The Name of the Triune God

Matthew 28:16-20 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Corinthians 13:14)

A few weeks ago, I visited with the Kexel family to discuss baptism for their three children – Michael, Matthew, and Katelynn. I sat in their living room teaching what God has to say about the blessings of baptism. I read Matthew 28:19 “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Then I asked Michael, who will be a 6th grader at WLS this year, “What is your first name?” He answered, “Michael.”

I asked, “What is your middle name?” He answered, “Daniel.”

So then I asked him, “Do you know what your pastor’s first name is?” He answered, “No.” I told him, “Michael.” “Do you know what your pastor’s middle name is? He didn’t. “Daniel.”

Michael Daniel Kexel. There’s something about that name that I really like!

But, by God’s grace, Michael, Matthew and Katelynn are all receiving new names next Sunday. They will stand beside this baptismal font. I will pour water over each of their heads and announce, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Mom and Dad had good reasons for giving each of their three children their chosen first and middle names. But it is their last name that had been the most important of the three names. They were given the last name “Kexel,” because they belonged to the Mom and Dad Kexel.

But next Sunday they will be given a name that is even more important than their last name. It is the name of the Triune God. It means that these children now belong to God.

At your baptism, the Triune God placed His holy name on you. You now belong to Him. The Triune God’s name is invoked at the beginning of every worship service as we begin in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The pastor makes the sign of the cross – the same sign that was placed on your head to your heart at your baptism. We end each worship service receiving the blessing of the Triune God. We use the Old Testament Aaronic Blessing: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord look on you with favor and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26). Or we receive the New Testament Apostolic Blessing: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

From the beginning to the end of the worship service, just like from the beginning to the end of our lives, it is all about living, believing and receiving the name of the Triune God.

The Triune God revealed Himself in the first sentence of the Bible in the book of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Hebrew word for “God,” is “Elohim.” Elohim is a plural noun, yet there is only one God.

We gather clues into the unique being of God when we hear that the “Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:2). The Spirit was like a mother hen, hovering over the face of the Deep. Then later on day 6 of creation God says, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). The Father is not speaking to angels or any other created beings. He is speaking to the Son and the Spirit.

God the Father was doing the creating. God the Spirit was hovering over the waters. So, where was God the Son during the creation process? We learn from the first verse of John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Jesus is the “Strong Word that cleaved the darkness” (CW: 280). We could say that the entire work of creation is from the Father, through the Son (the Word), and by the Holy Spirit.

God separated the light from the darkness. He created the earth as a rare gem of a planet in our solar system with oxygen and water, light and rain. He caused the mountain ranges to spread, the blue oceans to flow, and the beaches and dry land to fill in the rest of the earth. He allowed the marigolds and dandelions, the oak and pine trees to cover the land. Then God caused a cosmic light show as the stars and planets were cast out into space. Then the whales and jellyfish filled the seas and the ants and the zebras filled the land.

But the crown of God’s creation was when He rolled up His sleeves and played in the three-day-old dirt to form Adam and breathe life into him. Then God formed Eve out of Adam’s rib.

The Triune God spoke His blessing upon everything and everything was very good.

Until some time after the seventh day. That was when Adam and Eve listened to the devil disguised as a snake. At that moment, the crown of God’s creation cast off their crowns. They had been created as children of God but aligned themselves with the devil. Their children would forevermore be born as Adam’s sons and daughters, flesh from his flesh, instead of being born as sons and daughters of Elohim, created in His image.

It is Adam and Eve’s blood that we have coursing through our veins. It is their flesh, with all of its diseases and deficiencies and death, with which we are born. It is their sin … and ours … that has destroyed the harmony and perfection of God’s creation. Our sin is a sour note – a chaotic noise – that disturbs the symphony of God’s creation. We see the effects of sin all around us in the earthquakes, floods and hurricanes that batter our world.

We feel the effects in our bodies in the brokenness, the hurt, the illnesses, the suffering, the killing and dying.

