Capon brined sermon for Holy Trinity

Trinity Sunday 2015
Isaiah 6:1-1-7
Romans 11:33-36
John 3:1-15 [16-17]

Let us pray: Holy Spirit “Teach us to know the Father, Son, and You, from both, as Three in One. That we Your name may ever bless and in our lives the truth confess.” Amen.

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There is a false teaching that says that God created us because He was either lonely, bored or had nothing better to do with His time and energy. This is, of course, ridiculous. We are not the human equivalent of Renee Zellweger to God’s Tom Cruise. We are not living in Jerry Maguire. God does not need man to complete Him. Implying so only shows that God is lacking in some part of His being. Rather God created out of love because He wanted to share His love with others . . . a love that includes others experiencing eternity in a way that we can hardly imagine.

Please allow me a little narrative freedom, and picture the Trinity and their plan of creation and salvation in this way.

God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Triune God sitting around in their unity were talking. All three in their equality, uncreated, unlimited and eternalness as One God were gathered around their joyous table. One of the many topics of discussion that came up was the Father’s fixation on this new concept He called “being”. God the Father explained the concept of being, ways of being, how things will come to be.

While sitting and listening the Son says, “This is great stuff. Why don’t we go ahead and create a batch of being with song, because there is nothing more heartfelt and creative than music.” We know the Son was there because John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning.” The Son even tell us Himself in the end of Revelation 22, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Likewise, the Spirit hovering over what was to become the face of the deep interjected and spoke His piece. “Terrific idea! I’ll help! Let’s get started! But first, one question? What happens when our ultimate creation rejects us? How are we going to bring them back to this joyful celebration and feast that we have prepared?”

The Son raised His voice and said, “You silly goose! Why do you ask questions to which we all in our mysterious oneness of Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity already know the answer? I will humble myself and become one substance with them as I am one substance with the Father . . . both at once. I will offer myself to suffer and die for them to pay the wages of their disobedience and sin. At the right time, while they are still sinners, I will die for them. (Rom 5:6-8) I will restore them to their perfect unity of being through mundane items like words, water, bread and wine. They will see our love in my death, not in their own works. I will choose them in myself before the foundation of the world. (Eph 1:4). I will write their names before the foundation of the world in the book of life of Myself who will be slain for them (Rev. 13:8).

It will come to pass that Moses will lift up the serpent in the wilderness, so I must be lifted up in my flesh, drawing all men to myself, so that whoever believe in Me may have eternal life. (John 3:14-15) My death will redeem them from their all of their sins.

You, Spirit, will give me to them in Words and those simple means to restore them to a fullness of being. This we will do together. As Paul will declare: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable are His ways!” (Rom 11:33) For our wisdom is eternal, yet declared foolish because of My becoming flesh and dying. My judgment in words “It is Finished!” are unsearchable because they are Divine. My ways are inscrutable because I, the sinless one, will die for the sinful. Let us end this discussion. I’d rather continue with the celebration. Let us feast, and in the morning, the real fun of creating into being begins.”

Son and Holy Spirit rolled up their sleeves and went to work making everything from the vast void of nothingness. Creatio ex nihilo. Creation from nothing. That is how it all started. Creation had to begin somewhere. It started in the time before there was such a concept, humanly speaking.

For the next couple days between evening and morning, the Son and the Spirit singing out new words, concepts and ideas put on a show of being for the Father making His complete, detailed and precise vision of creation come to pass culminating in the very good.

Creation was teeming with water, light, and lambs frolicking. Seeds were falling, sprouting and growing in the blink of an eye. Fish schooling all over the place. Creation alive with being. They weren’t done though. There were still mushrooms and monkeys, grapes to be eaten and geese to eat them, tigers and tomatoes. Man and woman to feast, to join in being with God. Man and woman to taste the food, oil dripping down Adam’s beard, to play with animals, to love this new state of being.

God the Father looked at this wild rumpus and said, “This is exactly what I had in mind. Good! Good! Very Good!” Son and Holy Spirit agreed and their voices joined the Father’s, “Good! Good! Very Good!” They laughed at the new concept of being and how great everything was. They laughed at how clever the Father was to come up with the idea of being. They laughed at the Son who did all the dirty lifting and putting His Father’s blueprints to construction. They laughed at the consideration of the Spirit who directed and choreographed the entire affair. Divine laughter for a Divine Comedy. In the midst of their laughter and songs, stories were told. Jokes were rehashed and told like it was their first time. Father and Son drank wine in the unity of the Spirit and they enjoyed throwing their pickled beets and braised carrots at each other and all was very good.

