I’ve never been one who has enjoyed just sitting in front of a television, flipping through channels1. But on the rare occasion that happens, I really don’t like it when I get sucked into an infomercial. You’ve probably seen one of them. They’re essentially just a long, show-length commercial for a product.
These infomercials show a product being used, they contain interviews of people who enjoy using the product, and they just overall try to get you to want to buy that product. Sometimes there will even be a live studio audience involved. It’s all there to get you to pick up a phone or get on the internet and buy what they’re selling.
Now, I’ve never come close to saying, “Wow, I hope there’s an infomercial on I can watch.” I don’t like to buy things like this off of television. But I have watched them, despite myself. I remember years ago watching one on a juicer. I’ve never owned a juicer; I wasn’t even interested in a juicer, but the infomercial sucked me in. Recently there was one for a ladder. I don’t think about ladders; I’m not in the market for a ladder. But there I was, watching this infomercial for a ladder.
And why was I so into these things? I think it comes down to a technique they use. It usually starts with words like, “But wait! There’s more!” This might have to do with capabilities the product has. You think you know everything there is to know about it, but wait! There’s more! It turns out it does other stuff, too! Then, when they’re trying to get you to order, you think you just get the product. But wait! You also get some other stuff that’s helps the product for “free” right along with it! Then there’s the price. You think there’s one price, let’s say $100, but wait! If you call in the next 3 hours, you can get it for half price! There’s something about finding out there’s more about something that somehow makes it seem more interesting.
Now, I’m not telling you today that you should watch more infomercials or order anything from them. But I think there’s a similarity to how infomercials talk about their products and how we talk about God on Trinity Sunday.
But if there were ever a day that proves we don’t know it all about God, it’s Trinity Sunday. One God in three Persons and three Persons in one God. We know what the words mean, but that doesn’t mean we really understand them. Or take the Athanasian Creed that we said a few minutes ago, or even the picture on the front of the bulletin2. God is beyond us; we will never be able to wrap our heads around what it means to have a Triune God. Whenever we think we know everything about God, there’s always more that we don’t know.
Not only can we not fully understand who God is, we also can’t fully grasp the gifts he gives us. There is always more to the gifts he gives. No, not products that we pick up the phone to buy, but gifts that God gives us purely out of his love. Today we get to rejoice in our Triune God. But wait! There’s more! There’s always more to who He is, and there’s always more to what He gives.
More to Who God Is
Trinity Sunday is a great opportunity to really think about who God is. But that’s not easy to do. After all, we can’t see God. We can see what he does in the world around us and in our own lives. We can see — and read — what he says in his Word. But you can’t point at any one thing and say, “that’s God.” He’s a spirit. So it’s a little harder for us and our human minds to really figure out and grasp who God is.
Because of this, it’s really easy for us to think about God in ways that could never be accurate. We end up comparing God who we can’t see, with other people who we can see. And the problem with this is that it will never do God justice. If we’re comparing God to human beings it’s always going to have the result of making God smaller and less powerful than he really is or it will make us bigger and more powerful than we should be.
Let me explain. A lot of times we’re troubled when something bad happens. When someone dies, for example, we wonder. Where was God? Why didn’t he fix this? Why didn’t he step in and do something? We think, “Well, I would’ve done something, so God should have, too. We make God like us, and when he doesn’t act how we would’ve acted, we make him even smaller. Maybe he can’t really help us, we wonder. Maybe he doesn’t hear our prayers.
The truth is, though, we don’t always know why God allows some things and not others, why things happen to some people but not to someone else. He’s God! He’s bigger than us, smarter than us, more powerful than us. Of course we don’t get everything he does. God spoke through the prophet Isaiah and said, As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Is. 55:9)
Yet, we can also fall in to making ourselves look more powerful than we ought. It sunk over a hundred years ago, but the Titanic is a good example of this. Here was this huge ship that people at the time claimed was indestructible, unsinkable! How wrong they were!
And what was it that sunk the Titanic? Usually you hear it was an iceberg. Icebergs don’t look like a big deal. They look like an oversized ice cube floating in the water. But wait! There’s more! You only see a fraction of the iceberg on the surface, by far the biggest part of the iceberg is underwater, where you can’t see it. That’s why the Titanic sunk.
