Doctrine to the Rescue
You can think of angels, grace, or God coming to the rescue, but doctrine? Actually, you might see how the doctrine of justification, atonement, or even original sin could rescue you, but the doctrine of the Trinity? Chesterton gives a clue how when he says of the doctrine of the Trinity, "[T]his triple enigma is as comforting as wine and open as an English fireside;.. this thing that bewilders the intellect utterly quiets the heart" (Orthodoxy, 46). Let's open the wine and sit by the fire.
The doctrine that the true God is 3 divine Persons in 1 divine Essence rescues you from yourself. This enigma as Chesterton called it; this mystery as the early church called it lifts us above and beyond what we can think, picture, or even imagine. The Divine Service uses the doctrine of the Trinity to draw us away from ourselves.
We start the Liturgy in our Baptism with the Words that put us into the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Then after confessing our sins and being forgiven of them "in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost," we enter into the Divine Service proper by means of a Psalm that closes again in the name of the Triune God. This gives way to the Kyrie which asks the Triune God to have mercy upon us. Then in the Gloria in Excelsis we contemplate the Trinity. In ever spiraling chants "we praise," "we bless," "we worship," "we glorify," "we give thanks" to His great glory. Next we dwell on the Persons of the Trinity: "God the Father Almighty," is introduced; then we go on to praise at length "the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ" and we end at the unity of the Trinity chanting that "Thou only, O Christ with the Holy Ghost are most high in the glory of God the Father."
After ascending in the Gloria in Excelsis to the very throne room of God, the Church is ready to bring Her prayer of the Day to Him and to hear Him speak to Her. Then hearing His Word brings a confession of faith, the Creed, once more Triune, from our lips. Then In Jesus Name, the Triune God speaks a Word specifically to us in our time and space. But this Word is more wonderful than we sinners can imagine, so hearing it reminds us that we need the Triune God to do the 3-fold operation of creating a new heart, renewing our spirit, and restoring to us the joy of our salvation.
At this point in the Divine Service since we give of ourselves in the offering we're in danger of slipping out of the realm of the Trinity and back into self, so right before the Holy Communion the pastor bids us, "Lift up your hearts!" Don't stay bound, tied, lashed to your thoughts, your ways, yourself. And we don't. With hearts lifted to the Lord on high and with eyes focused on Him on our altar, we commune. And the service ends with asking the Triune God to let us depart from His presence in peace, thanking Him for the gift of communing with Him, and receiving His 3-fold gift of peace.
What a relief not to look in here or even out in the world to a spewing oil well or a tumbling stock market. What a relief! It really isn't all about me. There is Something grander, Someone bigger and more important than me. There is a Reality that I can't get my head around that relives my head of the burden of all the things I think I can.
It's not all about you, but in one way it is. In our text, did you notice the prominence of the word "you?" Six times in four verses. In whom is the Triune God interested? In you. The Father has the truth; the Son owns the truth, and the Spirit takes that truth and makes it known to you. And what is this truth? That the Triune God wants to be in fellowship with you. Think about it. The Triune God is there at creation saying, "Let us make man in our image." And where did He place man? In a garden to be in fellowship with Him. But this wasn't good enough for us. We thought God was holding out on us and so brought the whole world crashing down on us by seeking to live apart from Him.
Still the Triune God wanted to be in fellowship with us. He wanted to rescue us from ourselves, from our will being done rather than His. It was a crazy, bizarre plan that took the whole Triune God to make it happen. God the Father would send God the Son into the womb of a woman by means of God the Holy Spirit. God the Son would be the perfect Human. He would do what perfect Adam could not do let alone imperfect you and I. He would keep the absolute Laws of God perfectly, and would die the death those laws demand of sinners. This truth, of your salvation, the Triune God wants to make known to you. He wants to rescue you from yourself, which can only be described as hell-bent, and focus you on the Triune God who bewilders the intellect yet utterly quiets the heart.
"Focus on the Trinity? Are you kidding? I've known people that have smoked their mind and faith on this doctrine." I have too, but this doctrine rightly used is like a good wine and a warm fire on a cold day. It rescues you from falling into the abyss of deity. It prevents you from looking directly at a mystery you can't fathom or explain.