Too crass of an illustration? Maybe. But sometimes the crass analogies are the ones we don’t forget and are the ones that get to the truth the easiest, even if we lie to our better natures and deny it. We all know that God is not three party animals throwing food at each other, but in that idea is the central message . . . creation, redemption and recreation are the result of the Trinity whom we worship today.

The Trinity worshipped and praised in the Old Testament from the foundation of the Church in Genesis 2. The Trinity fulfilling their crucified and resurrecting plan of salvation FOR YOU in the New. The Trinity living and active in the Divine Service for a few hundred years before the Apostle’s Creed was written down, yet the Mystery still confessed in liturgical reception, is whom we worship not just today, but every day. The doctrine of the Trinity tells us that God is a God of being. Jesus’ message is that we are invited to the party that the Trinity has been enjoying since before time began.

The Trinity has come FOR YOU even though you do not know His mind. Only a self-deluded individual thinks that he can. You have not been His counselor, He has counseled you in His wisdom . . . wisdom of weakness, suffering, and an overflowing abundance of left handed power of death, and resurrection FOR YOU. Wisdom that involves coming to you in those simple means of Word, water, bread and wine. We cannot give gifts to Him, but He gives gifts to us . . . new gifts every day. Gifts more bounteous than we imagined at first glance.

So come to the altar and see that the Lord is good. Join in the joyful creation celebration with tongues made clean by the fire of Christ’s Word of forgiveness showered over you like Isaiah’s lips. Come and laugh over being and laugh with the Trinity in Unity . . . Laugh at this profound Mystery of faith. Laugh at the Divine Comedy where Jesus is our Butler, Baker, Host, Servant, and Meal. Laugh at your sins being forgiven through God’s Mysterious Wisdom. Laugh with the Father’s creative love that makes you a being. Laugh with the Son who redeems your being. Laugh with the Holy Spirit who restores your being to its fullness by giving you the Son. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom 11:36).

The cure for little faith

lies, therefore, not in whipping up within oneself a higher energy of believing but in a desperate turning toward the Person who is faith’s object: “Lord, save me,” Peter cried, and “Jesus immediately reached out His hand and caught him” (14:30, 31). The men of the New Testament show remarkably little interest in a definition of faith or an analysis of believing. They are much less interested than we are in examining their religious viscera for tokens and omens. When they think of faith, they think of it as relatedness to an object; and so, when the disciples came to write the record of Jesus, they did not write meditations on faith, though faith was central in their relationship to Him; they wrote Gospels.

Martin Franzmann
Follow Me: Discipleship According to Saint Matthew
p. 142-143

Robert Farrar Capon’s Definition of Faith

Faith doesn’t do anything; it simply enables us to relate ourselves to someone else who has already done whatever needs doing. Illustration: Imagine that I am in the hospital, in traction, with casts on both arms and both legs. And imagine further that every time you visit me, I carry on despairingly about the fact that my house, in my absence, is falling apart: the paint is peeling, the sills are rotting, the roof is blowing away in the wind.

But then image that one day, after a considerable interval, you come to me and say, “Robert, I have just paid off the contractor I engaged to repair your house. It’s all fixed—a gift from me to you.” What are my choices in the face of such good news? I cannot go out of the hospital to check for myself—I cannot know that you have fixed my house for me. I can only disbelieve you or believe you. If I disbelieve you, I go on being a miserable bore. But if I believe you—if I trust your word that you have done the job for me—I have my first good day in a long while. My faith, you see, accomplishes nothing but my own enjoyment.

Look at it another way. Suppose I had decided, while staring at the hospital ceiling, that if only I could work up enough faith, you would undertake to repair my house. And suppose further that I had grunted and groaned through every waking hour trying to get my faith meter up to red hot. What good would that have done unless you had decided, as a gift to me in response to no activity on my part whatsoever, to do the job for me? No good, that’s what. Faith doesn’t fix houses—carpenters and painters do. And faith doesn’t pay bills, either. Faith, therefore, is not a gadget by which I can work wonders. It is just trust in a person who actually can work them—and who has promised me he already has.

