05.22.16 Sermon (May 22, 2016) “Trinitarianism 102”

posted Jul 12, 2016, 8:38 AM by David Hawkins

Old Testament Reading: Romans 5:1-5

 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

 New Testament Reading: John 16:12-15

  "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.

 Sermon: "Trinitarianism 102"             Rev. David Hawkins

 Today, we will finish what we started talking about last week, that is, the idea of the Trinity – the idea of a God that is one, yet, is apprehended by us as three: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Now, of course, we could go from here into talking about whether or not the gender specific word “Father” is the best word to describe God. We could go into a long discussion about whether or not other words, other syntax better describes the role and the function of the Trinity.
Because the reality is, for some, words like, "Mother, Child and Womb" or "Rock, Redeemer, Friend,” better express the nature and the meaning of the Trinity. But, for others, these changes to the classic formulation sound artificial, or somehow trivial.
But we’re not going to go there, at least not today, no matter how fun that sounds. We’re not going to redefine the Trinity today. But I do hope to rediscover, if just a little bit, how important this difficult and controversial doctrine is to our lives.

Last week, we introduced the idea of the Trinity by first talking about the role of the Holy Spirit. We remembered when Jesus was with his disciples during the last week of his life, during the last meal he ate with them, and he was trying to get them ready for what is to come.

And this was quite a discussion. In fact, these five chapters of John, 13-17, that cover these final words of Jesus are nearly one fourth of the entire Gospel. They are so significant that they have their own Title, “The Farewell Discourse,” and they cover some pretty wide-ranging theological ground.

It’s in the Farewell Discourse that we are given a new commandment, to love each other as he has loved us. It is in the Farewell Discourse that we hear Jesus tell his friends that he is going to die, but that he will rise again. It is in the Farewell Discourse that Jesus washes their feet, tells them that he is the way to the Father, that he is the truth, the way and the life. And, it is during the Farewell Discourse that Jesus reveals the work and the role of the Holy Spirit.

Now, Jesus wasn’t trying to create Trinitarian Doctrine during the Farewell Discourse. He wasn’t trying to introduce a brand new, obscure, difficult theological concept. He was trying to reassure his friends that they would not be alone in the coming trial. He was trying to let them know that no matter what was going to happen in the next few hours, no matter how terrible, horrifying, and catastrophic things might appear to be, he would still be with them. 

Jesus knew that his disciples weren’t ready for what he was telling them. He knew that they weren’t ready to consider the idea that he might die, that their world would be shattered before the dawn came. Jesus knows that there are things that we are never ready to hear, things we can’t bear even thinking about: the diagnosis of untreatable cancer, the news of the death of a loved one, trying to come to terms with natural and manmade disasters that threaten whole communities. There are some words that we will never be able to hear, or to understand, at least, not on our own terms.

And so, Jesus is trying to get them ready for what is coming. And part of getting ready is the knowledge that he will still be with them. He will be sending himself, in the same way that God sent him, to be with them. That in the Holy Spirit, they will know who he is, and who they are.

And so, rather than trying to explain the what and how of the Trinity, that is, trying to talk about how the Trinity is one God, yet in three persons, distinct, yet unified in essence and purpose, rather than trying to search for metaphors that ultimately fail in fully describing the mystery of God’s revelation of God’s own self, I want to focus on the who and why of the Trinity.

First, the who: The Trinity is God. The trinity is God showing himself to us in ways that we can understand. The Trinity is God bending to earth, stooping to our level, limiting himself so that we see for ourselves his love for us. God comes to us, not just in the majesty and power of creation, but also in the accessibility and vulnerability of a baby. In Jesus Christ, we know God. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we know who God is, and what he wants, and what he will do to get his way.

Second, the why: The Trinity shows us what relationship looks like. Distinct, yet unified. One essence, but three persons. One purpose, three people showing us the way. Sacrificial love, eternal forgiveness, everlasting covenant. We find the truth of God in the person of Jesus, and we find the presence of Christ in the moving of the Spirit. It is in relationship that we discover God, and what he wants from us. God so wants to be in relationship with us, that he became us. And in the power of the Holy spirit, we are bound eternally to that relationship.

And so, what does this whole concept of Trinity have to do with today? What does this hard to understand doctrine have to do with us, on the Sunday when we are getting ready to say goodbye to our Seniors?

I think is has everything to do with it.

Because the Trinity doesn’t just describe God. It also describes us. And it describes our relationships, with God, and with each other.

Because God has poured himself into our humanity, we have been brought into a wide and eternal relationship. Because God decided, for his own mysterious purposes, to become us, our relationship with him has changed to something bigger than just you and me, or us and them.

The relationship of the Holy Trinity includes us. We, also, are in relationship with each other, in ways that defy explanation. We are part of each other, yet distinct. We are unified, yet we are also different persons, following God in ways that are unique to us.

And so, to our graduating seniors, here is what the Trinity means: Be in relationship. Be in fellowship. You may find yourself in an unfamiliar place, in a town where you don’t know anybody. Get involved in a church. Get involved in something. Become part of the fabric of your community. Trust that the Spirit of God moves wherever you go in the same way it moves here. Let that Spirit bind you to a congregation, and be with them in the same way you are here with us.

Love and forgive those who cause you problems. There will be people that you meet who have forgotten, or have never learned that we are all in this together. Show them what being a Christian really looks like. Be graceful, don’t let competition and ambition get in the way of compassion and friendship.

And above all, remember that we are the face of God to the world, in the same way that the Trinity teaches us that Jesus Christ is the face of God to us. Work toward presenting a face that Jesus would recognize. A face that teaches, heals, welcomes, forgives, and gives, and gives, and gives.

Pretty soon, you will be making your own decisions about life. Where to live, who to live with, how to account for your time and your treasure. There will be many different calls for your attention. You will encounter just about every temptation you can imagine, and some you never have even thought about.

Parents, trust that God is with your Children, even when they are far from us. Know that the Holy Spirit is still working in them, even when they make choices that seem to us to be dangerous or destructive. Don’t give up on them, even when it seems they’ve forgotten everything you’ve taught them. Remember that God will never leave them.

Seniors, trust your gut feelings. When you think a situation is wrong for you, get out. Remember who you are, and who you belong to. Let the Spirit be your guide, your friend, and your counsel.

Oh, and one more thing: call your mom from time to time. She’d love to hear from you.


How majestic is the name of the Lord our God!