–By Elizabeth Ahlman
This, however, is the catholic faith: that we worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons or dividing the substance…
[Jesus Christ] suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose from the dead, ascended into the heavens, is seated at the right hand of the Father, from where he will come to judge the living and the dead. –Excerpts from The Athanasian Creed as found in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, edited by Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, published by Fortress Press, pg. 24.
This past Sunday, many of you likely confessed the Athanasian Creed for Holy Trinity Sunday, everyone’s favorite creed that many churches roll out just once a year. Yes, I’m being kind of sarcastic, but honestly, I kind of love the Athanasian Creed, even though I know many people inwardly groan on this particular Sunday. It’s not so much of a tradition in Germany where my family and I serve, so we actually didn’t get to say it. I was kind of bummed.
I know. I sound crazy. Or at the very least really nerdy. But here’s what I like about the Athanasian Creed: as long as it is, as confusing as it can sometimes be, it’s a good reminder concerning the mystery of the Trinity and the promise of the Trinity. For our human understanding, it’s hard to wrap our heads around the idea of one God in three persons who is yet undivided. All the language of the Athanasian Creed may make us feel a bit dizzy and confused, but the Athanasian Creed reminds us that God is bigger than us, His ways are higher than ours. That’s actually reassuring because the Athanasian Creed doesn’t leave us with the language only of the mystery of the Godhead, it also proclaims to us what God is at work doing for us.
The Father all-loving and merciful created us because of His love. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the flesh to redeem us. Jesus came into this world to die our death and rise again so that we might have forgiveness, salvation and resurrection life. We will live with Him and the Father into all eternity. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to deliver to us all that Jesus won for us in His death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit does this through the preached Word and the Sacraments.
The Trinity is a mystery, yes, but what the Trinity DOES, is not. What the Holy Trinity does is work together for the sake of our salvation so that we may be children of the Heavenly Father, heirs with Christ Jesus of all that God has given, and made into the image of His Son through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, who brings us into and sustains us in faith in this Holy Trinity at work for us. As we make the good confession — whether in the words of the Athanasian, Apostles or Nicene Creed, or in a simple proclamation of Christ’s death and resurrection — we pray that others would be brought into this saving faith, as well. We pray that all may know and trust in the Holy Trinity at work for their lives, my life, your life…the life of the world.
Let us Pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank and praise You for sending Your Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins and raise us to new life; we give thanks also for the gift of the Holy Spirit who calls us into and sustains us in the one true faith. When we doubt, strengthen our faith and remind us that You are “for us”, so that we may confess Your love and the work of the Trinity to all those with whom we come in contact; we pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.