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.
As proof of this, when explaining the mystery of rebirth through Holy Baptism to Nicodemus, Jesus tells us that we cannot even comprehend earthly things. He said, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.” We may be able to give scientific explanations for wind and why certain weather patterns create more wind than others, but its very existence is a mystery. We do not see the wind, only its effects. We do not where it goes after it blows past us. And similarly, the weather. The weather is not like a player piano roll, repeating itself in one continuous, identical cycle. If we cannot wrap our minds around these everyday things that we take for granted, how can we wrap our minds around the eternal, almighty God.
It is not possible for us to subdue the doctrine of the Holy Trinity to our reason or math or geometry. Attempts to put the Trinity into an understandable form always fall flat at best, and at worst lead into heresy. There is not one God who wears different masks or acts at one moment as creator, at another as redeemer, and at another as sanctifier. None of the Persons are interchangeable. Try as we might, attempting to succinctly and accurately comprehend fully the Holy Trinity will always result in frustration because nothing can adequately describe this mystery. Instead, we must, in reverence, confess that there are things we cannot fully comprehend, but nevertheless benefit from. Just like the wind brings refreshment on a warm day and helps sustain the earth, so does the Trinity provide a multitude of benefits we cannot comprehend.
The greatest benefit of the Triune God is His love for His creation which seems like the most frivolous love imaginable. The Father loves the Son and in love the Holy Spirit proceeds from both. And this love they have for one another is perfect, so they were never incomplete. They never needed to give love to someone else or receive it from someone else because of the perfection of the Godhead. Nevertheless, on the sixth day of Creation they said to themselves, “Let Us make man in Our image.” They knew what was ahead, the rebellion of Satan, the Fall of Adam and Eve which would doom the whole world to death, and even the sins that you and I commit. They knew that we would never be deserving of their love, and that we would never perfectly reciprocate it. But He chose to create us in love and for love, and chose to bring us back into Himself, even after we rebelled against Him. Before He formed us in our mothers’ wombs, He knew us. And therein is the greatest all mysteries, not the Trinity or the Incarnation, or the Lord’s Supper, but the mystery that God loves us and wants us to be with Him and has sacrificed His only-begotten Son to win us back to Himself.
That’s why God has names. We know God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, not as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. Yes, those are their primary roles, but we do not know them by their Function, but by who they are for us, because by Baptism we have been brought into relationship with them. Because of Jesus Christ, we call God “Our Father.” Because the Father sent the Son into our flesh to be tortured and to be crucified, He is both the Son of God and our Brother, the Substitute who stood in our place to pay the price the Law demanded for sin. To bring us back to our rightful home the Father and Son send the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, to give us the faith necessary for salvation and to keep us steadfast in it until the Last Day.
This may be a mystery beyond our comprehension, part of the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God, His ways impossible to comprehend, but it reveals to us who God is, what the Gospel is, and that is love. Like Isaiah, though we should be undone because we are people of unclean lips and unclean hearts, the Father poured out His wrath on Jesus Christ so He would not have any to pour out on you. Like the mystery of the Trinity, we will never be able to fully understand this mystery of our salvation. But that does not stop us from endless rejoicing. The Father loves you so much that He sent His Son to die for you, and the Holy Spirit delivers the Son’s sacrifice to you and holds the cross before your eyes today and every day. To Him be glory forever. Amen.
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.