The contact point for the Trinity is Jesus, God the Son. He is the Word made flesh. You know a man by his words, so you know the Triune God by His Word. Our text says God the Spirit guides, speaks, tells, and makes known the things of the Triune God only through this Word. You are to believe what Jesus says, as recorded by Prophets and Apostles in Old and New Testaments, is the only place the Spirit speaks and that these words tell you exactly what the Triune God says.
Jesus is like the Capacitor in the Triune God. A capacitor in an electrical system enables you to safely use electricity. If all the power of the electrical plant came directly into your home, you couldn't use it; it would be deadly to you. Jesus says in our text that He protects us from more than we can bear. He protects us from all the electricity of the power plant suddenly discharging in our life. Yet He assures us that "all that the Father has is Mine." If not enough power from an electric plant gets to your outlet, you have a brown-out. A brown-out, not enough electricity, can ruin your major appliances. We need to be connected adequately to God's life, power, forgiveness, grace, peace, and mercy. If not, we're as good as damned. God the Son, assures us all that God the Father is, does, and gives is in Him and it's safe for us to use there.
I don't really understand what goes on at a power plant, particularly a nuclear one, but I do know that electricity is safely available for me to use in an outlet. In order for that to happen the electrical system doesn't just need a capacitor but a conductor. Your house's wiring system conducts to outlets electricity that has been brought down to a safe, adequate level. Our text shows God the Spirit as the Conductor of the Trinity. He brings all that Jesus won for sinners - forgiveness, fellowship with God, and everlasting life - to us.
Don't try this at home, but you can touch an insulated wire without being shocked. If, however, you strip off it's plastic insulation and touch it you will be jolted. The Holy Spirit conducts all the fullness of the mysterious Trinity to you safely wrapped in earthly things. You couldn't bear it anymore than the Old Testament Church at Sinai could if God spoke to you directly, so God the Spirit wraps the Words of God in the mouth of a man. Being reborn of God would have the horror, the pain, the ghastliness of a werewolf movie if God the Spirit didn't conduct regeneration to you through the calm, clear waters of the baptismal font.
And what sinner can eat and drink with God let alone God directly? His holiness would turn our fallen flesh and blood into ashes, and His infinite power would burst these finite bodies of clay. Yet, we need His holy, eternal life in these fallen bodies or we die. You can only get life from living things. You can only get eternal life from an eternally living God. Through the Flesh and Blood of God the Son, God's eternal, holy life is available to sinners. God the Word places His Flesh and Blood in Holy Communion and God the Spirit conducts the Triune God's forgiveness, life, and eternal salvation to the mouth's of sinners safely wrapped in Bread and Wine.
You know how you can get dizzy, woozy even, when you look down from a height? You feel like you could fall at any moment. The doctrine of the Trinity saves you from falling by having you look somewhere else other than the abyss. Don't look directly at the Trinity who dwells in light unapproachable. Don't look directly at the Triune God who is a consuming fire. Don't look directly at the Trinity who is thunder, lightening, and nonstop shaking. You know how you're not to look directly at a solar eclipse, but you can safely look in one of those boxes you construct? Well the Triune God has constructed a box for you to see Him: He's called Jesus.
I know; we've already been over that, but that's the point Jesus leaves us with: "All that belongs to the Father is Mine. The Spirit will take from what is Mine and make it known to you." This rescues you from thinking that there is some secret in the Trinity that you need to know apart from what God the Spirit takes from God the Son and makes known to you in Baptism, Bible, and Bread. The Triune God has no better wine than this and no warmer fire. Seek to meet the Trinity apart from His Baptism, Bible, or Wine and you'll become intoxicated on your opinions, thoughts, and ideas, and you'll stumble into the abyss of Deity there to be burned. The doctrine of the Trinity says the Triune God wants to be met, known, and believed only in Jesus as He is brought to you by the Spirit in Water, Words, Bread and Wine. This doctrine doesn't answer all my questions, but it does quiet my heart even as a good wine and a warm fire will. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
The Holy Trinity (20100530); John 16: 12-15