First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday
June 10, 2001
The Gospel: John 16:[5-11], 12-15
Sermon: "The Holy Trinity"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
[Jesus said to his disciples, "Now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.] I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."
John 16:[5-11], 12-15
The Holy Trinity
Trinity Sunday - June 10, 2001
Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday. The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most important doctrines of the Church. The doctrine claims we have one God and only one God, in three persons. I know the math seems a little confusing. Since when does three equal one. We have always learned it the other way around in this world. One plus one plus one equals three. However, when we are talking about God, the Trinity, we are not discussing simple mathematics. Instead we are discussing two major points. First of all we are discussing the way God has chosen to reveal God's own self to humanity. Secondly, we are discussing the nature of God.
The doctrine of the Trinity states that God has revealed God's own self to us as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. These are the three persons we name as the God head. From each of these persons of the Trinity we learn about God. From the revelation of God as Father. We learn that there is one, and only one God, who is the creator of all heaven and earth. God the Father is the creator of all that we can see and all that we can't see. We also learn that God the Father created all things good. So, all creation is the work of a loving God who creates us, sustains, and directs us.
God the Son is a second revelation of God. Through the Son, Jesus Christ, we have the opportunity to see with our own eyes the only perfect image of the Father. How does Jesus Christ show us the perfect image of the Father? Let's look at two stories quickly. We are all familiar with the parable of the Prodigal Son. Jesus teaches this story and we learn something about God the Father. The father in the story sees his son returning after squandering his inheritance and living a hard and sinful life. Before the son can get home, the Father runs to him. The father grabs the son and gives him a huge hug. The son apologizes but there is no need. The father has already forgiven him. We learn from this parable about forgiveness. When we look at Jesus as God the Son we learn about the forgiveness of God the Father.
Now, let's look at the second story. This story is about the last night Jesus will spend with his disciples. During this evening Jesus will wash their feet and share a final meal with his closest friends. Peter and Judas Iscariot are present. They will have their feet washed. They will also share in the final meal. Jesus knows and tells them he knows that one will betray him and another deny him.
These two men will hurt Jesus deeply. One will deny him three times. The other will perform the final act, betrayal, which sets the arrest, the trial and the crucifixion in motion. Yet, Jesus still washes their feet, and Jesus still eats with them. We learn from Jesus' example in this story that God is love. How else could Jesus wash their feet and eat with them if he didn't love them? As the perfect image of God the Father, Jesus teaches us the nature of God. The nature of God is love. So, when we look at the second person of the Trinity, Jesus, we see the perfect image of God the father. We see God the Father as forgiving and loving.
Finally, God reveals God's self to us in the Third Person of the Trinity the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is revealed to us as the giver of life, as the Lord who leads us into all truth, and as the one who enables us to grow in the likeness of Christ. The Holy Spirit works in the world, in us today, to achieve these goals. When we learn about God's love we have witnessed the work of the Holy Spirit. When we love one another we have participated in the work of the Holy Spirit.
In three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God is revealed to us. As Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God exists.
Our general tendency is to see God as three different entities or three separate beings. Yet, our God is one. The unity of the Trinity, the way in which God exists as three persons in one is one of our greatest mysteries. We do not understand exactly how this occurs. We do have some clues. The clues lie in the nature of God.
I stated earlier that the nature of God is love. The nature of God is perfect love. In this perfect love the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit exist. In this love they exist in perfect community. In this perfect love God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have existed before the beginning of time. They were present and active in the creation of the universe. They were present and active in the creation of humanity. They are present and active in the creation today. They live and move and act in perfect love and perfect community. What one person of the Trinity knows, they all know. The actions of one person of the Trinity are the actions of all the persons of the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, exist and act in perfect community and perfect love. Through the Trinity, God, One God, in three persons, is revealed to humanity, to you and to me.
Do we understand this doctrine fully? No. Will we ever understand it fully? I don't know. Many theologians have tried to explain it, but the Trinity in its fullest extent is still a mystery. The Trinity is just as mysterious as the receiving of a small piece of bread and a sip of wine as the Body and Blood of Christ. I would like to share one theologian's concept which might make the Trinity a little clearer.
Frederick Beuchner suggests we might get a clearer view on the Trinity when we look in a mirror. As we look in the mirror we
see ourselves in three lives. The first life we see in the mirror is the one known only to yourself and those to whom you wish to
communicate it. This internal life resembles the Father in the Trinity. The second life we see in the mirror is the visible face. The visible face in some measure reflects the inner life. The visible face in the mirror Beuchner compares to the Son in the Trinity. The third life is the invisible power we each have in order to communicate the interior life we have. Through this invisible power we share with others deeply enough so they are involved in our lives. The invisible power within us he compares to the Holy Spirit.
These three lives make up each and every one of us. Yet, there is only one you. The mirror reflects one and only one you.
God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. The interior, the visible, and the invisible. Three persons, one God. Three persons, one nature. Three persons with a nature of love, unconditional love. A love so deep, a love so rich, a love so forgiving, that God sacrifices God's own self for us. Holy, holy, holy, Merciful and Mighty. God in three persons, blessed Trinity.