FROM FEAR TO FAITH – CONFIDENCE OF THE TRINITY SUNDAY
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Our Confession of faith (Athanasian Creed) declares: the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God - and yet there are not three gods but one God…. The Father is Lord; the Son is Lord; the Holy Spirit is Lord - and yet there are not three Lords, but one Lord…..Trinity none is before or after, greater or less than another, but all three persons are in themselves coeternal and coequal, uncreated, unlimited, and eternal.
Scriptures emphasise the relationship between Godhead as: the Trinity is in unity and unity in the Trinity. On a day like today, what amazes me is that, even as we confess this mystery, our Triune God invites us into fellowship with Him. Our Trinitarian God creates space for us by adopting us as his own children, in this way relieves all our worries and fears. This is the focus for our meditation today.
Apostle Paul said: ‘The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.’ (Romans 8: 16-17).
Let us pray:
Abba, Father, thank you for loving us so much that you sent us Jesus to die for us. By the truth of the gospel, you called us to be in fellowship with you. Help us to follow you not in fear but in freedom; and help us to not rely on ourselves but on your saving work, for we pray through the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
I once knew of a family who wanted to add a dog as a pet to their family. So, they brought home a lovely puppy, and tended to its needs with love and care. But then came a time when they all needed to go away for a short-day trip and left their dog alone at home. When they came back home their dog gave them a surprise. How do I put it, well, their place was rearranged as per the dog’s preference and likeness. Thankfully for my friend the damage wasn’t much. But my friend tells me, since then, their household lives in fear, especially, if they must leave the dog alone at home. Some of you may sympathise with my friend but most of you perhaps relate to his fear. But, in all seriousness, fear is a powerful thing, isn’t it?
Cambridge Dictionary defines fear as following: an unpleasant emotion or thought that you have when you are frightened or worried by something dangerous, painful, or bad that is happening or might happen:
When fear goes to extreme levels, people call it phobia. There are quite a few phobias are around, can you name some? What are some phobias you are aware of? (acrophobia, fear of heights; aerophobia, fear of flying; arachnophobia, fear of spiders; astraphobia, fear of thunder and lightning; autophobia, fear of being alone; claustrophobia, fear of confined or crowded spaces; hemophobia, fear of blood; hydrophobia, fear of water; ophidiophobia, fear of snakes; Xenophobia, fear of strangers)
You see friends, in my work life, I travel to different places, meet with people from various backgrounds, and listen to their stories and concerns. As people share their stories with me, sometimes, they share phobias they experience in life. For example, when I visit people in hospitals, I hear fear of an upcoming surgery. There are those who fear about future as they are confronted by a diagnosis. What about the fear of dying? Some of us might not fear about ourselves, but certainly worry about our loved ones fearing for their future. Given, COVID 19 situation in India, we fear about what news we might have to hear these days. People fear community transmission of the COVID 19, people fear vaccine, people fear lockdowns, and the list goes on.
If we are honest, those things that weigh heavy on our hearts are most likely a symptom of fear we either experience or likely to experience. This emotion grips hearts alike, be it a child or fully grown adult and sometimes, such experiences can be lonely. Given it is National reconciliation week, let me say, the fear of strangers is still out there. We fear what we do not know. When fear has a grip over human hearts, it makes slaves out of us. We feel incapacitated and a bit uneasy about it, we lose focus, and are led to act and behave rather oddly, treating other inhumanely. Unfortunately, even the best of Christians act in similar fashion.
Even the first century Christians acted in such way. So, their Pastor Apostle Paul said, listen up church, ‘the Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship’ (Romans 8: 15). In fear, do not lose the path of faith. Are you paying attention today my friend?
Do you recognise where you belong? Most importantly, do you recognise whom you belong to? God adopted you into his family. What is born of the flesh is flesh, what is born of the Spirit is spirit. So, if you are afraid of something today, I pray that Holy Spirit opens up your eyes to the things of God. The Trinitarian God genuinely loves and cares for you, so you are not alone.
