Reading Ramblings – May 26, 2013

Reading
Ramblings

Date: May 26, 2013, Holy
Trinity Sunday

Texts:
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Psalm 8; Acts 2:14a, 22-36; John 8:48-59

Contextual
Notes:
Holy Trinity Sunday is set apart for us to
specifically consider the triune nature of our one God. This
festival was first formalized by the Roman Catholic Church in the
14th century, however various unofficial celebrations of
this were known much earlier. The Trinity is part of every worship,
as we begin the service with the invocation, and throughout the
service in the liturgy and often the songs that we sing. But one
Sunday a year we spend time more specifically considering this
mystery. It is often observed by the reading of the Athanasian Creed, the third (and least known) of the Ecumenical Creeds of the
Church.

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31:
This chapter personifies Wisdom as a lovely woman – a metaphor that
is used often throughout the Proverbs. We first met her in the
opening chapter of Proverbs, and she is contrasted with her opposite,
the woman Folly, who is often described as the adulterous woman –
enticing but leading to ruin. The verses in Chapter 8 for today
emphasize more the eternal nature of wisdom, and as such, link the
personification of wisdom more with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of
God that proceeds from the Father and the Son and has thus eternally
existed before all creation, which is the emphasis of the second,
longer set of verses in this reading. Jesus promises the Holy Spirit
to his followers in John 14, emphasizing the Spirit’s role in
teaching and keeping the hearts of his followers. Thus it is the
Spirit of God himself who makes us wise, who is the embodiment of
wisdom.

Psalm 8: A psalm of
praise to the goodness and glory of God. The glory of God is
manifested in creation, but also in his designation of mankind as his
stewards of creation.

Acts 2:14a, 22-36:
The speech of Peter at Pentecost, which we began reading last week,
continues today. The first section concentrated on the outpouring of
God’s power as prophesied in Scripture, and as an explanation for the
bizarre linguistic ability suddenly given to the disciples. Now that
Peter has justified their unexpected actions as the work of God, he
proceeds to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah
and Son of God. The hallmark of this identity, the defining factor
is the resurrection (v.24). Peter preaches Jesus not just as the
Messiah but as Lord, calling his hearers to repentance for the sin of
crucifying Jesus. So it is that the Holy Spirit points people to
Jesus as Lord and Savior, and in so doing, points to God the Father
who sent the Son and the Spirit.

John 8:48-59:
Some people are fond of claiming that Jesus doesn’t explicitly call
himself the Son of God. However this passage (and others) in John
are a good place to refute that claim. Jesus counters claims about
him as a demon-possessed heretic (the Samaritans were viewed as
heretics and not properly Jewish by the people in Judea and
Jerusalem). He is accused of being in error, and he counters by
asserting that rather than dishonoring God through his error, He
actually brings true honor to God the Father, rather than himself.
As such, his words will continue forever. We remember John’s
emphasis on Jesus as the Word of God made flesh, which he lays out in
John 1.

Jesus’ hearers are astounded, because Jesus is claiming a greater
honor than the patriarchs and prophets, men venerated by the Jews yet
still understood to be only mortal men. How is it that these great
and holy men could die, yet Jesus claims to hold the power of eternal
life?

Jesus then claims to know Abraham, to know of his response at seeing
the day of the Lord arriving in his own ministry. This also seems
ludicrous to Jesus’ hearers, who note his youth and mock his
assertion to know Abraham. Jesus’ response is telling. His claim of
“I am” echoes the name that God gave himself when queried by
Moses in Exodus 3:14. Jesus is equating himself to the Father; they
share the same name, the holy name that the Jews refuse to even
pronounce for fear of blasphemy. So it is that his hearers are
prepared to kill him for blasphemy.

The idea that Jesus is also God is a difficult one for us to grasp
hold of. It runs counter to our understandings – murky as they
are! – of what it means to be either human or God. The doctrine of
the Trinity, attested to by the Word of God, is one that we cannot
intellectually grasp or understand in fullness. We can only bear
faithful witness to what God himself has said about this in his Word
and the Word made flesh.

Because of the challenging nature of this doctrine, plenty of people
and groups have attempted to get around it or away from it. Arius
denied the full divinity of Jesus. Jehovah’s witnesses deny the
Trinity as well. When we seek to substitute our own reasoning and
logic for the revealed truth of God, we find ourselves denying and
contradicting his Word in favor of an explanation that we are more
comfortable with. But what a price that comfort demands!

We are forced to confess in the doctrine of the Trinity that the true
nature and essence of God is beyond our understanding. We are unable
to say more about it than He has revealed, and we are not free to
ignore any of what He has said, either. This is the glory of God,
that He is so above and beyond our ability to comprehend that we are
left only with the options of worshiping him or rejecting him. We
will never enjoy the presence of God by an act of the mind, by our
comfort at being able to fully explain him. This is not the comfort
we find in God. Rather, we find comfort in God in his revelation of
himself and his will towards us through his Son, Jesus. Here it is
that we find comfort from what we cannot explain, peace from the
immense otherness of God. In God made flesh, we can approach God and
know that He loves us, because He has first approached us.   

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