Sermon for Trinity Sunday -
the first Sunday after Pentecost

Text: Psalm 8:1,3,4 (NIV)

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! 
You have set your glory above the heavens.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?

Our mysterious yet personal God

What is it that drove the great explorers of this country to risk their lives to venture across rugged and inhospitable country? What made men like John McDouall Stuart, Leichhardt, Burke and Wills leave what was safe and secure and set off into the unknown? No doubt it was the idea that there was a large portion of this Great South Land that was a mystery and they were determined to solve this mystery by crisscrossing the inland at the risk of their own lives. They wanted to answer questions like Ė is there a great sea in the centre of our land, what lies out there beyond what is known, is there good farming land with green pastures out there somewhere, perhaps there is gold or some other precious mineral waiting to be discovered?

Well these explorers and the pioneer families did solve the mystery of what was out there beyond the coastal strip. You can say that it has always been the goal of people over the centuries to expand knowledge and find answers to everything that is unknown.

But there are some mysteries that will always be a mystery. Today, Trinity Sunday, we come against one of those mysteries - God. I dare say that itís not very often that we think of God as a mystery. Who is God? Where is God? What is God?
I canít touch him.
I canít say how big he is because I donít know what to measure.
I canít see him. If I wanted to take a photo of God I donít know where to point the camera.
I canít knock on his door and have morning tea with God at his home.
I canít feel the presence of God because Iím never too sure if I am only feeling my own emotions.
I canít imagine what God is like because I always end up using human pictures, giving him human qualities so that he makes sense to my small human mind.
I canít think like God because if I could I would be able to understand why a young mother had to die, why thousands of people die in earthquakes, why a baby is severely disabled.

We donít often talk about the mystery and awesomeness of God these days. We have tried to be a bit more logical about God and refer to him as a buddy, a friend, a wonder worker.
We often think about God as a bigger and more powerful version of us.
Some even view God as having the same lusts and emotions as we have.
Others view God as a nameless being playing with us in the same way as a cat plays with a mouse. What has happened is that people have fashioned God after their own likeness.

As humans, creatures of God, we canít even begin to imagine what God is like. We are restricted to describing God with earthly terminology and so can only express what God is like in the vaguest of terms and left guessing what we have missed. This is the mystery of God, the great God, the only God who is three persons in one God, who refuses to be categorised, who is far bigger and greater than we could ever imagine, who existed before this world was made, who doesnít need us to exist.

The early Christians started talking about a Triune God. This wasnít to make God more logical and understandable and acceptable to human ways of thinking. In fact, the idea of the Trinity intensified the mystery and awesomeness of God. They observed that Jesus had a unique relationship with the Father and that the Holy Spirit had a unique relationship with the Father and the Son. Against all sorts of odds, against all human logic, and in the face of mounting opposition, the Church maintained that Jesus Christ is true God, equal with the Father, and that the Holy Spirit is God, equal with the Father and the Son.

The psalmist can see that God is truly majestic when he says, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens" (Ps 8:1). He looks at the stars and the moon, and these days we could go further and add the galaxies and planets of the universe, and he can only conclude that these must be the work of a great God. Maybe you have done the same. You looked at the magnificent colours of a sunset, the intricate structure of a beautiful flower, the mountains, the green paddocks, a star filled sky and you have said, "There, thatís proof that there is a God. Anyone who wants to see evidence of Godís existence doesnít need to look any further." But seeing God in the universe can only be seen with the eyes of faith. Those who already know God can see that the wonders of nature are signs of Godís greatness. The psalmist talks about the greatness of God as a matter of faith calling God Ďour Lordí, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!"

The prophet Isaiah talks about the mystery of God when he says,
"Who knows the mind of God?
To whom can the holy God be compared?
The Lord is the everlasting God, he created all the world....
No-one understands his thoughts" (Isaiah 40:25a, 28 GNB).

