God is one. So what?
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
God is one. That’s the “what.” What’s the “so what?”
God is one. Yes, there are three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as distinct as three of us. Each one fully, completely God. And yet when you add it up, 1+1+1 you do not get 3 gods, you get 1. One God. A great mystery. That is the “what.” What’s the “so what?” While there are dozens and dozens of “so what’s”, we’ll focus on three.
Three “so what’s”
1) God is one, though three Persons. So what? So…he has done what we all are afraid to do. Opened up. He is revealing one of his most personal secrets about himself. How often do you do that? So often we stick to talking about the weather, about sports, about movies, and steer clear of the personal. And we all understand why—because it’s safer. You open up to others and you can get hurt. People can laugh or act like what you shared is boring or dumb.
Like the classic situation, maybe it’s a group of girls, middle schoolers, standing in a circle, chatting, gossiping. Someone says, “The Gap has the worst clothes!” Another girl chimes in, “Yah, I mean only gross people shop there.” And this one girl turns a bit red; she is skinny, a tad shy, a bit of acne, but she loves shopping at the Gap. You know how important shopping is to some girls. It’s her favorite store. Makes her feel pretty. Do you suppose it is safe for her to share this personal information about herself?
Our God shares with us one of his most personal facts, he’s Triune, 1 God yet 3 Persons, which is so deep and so personal we can’t even understand it. How do you suppose it feels when he hears Muslims say, “That’s dumb. God is Allah, and he is not Triune.” Or when he hears atheists say, “God is Triune? Proves the Bible is nothing but illogical drivel.” Or when he hears you or me think, “Trinity Sunday. Kind of boring, I know this already. And then we have to use that honkin’ long Athanasian Creed?”
God is one, though three Persons. So what? So…he is revealing one of his most personal secrets about himself. And revealing that to you, and me. Because he doesn’t want to be the kind that talks only about the weather. That’s not the kind of relationship he wants with us. He means to be very personal; for he wants you to be saved. Indeed, those who keep him at arm’s length will be damned.
2) God is one, though three Persons. So what? So…you cannot divide him. He always remains one. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” As the Athanasian Creed makes repetitively clear, “The Father is uncreated, the Son uncreated, the Holy Spirit uncreated; the Father is infinite, the Son infinite, the Holy Spirit infinite; the Father eternal, the Son eternal, the Holy Spirit eternal. Yet they are not three who are eternal, but there is one who is eternal, just as they are not three who are uncreated, nor three who are infinite, but there is one who is uncreated and one who is infinite.”
God is one. You cannot divide him. Which is true, therefore, also, of God’s attributes. Like God’s attention. It is estimated that there are some 7 – 8 billion people in the world. But you do not get 1 / 1 billionth, or 7 billionth or 8 billionth of God’s attention. You get all of his attention. Because you can’t divide up his attention, for God is one and cannot be divided. Thus you get his undivided attention all day long. All night long, too. And if by the power of the Holy Spirit you believe this, it will make a difference, especially in how you pray. This is true also about God’s love. You do not get a fraction of it. You get all the love that is in that huge, infinite heart of his. That’s a lot of love. Just for you, as your baptism proves, as he calls you by name and washes away all your sin. All that love, just for you, as his Supper proves all over again as he gives you, just to you, his body and blood, the price of your salvation. All this love, that that moves him to actually changes things, what might or might not happen each day, out of love for you. Having all of God’s love being poured on your every second–this should be more than enough to get you through…anything. Even that nasty, terrible thing called death, by which he has promised in love to take us to eternal life. All of his love, just for you. Because you cannot divide up his love, for God is one and cannot be divided.
3) God is one, though three Persons. He cannot be divided. So what? So…he does not want us to be divided, either. In fact, in the very next verse after our text he says something that Jesus would later on repeat as a summary of the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (v.5) That’s a lot of loving. That describes a heart that is undivided in its love.
But our hearts are divided. In each of us, our heart is always divided against itself, is that not true? We want and we don’t want. We love and we also find people terribly irritating. We value humility and yet struggle with ego. We agree that honesty is the best policy and yet lies slide out rather easily. We cherish worship and yet have to work hard to pay attention. We think forgiveness is the right thing and yet we nurse our silent hurts. Our hearts are divided, is that not true?
And so the Triune God means to perform radical surgery on our hearts. He means to take his razor-sharp law and cut the chords that tie us to so many things, the chords that cause us to have divided hearts. And that will cause a kind of death inside of you. It’s not fun. But what did you come here to do today? For this must be clearly understood—when you come to worship the Triune God, you come to die. Part of us must die. Why? So we can live, go out there and really live, to the full, as Jesus himself said, “I have come that they might have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
Do you know what it sounds like, the death of a divided heart? It sounds like this, “Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us.” You know that God’s surgery has done its work on your heart when you plead for his mercy in Christ. And then he gives the healing. Here’s what the healing sounds like, “God our heavenly Father has been merciful to us and has given his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for your sin. Therefore, as a called servant of Christ and by his authority, I forgive you all your sin, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And because God cannot be divided, you receive all the forgiveness he has to give, the forgiveness earned by Christ’s death and resurrection. You don’t get a part of it, for God is one and cannot be divided, and so his forgiveness cannot be divided. You get it all. So, that should be more than enough to cover your sin, no matter what it is, don’t you think?
And then we go out there to live with someone who has an undivided heart. Which looks like what? Very simply, it looks like what I shared with our 8th grade graduates on Tuesday night in the graduation service. You look down and cross out complaining. Then you look up and whisper, “Thank you, dear Lord, for everything today.” Then you look around to see how you can be useful to others, just for today. (And remember, one of the most useful things you can do for others is to have your daily devotions.) That’s what an undivided heart does. Do that today. And then repeat.
God is one. He is also three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as distinct as three of us. Each one fully, completely God. And yet always and only one God. What a beautiful, personal, useful secret he has shared with us. Amen.