Christ Key – Sermon – Vicar Ed Shoesmith
‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.’
Sermon for Holy Trinity Sunday – Vicar Ed Shoesmith
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
Back in the fourth century in Northern Africa was one of the great Christian thinkers and bishop known as Augustine. Now there is a story I want to share with you about Augustine and the Trinity. One day when he was working on his book On the Trinity, he was walking by the seaside one day, meditating on the difficult problem of how God could be three Persons at once. He came upon a little child. The child had dug a little hole in the sand, and with a small spoon or seashell was scooping water from the sea into the small hole. Augustine watched him for a while and finally asked the child what he was doing. The child answered that he would scoop all the water from the sea and pour it into the little hole in the sand. ‘What?’ Augustine said. ‘That is impossible. Obviously, the sea is too large and the hole too small.’ ‘Indeed,’ said the child, ‘but I will sooner draw all the water from the sea and empty it into this hole than you will succeed in penetrating the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your limited understanding.’ Augustine turned away in amazement and when he looked back the child had disappeared.
The Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You might recognise those words. But what is this trinity all about? One God in three persons and three persons in one God… Sounds like a riddle doesn’t it? But like Augustine found, the one true God is simply beyond our own comprehension. How do we even begin to explain how we understand God as all powerful and present in everything… this God of the universe? He is so big that we can’t fit him between our ears.
But I guess there’s this simple question really. If God is so big and hard to understand, then why do we spend a Sunday a year focusing on a doctrine that we admit from the get-go we don’t understand?
Well simply put because it is the truth God has revealed to us in his Word. One of the three great Christian Creeds, along with the Apostle’s and Nicene creeds was the Athanasian Creed which boldly states at the conclusion of the creed
“This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.” That is a bold statement and even though we openly admit we do not understand the mystery of the Trinity, the church has confessed for 2000 years that we must believe it in order to be saved… But the key to this riddle, to the mystery is simply, Jesus.
Our Gospel text today john 16, we have Jesus speaking to his disciples. He was teaching them and preparing them not only about his sufferings and death to come, but also his resurrection, ascension and what was to follow. I am sure the disciples’ heads would have been flooded with information and you can understand why Jesus pulls the reigns in a little here. Jesus says
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.”
Think about it though, Jesus has just overwhelmed them with the future of what is to come. They really couldn’t take anymore “bear” anymore.
Although Jesus was to leave them, he wouldn’t leave them on their lonesome to figure it all out. He points to Pentecost which we celebrated last week and he says
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”
Here Jesus is telling them what the job of the Spirit is, what the Spirit will do for them and comforting them that they will have a the spirit. The Spirit will guide them and lead them. It is not going to fill their feelings with some mysticism, nor would the Spirit introduce any “new” teachings which contradict Jesus’ teachings. No, The word Spirit in Greek means to lead or guide. But guide to what? The answer… is to the truth. That is the same truth that Jesus had been teaching them all along. That is that Jesus was true God and true human in one person and that he had to suffer, die, rise, and return to his Father in heaven to pay for the sins of the world and bring them into the kingdom of God. Jesus spoke clearly and definitively: saying
“He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
The Spirit would be delivering the work of the Trinity to the world.
Then Jesus reveals this important piece of information to us about the Holy Spirit. He says in v14
“He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.”
The job of the Spirit is to point people to Jesus, to glorify Jesus. What I mean by that is that the Holy Spirit would speak about who Jesus is (the Son of God) and what he has done (redeemed the world from sin by his death on the cross). And from there make it know to the disciples, who would take this message and share it to the world and ultimately to us today.
Now some Christian circles would argue with this popular slogan “doctrine divides and love/Spirit/Ministry unites.” What is meant by that is that the church which focuses on doctrine will divide their church but those who focus on the work of the Spirit will be unified. But the Spirit will not speak a different message that Christ has taught which we just read. And guess what Christ taught… doctrine! Now let me make it clear, I am not saying that Christians do not sense God’s presence. I am not trying to downplay the involvement of the Spirit in people’s lives. And the bible is clear that there are gifts of the Spirit working through people. Luther spoke a lot about vocation and how God works in and through people’s vocations in their various callings being spouse, parent, church member, citizen, and worker we are called to live out our faith.
But what we have to be careful of is distinguishing between what we imagine the Spirit is saying to us through our very own personal experience, feelings and reason and what God’s Word says about that. What are we really “hearing”? Are we confusing our own thoughts, experiences, feelings and reason with the voice of the Spirit? Jeremiah 17:9 clearly tells us what our thoughts and feelings are really like
the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? and Paul says “the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” Romans 8:7.
I for one can own up to this many times I have chosen to do what I “felt” was right or even seemed logical which often led to me just sinning in the eyes of the Lord. We are constantly hammered with decisions based on logic and experiences and emotions for that matter. And they can cause traumatic issues all around us. So, are we not special, are we not hearing the voice of the spirit in side of us? Simply put, Does God want us to follow our own thoughts and feelings, does the Spirit work only there?!
The Holy Spirit speaks through the Word of God, and the Word of God points to Christ. Listen to that because that is where you hear the good news. The Holy Spirit works through means, the means of grace. When we hear about Jesus’ life and work, the Spirit takes Jesus perfect life and covers our sinfulness with it. In Baptism, as the water touches us, The Spirit does it’s work by applying the blood of Christ to us to wash away our sins. When we come to the table for communion by eating and drinking Jesus’ very own body and blood we receive life, life-giving food and drink for our faith and assurance. And how do we know this? When you hear this Gospel message and receive the sacraments which Christ instituted himself then you can be certain that the Spirit is at work, there you can have assurance because the Spirit points to Christ.
“All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
As the Athanasian Creed confesses everything that belongs to the Father belongs to Jesus. Just dwell on this for a moment… Jesus is true God. And if the Holy Spirit is delivering something to us which is from Jesus, well that means he is bringing us something from God himself! And nothing is more important than receiving what God wants to give us! Consider what this means for you personally. Consider what this means when you come to the altar today.
God wants to give himself for us. But to receive him we do so through God the Son. So, the dusty Jesus of Nazareth who walked the earth some 2000 years ago was not just some delusional prophet or martyr he is God almighty. The God we worship and are in communion with is not some distant unknowable floating being. Rather he knows your pain, hurt and meaninglessness of life because he lived it too! The God we come to worship doesn’t want to give us some self-help “best life” strategy, he isn’t interested in making us “wealthy” now. He did what he did so we could join him in heaven forever. God is not dependant on our works, energy, experience, excitement, determination to save His church. Our God annihilated the power of sin in his way by himself. And he did this for you. And as the Spirit takes you by the hand and guides you to see Jesus as one with God the Father then you have the key. Not an intellectual reason, not some kind of floating being you can’t relate to. But Christ.
So, this Trinity Sunday I leave you with never being able to comprehend the mystery of the Trinity. And that is ok, we don’t need to it wasn’t my goal and I can’t explain it anyway. But what we can do is take hold of what the Bible says about the one true God and who he is. And today we are given the key, the Christ key. As the Holy Spirit points, us to Jesus and the Father is one with him. If you believe as our Athanasian creed boldly states “whoever wishes to be saved must, above all else, hold to the true Christian faith.” Which is believing Jesus and his Words and work for you then you have the Father who sent him and the Spirit who proclaims him
– since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 5:1).