Today is all about mysteries. Three Persons in one God. Rebirth, even if you’re old. Belief gives eternal life. God has come to save the world, not condemn it. The Christian faith is full of mysteries. We cannot explain these things and a host of other things, but we say they’re true—a Virgin conceives and bears a Son; God says ‘Let there be’ and fully mature things come into existence; bread and wine deliver the Body and Blood of Christ to countless altars across seven continents, even though the Jesus who comes to us returned to heaven nearly 2,000 years ago; salvation is a gift and nothing we can buy or earn. We affirm as core beliefs things that science and logic cannot verify, and even more than that, things that science and logic say are false. But St. Paul teaches us to embrace mystery. He doesn’t grapple with this, but joyfully exclaims: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”
The Church Year has two divisions. The first half, which we just finished, follows the life of Christ—from His birth, through His life, and to His death, resurrection, ascension, and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. The second half of the Church Year focuses on the activity of the Holy Spirit in the Church, how He causes us to grow in the faith and in Christian living, but always keeping us grounded in the work Christ has done to win our salvation. But as a hinge between these two semesters stands today, the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. Today we are taught about the God who acted in the life of Christ, and we learn about the God who works in us in our life today.
The christian faith is full of mysteries, things we will never be able to wrap our minds around. As hard as we try to explain it, the rational mind does not have the ability to comprehend the mysteries of the faith. The Lord’s Supper is a mystery. How can the Body and Blood of Jesus be present at the same time as the bread and wine? From common sense we know that two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time. If I try to occupy the same space as the wall, I’m going to hurt myself. If two cars try to occupy the same space, the police have to be called and maybe even a tow truck or two because it’s impossible for the cars to coexist in one place. How can Jesus, as we confess, be born of the Virgin Mary? How can Jesus exist without the necessary mode of conception? And today we confess something we cannot begin to explain but must take as a matter of faith. How can there be one God but three Persons? How can they be coequal and share the same majesty and not have one before or after the other? Mortal, fallen minds cannot understand the mysteries of the faith, but God uses these mysteries for our salvation and for our good, to teach us that we are not able to do everything ourselves and must rely fully on Him.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.