For the Forgiveness of Sins
Holy Trinity Sunday, 2020
Genesis 1:1–2:4 // Acts 2:22–41 // Matthew 28:16–20
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon will encompass all three texts read, thinking about the mystery of the Trinity, remembering Peter’s sermon, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today is Trinity Sunday, and you just got done confessing your faith in the words of our most obscure creed, the Athanasian Creed, confessing that our God is the Father Unbegotten, the Son begotten of the Father before all ages and born of the Virgin Mary, and the Holy Spirit, not begotten but proceeding from the Father and the Son, but we do not have three Gods but one God, not three lords but one Lord.
Did you get all that?
Now, we’re pretty early on in the sermon, but you might be wondering, Pastor, why are you talking about this? There are all sorts of other things you can be talking about today. There are protests and riots and trials and viruses and turmoil and tornadoes and National Guard orders and movements and condemnations and conspiracies and whatever else has happened since I wrote these words!
So, why take the time to recite (recite!) an unfamiliar creed and go on and on about how the Christian believes that God is one in three and three in one?
Why? Because our God is a God of relationship. Three thoughts for today as we consider the nature of our God. First, in creation, our God is a God of relationships. Second, in redemption, our God is a God of relationships. Third, if both of these are true (and they are), then redemption, the forgiveness of sins, is reconciliation.
But first, what do I mean by relationship? I’ll tell you what it’s not: I’m not talking about relationships. I’m not talking about relationships like kissy-kissy faces, heart-shaped balloons, and chocolates on Thursdays. Instead, I mean that all creation is created in relation to everything else. The things you do affect others. The way you are affects the way other things are. We are in relationship with all around us.
In Creation, our God is a God of relationship. Notice that all three persons of the Trinity are there in the creation account, if you have eyes to see them. God speaks, and the Spirit of God hovers over the waters. God creates all of creation by means of His Word. God breathes the breath—the Spirit—of life into man and man becomes a living being.
God creates humanity to be in his likeness, in his image. What does that mean? Humanity is to do what God does, to go where God goes, to be God’s hands and feet among his creation.
In the Fall into Sin, our catechism says that we lost the image of God given to man in creation. We lost his likeness. That means, we lost our right relationship with God; we lost our righteousness. We lost our ability to do what God does, to go where God goes, to be God’s hands and feet among his creation. We fell out of fellowship with God. We got lost.
Our God is a God of relationship that created all people and all of creation to be in relationship with him, as he is in relationship to himself, one in three and three in one.
These are days when we very clearly see that we are not in relationship with God, one another, or creation. Creation rebels when viruses wreak havoc. Creation cries out as we see livestock wasted, as we see the fruit of our land lay waste.
We see it in our relationship with each other. Anger is boiling over. Conspiracy theories abound. It’s hard to know what whose perspective to trust.
One Facebook user put it this way: “I feel like most people do, I feel lost and somewhat hopeless. There’s so much sadness in the world right now and I’m feeling like we’re going backwards instead of forwards. We need a plan to get back on the right track. I’m feeling some days when I pray that it’s not helping. I’m feeling lost.” Have you felt like that? What is a person supposed to say to that?
In Redemption, our God is a God of relationship. Notice the three persons of the Trinity in Acts. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter preaches that Jesus, exalted at the right hand of the Father, received the promise of the Holy Spirit and poured it out that very day. Notice this, that it’s the power of the Holy Spirit that unites all nations to hear the very same Gospel message: Jesus Christ, whom you crucified, died for the forgiveness of your sins.
The Father sent the Son to win redemption. The Father and the Son send the Spirit into our hearts. The Spirit witnesses to the Father and the Son, restoring to us our relationship with God.
And they were cut to the heart. They were punched in the gut. They had a moment when the people in the crowd said, something’s not right here. Something has to change.
If our God is a God of relationship in Creation, and if he is a God of relationship in Redemption, then when Redemption comes to us, it’s called Reconciliation. Notice this, that the very next verse, verse 42, after three thousand are added to the apostles that very day, they go ahead as of one heart and mind, devoting themselves to the apostles teaching, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. They are reconciled to one another; they are in right relationship with their God and with their brothers and sisters.
The Triune God, the one in three and three in one, brings us into fellowship with himself. In baptism, you were born into the one family of Christ. In the Lord’s Supper, you eat and drink with the whole communion of saints. As you exit the sanctuary, you are given the strength to go about your Father’s business, the business of reconciliation.
Reconciliation begins with studying the words of the confession every time you say them. Reconciliation continues with listening to the words of absolution every time you hear them. Reconciliation finds its completion as we see and love our neighbor as those Jesus loved enough to die for.
The kingdom of heaven is like a large church in a small town that through the good days and the bad continues on its Father’s business. They see brokenness and pray for peace. They see hurt and find ways to heal. They see sin and proclaim forgiveness. And by the power of the Spirit, one step at a time, one day at a time, their community is transformed.
Amen and amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther