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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Holy Trinity 5/18

“All Creatures, Worship God Most High!”

The Holy Trinity
May 18, 2008
Matthew 28:16-20
Bethany Lutheran Church

If you were here last week, you will recall a worship service that was adorned with gentle streamers high in the air, bells that rang out endlessly in joy, an endless procession of spirit filled children, brand new altar linens, and a bowl filled with fire that danced. It was a joyful celebration of the Pentecost, it was an occasion to mark in a very special way the Holy Spirit coming into our midst and filling each of us. The feast day of Pentecost which we celebrated last week is an occasion to simply revel in the mystery.

Now, only one week later, on this day, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity. We attempt to put God into a box, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, neatly arranging each part of God in order that we might better understand God. Seminary students, like myself, study the doctrine of the Trinity for years and years. It is discussed both in Old and New Testament courses, church history, worship, but mostly in systematics. It is there that we ask such questions like “If Jesus and the Father really are one, why did Jesus have to pray to the Father in the garden of Gethsemane?”

Renowned theologian Karl Barth once wrote: “The Word became flesh, and theologians made it words again.” You see, even the greatest of pastors and theologians do not have the answers to all the questions that surround the doctrine of the Trinity. All that we have learned to develop is our logic and critical thinking. In talking about the doctrine of the Trinity our logic might go like this: If “A” equals “B” and “B” equals “C”, then “A” equals “W” because our God is a creative God.

In a relaxing, fictional book I was reading just last week, author Pascal Mercier quipped these words: “Of the thousand experiences we have, we find language for one at most and even this one merely by chance and without the care it deserves. Buried under all the mute experiences are those unseen ones that give our life its form, its color, and its melody. Then, when we turn to these treasures, as archaeologists of the soul, we discover how confusing they are. […] that recognition of the confusion is the ideal path to understanding these intimate yet enigmatic experiences.”

And so, recognizing the confusion of the doctrine of the Trinity, I suggest that we simply sing and reflect upon it. If you will please open your hymnals to hymn number 835, and sing with me the first verse of “All creatures, worship God most high!” Be sure to mark the page as we will sing each verse in turn. I believe that by singing this hymn we will deepen our understanding of the Trinity.

All creatures, worship God most high!
Sound every voice in earth and sky: Alleluia! Alleluia!
Sing, brother sun, in splendor bright;
sing, sister moon and stars of night: Alleluia!

It is fitting that on this day our readings began with the well known account of God’s creation from Genesis. What else could give us such an incredible, full picture of the fullness of God than first looking around at all that God has created. God is present in all of life. Or to put it differently, there is no place where God is not. Everywhere we turn, every corner of the world, every inch of soil is a testament to what God has done. And so we sang, all creatures, worship God most high. All creatures, men, women and children, birds of the air, fish of the sea, four legged animals that walk upon the earth, spiders and bugs and worms and snakes, even plants and the smallest of micro-organisms, the sun and the moon and the stars are hearkened to worship God most high. And the sound of praise is a joyful one: “Alleluia.”

The infinite majesty of God is beyond our own human comprehension. It knows neither an end, nor a beginning, and yet it encircles us through the power of the liturgy. The assembly is greeted each week with the Trinitarian words “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Or as the commentary on the hymnal states: “This assembly is to be the communion of the Holy Spirit around the grace of Jesus Christ and the love of God, spoken and given in word and sacrament” (p129-130).

In the created order, God calls us to be co-creators, actively participating in the work of creation. God is continually creating. God is daily both fathering and mothering our growth. And as we greet one another each week in the name of the Trinity, we signify our “…love, trust, mutual service, and the hope in God, who makes such service possible” (p130-1). If you watch closely, you will even observe that both pastor and I bow. We do this as an indication of our honor and respect as each of us, you and I, become the body of Christ, called to serve on another. Let us sing verse two of hymn 835.

Sing, brother wind; with clouds and rain
you grow the gifts of fruit and grain: Alleluia! Alleluia!
Dear sister water, useful, clear,
make music for your Lord to hear: Alleluia!

The world aches with horrific headlines in the media. A severe earthquake in China has produced a death toll of over 50,000 people, plus tens of thousands of others who have been injured and others who are still missing. Over 43,000 died in Burma in the cyclone just weeks ago. Thousands are still without food and water, on the brink of starvation. Besides the bodily damage to individuals and families, the infrastructure in these places will take decades to clean up and rebuild.

Our world cries out in all its suffering, waiting to be healed. People are scared by the presence of military soldiers, scared by the guns, scared by the death that surrounds them. People are scared by the world, the uncertainties and the actions of one another. Some people are scared simply because everyone else is scared. The greatest challenge, the greatest question for us today is how do we offer compassion to a world that suffers so much? How do we offer compassion in a world where all odds seem against us?

Perhaps the best response that we can give is to continue being the church and to continue expressing our faith. As the church, we may respond with compassion by constantly and persistently praying for those affected by war, those affected by natural disaster and for all those in need of healing and peace. As the church we continue to demonstrate Christ’s compassion through sending and supporting food relief to countries who are scourged by famine.

Even when parts of the earth experience the earth’s raging winds and storms, God still provides us with a harvest of plenty. We have an abundance of food and resources and we are called to share with those in need. There is enough for all of God’s creation, if only we would allow our hands to be the hands of Christ, hands that feed one another, hands that heal the sick and hold the orphans. If we allow the spirit to work through us, even when the earth reacts violently, we as God’s people will see the wonderful ways in which God is at work in the world, providing for our every need, and find reason to sing and rejoice.

