May 31, 2015 –– The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Deuteronomy 4:32–34, 39–40 / Romans 8:14–17/ Matthew 28:16–20
Three Is One
There seems to be an irony in that one of the most basic and important doctrines of Christian Faith is also something beyond human understanding: Three is One. We embrace the Trinity as a truth so significant that it is a major divide between us as Christians and all other religions. Every week we confess belief in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet, when pressed, it is somewhere between extremely hard and impossible to explain how God is both One and Three Persons.
Yet there is some comfort to be found in this enigma. A god who can be fully understood by us would be no greater than we are. Speaking through the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, God himself says:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (55:8,9)
This is one reason we worship. By faith––but not apart from reason––we embrace the God who has revealed himself to us. It is by faith because we cannot fully understand. There is a mystery to the One who tells us my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Yet it is not without reason. Christian Faith, rightly understood, gives the best answers for all the questions we have about the big issues of existence and meaning and values (one of the best expressions of this is Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis). At the heart of these answers is the Most Holy Trinity.
From “the beginning” (in human language, since we can hardly think outside of time), there is a trio of personality in one single expression of purpose and character. The essence of this Being is Love, so that love is the motivation behind all that exists, and love is the defining purpose and expression of all that it means to be human.
But right away we are in trouble because our very understanding of love is diminished and twisted. We need to be directed toward real love––and we have been: This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 Jn 4:9,10). God––Father, Son, and Holy Spirit––who created us (and all there is) in love, has given us the ultimate expression of love––selfless sacrifice––so that we can receive God’s love all over again…. and then learn to give it to others.
Could it be that “fussing” over trying to understand the Trinity (and chasing other intellectual bunny trails) is actually a diabolical diversion to keep us from the real issue of learning to accept and give Love? Speaking outside the context of Christian theology, Shimon Peres, the Israeli Prime Minister, has said: “If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact––not to be solved, but to be coped with over time.” Instead of assuming we can fully understand God and all his ways, what if we opened ourselves simply to take God seriously and respond to what he has given us?
That was Moses’ word to Israel: you must now know and fix in your heart that the Lord is God…. and that there is no other. You must keep his statutes and commandments…. that you and your children may prosper….
Our loving God desires us as his children twice over: first as our Creator and again as our Redeemer. The fusion of love that exists among the Trinity is made available to us. Notice how all this comes together in St Paul’s words to the Romans: The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ….
This is the message of the Church. This is the Gospel. Eternal Love has created us and Eternal Love calls us into the real love that is Eternal Life. The world around us is dying. People are killing others and themselves because they do not understand the love of God––Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We are here today because the Love of God is at work in our lives. Can you believe you are a part of the final words Jesus gave to his disciples before ascending to the Father?
Jesus leaves us with a fact, a command, and a promise:
All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me (the power of evil and death does not have the last word; God’s love is stronger).
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations (because Christian Faith is the ultimate Truth), baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (while the word “Trinity” is not in the Bible, the three Persons of the Godhead certainly are), teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (what Moses said so long ago is still pertinent).
And behold, (here is the promise) I am with you always, until the end of the age.
On this Trinity Sunday, we worship the Father who gave his Son so that we could be filled with his Spirit and live in true love. This is who we are.