Sermon for Trinity Sunday

Text: 2 Corinthians 13:13
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Our wonderful God

One of life's finer pleasures is watching a good magician at work.  Magicians don’t really use magic.  We all know that what the magician is doing is simply a trick, and yet we find great delight in trying to figure out how he did it.  The old saying goes, “The hand is quicker than the eye” and that’s what the magician hopes to achieve.  He wants us to believe that he can do the seemingly impossible using some kind of mysterious power and we are tricked into believing just that.  Of course, there are some magicians who don’t rely on tricks.  The great Harry Houdini, for instance, took great pride in doing something no one else could do with a minimum of distracting action, preferring to rely on his physical ability to perform the trick.

But mostly magicians rely on distraction.  Somehow, in some way, our eyes must be distracted at just the right time so that the illusion that the impossible has been done is achieved.  Some magicians use the distraction of an assistant, or a wave of the hand to side-track the on-lookers.  Others use noise and flames.  Still others rely on mirrors, trap doors, and secret compartments to complete their trick.  And, mostly they succeed in fooling us.

But there is no smoke and mirrors when it comes to God.  We marvel at what a wonderful God we have and what he does for us in our lives.  We marvel at what seems to be impossible but this is not some trick.  God is no illusion – his glory and majesty are real; his forgiveness is real; his presence and help to strengthen is real; his promise of life forever is real. The concept of a Triune God is not a clever trick, an illusion that somehow God is one God but at same time three distinct persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

There are those who say that the whole idea of a Triune God – three persons in one God is a trick.  Maybe you have come across people who have challenged your belief in the Triune God.  Maybe the Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking at your door have challenged you to find proof of the existence of the Trinity in the Bible.  Maybe it was a friend in casual conversation who expressed some doubts or difficulties in accepting the doctrine of Father, Son and Holy Spirit being three persons of the one God. 

The Bible tells us quite plainly that there is only one God.  We read in the Old Testament, "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deut 6.4).  Jesus himself confirmed this Old Testament confession of faith.  The Bible is very clear on this point: There is only one true God, and only the true God is to be worshipped.  What could be clearer than this, “I am the Lord your God …worship no God but me”.

St Paul agrees with the Old Testament in regard to the oneness and exclusiveness of God.  In 1 Corinthians he wrote to people who were concerned about food that has been sacrificed to idols.  He said, “We know there is only one God.  Even if there are so-called “gods”, and “lords”, (here Paul is thinking about the Greek and Roman mythological gods) yet for us there is only one God, the Father, who is the Creator of all things and for whom we live; and there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created and through whom we live” (1 Cor 8:4-6)  (Note also the title “Lord” given to Jesus is the same as the Old Testament title for God). 

Can you see what has happened here?  Paul has affirmed the oneness and exclusiveness of God, as we find in the Old Testament, but he has added a special New Testament revelation.  The God of the Old Testament is more than one person.  He is “the Father, who is the Creator of all things”" and he is also the “Lord, Jesus Christ” who also made us and has saved us.

This is something new for his readers who knew God as the creator and carer of us and our world but now to think of God as also the Son, who has existed since the beginning of all time with the Father, and who was sent by the Father to bring forgiveness and eternal life to us all, is something quite different.  This was a new revelation.

Paul summed it up like this, “For in Jesus all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of the cross” (Col 1:19 NRSV).  What he is saying is that God came down from earth and became human.  He died on a cross and his death has brought about peace and reconciliation between God and all people and his resurrection has brought life as light as it has never been known before.

But there is still more to be known about God.  Jesus revealed that God is also the Holy Spirit.  He pointed out the unique relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit when he said, “The Helper will come – the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God and who comes from the Father.  I will send him to you from the Father, and he will speak about me” (John 15:26).  Jesus points out that the Spirit comes from the Father and is sent by the Son.  He is God just as the Father is God and just as Jesus is God. 

His task is to give witness to Christ and to the truth that Jesus has been sent by the Father.  That is what the Holy Spirit is still busy doing in our world today.  As people hear and read the Bible, he is telling them about the wonderful God that we have and about what great things he has done for us and continues to do for us every day.  He is especially pointing people to Jesus and as they listen, he is giving them faith to believe that Jesus is their Saviour and that he has died for their sins.

God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit - three persons yet one God.

To be frank I don’t understand the whole complex nature of the Triune God.  We try to make it easy by defining the work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in 3 separate boxes as we do in the creeds but I know that the whole nature is God is far more complicated than that.  Should that bother us?  Is this something that we feel we simply must understand completely?  Or should we just take it on faith, trusting that God is God and leave it at that? 

What bothers me is the claim by some that if we can't understand something about God it simply must not be true.  If we take this kind of thinking to its logical conclusion, then millions of people would refuse to believe in nuclear physics, or higher mathematics, or even electricity, simply because they don’t understand them.  There are things we can't understand about God.  We simply believe that this is how God is because it is God who has told us the facts. 

We believe the teaching of the Trinity because that is the way God has revealed himself to us in the Bible.  In fact, if we could understand everything there is to know about God and grasp his nature fully, then he would not be God but something finite and limited like ourselves. 

Across the centuries people have fathomed the mystery of the Trinity.  They have used art, symbols, diagrams, similes and every day examples but every attempt at defining exactly the uniqueness of relationship between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit seems defy any human description.  Even the tried and tested examples of apples and eggs to describe 3 parts that make up the one don’t quite cut it.  In the end, the intricacy of the Trinity remains a mystery.

But there is one thing I can accept and that’s plain.  I was baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  And it doesn't matter whether I can comprehend the complexities of the Triune God or not, I know that through water and the Word, the Father welcomed me into his family.  He adopted me as one of his own children, he took me into his care and placed me under his love and I know that no matter what happens during my life, my heavenly Father's love will support and help me in every time of trial and trouble.

At my baptism I was joined to the Son and I now enjoy the forgiveness of every sin. No matter how dark and terrible my sin has been, Jesus has died for me on the cross.  He has taken my place and has showered on me his forgiveness graciously and generously. 
I have the confidence that beyond the grave lies a blissful life without ending because of the resurrection hope that Jesus gives.  Because of Jesus’ death for me, I know that when the last day comes I can stand confidently before the throne of God not because of my own righteousness but because of the rightness that Jesus gives me.

At my baptism and ever since, the Holy Spirit has been busy in my life pointing me to Jesus through the Word and the Sacraments,
showing me what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in my everyday life,
showing me how to be kind, and loving, and gentle, and caring toward others,
and always pointing me to the cross when I fail.
When faced with decisions and options the Holy Spirit will urge me to take the choices that are fitting for a child of God, and when I don’t listen to his guiding he reminds me that there is the chance to make a fresh start.  He reminds me through the Gospel of Jesus’ love for me that there is forgiveness for our mistakes.

Each of us can know that as we begin each day;
as we face troubles and trials;
as we endure disappointments and upsets;
when we don’t understand the reasons or comprehend God’s wisdom;
we know that the God’s hand extends over us,
blessing us,
telling us of his love and presence,
reminding us of his baptismal promise to us,
giving us the strength we need to carry on.

It is just this presence and power and peace that we are reminded of when we hear Paul’s words, and may this also be God’s blessing over us this day,
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all”.

 

 

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
15th June 2014
E-mail: gerhardy65@hotmail.com

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