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LSB Holy Trinity A Sermon – Matthew 28:16-20

June 16, 2014

June 15, 2014 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.’”

Today is Holy Trinity Sunday. The focus of this day is the Triune nature of the Godhead. You will have the opportunity to have your hearts and minds focused on this while praying the Athanasian Creed. In the best way that we humans have possible, our words will be used to express a divine mystery that is incomprehensible to our minds.

But the Scripture Readings for this day are not meditations on the Triune nature of the Godhead. Instead, they are records of how the Triune God has acted for humanity. They note how the Persons of the Trinity have interacted in their work in the world.

That work started at the beginning of all things. The very first thing done by the Triune God for humanity is to bring it into existence. The author of Genesis states it concisely at first: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Then laying out what God does, the formation of the entire creation is described. Order and shape are brought where none existed: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” The divine voice speaks: “Let there be….” And what that voice commands to be is: light shines, the expanse between the waters is created, the dry land appears with vegetation, stars twinkle, birds soar and fish swim, animals creep on the dry ground.

Then the Triune God brings mankind into existence: “Then God said: ‘Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Mankind is made. Humanity is placed into this creation that the Triune God had fashioned for them. God grants humanity His authority to rule over the creation.

But when that order was rejected by mankind, when what was “very good” was considered to be less than desired compared to what God had declared to be off-limits, chaos returned. And so the Triune God once again acted for humanity. The promise was made in the first generation about what work would be done. Order would be restored. The right relationship between God and mankind would be reestablished.

To perform that act for mankind, God became man. In the Incarnation, God became a creature, became a human being. But that should not surprise. For man was made after God’s own image and likeness. So God returns mankind to its rightful place in His very good order. That is what the work of Jesus in the world accomplished. This is why Peter preaches about Jesus on Pentecost: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.”

Peter’s words express how the Triune God worked again for humanity. Jesus’ work fulfills the will of the Triune God to redeem mankind. His death and resurrection are part of the Triune God’s definite plan and foreknowledge. Through those acts, mankind finds deliverance. Jesus dies, just as all mankind would die due to their sin. But note what is stated about Jesus: “God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.” This is profound! Those words declare that a Man existed who suffered death but was not subject to it. The curse of sin and rebellion is lifted by Jesus. What plagues mankind is removed by this Man. That is what the Triune God desired for mankind. And what the Triune God willed comes to pass, just like it was when the Creation was formed.

But the Triune God’s will is that this work would benefit humanity, not just one Man. And so you heard how what Jesus did “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” is extended to humanity. Peter’s proclamation of Jesus’ identity and work brought this to the ears of the people in Jerusalem: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Peter makes that known because Jesus had instructed him to do so. But Jesus’ instructions included more, as you heard in the Gospel Reading: “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

The Triune God’s work was done for all mankind. And that is why Jesus gives the command to His apostles that results in people of all nations being beneficiaries of His work for them. They would be incorporated into the reconciliation that Jesus had accomplished between God and man. All nations are to have this Jesus as Lord. For this Jesus was not just a monarch of one nation, not just the descendant of David to rule from Jerusalem. No, this Jesus is the Incarnate God, the Creator of heaven and earth who had become part of His creation to redeem it.

So with the full authority that Jesus possesses, He sends out His apostles to carry His work to the nations. And what the Incarnate God wills comes to pass. The creation came into existence as the Triune God willed it. The creation was redeemed as the Triune God willed it. And now the creation is sanctified, made holy, as the Triune God wills it. That is what happens as the commission of Jesus is carried out. Baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit marks people, noting that they now belong to the Triune God. They are set apart. They are designated as holy. And with that, the divine way of life is handed to mankind. Through this, mankind as God wills it to be is fruitful and multiplies and fills the earth. Following the instructions that Jesus spoke and commanded, mankind lives as God’s holy people. They live in the order that the Triune God has established for them.

By hearing the record of these acts, you know what the Triune God does for you. The Creation Account is not just a cosmology. The preaching about Jesus’ identity and work by Peter is not just a theology. The commission that Jesus gives to the apostles is not just a missiology. What you heard today is not a human reflection on God. What you heard today is not an analysis of God. What you heard today is not a commentary about God. No, what you heard is the Triune God revealing Himself and the actions that He has done for your benefit.

The psalmist asks the reflective question: “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” The Triune God answers that question in the acts of creation, redemption, and sanctification. He answers by showing in His actions the value that He has placed on you. What you heard today is what the Triune God wills and desires for you. He desires that you exist in His image and likeness. Because you lost that image through sin and rebellion, He has redeemed you. He has restored His image and likeness to you, as you have received the renewal and regeneration that comes in Baptism. Now He sets you aright to live out that restored image and likeness as you observe all that He has commanded you. All this is done as the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity has shown mercy to you.

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

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