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The Riddle of Faith

6/15/2014 Holy Trinity  The text for today’s sermon is Matthew 28:16-20, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

John Brokoff tells the story of a certain man who went shopping and had a heart attack in a store.  Thinking he was dying, a priest was called to administer the last rites.  The priest knelt beside the man and began the service by asking, “Do you believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit?”  The stricken man, barely able to speak, answered, “Here I am dying and he asks me a riddle!”

Today, you will be asked the same riddle.  Do you believe in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit?  And through faith, in the words of the Apostle’s Creed, you will answer, “Yes!”

The doctrine of the Trinity – three persons, yet one God – is a doctrine of the Christian church.  There is no other religion which teaches and proclaims such a mystery of God.  For, how can God be one, and at the same time, be three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

All men who have children can understand how you are both father and son and yet are one person.  You are father through your children.  You are father through the love and care, nurture and support, grace and patience, you show your off-spring.  You may or may not be the one who brought into existence these children.  But, whether they are adopted by you or are direct descendants, you provide for their needs.

God, as Father, does this and even more for us, his children.  God, the Father, is the God above us.  He is the transcendent one who created all things.  He created us and put us into a relationship with him and each other.  He is loving and caring, nurturing and supportive.  He is gracious and forgiving, well beyond what we are capable of being.  He is strict as far as teaching us how to behave, and yet, he is the Father all of us wished we had when we were growing up.  He allows us to learn from our mistakes and of course, that means that we bear the consequences of our sins.  And, yet, he, himself, is slow to anger and abounds in steadfast love.  He promises us an eternal home and he never breaks his promises to us.  He is willing to do whatever is necessary to bring us into his family and to provide for our every need.  He is even willing to give himself and to die for us – something he does through sending us his only begotten Son.

This Son is just as much God as you who are father by your relationship with your children are also son by being born into a family.  You are not two people.  You are one and the same person.  Michael….there are not two of you, although you are both a father and a son.   Warren and Tony, there are not two of you, even though you are a father and a son.  Everett and Bob and Barry, there are not two of you, even though you are a father and a son.  There is only one person who is known as both, or at least known as both as long as your parents were alive.

So, when God, the Father, sends his Son into the world, he is really sending himself.  This Son is God, inseparable from the Father, in the same way you are both father and son at the same time.  And yet, this Son is also quite different from the Father who in power and mystery did not relinquish his position in heaven to come and live among us mortal beings.  God remains Father, even as God is born, Son.  This Son of God, born from a woman, has the power of God and the weakness of man.  In this way, God is able to identify fully with us…with our struggles and temptations, our failures and success and our good intentions that often go bad.  God understands our desire to be self-reliant and free, and our need for a God who can forgive us and bring us back into a full relationship with him, a relationship in which we can see ourselves as we are and can proclaim him as Lord of all things, a relationship that will last forever because God has sealed it in his own blood.

Now, the Father did not send Jesus into the world because he wanted his son to be betrayed and crucified.  No Father wants this for his children.  No, the Father loves his Son and the Son loves his Father and is obedient to his Father’s will in a way that we cannot be.  God the Son is so good at what he does that he is worthy to be the mediator between the Father and people like you and me.  Jesus sheds his blood upon the cross in order to restore us into relationship with his Father.  Through Jesus, the Son of God, we are able to see the Father and know him – for, the Father and Son are one, so we can see God and know what God is like through the actions of Jesus.

The same cannot be said of human relationships.  I know when I was growing up; I looked a lot like my father.  In fact, I looked so much like him that I was nicknamed, “Little Henry” by my dad’s friends.  My father was as proud as he could be of me at that age.  But, when I got older, it became obvious that the difference between us was greater than a difference in gender.  By knowing my father, you could not know me and vice versa.  We ended up being very different people who often spent more time arguing than agreeing.  But, this is not true of God the Father and God the Son.  Jesus is a mirror reflection of the Father, with a little human flavoring sprinkled in.  All the compassion and mercy, power and mystery of the Father is shown through the compassion and mercy, power and mystery of the Son, Jesus Christ.  To know the Son is to know the Father.

While we might be able to begin to understand how God can be both Father and Son through our ability to be both, we have no life experience which can help us understand the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, who is localized in the believer in Christ.  We cannot miniaturize ourselves and reside inside our children.  All we can do is passively watch as the lessons we have taught them unfold as they live out their lives.

Well, God has the power to do more than that.  God can and does dwell within us to help us come to faith.  God can and does take up residence inside us to empower our serving, and to give us strength in dealing with struggles and temptations of human life.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit which has become God, with us.  This Spirit is God just as much as the Father and the Son.  As the Father and the Son was present when the world was created, so was the Spirit.  It was and is the life-giving breath of God, and the fire of God’s Word working within us.  God the Spirit doesn’t come to us by virtue of our being physically born.  When we come out of our mother’s womb, we are born creatures of God because God made us.  We are not children of the heavenly Father until we are grafted into his family though baptism.

When we are born anew of water and word, we are born spiritually.  The same Spirit that came to Jesus when he was baptized comes to us in our baptism so that we can be children of God.  This indwelling Spirit gives us so much more than lessons to learn as we mature.  God, the Spirit, calls to us and enables us to believe in God.  But, let us not be mistaken, the Holy Spirit is not an once-in-a-lifetime event.  Throughout our earthly lives, the Spirit pushes us into the direction of God.

The Holy Spirit is not separable from God any more than our spirit is separable from us.  Our spirit shows people who we really are through the words and actions we display.  I know, my trainers in the gym have told me more than once that they enjoy working with me because of my spirit.  This spirit shows itself as a willingness to try anything I’m asked to do, a tenacity that will not give up, and a drive that keeps me going even if tired and in pain.  In much the same way, God, the Spirit, reveals the nature of God to us.  The Spirit is the driving force behind faith and hope.  It enables us to trust in God’s promises.  It brings us together as church.  It gifts each of us and makes us the people of God.

And so, we have God, the Father, the transcendent one; God the Son, the obedient one who lived among us; and God the Holy Spirit, the personal one who lives within us.  This is the Trinity – one God in three persons; one God in relationship; one God working within the world to bring peace and hope; one God forever and ever.  And so, let us proclaim our faith in the riddle of the day:  do you believe in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit?  If so, say, “I believe.”  May the faith, which you proclaim in the one God who in three persons – creates, redeems, restores, renews, empowers and sends us into the world – keep you now and forever.  And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.



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