“How Great Thou Art!” by Pastor Steve Sommerer
The Holy Trinity June 7, 2020
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our sermon text is from Romans 11:33-36… Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor? Or who has given a gift to Him that he might be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever and ever.
When you went through your confirmation class however long ago, your pastor probably said something like, “We confess the Holy Trinity – that God is one true God, and yet three distinct persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” That pastor may have even held up St. Patrick’s shamrock to explain what God says about Himself in the Bible. After he got done explaining God to you, he probably said something like, “Don’t feel too badly if you don’t truly understand this mystery. Mere mortals can’t put God under our microscope. We just believe what He tells us.”
It’s a rather remarkable thing the most brilliant philosophers and theologians, and pastors of every stripe, life-long Christians who worship every Sunday of their lives, must still confess – God is too big for us to wrap our minds around. Our minds are too puny to really understand. We know God by echoing what He says about Himself in the Bible. We confess only what God tells us. Even the brilliant Apostle Paul, writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said: “Who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been His counselor.” Isaiah wrote: “As the heavens are above the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
It humbles us to ponder the awesomeness of our Triune God. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, got it. They knew God perfectly. 1 Corinthians 13 says that in heaven, “We’ll know fully.” There’s no clearer picture of how despicably and devastatingly far from God we’ve fallen than the fact we don’t “get” God – and worse, most people could care less to really know God. Instead, most of our days, we go about replacing God with stuff – false gods that cannot save. But the problem with creating your own “god” is it begins to look a lot like you, and that kind of “god” can’t save you from the terrible torments of hell.
When my brother and I were kids, we’d go fishing down at our pond. Early in the morning while it was still cool outside, we’d go out in the garden and catch grasshoppers. First thing in the morning, grasshoppers move in slow motion. If it’s cool enough you can walk up and grab them before they hop away. One of us would hold the jar, the other would fill it. I doubt grasshoppers have much brainpower, but if you’ve ever held a grasshopper, it’s kicking reveals that it understands two things: 1) Something big has got him; and 2) the fear of being crushed.
You and I are about as puny compared to God as a grasshopper caught in the hands. You can’t grasp God – His “ways are beyond our tracing out!” Without God revealing Himself, you little grasshoppers are stuck with two things you know for sure. Firstly, we look at the world around us and say, “God must be big and mighty to create such an awesome world.” Psalm 19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” God’s world leaves us little grasshoppers feeling awfully small and helpless at the mercy of a power beyond our control. The other thing we puny grasshoppers can know about God by nature is: We’re in big trouble!
There are no atheists in the foxholes. Even those who have no use for God cry out to Him when life’s vise closes around them. Fear before God’s might and awareness of our accountability to God are written on our hearts – you can call it the conscience if you please. Even after the Fall into sin, your conscience bears silent witness that you’ll answer for your sins. There is a Law from the eternal Lawgiver, and we know that God could, in any moment, crush us lawbreakers in His hands.
Not to be ridiculous, but for that grasshopper in my hands really to know me and understand me, somehow, I’d have to become like it. If only I could become a grasshopper, then I could express in grasshopper terms who I am. Your guess is as good as mine what that might sound like.
For us puny grasshoppers who know the fear of our guilt before an Almighty God, God became one with you. God became man in the person of Jesus so that you could know His true heart toward you – His true will for your salvation. Jesus is heaven’s perfect answer to what God is like and who God is for you. While you can see and understand from nature God’s holiness and justice as the Divine Lawgiver… While by nature you can faintly understand God’s immense Creator power, Jesus conception in the womb of Mary, His perfectly sinless life under the Law, His saving sacrifice on Calvary’s cross and His resurrection from the dead are how God shows you His heart. The Son of God became your Brother in human flesh so you could rest in His hands without fear and endless kicking against His judgment. God chose not to leave you in ignorance and death. John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.” Romans 5 says, “God demonstrated His love for us in this, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
Trinity Sunday is a day we rejoice that God hasn’t left us in the dark palms of His mighty hands, alone with the fearful expectation of doom. Jesus is how God shows us that He is not only perfect justice, but merciful, gracious and loving. Today and always you know God’s true heart in a bloody brow bowed in death. If you would know God truly, look at the sinless Baby in the arms of His Virgin mother. If you would know God perfectly, look at His thorn-pierced head, as His love caused Him to lay down His life in your place. If you would know God’s heart, see His love in those nail-pierced hands that even now reach out to you and me to embrace us in God’s perfect love – that even now invite us to fall into His loving hands bringing every care and concern to God in prayer.
There’s only one God who is – our gracious Triune God. You might struggle to truly understand the doctrine of God we confess, but you know Him as He wants to be known in the Son He sent to save you. You know Him by the Holy Spirit who teaches about Himself through His Word. You know Him in the waters He uses to wash away your sins and clothe you in Jesus our Savior. You know Him as He feeds you at His altar with Christ’s very body and blood. And if you know Him in that way, one day you will know Him face to face in His heavenly home . Amen.
And now may the peace of God which surpasses human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.