Robert Farrar Capon
“The Astonished Heart: Reclaiming the Good News from the Last-and-Found of Church History”
p. 40-41

Dining at the feast of movies

At the feast of movies, I’d like to leave gluttony, judgment and fear behind me. I know that I am free to eat almost anything, but I want to be strong and fit, disciplining myself to a diet of excellent, nourishing work.

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Dessert? Alcohol? In moderation, on occasion.

As a critic, I feel more like the nutritionist—doing my best to counsel others on a balanced diet that serves their individual needs and respects their sensitivities. But I also want to be the kind of connoisseur who can speak knowledgeably about the culinary arts. I want to speak with eloquence about Sophia Coppola’s sauces, the exquisite wines of Eric Rohmer and the finer point of Martin Scorsese’s pasta.

But the more I learn, the more I’m in danger of becoming another character at the table—the snob. It would be easy for me to leave behind enjoyment of the simpler sorts of films and demand only the most sophisticated work, sneering at those who don’t understand or appreciate it. I have, at times, ranted against the ignorance of others, forgetting that I was once at their place in the journey.

If my enthusiasm for films as cerebral as Russian Ark or Werckmeister Harmonies makes me pretentious or condescending to those in line for blockbusters, then I have lost my perspective on the purpose of art. The goal is not to see the most obscure movies or even to be the greatest interpreter. If these experiences aren’t strengthening my conscience as well as my intellect, what good are they?

Henry Miller once wrote, “Art is only a means to live, to the life more abundant. It is not in itself the life more abundant. It merely points the way, something which is overlooked not only by the public, but very often by the artist himself. In becoming an end it defeats itself.”

If dining at the table of movies becomes my primary focus, I am forgetting the purpose of the meal. It is served to give me strength so that I can return to my life stronger, healthier and closer to being whole.

Jeffrey Overstreet
Through a Screen Darkly: Looking Closer at Beauty, Truth and Evil in the Movies
p. 93-94

God will uphold you with His victorious right hand.

I will uphold you with My victorious right hand. This beautifully brings the supreme comfort to a close. He uses a new word, I will uphold you. Christ grants the strength of His own righteousness to all believers and descends on the wretchedness of all who rely on their righteousnesses. Therefore he says here: “Only the righteousness of Christ, which is His own, this alone helps you against all enemies.” There he indicates that the Christian man is especially distressed by his own righteousnesses or is even perplexed by sins, his own and those of others and false ones. Day and night Satan is busy making sinners afraid, and with endless devices he assails this citadel, a happy conscience. That is something he cannot endure. But Christ fortifies this citadel against all the assaults and endless schemes of Satan. “Do not be confused, do not fear sins, and do not rely on your righteousness, but walk the middle way. Grasp My righteousness, and cling to it alone.”

Martin Luther
Luther’s Works Vol. 17 Lectures on Isaiah Chapters 40-66

We are bound by our own will.

And it is because we do not really know God that we must, in the second place, construct a theology that enables us basically to place our trust in ourselves. The point of Luther’s writing On the Bondage of the Will is that as sinners we are bound by our own will to do this. The bondage of the will does not stem from the fact that because God is almighty we are therefore forced to do things “against our will”— as though we were “determined” or some such nonsense. No, the bondage of the will Luther was talking about was much more actual. It is something of our own making. We will not accept an almighty God and so are bound by our own will to construct a theology based on our own freedom. We are the problem, not God. We are bound to the folly of taking our fate into our own hands. That is what Luther means when he says in his explanation to the third article of the Apostle’s Creed: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him. . . .”

Gerhard O. Forde
Where God Meets Man: Luther’s Down-to-Earth Approach to the Gospel
p. 24-25

Their works are nothing but grasshoppers. . .

This comparison with grasshoppers is frequently used in the Scriptures, as if to say, “Grasshoppers are easily shooed away.” All inhabitants of the earth are like this in the sight of God. They cannot bear God’s least judgment but are scattered by one word and breath of God. So today we observe that the pope and all the most holy servants of the Mass are in God’s sight nothing but grasshoppers that are scattered. The nations, again, are not to be understood metaphysically. The reference is to every undertaking and righteousness on their part that aims at appeasing God. Their works are nothing but grasshoppers that must be dispersed. And they hang on very weakly.

Martin Luther
Luther’s Works Vol. 17: Lectures on Isaiah Chapters 40-66