Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Credo: I Believe - preaching on the Trinity this Sunday

As you may know, I have been down since Saturday afternoon with a stomach virus. I am back in the office today but am still feeling weak. My voice is shot from being sick all weekend. I'm sure everyone around me is really happy that I can't talk so much! :) I am especially thankful that Mindy, Mary Grace and the rest of the kids haven't come down with it. I'm praying feverishly that they don't!

I begin this week by picking up a happy burden. This Sunday I have the privilege and, yes, sobering job of preaching a sermon on the great doctrine of the Trinity and what it means for us.

The background to this is also very exciting to me. I am beginning a new sermon series this Sunday on the vision and mission of Trinity Presbyterian Church. It is called "Credo: I Believe". It will be an 11 week series that covers such grand topics as the Trinity, the Gospel, the mission of God, worship, discipleship, community, family and more. I am particularly excited about a sermon handbook that will be given out this Sunday with information about the sermon and a song for private/family worship for each week. A collection of musical accompaniments is also being created today for families to use to help them sing the songs. These will be distributed by CD and/or website. My friend Ben Geist has created some beautiful artwork for these sermon guidebooks as well, so I'm very excited about this resource to put into our church's hands.

Now the first sermon in the series will be on the Trinity. It is the doctrine that teaches that there is only one true God, but that this God exists in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each of these three persons are the same in substance, equal in power and glory. The doctrine of the Trinity has stood for centuries as a legitimate litmus test of what is orthodox, historic, biblical Christianity. The early church perfected its understanding of this biblical doctrine in its major church councils at Nicea (in 325 AD), Costantinople (381 AD), Ephesus (431 AD), and finally in Chalcedon (451 AD). One theologian has correctly called the doctrine of the Trinity "the most comprehensive and the most nearly all-inclusive formulation of the truth of Christianity." Roughly speaking, the whole Bible is really nothing but the unfolding of the knowledge of the Triune God - in creation (Father), in redemption (Son), and in the church and future (Holy Spirit).

When we speak of the Trinity, we are peering into the most mysterious, most glorious of all realities. And as Cornelius Van Til once famously remarked, "Every truth is nothing but the externaliziation of the personality of the Trinity," which is a very compact, formal way of saying that every truth we come into contact with is related back to the Trinity. The fact that I am an individual but am also so connected with others in deep relationship is itself an expression of the unity, diversity, personality of the Trinity. This doctrine is an expression of the heart and essence of who God really is. It's mind boggling! The Trinity informs us that God is both unity and diversity at the same time. The Trinity informs us that God is both vastly glorious beyond comprehension, but also eternally a very personal God. In fact, if God were not triune, then there could be no salvation for us.

"The verbal expression of the Trinity is the most difficult job man has had to do," said J. I. Packer. I definitely feel the truth of these words this week! But shame on me and shame on the church that we do not preach on the Trinity often enough. (If we all followed the old liturgical calendar, at least there would be one day a year in which all churches would preach on the Trinity. But the modern church has taken away Ascension Sunday, Pentecost Sunday and Trinity Sunday and replaced it with Memorial Day, Independence Day and Mother's Day. What a shame.) Back to the point: I am very excited to launch a new sermon series on the vision and mission of our church by beginning at the core of all reality: the Godhead. We begin at the place from which all else flows. Our redemption and our mission begin here. So, just as Moses had helpers to keep his arms up as he watched over Israel, pray for me (if you are a praying person) this week as I prepare an important sermon. Pray that my full strength would be restored as well as my voice. And more important, pray that the glory of the Triune God would so grip my own heart this week that my preaching would simply be an overflow of that same glory experienced by my own soul.

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