11 June 2017

Knowing the Holy Trinity in Holy Baptism

Throughout the Holy Scriptures, mountains are often the place where God comes to His people and reveals Himself to them.  In the Old Testament, God first came to Moses in the burning bush on Mount Horeb, “the Mountain of God.”  Later, He gave the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.  And on Mount Zion He established His Temple.  In the New Testament, Jesus is frequently on a mountain, whether it be for prayer to His Father or preaching the Word of life to the people.  The Sermon on the Mount is one obvious example, and a few months ago we heard again about the Mountain of Transfiguration.  In each case, the mountain is the place where God reveals Himself to man.  And in every case, the God who reveals Himself on the mountain is the Holy Trinity.

Certainly, the Word of our Lord Jesus on the mountain this morning is the clearest revelation of the Holy Trinity, as He commissions the Apostles to baptize “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  But this one true God, who changes not — YHWH, the Creator of the heavens and the earth — He has always been the Holy Trinity.  And while this great Mystery cannot be comprehended with your intellect, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have always been the Object of all true faith and worship, from the foundation of the world, even to the close of the age.

The Mystery of the Holy Trinity is not simply a dogmatic fact; it is the essential reality of who God is and of all that He has done to give life and to love His good creation.  The Persons of the Trinity are not a matter of divine trivia, as though God might just as well have been some other way.  No, the Triune God — the one true God in three divine Persons — is the Fountain and Source of all life and salvation.  And each Person of the Holy Trinity is actively involved in this divine work.

The Father — who with fatherly, divine goodness and mercy made all things and still preserves them — loves the world, has had mercy upon us, and has given His only Son to die for us.

The Son, out of love for His Father, and out of His great love for you and for all people, came down from heaven, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made Man; He was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, He suffered and was buried, and has risen again.

And as you could not by your own reason or strength believe in this Lord Jesus Christ or come to Him, the Holy Spirit unites you with the Son, makes you a child of the Father, and bestows on you the blessings of the Cross and Resurrection: forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.  This He does through the Church, calling you by the Gospel, enlightening you with His gifts of faith and love in the Liturgy, sanctifying you in the divine Life, and preserving you within the Body of Christ.

But the Mystery of the Holy Triune God is not an easy thing to understand or talk about.  If you try to make logical sense of it, you’ll likely end up with a headache.  It’s much easier to talk about Jesus.  And so it should be; for you do not know the Triune God except through Jesus Christ.

The Holy Triune God and His great salvation are revealed in the incarnate Son, Christ Jesus.  And in Him, the smallest child understands the Trinity as well or better than the greatest theologian.

Of course, the Incarnation of the Son of God is a great Mystery, as well, on par with that of the Holy Trinity.  But Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has come to tabernacle with you in flesh and blood like yours, in such a way that you are able to receive Him and to rest yourself in Him.  As your merciful and great High Priest, He has bridged the gap between God and man within His own Body, in His perfect life, by His innocent suffering and death upon the Cross, and in His bodily Resurrection from the dead.  His own Body, crucified and risen, is the Mountain of God, that is, the Place where God and Man have come together perfectly and forever.

The question, then, is where shall you go to find Jesus.  And the answer is given in this Gospel.  For just as Jesus designated the mountain where He would meet the disciples then, so has He indicated the ways and means by which He comes to you and reveals and gives Himself to you.  He has given you His Word in the Scriptures of the Prophets and Apostles.  And He has attached His Gospel–Word and promises to the waters of Holy Baptism and to the bread and wine of the Holy Communion.  And as the Father has sent Him, so does Christ send His ministers of the Gospel to speak His Word and work His works with His authority in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In this Ministry of the Word, in the preaching of the Gospel and in the Holy Sacraments, you hear and receive Christ Himself, according to His promise to those whom He sends: “He who hears you, hears Me; and he who receives you, receives Me.”  By the Word of Christ Jesus, and by the Holy Spirit, who is actively present and at work in the Ministry of the Gospel of Christ, you are reconciled to God the Father and united with Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son.  In Him, the Word-made-Flesh, in the fellowship of His Body, you abide in communion with the Holy Triune God.

That has been the case from your Baptism in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which is the Mountain where you meet the Lord and abide in fellowship with Him, unto life everlasting.

The link between Baptism and the Holy Triune God is evident already at the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River.  For it was no joke when the heavens were there opened, and the voice of God the Father declared Christ to be His beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit came down to rest upon Him in bodily form as a Dove.  God has thus declared that He is manifest and made known in Baptism.

As always, this Self-revelation of the Holy Trinity is given in and with the Body of Christ Jesus.  You encounter the Holy Triune God in the waters of your Holy Baptism, therefore, because you are united with Christ in the washing of those waters with His Word and Holy Spirit.

In Baptism, God became your Father, and you became His child, a joint heir with Christ.  You were anointed with His Spirit, who brought Christ and all His benefits into your heart and soul, body and life.  All of this because Christ Himself was baptized for your salvation, and His Baptism has become your Baptism.  He entered the water for you, and you have entered the water with Him.

