they are also mysterious in the fact that we can’t fully comprehend them or explain them. Attempts to describe them fall a bit flat and strain our ability to think and speak, but they are not secrets and we do not need to resort to mumble-jumble and deep thoughts by Jack Handy.
We it comes to the Holy Trinity, it is more serious than music or the love of husband and wife, not those things don’t call for reverence, they do, but the Holy Trinity is greater. He demands reverence. We need to confess the Trinity whom we worship and we need to confess Him precisely – even if the math doesn’t add up. Reverence requires us to speak carefully, respectfully, and in humility, at the same time, as awed as we might be, reverence also calls us to joy. We aren’t describing an awesome super nova, beautiful in its power, but distant. We are describing and worshiping the God who has loved us in the sending of the Son.
If you insist on subduing the doctrine to your reason and geometry, the confession of the Holy Trinity will become an exercise in frustration and ego. Reverence calls us instead to embrace with humility to the simply reality that there are things we do not fully comprehend, such as where the wind blows, but which we nonetheless know and benefit from. The wind pollinates and waters the earth. It brings fresh air. It provides a multitude of benefits we rarely consider.
So it is with the Holy Trinity. We can confess the Trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity and we should. We should speak of the Father’s love for His beloved Son from which proceeds the Holy Spirit. Here is more than awe. Here is joy: the Holy Trinity was in never in any way incomplete or in need. He did not need someone to love. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit love each another perfectly. They are satisfied and complete and always have been. Yet the Trinity chose to create us in love and for love, and to bring us into Himself even after we rebelled against Him. Before He formed us in our mothers’ wombs, He knew us. Greatest of all mysteries, it seems to me, is not the Trinity, or even the Incarnation, but the mystery that God loves us and wants us and would and has sacrificed the Son to win us back for Himself. He even loves Nicodemus.
The Trinitarian Name is love. It is relational, not functional. He does not name Himself “Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.” He names Himself Father, Son, and Spirit. He brings into that Name, into His family and loves us with a love that holds nothing back and asks nothing in return. He simply is and He loves. This is how the Father loved the world that hated Him: He sent His only begotten Son into our flesh to be tortured and killed by crucifixion as the reconciliation price for our sins that whoever believes in Him does not perish but receives eternal life.
There the Spirit is blowing in a mystery beyond our comprehension, but not beyond our knowing. There is the mystery that bestows joy in submission and does not grow less by revealing. There is the mystery of the Gospel itself, of the inner heart of the Holy Trinity and the essence of God: love.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.