Sunday, 18 May 2008

A Nocturnal Trinity Sunday Sermon

An added wrinkle to this whole effort was that I prepared all week for the WRONG epistle…1 Cor instead of 2 Cor! Sigh.

It's 1 o'clock in the morning and I can't get back to sleep because I haven't yet quite found what I'm to say in the morning and I've got the Trinity on my mind and who can make sense of that anyway? And because it's the middle of the night and I'd rather be asleep, I've got to fight off the demons of negative thoughts about life and anxieties about you and this building and the church in general so that I can, a) get back to sleep and, b) say something positive and helpful about the Trinity.

The word itself; Trinity, that is; doesn't appear in the Bible, yet the Bible is full of it. So are our readings this morning.

Mt 28.19: look at the gospel and what Jesus says today, for example,
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.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the three persons of the Holy Trinity. As I've said before, nothing is in here by accident. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, says that and Matthew records it to love us and guide us.

How can there be One God in three persons and three persons in One God? I don't know. It's 119 am. I'm tired.

But Jesus did say baptize them in those three names—a Trinitarian formula. And Jesus also said "I and the Father are one," (that's John 10.30) and "before Abraham was, I am" (John 8.58) and "Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?" (John 14.10). And John did write (John 1.1-3),
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.
Who's the Word? Jesus. Who was the "He" in the beginning with God and the "Him" through whom all things were made? Jesus.

Look at Genesis 1.26.
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness."
Who's us? Who's our? Could that include the Jesus who was in the beginning and through whom everything was made? Is Jesus a part of the "our image" and "likeness" in which we were all made? The writer of Hebrews thought so. (1.2)
in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
That's Jesus.

Back to Genesis 1.1-2:
In the beginning, [the beginning Jesus was with God in], God created [through Jesus] the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
The Spirit of God. That's the third person of Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit Jesus breathed on his disciples as we heard in last week's gospel.

I feel like Paul must have felt when he wrote 1 Cor 13.12: Now I see in a mirror dimly…now I know in part; one day I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So will you.

Something is not necessarily untrue just because I don't full understand it. If truth depended on my understanding, then my intellect becomes my highest authority.
Lewis writes that baffling, even shocking passages in the Bible must be allowed to stand. He explains that our responsibility, when we don’t understand certain passages is to let them alone until a greater person will come along who knows how to read them rightly. When a person does come to understand such passages, Lewis explains, the result will be that God will appear “good and just and gracious in ways we never dreamed of.” ("CS Lewis on Gender Language in the Bible: A Caution," by Wayne Martindale)
Sometimes I must just decide to accept that puzzles and mysteries like the Trinity are just so. Look at the end of verse 7. God spoke the expanse called the heavens into existence, "And it was so." The phrase appears 5 more times in what we heard this morning—vv 9, 11, 15, 29 & 30.

Not only is it so, but it is also good. v10: "And God saw that it was good." Vegetation was good in verse 12, the sun was good, v18, good in v21, 25 and then in verse 31 it was all very good.

The Trinity is just so and it is good. It is also the subject of the very first of the 39 Articles of Religion. It is a basic and fundamental tenet of our Christian faith. We are baptized with the Trinitarian formula that Jesus gave us. Which brings us back to Mt 28.18 where Jesus says:
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."
We covered what we must believe. Now we get to what we must do: make disciples. How do we do that? Paul in 1 Cor 13 again—verses 11 & 12:
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
We make disciples by helping those with whom God has given us influence to grow up out of spiritually childish ways of speaking, thinking and reasoning and by teaching them to observe all that Jesus has commanded.

We do it by living out another tantalizing Trinitarian reference. Look at 1 Cor 13.13; Paul again
So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Faith, hope and love. Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Faith. "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God," Jesus says in John 14. In other words, have faith in the Father. We share what we believe and why as we encourage others to do the same.

Hope. Paul calls Christ Jesus "our hope" in 1 Timothy. Peter wrote (1 Peter 1.3 we've been
born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
We share the reason for the hope that is in us, yet with the gentleness and respect that Peter advises in 1 Peter 3.16.

Love.
God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
And we love them, because that's the greatest of these three. And it's what God, the Holy Trinity, is. God is love. He continues to so love the world through us.

Faith, hope and love. Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Good night. It's 255. I'm going back to bed.
Blessing and honour and thanksgiving and praise more than we can utter, more than we can conceive, be to you, most holy and glorious Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, by all angels, all people, all creatures, for ever and ever. Amen.