HOLY TRINITY (Proper 2) June 12, 2022
ACTS 2:14a, 22-36; JOHN 8:48-59
PROVERBS 8:1-4, 22-31
1 Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? 2 On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; 3 beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud: 4 “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man …
22 “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. 23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. 24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, 26 before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. 27 When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, 29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30 then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, 31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS.
A clear picture: Two women.
The book of Proverbs places in front of our eyes two women: one painted up and draped with jewelry—she wants to be seen by all. She sits at the door of her house and invites any man in. She is loud and seductive—she lets no one miss her. Everything is surface and flashy, temporary; tomorrow doesn’t matter, it’s all here today. She has no core, but she has appeal. Her name, says, Proverbs, is Folly, and she is waving you into her house.
The other woman is named Wisdom. She’s the one we hear from this morning in our reading from Proverbs 8. She’s a healthy person. She has an invitation too. She invites you to a house of sturdy pillars, to a dinner with quality food and the best wine, to good company. She draws you into a conversation of health and life. She takes her stand at the crossroads, she wants everyone to hear, no one to be left out. Her voice of invitation:
To you I call, O men, to you I cry out, O people.
And then you get to hear what Wisdom says.
If the woman Folly is all about what’s on the surface, what the you can be enticed with, what can be figured out with the mind, the woman Wisdom is about what endures, what has been here from the beginning of time, even from before time was created, about what will remain when the glitter goes away and we finally have to face up to death, about what it means to be a person who can stand at the face of God in confidence.
“The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the Earth.
The woman named Wisdom introduces us to the eternal Son, who was not created, but begotten. He has existed with his Father and the Holy Spirit from the ages, that is, from eternity, from before the beginning of the created Earth and time.
And then we hear of how the Son was there doing the creating along with his Father. Proverbs 8:31:
When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.
So this is Wisdom for us: To be called into this life; to be gathered into this faith. Wisdom is to know the Eternal God who was before time was created, who is right now, and who will be into all eternity; to know God the Father as your Creator, creating you by the Word out of his mouth.
Wisdom is to know God the Son as your Redeemer who has redeemed you with his own Body and Blood; and to know the Holy Spirit as your Sanctifier, cleansing your conscience of all guilt, sanctifying you with the Gospel of all sins-forgiven.
This is the faith made known by the Word of God. Anything apart from this is not faith, but folly, a striving after things you can see and figure out, a listening to a seductive woman who satisfies now but tomorrow fades with the fads.
This is the faith made known by the Word of God, and it is the salvation of the sinner. So the Athanasian Creed extols the Three persons, One God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith.
Whoever does not keep it whole and undefiled will without doubt perish eternally.
And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.
So we confess the catholic faith.
A quick note on that word catholic.
The Athanasian Creed is from the early church—it’s from the 6th century. That means the Athanasian Creed is in the Church several hundred years before there was the formation of the Roman Catholic Church.
That is, it was several hundred years after the Church was confessing its catholicity in the Athanasian Creed that a Pope was set up in Rome as the one, single, authorized voice of God on Earth, with whom no one could disagree without being subject to being convicted of heresy against the Roman Catholic Church and being subject to the stake.
So, at the time of the early Church, the time of Athanasian Creed, that little word catholic means, simply, the whole church, the church as defined by wherever Christians are hearing the Holy Gospel, receiving the Holy Sacraments according the institution of Christ, and confessing the Holy Faith. And that is the faith made clear and confessed in the Athanasian Creed.
So how do you know if you’re catholic, catholic, that is, in the sense our fellow Christians in the early Church used the word?
Are you hearing the Gospel of Christ Jesus crucified? Are your sins absolved? Are you having your family baptized? Are you eating the Body of Jesus and drinking his Blood as he bids you do for the forgiveness of your sins? Are you confessing the true apostolic doctrine? Then according to the text of the Athanasian Creed, you’re catholic.
Which brings us up to the last day, when we stand in front of our Lord for judgment. Again, from the text of the Athanasian Creed:
All people will rise again with their bodies and give an account concerning their own deeds.
And those who have done good will enter into eternal life, and those who have done evil into eternal fire.
This is the catholic faith; whoever does not believe it faithfully and firmly cannot be saved.
Does that strike us as works-righteousness? Where’s the saved-by-faith-alone the Apostle Paul teaches us? But we remember, this is a Creed. And a Creed is a confession of the faith. And the faith we are confessing is the faith of the Triune God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Already in the Creed we have confessed the faith we have in the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus, and our faith that he has suffered for our sins and gained our salvation, that he has descended to Hell to proclaim to the demons that they have no more accusation against us, and, having been resurrected in the Body, he now reigns in Heaven, interceding for us to his Father.
This is the faith we confess. We confess it along with our brothers and sisters of the early church—they were persecuted for this faith.
In this faith, we confess that our works which are righteous to God the Father are not works of works-righteousness, but works done in faith in the forgiveness of sins. These are works we do in the righteousness of faith. That’s what makes the works righteous—not that they were particularly righteous in themselves, but that they proceeded from a clean heart, from a conscience made righteous by faith.
So it’s the Day of the Holy Trinity. We say the long Creed, but it extols the God we belong to, it confesses the doctrine of who he is and what he has done and what he does for us. He is God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He has created us; he has redeemed us; and he continues to cleanse and sanctify us, making us his people by the forgiveness of sins.
It’s a long Creed. But our Lord gives us a lot to say, and much to rejoice in when we are confessing him, the God who makes the sinner his own in Baptism.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS.