Thursday, June 03, 2010

Sermon for Trinity Sunday
St. John’s Church – Moultrie, GA
May 30, 2010

Act II, scene ii of Romeo and Juliet is perhaps the most widely recognized pieces of any Shakespeare play. I would venture to guess that more people know the story behind that particular scene better than any of Shakespeare’s other works - even if those same people have never watched a production of it, or taken the time to read the play itself. If someone asked me to recite one line from any Shakespeare play, the first one that would immediately pop into my mind is “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” Perhaps others would say something different, but I’m sure that line is there somewhere.

So what link is there between Trinity Sunday, and some of the familiar lines of Juliet from Act II, scene ii…?

“Deny thy father and refuse thy name…”
“Tis but thy name that is my enemy…”
“Oh be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…”

What parallels can we draw between Trinity Sunday and the words of Romeo…?

“My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself because it is an enemy to thee. Had I it written, I would tear the word.”

Or from his response to Juliet when she asks him if he is Romeo and a Montague

“Neither, fair saint, if either thee dislike”

I mention these lines from Romeo and Juliet because some of the same sentiments are being expressed within the Church regarding the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

In an era of political correctness, and rabid feminist theology, the terms Father, LORD, King, and others that have traditionally been used to describe the Godhead are considered passé today.

These terms were the byproduct of men in a patriarchal society, and need to be abandoned in deference to gender neutral terminology for God.

In our Gospel from St. Matthew, we receive the Trinitarian Formula with which we are to baptize and bring people into Christ’s flock, the Church.

We are called to make disciples of all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

We do this not out of nostalgia, but rather out from a command from Jesus Himself.

We do this because when the newly baptized are brought into the fold of Christ’s flock, they are branded and receive a new name.
They receive the name of Christian.

They are putting on Christ as St. Paul says, and thus, putting on His Name as well. (cf. Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:27)

At baptism we put on Christ, and we do so in God’s name.

In the Old Testament, the personal, proper name for God was I AM.

In the New Testament, we are able to see the full revelation of who I AM is.

This full revelation is expressed in a new name – the name of the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

This is God’s Proper name.

It is not something we have permission to tamper with, or modify to suit our needs or whims.

There is only one person who has permission to change names, and that is God himself.

On two separate occasions in the Book of Genesis, God changes a person’s name to reflect His purposes for them.

Abram and Sarai receive the names Abraham and Sarah to express God’s desire to build a new nation through these two people.

This new nation was to be a people of the Covenant that God established with Abraham.

The other time that God changes someone’s name was when Jacob wrestled all night with a man, and his name was changed from Jacob to Israel to signify that “for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” (Gen. 32.28)

God is doing something that God alone can do.

This is why it is so significant when Jesus changes the name of Simon to Peter.

Jesus is doing something that God alone can do.

Tampering with the Name of God is absolutely something we cannot do.

When people want to change the name of the Holy Trinity to Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, or Mother, Child, Womb, they are not just eliminating patriarchal sounding terms they are changing the very identity of the Godhead.

Not only does this action express the ancient heresy of Modalism, it also means that they are worshipping a completely different god altogether.

They are doing something that they do not have permission to do in changing God’s Holy Name.

C. S. Lewis said “God knows how to describe Himself much better than we know how to describe Him.”

In the grand scheme of things, why do I even bring this up?

Why do I even bother preaching a Trinity sermon on something like this – something that seemingly doesn’t concern us here?

After all, isn’t the Trinity a mystery anyway, something that we can’t really comprehend?

Shouldn’t my first Trinity Sunday sermon be some glorious exposition on the doctrine of the Trinity – using big seminary words like homoousia, substantia, persona, hypostases, Perichoresis, and the like?

Sure, all of those terms are necessary to try and put human explanations onto a sacred mystery, and they do give us a glimpse into what One in Three, and Three in One actually begins to look like.

However, if we can’t even get the naming correct, everything else will collapse around us like a house of cards.

Today marks the entrance into Trinitytide, the long green season of the Church Kalendar.

Our hymns today speak of the Holy Trinity, and it is usually the only time that many preachers tackle the Trinity in a sermon.

However, the longest season of the Church Year is the Trinity Season.

All of our readings in one fashion or another reflect the Triune nature of God, and His work in salvation history.

Trinitarian theology should permeate preaching, and should not be left to only one Sunday a year, Trinity Sunday.

Perhaps the fact that Trinitarian theology has become so clouded, so muddied, so confusing is due to the fact that it has taken a back seat.

There should be no reason for this to be so since our liturgy is steeped in Trinitarian language.
We invoke the name of the Holy Trinity no less than six times in a service of Holy Communion.

And yet, the Trinity seems to move further and further away from our grasp and understanding.

One preacher commented about the Trinity, “We all believe in the Trinity, and we pray to the Trinity that no one would actually ask us about the Trinity!”

This should not be the case.

The Trinity should not be something that we shy away from, and leave for someone else to explain or deal with.

Bruce Ware puts forward the following argument, “The doctrine of the Trinity is both central and necessary for the Christian faith. Remove the Trinity, and the whole Christian faith disintegrates.”

These words should be a call to action for us all to recognize and embrace the Holy Trinity for what it is.

The only way that the name Christian makes sense is if its foundation is in the Triune nature of the Godhead.

As we entered the service today, we sang a hymn that we don’t sing that often.

Perhaps it needs to be one that we sing on a regular basis.

We will sing about binding ourselves to the strong name of the Trinity.

Being bound to the Trinity is not something to be afraid of, but rather, it is the only source of true salvation.

This is summarized in the final verse of our Processional hymn:

I bind unto myself the name, the strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three
Of whom all nature hath creation, eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord.

So what’s in a name?

If it pertains to living as a Christian, absolutely everything is in a name.

And that name is the ONE and ONLY TRUE name of God Almighty:

The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost.

1 comment:

Jon Bruss said...

Will, great sermon. I've often thought that the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae is not, as is often said, justification by faith, but the doctrine of the Trinity, so beautifully expressed by St. Peter when he says, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living of the God." Jesus' response: "Flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, Simon Barjonah."
THAT is the doctrine that has gone missing, but that is the bedrock of the Christian church: that Christ is the SON of the FATHER revealed to us through the HOLY SPIRIT. That doesn't just explain "how we get it." It tells us what we get: a gracious Father in heaven who, through His Son, gives us every good thing: grace, mercy, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life.
But to a non- or anti-Trinitarian, God can only be an ogre, right?--the nasty God who puts us on this earth, gives us 10 Commandments and promises life if we keep them, and death in their breach. And we can't help breaking them. That God is an ogre. But in Christ who bears sin on the Cross (1 Cor. 2), God the Father reveals Himself as gracious, not retributive; as merciful, not exacting; as forgiving, not begrudging. And that changes the whole thing.