When we forget this Trinitarian God is for us, the hand of the Father, that lamb of God in Jesus, that dove descending is on our side, we are tempted to live our lives in slavery to sin and death, fearing for our or our loved one’s futures. We act out of fear and lose sight of confidence offered by faith in God. So, Paul encourages this way: Romans 8: 12-13:
12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
Paul is calling us to put to death the things of flesh. What does Paul mean? I was intrigued by this word ‘flesh’ and looked it up. What Paul says is fascinating and I would love to share it with you today. You see, the Greek word for flesh is sarkos, and this word can be used in two ways a positive and a negative way. In Romans 8: 12-17, Paul used it in a negative way, describing ‘fleshly’ living as living according to one’s own desires and decisions. In other words, to be led by flesh is to be led by self. The independent nature, that does not rely on God or his Word but seeks to push its own agenda on everything else in life. When you are on your own, you feel week in times of trouble. Because, flesh led life style insists for its own way, sometimes, it becomes abusive towards others, inflicting hurt on others. According to the Word of God, we are all born this way (Psalm 51:5), and our human nature, naturally fails to recognise and repent before God our Saviour. So, friends let us examine our own lives, in particular, our fears and worries and come before the Triune God in repentance.
Because God is love, he intends to rescue us. Remember Jesus pointed to God’s plan and intention when he said: ‘for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3: 16-17). This is our God. His intention is to save us. So, the Godhead reveals himself as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Father adopts us, Son died for us, Holy Spirit draws us into God’s family. Through baptism, the Triune God adopts us as his children, embracing us into eternal fellowship. Like father’s love compels to forgive his own child’s misdeeds, God’s love forgives us. Baptism provides this surety of faith.
The same God offers us his Holy name to relieve our fears. Friends we began our church service today using this formula, calling upon the name of our Triune God. It is no antiquated tradition, nor is it by accident we call upon God’s Triune name, but because we are saved by it, we intentionally invoke the name of God to commence gathering of the baptised. Lutheran services are Trinitarian in focus for this very reason. If you carefully observe, not only we gather under this name, but are forgiven through this Trinitarian name. We pray invoking this Trinitarian name. We are blessed by this Trinitarian name, and finally sent out to the world by it. Even the creed that we confess at each service proclaims the mystery of the Trinity, particularly saving love of the Trinity towards us. This work goes on forever, in good and in fearful times.
This is the truth Apostle Paul wanted us to remember today 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption, making you co-heir with Christ. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The secret here is no matter what your fears and anxieties and phobias are today you can call upon God confidently. Our Triune God is the source of your strength. This is the good news!
Let me finish with this tale about facing fears with confidence.
I once heard of a story of a circus trainer who performed his act with Bengal Tiger. Most dangerous species, and his act is to perform live before large audience. Like always, one night this trainer entered the cage with several tigers to do a routine performance. However, that night when the door was locked and everyone else is watching him perform skilfully putting tigers through paces the worst possible fate befell him; the lights went out for thirty long seconds. The trainer was locked in the cage with tigers who could see him but he cannot see them in the darkness. All he had was a whip and a small kitchen chair, which seemed meagre protection under the circumstances. But he survived and the lights came one and he calmly finished his act. Later on when people asked him how did kept going, he admitted at first he felt chilling fear of the situation. He could not predict his future, but at the same time pointed out that the tigers did not know that he could not see them, so he kept on going. He said, ‘I just kept cracking my whip and talking to them until the lights came on. And they never knew I could not see them as well as they could see me.’ The moral of the story is this, all of us face our fears like the trainer did with his tigers in the dark. Rather than giving into fear he kept on going with what he had.
As a Christian, so do we face our fears with Trinitarian God on our side. The God whose love is so vast, that he would become human for us, rescue us from sin, and promised to raise us from death to eternal life is truly for us. This God prefers to be involved in our lives so much so that he invites us into eternal fellowship with him, in the unity he offers, spreading a Table for our sake, and promised to hear us in our time of need.
No wonder Jesus taught us to pray: Our Father who art in heaven.
As Luther explains it: with these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.
To such faith and confidence, may the Holy Spirit draw you today and always.
The peace of God that surpasses all human understanding guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.