First Sunday after Pentecost - Trinity Sunday
May 22, 2005
The Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20
Sermon: "The Three in One"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to the, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
The Three in One
First Sunday after Pentecost - Trinity Sunday - May 22, 2005
Many of us are captivated with the mysterious. The mysterious can be many things. Some people love mystery detective novels. They love trying to figure out the ending before they get there. Other people are more captivated with larger events. For example, many people have tried to determine the events of ships and planes in the Bermuda Triangle. Some people spend hours attempting to determine if UFO's really exist. Still others explore the history of ghost sightings and buried treasures of people long ago. Face it, we are curious people.
The church is not immune to this phenomenon. We are curious about our relationship with God. We do not understand all of the aspects of our faith and we tag them with the name mysterious. We even call them "the sacred mysteries" because we do not understand them fully and they deal with God, the holy and the sacred.
Probably, the most mysterious aspect of God is the Trinity. We have a difficult time understanding fully the relationship between God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are confused by the phrase the three in one.
Over the years many people have tried to explain this concept of our faith. Some people have tried to explain it through the use of nature. They have used the egg, or an apple, to attempt to show the relationship. In the case of the egg, they used the facts that the egg had three distinct parts, the shell, the egg white, and the egg yolk, in one whole. It is a simple way to see three in one. However, the parts of the egg are too distinct, too different to explain it correctly.
Another example used from nature is the shamrock. The shamrock has three lobes in one leaf. The lobes are not as distinct as the parts of an egg. They are more intricately connected and the leaf is one whole. As an example from nature the shamrock is probably the closest.
Another way theologians have tried to explain the concept of the Trinity is by the functions of the three persons. In this theory, God is often called the Creator, Jesus is known as the Redeemer, and the Spirit is known as the Sustainer. This theory proposes that the Father created the universe. Jesus came to redeem humanity and the Spirit was sent on Pentecost to sustain us. Each part of the Trinity is known by its function. However, there is a problem. Once again, the three parts are too distinct, like the parts of the egg. Scripture tells us God was not alone in the creation. Now, I know there was not anybody there at the time. However, there was a witness to Jesus' baptism, John. At Jesus' baptism, God spoke and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus. Here we see an action that could have been taken by one part of the Trinity, yet all three were present. Here we see the concept of the three in one begin to take form. So, we simply can not try to explain the Trinity by each one's function.
One theologian, Jurgen Moltmann, has developed an interesting concept of the Trinity that follows the basic concept of our creeds. The basic concept is that they are three persons of one substance. He claims the Godhead to be of three parts, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit and of one substance, love. Here is how his theory is presented.
The basic concept is based on relationship. The Father is the Father as known to the Son. The Son is the Son as known in relationship to the Father. They have a perfect relationship. We see perfect trust. What one knows the other knows so they are of one mind in this perfect trust. They also exist in perfect love. The love that exists between them is the nature of their substance. The love is so strong that it actually has form. The love is, that perfect, indescribable love is the Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. So, God the Father is the Father in relationship to the Son. God the Son is the Son in relationship to the Father. God the Holy Spirit is the perfect love that exists within and surrounds the entire relationship. The Spirit is the substance of their relationship. That substance is love. Through that love the universe was created. Through that love, Jesus was born of humanity. Through that love, Jesus teaches and ministers to the people God loves. Through that love, Jesus is raised from the dead. Through that love we have hope of our own resurrection when Jesus comes again. This theory of the Trinity is one of the most intriguing.
One reason it is so intriguing is because it gives us an interesting look into the meaning of relationship. In this example, all relationships are based on love. I am aware that we know this fact. In order for us to feel love towards someone we require trust and honesty. We want to know we won't be hurt and that if things happen the other person will always be there for us. Moltman's theory gives us the example of that kind of relationship. Furthermore, it is the perfect relationship. It is the kind of relationship we are promised as we follow Christ.
As followers of Christ, this theory sheds new light on The Great Commission. We are to follow Jesus' example in the world in our own lives. Jesus tells the disciples to go, to teach, and to baptize. Jesus came to the world. He came as an infant as one of us. He came to teach about the love of God. He did not come with threatening words or actions. When people believed, not fully mind you, but were willing to be present, he shared with them the gift of the Holy Spirit.
We are now called to do the same. We are called to go into the world. We are asked to go as Jesus did. We go with love and care. We are not given authority to coerce, manipulate, scare or threaten. We are only given authority to love. We share the teachings of Christ. We share the importance of living in relationship. We share the importance of living in trust with one another. Since we are not yet in that perfect love, we share the need for the giving and receiving of forgiveness. Finally, when people believe in Christ because of the action of God in their lives, they believe and are baptized. All we do is present the Gospel through our living community. God does the rest. It is God, through the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit that converts. Baptism is the outward sign of that love of God already present in the individual.
So, today we celebrate Trinity Sunday. We celebrate the relationship between the three in one. We celebrate the opportunity we have to share in that perfect relationship. For in that perfect love we find we lose all our fear, we find all our hope and we exist forever in the peace of God.