Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
While working on the worship service for today, I became convinced of one thing. Whoever is called upon to give the children’s sermon on Trinity Sunday has drawn the short straw; this person gets a raw deal, they are left out to dry. In fact, I gave Jeff a sob story about preaching this sermon. So he said, “I’ll do the children’s sermon about something other than the Trinity.”
The Trinity is one of the most difficult things to try to talk about in the Christian faith.
We affirm that there is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, At the same time with the other Abrahamic religions, we as Christians confess that we believe in only one God.
Yet, No matter how you dice it, it doesn’t make sense that 1+1+1=1. But that doesn’t stop us from wrestling with it and trying to understand it.
You know, sometimes analogies are helpful for understanding a complex idea and there are some popular analogies that are used for the Trinity.
I think the most famous is the shamrock: According to one Legend, St. Patrick was traveling and happened upon a number of Irish chieftains along a meadow. The tribal leaders were curious about the Trinity and asked St. Patrick for an explanation. So he bent down, picked a shamrock, and showed it to them, and explained how the three leaves are part of the one plant, and how similarly the three Persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, are part of one Supreme Being.
Or perhaps you are familiar with the image of the Tree. It consist of three- root, trunk, and branch but only one tree. Just as there is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and only one God.
And the one that I was taught as a kid is that the Trinity is like Water. Just as water can assume three forms–solid, liquid, and gas–so also is the one God assumes three forms.
All of these analogies are helpful in beginning to get at the Trinity, but none of them is perfect. Analogies for the Trinity end up being incomplete. Usually they each have a single point of helpfulness and that’s it.
None of them captures the Trinity because the Trinity doctrine itself is trying to make sense of a God who is ultimately a mystery. Just when we think we have a grasp on it, our logic circles around again and tells us, “this doesn’t make sense.”
We can’t perfectly articulate these mysteries through analogies, but there are some things we can hold fast to when it comes to talking about The Trinity.
I’m going to talk about four markers to help us along our way when talking about the mystery of the Trinity.
What we Can Say- God The Father
First, scripture recognizes that God is Father.
In addition to today’s Gospel reading, In Luke Jesus prays, “Our father in heaven.”
In the book of Samuel God said about David, “I will be a Father to him, and he shall be a son to me.”
The prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “You, O God, are our Father, our redeemer from old.”
Scripture speaks predominately of God with Father imagery because of the time period it was written, but scripture also speaks of God’s motherly care.
God says to Isaiah, “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
So, the first marker we have when talking about the Trinity is this parent figure: God the Father.
God the Son
Now, one cannot be a parent without having a child. Therefore, secondly, we confess Jesus Christ our Lord as God the Son.
In the very beginning of the Gospel of John we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and lived among us.”
In Titus we hear, “we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
After the resurrection, Thomas stuck his hands in the wounds of Jesus and fell down to his knees saying, “My Lord and my God.”
Hebrews states, “Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being.”
Jesus the son is not subordinate, he is not less than God. He is confessed in scripture to be God, just as the Father is God.
God The Holy Spirit
About 5 years ago my family and I went camping. We left our house in the late afternoon, which meant that we were setting up a tent in the dark. We used the headlights of our vehicle to illuminate the area and it gave us a good amount of light. But it also made everything outside of its direct beams pitch black. It gave everything an erie glow, which put the children on edge.
The first thing we did was put down a huge green tarp to protect the bottom of the tent. The children thought it would be fun to set themselves down in the middle of the tarp. They had a good time sitting in the light from the car playing on the massive tarp.
Just as Jess and I began to get the tent out of the car, a gust of wind swept through the campsite. It picked up one end of the tarp and made a plastic wave that swept over the children. Levi my son who was 15 months old, heard the wind and saw a huge green tarp monster coming at him–the look on his face was pure terror. Caedmon was there with him and pretty scared as well, but before we were able to pull the tarp off the children, we could hear Caedmon, who was 3, talking to her brother. She said, “Don’t be scared Wevi, Jesus is wif us, Jesus gives us the powa to be bwave.”
This my friends is the third marker in the Trinity. Caedmon spoke peace into her baby brothers heart and that is God the Holy Spirit at work in the life of a 3 year old.
In Romans Paul writes, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness… that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
In John, Jesus says to the disciples, “‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
The Spirit is God and does the work of the Father and the Son.
We have community with God because in baptism Jesus breathed on us and gave us the Holy Spirit.
So we have these three markers when talking about the Trinity: The Father is God, The Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.
There is one God (Unity & Diversity)
But we don’t believe in 3 Gods.
The final marker in discussing the Trinity is that we believe in one God.
The scriptures proclaim clearly, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
There is a singularity and plurality to the God we believe in. We are firmly monotheistic in our confession yet at the same time the scriptures speak of a plurality in the Divine. This is important because from the Trinity we understand the primary precept of Christianity: God is love.
Love is a relational term, it requires a subject and an object. It requires that there is someone who does the loving and another who is the object of that love.
The Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father; and the love between the Father and Son is the Holy Spirit. From eternity God is within God-self a community of love.
Before, any act of creation in Genesis, God is love.
Before WE became the objects of the Trinity’s Love, God knew love within that community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Love, isn’t just one of the many attributes of God, it is the nature of who God is.
Love, the thing we long to find and hope to give out, is rooted in the essence of God, it is the very core of who God is. 1 John 4:19 reads, “We love because God first loved us.”
Even with our sin, brokeness, failed attempt, shame, and meager offerings, the Trinity responds to us, with love and fills us with the Spirit so that we can love others.
I mentioned earlier that no matter how you dice it, it doesn’t make sense that 1+1+1=1. Friends, theology is not arithmetic.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each unique in personhood and all are the ONE God. When it comes to the Trinity we live in its mystery.
But keeping theology only in intellectual abstracts misses the point. Our response to the God who is 3 and 1, who is in very nature love, and who loves us as we are, our response is praise.
There is a well known Christian author, who lectured in systematic theology at Regent’s College in Vancouver. One of his former students tells of how he started every class by saying, ‘friends, let us sing, of the goal of theology is praise!’
(Sing & raise arm to invite the congregation to sing on second verse)
Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise him all creatures here below
Praise him above ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Friends may you know that the goal of theology is doxology. May you have faith that God is love. And may the one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bless you now and forever.