6/7/2020 Trinity Sunday The text is Matthew 28: 16-20.
16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
I often wonder if the folks who compile the Revised Common Lectionary, the resource that sets the Scripture readings for each Sunday, if they alter the timelines just to keep preachers on their toes? And this rearrangement of events recorded in the gospels occurs again this morning. Last Sunday we celebrated Pentecost, which happened 50 days after Jesus’ Easter resurrection. And now we find ourselves back at Easter, just after the angel met the two Mary’s at the empty tomb. He tells them that Jesus has risen from the grave and that they are to tell the disciples to go to the mountain in Galilee and that they will see Jesus there. So, off the eleven go and miraculously the risen Jesus greets them, and he is met with worship; and with doubt. Seems like a recurring theme with these disciples and Jesus; worship mixed with doubt.
Nonetheless, he commissions them to go and make disciples of, and baptize the whole known world. Jesus declares that he has been given all authority in heaven and on earth; telling them to baptize in the name of the Father, Jesus himself, and the Holy Spirit. And so, even if the timeline is a bit skewed this morning, this day we rejoice in the announcement of the Holy Trinity; the bedrock tenet of Christian theology. We also refer to the Trinity as the “Three-In-One”, “One God in three Persons”, and in an especially Lutheran context, the Triune God.
And for many, this is a rather simple concept; God exists as three, separate, distinct elements, One God, three Persons. Case closed. But for others, this doctrine poses a bit of a dilemma. And, to make matters even more challenging, many different Christian traditions view the concept of the Trinity in various differing ways. Since Martin Luther was a Catholic monk, we find ourselves closely aligned with the view of the Trinity as expressed by the Roman church. We confess the Trinity in the Nicene Creed, adopted by the church in 325 A.D.; twelve hundred years before Luther. In acknowledging this creed he would have said; “In nomine patris et filli et Spiritus Sancti”. “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit”. Three distinct Persons, equal in their divine nature. And the varieties of the ways that other traditions express the Trinitarian concept would require that we abandon this morning’s sermon and plan for an hours-long bible study on the topic. Suffice it to say that the Lutheran view is challenging enough, taken on its own.
Our understanding of one Divine essence manifested in three separate Persons bears further discussion. All Three Persons of the Trinity; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in all attributes. There was never a time when all three did not exist and all are eternal. The three distinct Persons are separate and yet are not different roles that God plays. And a little more complexity: The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father. Jesus is God, but he is not the Father or the Holy Spirit. Case in point; when Jesus prayed to The Father in the Garden, he was reaching out to God, and not praying to himself. One Divine essence, three distinct Persons.
Okay, I suppose by now we can come to the only conclusion possible; any human effort to attempt to fully grasp the concept of the Trinity is destined to failure. Our minds simply cannot comprehend the transcendent wonder of the nature of God.
So, it’s best to accept the concept for what it is and rejoice in the fact that our God is with us, available to us, longs for relationship with us, and desires all things for our good. We are called to the family of God the Creator Father, Jesus the saving Son, and Holy Spirit the comforter and friend. In each of these three Persons we find God is with us; “Emanuel”. Throughout the Hebrew Bible the Father assures us that he will always be with his children. This morning Jesus tells the disciples he is with them always, to the end of the age. And on Pentecost Jesus confirms that the Advocate, the Holy Spirit is being sent to God’s people and that this Friend, this Comforter is eternally available to those who profess God.
Thus, the three Persons of the Trinity, separate, yet one, assure us that God is with us always. And this truth is the principle upon which we ought to base our behavior. For, if we truly believe that God is always among us, then we are obligated, we are commanded to act in accordance with God’s wishes for God’s people. What if our actions were truly based on what we profess to believe? What if our interactions with the world really took into account that we are part of the kingdom of God? What if every time we have the opportunity to make a choice, we did so and acted, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”? What if we behaved as though this Trinity that we confess our faith in, really is with us, until the end of the age? And right now?
And what better time to consider this reality, when we are not able to gather together in the church? “Emanuel”, God with us, remains; whether we are gathered within the walls of the Greenwood Street building that proclaims that name, or at home, in our PJ’s on the couch. It’s in times such as these when we are challenged to reaffirm our faith and trust in the unseen Trinity that we acknowledge is with us always. The “Three-In-One”, in a mysterious way that we acknowledge we don’t quite understand, is likely on the couch next to you, or in the recliner at the other end of the room.
And our world might look vastly different from the current reality if each follower of Jesus were to choose to act as if God truly were in the room with us. “I am with you always”, Christ assures us. Acknowledging this, we might be more willing to live in ways that honor the presence of the Trinity among us. In our prayers later this morning we will ask the God who is always with us for strength in our proclamation of the gospel. For sustenance of all that the eternal “Three-In-One” has made. For justice and equality for all. For comfort and healing for all who suffer affliction and grief. What if we were to accept these prayers as a challenge to all of us, to participate in these things that we ask God to do? What if we boldly proclaim the gospel, strive to protect the natural world that was created for us, stand in support of all who are denied justice and are not treated equally? If we reach out to those suffering in any way; to be the hands and feet of the Father, Son, and Spirit that although always with us, still invoke our actions to fulfill the will of the Trinity?
And these things are easier to accomplish is we do so with the recognition of the truth of the presence of the Trinity. We never act alone; we trust in these words; “I am with you always, to the end of the age”.
Will you pray with me? Good and gracious God, you are “Emanuel”, you are always with us. Help us to recognize your presence and to act with the knowledge that our actions demonstrate our belief that everything we do is a reflection of your nature and of your will.
And we pray in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…Amen.
God is Good, all the time. All the time, God is Good. Amen.