But we do know more about God. He is more than the God of nature. There is another side to God other than his greatness and awesomeness. He has revealed himself as a God who cares, a personal God who wants to have a relationship with his people. And so, we hear of the writer in Deuteronomy say with a great deal of surprise,
"Search the past, the time before you were born, all the way back to the time when God created human beings on the earth. Search the entire earth. Has anything as great as this ever happened before? Has anyone ever heard of anything like this? Ö Has any god ever dared to go and take a people from another nation and make them his own, as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt? Ö He is a merciful God. He will not abandon you or destroy you, and he will not forget the covenant that he himself made with your ancestors" (Deut 4:32,34,31). From the very first pages of the Bible we hear of a God who is powerful and great Ė he creates the earth with just a word Ė "Let there be" and it happened. We also hear about a God who wants to be close to his people Ė God and Adam and Eve were like best friends.

The psalmist marvels at the whole idea that this awesome and majestic God should care for someone so insignificant, so mortal as the human race. In fact, he loves the people whom he made so much that he even sent his own Son into the world to save them from the wickedness that had taken over the world. A few weeks back we celebrated Good Friday and Easter; we celebrated the great love that God has for us by allowing his Son to die in our place and to conquer the power of death over us. He wants us all to come close to him, something that is only possible, because our sin has been dealt with. We have been reconciled to God. God sent Jesus to restore our friendship with him through his dying and rising.

When we ask the question, "Who died on the cross?" we answer "God died on the cross!" He did the unthinkable Ė he allowed himself to fall into the hands of sinful people, be treated cruelly, laughed at, and then nailed to a cross. We say that in theory this is not possible. God who is majestic and awesome cannot do this. But he did. This is part of the mystery of God.

Last week we celebrated Pentecost Ė the pouring of the Holy Spirit on his disciples and the church. Jesus said that he and the Father would send the Spirit to remind us of the truth of God's promises, to guide us, to encourage us and sustain us when the going gets tough. There is nothing more personal than the Spirit of God.
He knows us better than we know ourselves.
He knows when we need reassuring.
He knows when we are afraid and timid and need the encouragement that comes from God's Word.
He knows when we are guilty and depressed and need comforting.
He becomes a part of our sordid existence in this world. He lives in us even though we allow our sinful nature to take control of our lives so often. Theoretically this is impossible for a holy God to do. Again we are confronted with the mystery of God.

The doctrine of the Trinity is not an attempt by the church to unravel the mystery around God. In fact, it deepens the mystery. It doesnít tell us everything about what God is and who he is. It raises more questions rather than give answers. But it does tell us about some important things about God Ė things that are life changing.

Who is God? He is our heavenly Father who made us, takes cares of us and calls us his dear children.
Who is God? He is Jesus Christ who gave his life on the cross to re-establish our relationship with God. He reveals the way to God and to eternal life.
Who is God? God is the Spirit in you giving you faith in God and guiding you in your daily walk as a Christian.
Faith in the Triune God acknowledges the might and majesty of God but at the same trusts in a God who cares.

The psalmist put it this way
O Lord, our Lord, your greatness is seen in all the world!
When I look at the sky, which you have made, at the moon and the stars, which you set in their placesó what are human beings, that you think of them; mere mortals, that you care for them?

I have met many Christians over the years who have been puzzled by the idea of a Triune God, some even to the point of saying that they find it impossible to believe. I donít think we will be questioned about our understanding of the Trinity when we get to the Pearly Gates. After all in human terms this is an impossible concept Ė letís leave it as a part of the mystery of God. But what is important is that in the up and down struggles of daily life we have a God who saves, a God who loves, a God who has gone to extreme lengths to ensure that you have a living relationship with him. Our God might be majestic and mighty but he is here now and wants you to be with him in all eternity.

Let us make it our prayer,
Lord God in spite of our unbelief and lack of understanding of who you are, show us your new way of living. Amen.

 

NIV = The Holy Bible, New International Version © 1985 International Bible Society

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
26th May
, 2002
E-mail: gerhardy65@hotmail.com 

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