Trinity B Sermon (2003)

Trinity Sunday
Texts: John 3:1-17;
Rom 8:12-17; Isa 6:1-8

THE TRUE FATHER’S DAY STORY

I’d like to begin by asking you to get out your green hymnal and turn to page 54 in the front portion. It’s the Athanasian Creed. Let’s begin to read together:

Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the catholic faith.
Whoever does not guard it whole an inviolable will doubtless perish eternally.
Now this is the catholic faith:
We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity,
neither confusing the persons nor dividing the being.

That’s enough! (But don’t close your books just yet.) I just wanted you to get the flavor. There’s no doubt some good stuff here, as you glance down the page. But there’s also something very much lost: the story. The story of our faith, especially the story of the Gospel, the Good News in Jesus Christ. The center of the Apostle’s Creed, for example, is at least a sketch of the story:

I believe in Jesus Christ…. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.

I emphasized crucified. Because look at the top of the second column on page 55. After all these statements of logical puzzle, we finally get to the barest bones story of Jesus: “He suffered death for our salvation.” Do you see? It even leaves out the fact that he was crucified. Killed at the hands of fellow human beings. “Suffered death” could mean that he died of cancer at age eighty-eight.

On this Trinity Sunday, we want to affirm the truth of the Trinity, as does the Athanasian Creed. But we don’t want to lose the story, the story of faith, the story of our salvation. Even something as heady as the Trinity should, in the end, be very much about the story: It’s the quintessential Father’s Day story of how God the Father sent his Son into the world to show us the depth of our sin, the depth of the problem we have with violence, with hurting one another, with breaking apart our relationships and not being able to live together in peace as we were made to be. But it is also the story of how the Father and Son are of one mind, one heart, of how they are together eternally in their love of the world, their love of us, so that the Son could die for us and be raised again in the promise of forgiveness and new life. It is the story of how that being of one mind and one heart in loving the world, the Holy Spirit of that Love comes to invite us into that eternal life of peace. Living in the Spirit we may begin to have the story of our lives — right here, right now! — made new.

But let’s start at the beginning — literally the beginning, where we see that things were made to be good, but something went wrong. The first man and woman were made to be one flesh, of one mind and one heart, like the God the Father and his Son. You and I were made this way, too, but since the beginning we’ve gotten tripped up. And it all has to do with this [holding up an apple], right? Genesis three says that the woman saw that this fruit was desirable, and we know the rest of the story. Or do we? Do we understand even now? Do we understand how this whole story is about our desire is gone wrong. You and I were made to be able to be of one desire, of one mind and one heart. We were made to be able to live in peace with one another. But things went wrong.

How? Again, it has to do with understanding how the Bible teaches us the story of our desire. A more recent story involving an apple is the one about Sir Isaac Newton and the discovery of gravity. He was sitting under an apple tree, as the story goes, and an apple fell on his head. It finally dawned on him, as he looked at that fallen apple. Gravity is not in the apple. Gravity is a force governed by the relationship of objects. Gravity is not in the apple. It is in the relationship between the earth and apple. The earth is so much bigger that it pulls the apple toward it, much more than the apple pulls the earth.

Well, in that story of the first man and woman, we see a very similar about desire. Desire was not somehow in the apple. That isn’t how the story goes, right? The woman didn’t just look at the apple and feel compelled by its desirability. The desire wasn’t even in the relationship between the woman and the apple. No, a trinity of relationships existed: the woman found the apple desirable because the serpent suggested it to her, even though God had suggested to her not to find the apple desirable. The serpent convinced the woman that God was her rival for the knowledge that the apple would bring her — an absurd story, right? But she fell for it, and then she convinced her husband, too. She triangled her husband into that same desire that brought them into rivalry with God’s desire. And then the rest was history. The rest has been our story of being created to be of one desire, of one mind and one heart. But we trip up and fall into all kinds of petty rivalries and broken relationships because we triangle with each others desires instead of with God’s desire.

On this Father’s Day 2003, we celebrate family. But all is not perfect, is it? There is brokenness. Husbands and wives who aren’t one flesh, one desire. They are in brokenness with God and each other. And so what happens? It gets passed on to their children. Just before Cain goes out to kill his brother Abel, God says to him, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Ever since the first family, we have not been able to master our desires. They have been the master of us. There has been only one hope: that into the human family would be one who could enflesh God’s desire. It would be the story of God’s family, the quintessential Father’s Day story, of how the Father’s loving desire for the world sent the Son into the world to save it — to free us with the Holy Spirit of their holy triangle of love for the whole world, for each and every one of us. Because the Son was of one desire, of one mind and one heart, with his heavenly Father, the Spirit of that desire can begin to draw us in, in faith. As we believe in the Son and desire to be his disciples, as we desire to imitate him, his Holy Spirit draws us into God’s family, so that our earthly families might begin to be redeemed. Wives and husbands can be of one flesh, of one mind and one heart, when Holy Spirit of the Son’s love blows through their lives. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, can truly be of one desire when they open themselves to that Holy Desire of our heavenly Father’s love for each one of us. We begin to learn to love as God loves, when we seek to be the Son’s little brothers and sisters, following their elder brother in the way of loving service to the world.

It is a desire that is no longer symbolized by a piece of fruit like this. It is a Holy Desire that brings us into a Holy Communion when we do eat of fruit of the earth like that [pointing to the altar], some bread and wine that does more than symbolize. It is the body and blood of our Lord, our elder brother, whose loving forgiveness makes us truly children of God once again. Come eat and drink of the story that draws us into the loving family of our heavenly Father, that all our stories as fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husband and wives, might be redeemed. Amen

Paul J. Nuechterlein
Delivered at Our Savior’s Lutheran,
Racine, WI, June 15, 2003

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