We witness the effects in our children with the gossip about classmates, the bullying on the bus, the disrespect toward teachers and laziness at home. We witness the effects in ourselves with our rants on Facebook, our grumpiness at home, our jealousy toward those better off than us and our lack of compassion toward those worse off than us. But these sins are not only seen and felt by us, but, more importantly, they are seen and felt by God.

We too have allied ourselves with the devil. How easily we cast off the crown of being one of God’s children and so quickly live as one of the devil’s little heathens. The Triune God placed His holy name on us at our baptism, but we so quickly and consistently live under the name of the unholy trinity of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh.

We deserve to feel the eternal effects of these sins and be cast into the outer darkness of hell. The only place in all of creation where God is not present.

But the Father loves His cosmos. He hates nothing He created. He is the one who cleaved the darkness with the light. He does not desire to send His creation back into the darkness. So the Father shows His love for His creation by sending the light of the world, His eternal Son, the Word made flesh. Jesus came to embrace this fallen and broken world, to die and rise. In His dying and rising He rescues all that He has made from its decay and destruction.

Together, the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit. He creates life out of death. He brings a new creation out of the decayed. He breathes His spirit into our flesh. He does this through water and the Word as He places His holy name on you.

Do not take the name of the Trinity lightly! For it is by the Triune God’s name that you are preserved, redeemed and sanctified. It is this name that makes you God’s own dear child, protects and preserves you in the one true faith.

You and I need the daily and hourly power and the protection of the Holy Trinity because, as St. Paul says, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). The forces of the unholy trinity of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh, try mightily to remove all faith, action or even mention of the Triune God from society.

Recently, the superintendent of the Pima Unified School District in Arizona said the high school graduation ceremonies this year would have no invocation or prayer. Some of his reasons were:

{C}·       He didn’t want to violate the rights of any of the students.

{C}·       He wanted to be in compliance with the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

{C}·       The school district’s legal counsel had advised they would be wise in doing so.

{C}·       They wished to avoid a potential lawsuit.

When the administration’s decision became public, many parents and students showed their objections at a standing-room-only board meeting. Most of the voices at the meeting expressed a desire to restore the religious components of the graduation service.

Neither the school district nor its superintendent were willing to go that route. The service was set up without either the invocation or any prayer.

I am pleased to report the student body unofficially decided to disobey the instructions of the school district. They decided to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). According to those who were there, two students led the graduates in an invocation, prayer and benediction.

Reflecting on what had happened, one of the students who led the prayers said, “My class wanted God in our graduation, and we weren’t going to take no for an answer. The world keeps saying, ‘No to God, no to God,’ unless you’re in prison, so we said yes to God because He has helped us through our entire high school career.”

And what did the superintendent have to say? He told the media he actually applauded the student’s rebellion. He continued, “I’ve been to lots of high school graduations and seen students do some pretty outrageous things to show their rebellious nature at this age. The fact that the students here at Pima High School felt that they wanted to show their true colors, as it were, by saying a prayer at the beginning and end of their graduation ceremony, makes me very proud.”

Good for these students. And good for their parents and the superintendent. They all realized what we already know – on our own we cannot stave off the Ancient Serpent of the devil. But the Good News is this – God will help us. He will enable us through His water, Word, and Spirit. God empowers us. That is why Martin Luther encouraged us to begin each day by making the sign of the cross from our head to our heart and saying, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We are once again recalling the name and sign that were placed on us at our baptism. Then, in the name of the Trinity, we ask God for protection for that day.

At the end of the day, we again make the sign of the cross and thank our Triune God for the blessings showered upon us that day. We ask Him for God’s holy angel to be with us that the wicked foe may have no power over us.

This is the way for us to unleash the almighty power of the Holy Trinity in defeating the devil’s power. God has placed His name on us. Let us make use of that name – in the invocation, in our creeds, in the benediction, in our prayers, in the beginning of our day, at the end of our day … and for all eternity. Amen.