Thursday, May 27, 2010

Worship for Trinity Sunday

Thursday after Pentecost
May 27, 2010

The Lord be with you

This coming Sunday is the Festival of the Holy Trinity. The first Sunday after Pentecost was established for this festival by Pope John XXII in 1334. While considered a major festival in the Western Church, the Eastern Church never did establish a specific day to commemorate this vital doctrine. This probably had more to do with the “Great Schism” between East and West than anything else. (The “Great Schism” refers to the breaking of fellowship between the Eastern, Greek-speaking, and the Western, Latin-speaking, church. It is often dated to 1054, though the dance of reconciliation and estrangement continued for many, many years, making other dates possible). One of the issues leading to the “Great Schism” was Rome’s claim to be the supreme head of the Church. Certainly one way to assert that Rome was not the supreme head of the Church would be to not celebrate a holiday Rome established.

Lutheranism, as an heir of the Western Tradition, celebrates Trinity Sunday. We will do so at Lamb of God (LC-MS) with the Lord’s Supper and a special liturgy. Part of the special liturgy will be the use of the Athanasian Creed. This creed is still, in my opinion, the best “short” explanation of the Trinity. This creed is long enough that, many centuries ago, it was divided into verses. We will confess it responsively, verse by verse.

With the special liturgy and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, there will be a lot of singing Sunday. The tunes of the hymns are all well know at Lamb of God except “Oh, Love, How Deep.” This hymn is the hymn we are learning. The hymns are: “Holy, Holy, Holy,” (LSB 507), “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” (LSB 802), “Oh, Love, How Deep” (LSB 544), “Holy Spirit, Ever Dwelling” (LSB 650), “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” (LSB 940), “Glory Be to God the Father” (LSB 506), “All Glory Be to God on High” LSB 947), “O Blessed, Holy Trinity” (LSB 876), “The Lord, My God, Be Praised” (LSB 794), and “Almighty Father, Bless the Word” (LSB 923).

The appointed lessons for Trinity Sunday are Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Acts 2:14a, 22-36, and John 8:48-59. The sermon is titled “Great is the Mystery of God.” The text for the sermon is John 8:54.

Our opening hymn is “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.” This great Trinity hymn was written by Reginald Heber and first publsihed in 1856. It is a paraphrase of Revelation 4:8-11, “And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within; and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was and is and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honor and thanks to Him that sat on the throne, who liveth forever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne and worship Him that liveth forever and ever and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” The tune was written specifically for this hymn by John Dykes and named “Nicaea” because at the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) the doctrine of the Trinity was definitely established as the teaching of the Church. The following video is of an organist playing the tune. You can hear the melody line of most of the other hymns at Better Noise. The link is on the right-hand side of this page.

Preview of the Lessons

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31: This is one of the sections of Proverbs where “Wisdom” is personified and is another name for Jesus. However, in Hebrew, “wisdom” is a feminine noun and so when referred to feminine pronouns are used. This confuses some people. Verse 22 was one of the key verses in the early Christological controversies. The ESV correctly translates this passage, “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work …” The RSV incorrectly translates it as, “The LORD created me at the beginning of his work …” This is a major translation blunder for it makes the Second Person of the Trinity a created, and therefore inferior, being. Even if you do not take this passage as referring to the Son of God, the RSV translation would then say that there was a time when God did not possess wisdom! Though I do not know of any translations that do it, this word could also be translated “fathered.” The ESV text note reflects this. The following quote is from God’s Word to the Nations, New Evangelical Translation, Proverbs, Review Edition, © 1991, 83 [out of print]: “Besides these references, there is one place at which wisdom reaches its highest point—at 8:22-31. Here wisdom is described in a way far different from all the other places in the book. Chapter 8:1-3 seems to begin with a personification of wisdom similar to 1:20-33. Then, at verse 4 and continuing all the way to the end of the chapter (v. 36), “wisdom/Wisdom” delivers a discourse in the first person singular, a discourse longer than any other speech in Proverbs (cf. 1:22-33). Without going into a word-by-word, verse-by-verse exegesis of the passage, “wisdom/Wisdom” here describes itself as the highest good (v. 6), holy (vv. 7,8), more valuable than anything else (vv. 10,11) indispensable for kings and rulers (vv. 15-22), the “Master Craftsman” who worked side by side with the LORD at the very creation of the world (vv. 22-31). And then, in verses 32-36 the reader is encouraged to find and hold onto Wisdom throughout life. Thus, the special way in which Wisdom is presented in this chapter motivates the reader to become thoroughly wise and to walk in Wisdom’s ways (v. 33), because in so doing the reader will find true “life” and “favor” from the LORD (v. 35).” It isn’t hard to see why the Church has always seen this chapter as speaking of Jesus.

Acts 2: 14a, 22-36: This is another portion of Peter’s Pentecost Day sermon. By looking at the sermons in Acts we can see how the Word of God was presented in the Apostolic Church. In this section we not only notice the central place of the death and resurrection of Jesus, but also the Trinitarian nature of the Church’s message. “This Jesus [the Son] God [the Father] raised up …and [Jesus] having received from [God] the Father the promise of [God] the Holy Spirit, he [God the Son] poured out this that you yourself are seeing and hearing.” Central to the Christian Faith and salvation is belief in the atoning work of Jesus as the incarnate Second Person of the Trinity.

John 8:48-59: In this reading, Jesus is being accosted by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. They accuse him of being a “Samaritan” and being demon possessed. The Samaritans were the lowest of the lows as far as these leaders were concerned. Any sort of racial slur might come close to capturing the ugliness of this word. It is always helpful to remember when you are reading John’s Gospel that he reserves the phrase “the Jews” for the Jewish leadership. While the followers of Jesus were Jewish, John never calls them “the Jews.” As this reading forms the foundation for Sunday’s sermon, I will say no more.

Sunday’s Collect
Almighty and everlasting God, You have given us grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by the confession of a true faith and to worship the Unity in the power of the Divine Majesty. Keep us steadfast in this faith and defend us from all adversities; for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Instead of the appointed Gradual we will pray a short Collect and sing “Oh, Love, How Deep” (LSB 544)

Instead of the appointed Verse we will pray a short Collect and sing “Holy Spirit, Ever Dwelling” (LSB 650)

Introit (Psalm 16:8-11; antiphon: Liturgical Text)
Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity.
Let us give glory to him because he has shown his mercy to us.
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity.
Let us give glory to him because he has shown his mercy to us.

Adult Bible Study
We continue, in our adult Bible class, our series titled Puzzlers and Questions About the Bible. Every week we deal with a question submitted by someone. There are a number of questions that have been submitted that, no matter how hard I might try, simply will not take up an hour long Bible Study so I’m grouping them together and calling the studies “Shotgun.” Last week we began “Shotgun II,” which has four questions (1. Were the dinosaurs ever on the earth at the same time as human beings? 2. Can a person have more than one soul? (For example, a person who is a schizophrenic) 3. Who are the “sons of God” who mated with the “daughters of men” in Genesis 6? 4. Can a person be a Christian and an evolutionist?) As it turned out, we were able to cover only the first two questions, so this coming Sunday we will finish the last two questions in Shotgun II. Join us Sunday morning at 9:00 AM as we dig deeper into the Word of God.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

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