Sunday, June 3, 2012

To Believe in Something

The Holy Trinity
First Sunday after Pentecost
June 3, 2012
Some may scoff at the notion, but people need to believe in something. We need to have hope in something. People search in many ways for something to believe in, for something to give them hope. They turn to religion, of course. They may turn to some new spiritual philosophy or ideology. Some people turn to things they can do, they learn a new hobby or join with a group of people who are passionate about something. Some people may turn their attention to exercise and making themselves feel better. Even atheists will tell you that their insistence that God does not exist gives them hope.

Whether atheists, or those who are devoutly religious, those passionate about something they can devote themselves to, or people in desperate straits, everyone longs for something to believe in. We all want hope, something that can get us beyond our circumstances.

Many people may think the Bible is outdated and not relevant but it’s stunning to see how relevant it is to our day and what people face today. If one is so caught up in the present that he thinks what is in the past has no bearing on his life then he will miss what God has to say to him. Nicodemus was a person like you and me. He needed something to believe in. He needed hope. The Gospel reading today gives us something to believe in as Nicodemus came to Jesus needing hope and receiving it from Jesus.

So many people are confused about believing in something. They want to understand. They want to know for certain that what they believe in is true. What they mean by knowing for certain is that they want it proven. If it can’t be proven then they won’t believe it. This was Nicodemus’ problem. He didn’t understand. He didn’t take Jesus at His word because Jesus was speaking of things that aren’t proven to us but rather given to us simply to believe. Nicodemus wasn’t believing. He was pressing Jesus to explain.

What it all comes down to, Jesus was imploring him to believe, is that God is not some idea, or even religion. God is a being. He is a being who doesn’t reveal Himself in terms we can understand but rather in a way in which we can have a relationship with Him.

That brings us to what today is, Trinity Sunday. Trinity Sunday is one of those days in the Church Year that’s very tempting to use for what Lutherans love to do and that is expound on doctrine. But we are going to resist that temptation because Trinity Sunday isn’t about doctrine. That is because God isn’t about doctrine. He’s about loving us, the people He created. It’s true that the doctrine of the Trinity is doctrine. It has to be. God can’t reveal Himself in a way in which there’s nothing to grab hold of. When He shows us who He is there is something there that can be rationally understood in terms of talking about it. For example, if you don’t know what a bridge is and I tell you you have to cross the bridge to get over to Coronado then I need to explain what a bridge is and then you will understand how you get over to Coronado. That’s how it is with doctrine, teaching of what the Bible gives us to believe.

But where this analogy ends is that you don’t believe in the bridge in order to cross it. With God, you may understand the concept of the Trinity, but you don’t believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. You believe in God Himself. That He has revealed Himself as Triune isn’t so that we can expound on doctrine. The Athanasian Creed we confessed moments ago is admittedly tough to understand. But at the heart of this Confession of faith is what is at the heart of the Apostles and Nicene Creed as well: who God is and what He has done. We don’t confess our faith in God we because we understand it or even who He is as the Holy Trinity. We confess it because we believe it. Specifically, we believe in Him.

That’s what we need. We need to believe in something. We need hope. That’s why the Christian Church confesses the Creed, whether it’s the Apostles, Nicene, or Athanasian. Christianity isn’t just motivation. We don’t believe in Christianity, an idea, or a philosophy. We believe in God. On this day we marvel at the mystery of God as Triune. But we don’t believe in a doctrine. We believe in God. The greatest mystery of all is not how God is one God and yet revealed in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; even as there are not three Gods or three parts to the one God. The greatest mystery of all—something we will never comprehend—is His love for us. That’s what we believe in.

Imagine if it took your parents to prove to you their love for you. Imagine if it were a condition that you have a rational understanding of their love for you in order for you to know that they love you. That would pretty much reduce their relationship with you to some sort of scientific method type of affiliation. How awesome is it to simply know that they love you. What an amazing blessing it is to know that when they say they love you, when they show you that they love you, when they simply love you, that you simply know.

This is why Jesus didn’t go into some philosophical or even theological discourse on who God is. He simply told Nicodemus who God is. What He has done for him. He simply showed him that God is the one who loves Nicodemus with all His heart. And to make that abundantly clear, God did the one thing that goes beyond all rational thought and proof and comprehension: He sent His only Son to die for Nicodemus, for you, for me, for every single person. Jesus didn’t go on to say, “Do you understand this?” It’s simply belief. Whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.

We need something to believe in but we don’t just believe in something. We believe in God. The God who gave His Son. The God who sent His Son to die for all of our sins. The God who gives His Son to us in bread and wine so that we may believe, so that we may know, that He gives Himself to us. To forgive us, to strengthen us, to give us eternal life, and sustain us in that life. That’s something to believe in. Amen.


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