And that’s why any attempt to pin down who God is by comparing him to human beings is always bound to fail. There’s more to who God is than we can ever see or understand. There’s always more to who he is than what we can see or know at any given time.
Think about what we saw him do in our first reading today from Genesis. (Gen. 1:1-2:3) He created everything in 6 days. He planned out everything, how every animal and plant works, how our blood flows, how the oxygen flows when we breathe in and out. God did all of that, all that we still only know a fraction of what he made and did.
And that still doesn’t explain who he is. Think about that Athanasian Creed we said a few minutes ago. It starts to sound like a tongue twister. All these things that describe how God is one but he is in three Persons, and the Persons are all different but they aren’t three Gods, and they are all God but the Persons aren’t mixed. It’s dizzying.
Even the diagram on the front of the worship folder throws us for a loop. It’s easy enough to understand that the Father is not the Son, who is not the Holy Spirit. It’s easy to understand that each of them are the one God. We understand the words, but we can never fully grasp it. Wait! There’s always more to who God is!
More to What God Gives
And that could scare us. That could lead us to think that with a God that amazing, that complex, that powerful, that all he could do is destroy us. But instead, in his Word, God tells us the opposite. He tells us that this all-powerful God that is far beyond our understanding does not destroy us, but instead gives us gifts. And we can’t even fathom how much and how great those gifts are. There is always more to what God gives.
The closing blessing in the book of 2 Corinthians shows that in a beautiful way. We hear this blessing quite often in church, but it’s worth taking a look at the gifts God mentions for us there: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. (2 Cor. 13:13 or 13:14)3
You might notice that there’s a gift mentioned from each Person in the Trinity. Each one of these gifts alone would be the greatest thing we could ever be given, but together, they’re more than we can imagine.
Look at the first one: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. You know I could’ve preached the entire sermon just on this verse and wouldn’t have come close to covering it all? That’s how big these few words really are.
The word grace talks about something that is a gift. In other words, it isn’t something that is earned, it isn’t something that is somehow paid for by anyone else but the giver. It’s something given freely to someone else.
So what did the Lord Jesus Christ give us freely? Where to start? The King of the Universe took on human flesh, he became a human being, and he gave everything he had for me. He gave his life to suffering in this world while he obeyed the law in my place. He gave his blood on the cross as he paid the price my sins owed. Jesus gave me — he gave you — everything we needed to get to heaven. We are forgiven. The devil can’t touch us. We will not face eternal death, but we will enjoy eternal life. And Jesus our risen and ascended Savior gave us these things freely.
But wait! There’s more! We’re told that we also have the love of God. Again, there could be a never-ending series of sermons on this. But God the Father, the Creator of the World who created us to love and serve him, this God saw us disobey him. He saw that we do not love him with our whole heart, soul, and mind, he saw that we don’t love our neighbors as ourselves.
And what does this God do? He decided to send his one and only Son to save us. He decided to hear our prayers even though we don’t deserve it. He decided to watch over us and keep us every day in his care. And then, through his Son, he decided to bring us to eternal life. That’s God’s love.
But you know there’s even more than that. We also have the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. This might be the hardest one to understand, but it’s still huge. We have a fellowship, a common, joint unity. God, far beyond us, has decided to have a personal relationship with us. He’s called us by Word and sacrament to be his children. He’s given us a real relationship. God is our Father that’s every bit as worth celebrating as earthly fathers today. He’s made us his own children in Holy Baptism.
And he has brought us together as his people. He’s made us his church, called out of darkness into his wonderful light, fit to serve him imperfectly now on earth and perfectly forever in heaven.
So friends, I hope today is a chance for you to think about how amazing our God is. Think about how we can’t even fathom the least of who our God is and what he has done for us. There’s always more to who he is and always more to what he gives to us. And all we can do? We thank and praise him now and forever.
- Sermon preached at St. John’s Lutheran Church for the First Sunday after Pentecost — the Holy Trinity on June 15, 2014. Sermon text: 2 Corinthians 13:11-14 ↩
- The picture at the top of this page! ↩
- In many translations, this is verse 14, but in the HCSB, it is verse 13 (due to them stretching out verse 12. Due to some translation issues in verses 11-12, I generally prefer the HCSB on this text. ↩