Sing, brother fire, so mirthful, strong;
drive far the shadows, join the throng: Alleluia! Alleluia!
Dear mother earth, so rich in care,
praise God in colors bright and rare: Alleluia!

Praise God in colors bright and rare: Alleluia! We are a marvelous and richly diverse creation. What are your colors? What makes you a unique and special child of God? A good team building exercise is to have everyone write something good about everyone else on a piece of paper. For it is through our unique gifts that the Holy Spirit does a lot of its work. Those of you who are huggers will attest to the power and comfort that a simple hug or embrace can give. Some of you may not be huggers however. Instead, you may be the type of person who likes to share your goofy smile and silly joke. Perhaps it is your eyes that best captivate someone, making them feel welcome. Who we are and who God has created us to be enables us to share the gospel in amazing ways.

In verse 17 of our gospel text it reads: “They [the disciples] saw and worshipped and some doubted.” Some people seem to have the understanding that those who come to church on a Sunday morning are those who have strong faith, but I tell you that the fact of the matter is that many come week after week seeking renewal, seeking an encounter with God which will renew their faith. I know of people who attend church week after week, amidst their own doubts, amidst life’s many uncertainties. They come precisely because they long for a stronger faith, not to gloat over the faith they already have. And perhaps one of the best messages we can give to those who are unchurched is that worship is a time to seek out faith, an encounter with the mysteries of God, interactions with God through both word and sacrament. For it is through reading scripture together, through baptism and holy communion, through the fellowship of each other that we are encompassed by a God who loves us.

All who for love of God forgive,
all who in pain or sorrow grieve: Alleluia! Alleluia!
Christ bears your burdens and your fears;
still make your song amid the tears: Alleluia!

A missionary friend of mine serving in Papua New Guinea argues that it was not a very fine thing that God did when he gifted the human with compassion. Human beings agonize over the best use of that gift. And once you have been compassionate, how much worse do you feel, knowing that you could have done more, sooner, better. What kept you, you wonder, from giving a second hour of your time to that crying child? What obscene priority did you have that made you squeeze that much tighter to your dollar bill as you walked past that disabled beggar? Why can’t you get up at four in the morning to drive a woman you don’t know to the airport? Why can’t you show compassion to everyone who needs it?

The unfortunate thing about giving is that the more you give, the more you feel like you should have given more. Also, the more you give, the more you dread the next time someone comes by to ask a favor because you’ve said yes to ten people already, why not eleven? It seems so simple. The answer has to be yes. Except its not that simple.

Christ’s compassion is inclusive of every race. Christ has broken down the barriers that have caused division. Neither gender, nor wealth, nor social rank, nor sexual orientation, nor nationality can separate us from the compassion of Christ.

Our faith in Christ, our curiosities over the mystery of the Holy Trinity, is that which compels us to be compassionate. We have learned compassion through Jesus’ example. Our Lord Jesus, the one who ate with tax collectors and sinners, has likewise called you and me as God’s own. We have been called to come and dine at his table. We have been called to build our lives upon Christ, to follow his example and to serve one another with compassion. It might entail eating with those who are social outcasts. It might entail serving someone we really dislike or even someone with whom we disagree.

And you, most gentle sister death,
waiting to hush our final breath: Alleluia! Alleluia!
Since Christ our light has pierced your gloom,
fair is the night that leads us home. Alleluia!

The command of Jesus is to “remember”. Remember that he is with us always to the end of the age. Even faced with death, we are called to remember. For Jesus has promised to be with us to the end of the age. These are the final words of Matthew’s gospel. While Matthew’s good news is coming to an end, the good news that we are called to share is only just beginning.

For we know that it is Christ the crucified who grants us the fullness of life. Christ’s death on the cross, the death that would atone for all our sins, is the greatest source of compassion that we will ever know. It is the blood of Christ that enables us to be reconciled to one another, to forgive one another, to continually care for one another. We are no longer strangers and aliens in a foreign land, but rather we are citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. We are enfolded into Christ’s eternal family, living among our fellow sisters and brothers, sharing a common baptism and a common meal, sharing the very body and blood of Christ. By Christ’s death, we have been reconciled. By Christ’s death we are able to offer compassion to a suffering world.

O sisters, brothers, take your part,
and worship God with humble heart: Alleluia! Alleluia!
All creatures, bless the Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit, Three in One: Alleluia!

We will never fully be able to comprehend the mystery of the Holy Trinity. And while the complex doctrine helps us describe how we talk about and understand God, I believe that the actual function of the trinity is about understanding the many ways in which God is in relationship with us. The full understanding of the mystery of the triune God is far beyond our comprehension.

But we have been strengthened by the faithful witness of the many saints that have gone before us. Through all that we see and hear, we gain knowledge and understanding of the God who is in relationship with us. We are disciples to each other – parents and teachers and friends and mentors and all those others who have supported us, cared for us, taught us, loved us. We leave this place, having been fed with the body and blood of Christ, not as a people who can explain the doctrine of the trinity, but rather as a people who live every day surrounded by a God who loves and cares for us – a God who transcends all time and space – a God is with us through everything we encounter in our living journey. The blessed Three in One: Alleluia!

Vicar Luke Smetters

Hymn: “All Creatures, Worship God Most High!”
Evangelical Lutheran Worship #835
Text © 1997 Augsburg Fortress


Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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