Holy Baptism is thus a place of a great exchange.  Christ goes into the water holy and righteous, but He comes out saturated with all of your sins and the sins of the whole world, and bearing all your griefs and sorrows in His own Body to the Cross.  Whereas you go into the water utterly corrupted by your sins, inside and out, but you arise and emerge from the washing of the water with the Word cleansed and forgiven and adorned with the beautiful righteousness of Christ Jesus.  You know some of the baggage you have carried into that water, but Christ has taken it all away.

In this “Great Exchange,” it is also the case that, just as Christ participated in your sin by taking it upon Himself, so through your Baptism do you participate in His Cross and Resurrection.

Holy Baptism is thus your personal Good Friday and Easter.  You are crucified with Christ and die with Him, so that you also rise with Him in His Resurrection from the dead.  And as you are buried and raised with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in your Holy Baptism, so are you also given the Name of God Himself, because you are there adopted as His own beloved child.  You not only learn to know the Holy Trinity, but you are taken into the arms of God as a member of His family.

Just think of what that means: You bear the Name of the Holy Triune God!  You are His child!  As you go about all your days and deeds in peace — at work, at home, at school, wherever — you are and you live as someone who shares the divine life and eternal blessings of the one true God.

The Lord Jesus has therefore taught you and tenderly invited you to pray to His God and Father as your own dear God and Father.  For in Christ you bear His Name and are His child.  So do you pray that His Name would be hallowed in your body and life, in all your words and actions, as you gladly give attention to His Word and the preaching of it, and as you live according to His Word.  Just as Christ has instructed His servants: “Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

You hallow God’s Name and use it rightly when you call upon His Name in every trouble with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving; when you worship Him in the Spirit and the Truth.  Indeed, the only proper response to the Holy Triune God is worship.  And all true and right worship begins and continues, not with your works and sacrifices, far less with your promises and pledges, but with the Word and works of God in Christ, and with the gifts Christ freely gives you in His Name.

To worship the Lord your God is to acknowledge and confess Him as the true and only God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He is the Maker of the heavens and the earth, the Redeemer of all mankind by the blood of Christ, and the Sanctifier of the Church by the Word and Sacraments of Christ.  To worship the Lord your God is to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things.  To look to Him and rely on Him for life itself and all that you need.  Such worship is rooted in His Holy Baptism, and it lives in the hearing of His Word and in the eating and drinking of His Supper.

But instead of such worship of the Lord your God, who in love has given you life in body and soul, how often do you worship yourself instead?  How often do you fear people more than God, and love the praises of people more than God?  And how often do you doubt His Word and promises?

In fact, doubt may be the most frustrating thing you face as a Christian, because it is the opposite of faith and worship.  It is the lingering well-spring of the sin that remains within your fallen flesh.  Remember how Satan tricked Eve with seeds of doubt?  The devil attacks you in that way, too.

But now repent of your sins, of your doubts and fears and unbelief, and of all your selfishness and self-idolatry.  Return, instead, to the significance and reality of your Holy Baptism, and to your life with God in Christ.  Rejoice and give thanks that, although you have been disobedient, unfaithful, and lazy, and although you have wandered far and wide from the Lord your God, He is and remains your faithful God and Father in Christ Jesus, who is your merciful and great High Priest; and that the Holy Spirit also helps you in your weakness and intercedes for you in peace.

Remember that you are baptized into Christ Jesus, who was crucified, dead, and buried for your transgressions, and that God the Father raised this same Jesus from the dead for your justification.  All that He has accomplished and obtained on your behalf from His own Baptism to His Cross and Resurrection, He has given to you in your Baptism.  Indeed, He has given Himself to you, and He has bound you to Him, that you should be with Him where He is, just as He is always with you.  In the preaching of His Word, in His forgiveness of your sins, and in His Body and His Blood, He is a very present Help in trouble; He is closer to you than a brother, than a mother or a spouse.

As often as you confess your sins according to His Word, you return to the waters of your Baptism into Christ.  The Law of the Lord drowns and destroys the Old Adam in you with all your sinful thoughts and desires, and the Gospel of the new and better Adam, Jesus Christ, raises you from death to life in Him by His Holy Absolution of all your sins in His Name.  And as often as you eat His Body and drink His Blood in faith and with thanksgiving, you are returned to the ongoing reality of your Holy Baptism, and to the life that is yours in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus.

Like a little fish you were born in the water, and as a little fish you live your whole life in the water of your Baptism.  As Dr. Luther would respond to his own doubts and fears and the frequent assaults of the devil in his life, you also may confess: “I am baptized.”  The Holy Triune God has named you with His Name and bound Himself to you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.  You are buried with Christ in His death, and you are raised with Him in His Resurrection.  You are adorned with His own precious blood and beautiful righteousness.  You are pleasing to God.

God’s own child, I gladly say it, you are baptized into Christ.  So has your God and Father set His Table and invited you to recline here at His Feast within His House, to rest yourself in the Body and Blood of His Son.  As He was given into death for the atonement of the world, so is He given and poured out for you here, for the forgiveness of your sins, and for life and salvation in Him.  By the Holy Spirit, receive these gifts in faith and with thanksgiving, and so rejoice in the Lord.

By His grace, acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by the confession of this true faith; and worship Him in peace and joy, since He has had mercy upon you in this one Lord, Jesus Christ.

In the Name + the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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