6/16/2019 Trinity Sunday The text is Romans 6:1-5; John 16:1-15.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today is Trinity Sunday – the one day of the church year that is dedicated to a doctrine of the church. The trinity is a human attempt to try to understand the nature of God. For our God has revealed himself in three forms, in three ways, as three persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And yet, there remains only one God. How that is possible is a great mystery…for we only know what God has revealed about himself.
What we know about God so far, we know through God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is not a way to God. Jesus is the way. Jesus is not, as Mohammad said, a prophet. Jesus is God incarnate…God in human form. Our heavenly Father did not send a representative to earth. Our Father sent himself in the form of his only Son. In Jesus Christ, God took on human form, came and lived among us, suffered the same trials we suffer, and experienced the same feelings we experience. Jesus was purely human, born of a human mother, and yet, purely divine…conceived through the Holy Spirit.
God chose to cast aside his heavenly throne and come among us in Jesus. No one made God do it. Out of God’s divine love for those he created, it was God’s choice. The reason for such an powerful choice made on our behalf is the basis of a story told by Soren Kierkegaard, the great Danish theologian of another century. The story he told was of a prince who wanted to find a maiden suitable to be his queen. One day while running an errand in the local village for his father, this prince passed through a poor section. As he glanced out the windows of his carriage, his eyes fell upon a beautiful peasant maiden. During the ensuring days he often passed by the young lady and soon fell in love. But, he had a problem. How would he seek her hand?
He could order her to marry him. But, even a prince wants his bride to marry him freely and voluntarily and not through coercion. He could put on his most splendid uniform and drive up to her front door in a carriage drawn by six horses. But, if he did this he would never be certain that the maiden loved him or was simply overwhelmed by the splendor. So, as you might have guessed, the prince came up with another solution. He would give up his kingly robe. He moved into the village, entering not with a crown but in the garb of a peasant. He lived among the people, shared their interests and concerns, and talked their language. In time the maiden grew to love him for who he was and because he had first loved her.
This very simple, almost child-like story gives us some insight into why God might have chosen to take on human form in Jesus Christ. God came and lived among us to show us beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is with us, that he is on our side, and that he loves us. God also came and lived among us to give us a first-hand view of what the mind of God is really about. For, when people ask what God is like, we can point to the person of Jesus Christ. Through Jesus we get a glimpse into the nature of our God and the love God has for each of us. Through Jesus we find out that the One who created the stars and the universe is willing to go all the way, to be one of us, to talk our language, to eat our food, to share our suffering and to die on a cross so that every single person, even you and I, might be redeemed. Through Jesus we are told that it is God’s will that he reside in us so that we can become one with him.
Why God should love us so much to do this is a great mystery. But as Garrison Keillor, from the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion, said of love, “We should not think that we have figured this out, because it is not a problem, it’s a mystery and always will be.” One day the mystery of God’s love revealed to us in Jesus Christ will be solved. One day we will stand in the presence of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and will experience God and his love in its fullest. How we will be in the presence of all three at the same time beats me, but it’s really not a problem. It is the mystery of the triune God – the God who revealed himself to us through the incarnate Son. This God chose to show himself in three ways – as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And yet, there is only one God who creates us, loves us and redeems us.
People have always tried to explain the mystery of the triune nature of our God. The early church fathers used the example of a tree – the root, the trunk and the fruit. The root is like God the Father, invisible but you know it’s there; the trunk is like the God the son, sent forth by the Father, visible and tangible; the branches and the fruit is like the Holy Spirit. We are connected to Christ through the Spirit dwelling in us and by the power of the Spirit we bear fruit in the world. Others have looked at a stream: the water rises form a source, but usually that source is hidden. The source is like God the Father; the stream which we can see and touch is like God the Son, visible because it flows from the One who sent Him; the water that flows into the fields, irrigating the plants and giving them life, and allowing them to bring forth a harvest is like the Holy Spirit. Tertullian, one of the theologians of the early church, used a different example when explaining the trinity. God the Father he described as “a deep root, the Son as the shoot that breaks forth into the world, and the Spirit as that which spreads beauty and fragrance.” But, no matter which description you prefer, the trinity remains a mystery. For God has not fully revealed himself to us yet. We only have a glimpse of the fullness of God and his love. We walk as yet by faith.
Through faith, we hope to share in the glory of God. But until that time comes, the holy and life-giving Spirit is with us to guide us into all truth so that we may believe in the promises of Christ and boast in our relationship with our loving and merciful God – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
In the mystery and power of God’s love revealed to us in Jesus, may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.