In the life of our Resurrection family…Christian education has always played a significant role not just among our children, but among our youth and adults as well. In fact, across the Virginia Synod, Resurrection is well known as a ‘teaching church’. And it is in this particular vein…that I wish to bill today’s sermon as…’a message for all God’s children’.
If the Bible has said it once, it has said it a thousand times…Jesus was a teacher like no other teacher before or since. People were drawn to him…stopping whatever they were doing…just to hear his words. And like many great teachers, Jesus would often use props to aid him in getting his point across.
Remember the day Jesus placed ‘a small child’ in the midst of his disciples and said: “Unless one is willing to become ‘like a child’…one cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” I’ve often pondered those words of Jesus…trying to unlock the mystery behind their meaning, yet knowing full well as an adult that there will always be things this side of heaven that cannot be explained. And that in the end, we must become ‘like a child’ and simply accept what we are taught…by the one who speaks with authority.
One of the most misunderstood subjects in the life of the church has to be that of the Holy Trinity. For centuries…people fought and died over the meaning behind the mystery of what it meant to refer to God as a ‘triune God’. For me it all comes down to the number three…and the questions that naturally follow:
Why does God need three names?
How does one God inhabit three forms?
How can God be both three and one all at the same time?
Knowing that today is…Holy Trinity Sunday…AND Teacher Appreciation Day…it seemed a given that we should somehow tie the two together in today’s message. And to do so…I have chosen my prop of the day…one that all teachers will recognize: an apple. To help us “visualize” the ‘trinity’…we must first put our eyes on the apple.
If we take any apple, and cut it in half…we will see that the apple has 3 parts: the peel that goes around the outside…the flesh that fills up the inside…and the core that holds the seed. Notice we don’t have three separate apples…but just one apple…with three distinct parts.
When we think of God…we’ve been taught to picture in our mind’s eye…three persons: God the Father, God the Son (whose name we’ve been taught is Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit (also called the Advocate, the giver of Life). Notice we don’t have three separate gods…but just one God…in three persons.
Back to the apple: all three parts have different purposes. The apple peel serves to protect the apple and to keep it healthy. The flesh of the apple is so good to eat…with lots of yummy things being made from the fleshy part: apple pie, apple cider, apple sauce, apple jelly, and one of my all time favorites…apple butter. The core of the apple contains seeds. And to think…that when just ONE apple seed goes into the ground, the result is LOTS and LOTS of delicious apples for everyone to enjoy.
Like the apple, the three persons of God have different purposes. When we hear the words, God the Father…what immediately comes to mind? Creator of heaven and earth? He made us along with everything that we see, hear, smell, touch and taste.
Making today’s first lesson right in sync with what we are talking about, from chapter 1 (verse 26) we read: Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image…according to our likeness”…which causes us to pause and wonder: to whom is God referring to…if not to the three persons of the trinity?
If God the Father is the creator…and protector of all that He has made, then it must be He who sent His Son to earth…at the time of our greatest need. All of creation was in bondage to sin…and could not free itself. God’s Son…Jesus…was sent, we were taught, for the sole purpose of taking away our sin.
We believe that he suffered greatly under Pontius Pilate…was crucified, died, and was buried. Even descending to the dead before God raised him to “newness of life” on the first day of the week.
And now…we believe…he is seated at the right hand of the Father. Meaning? From today’s Gospel lesson, beginning at verse 18:
‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go therefore (and do what?)…make disciples of all nations…
(how?)…by baptizing them in the name of…the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’
And most importantly, lest we do forget…Jesus adds:
‘And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’
The way Jesus is with us always…can only be attributed to the role of the third person of the Trinity. God…the Holy Spirit…”makes us” believe in Jesus. AND…when the Holy Spirit puts faith into our hearts he feeds it with none other than God’s own Word…and faith begins to grow.
We become ‘like children’…open to accepting the things we cannot understand…and to put our trust in those called to teach us…in Jesus’ name. And that is what makes our teachers so very “special” in God’s eyes.
After all, they say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Based on what we’ve heard and seen…this year’s crop has certainly been plentiful. There is no doubt that God continues to till the soil and to plant the seeds that will in the future…produce a harvest far beyond any of our wildest dreams.
And to think…it all began with that one person…called to teach…who said yes instead of no…and discovered the joy of being blessed to be a blessing to others. In conclusion: may God bless all Resurrection teachers, aides, and helpers and bring you all back for another round next year…in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God Speed! Amen.