Sermon for Trinity Sunday

Text: Psalm 8:1
O LORD, our Lord, the majesty of your name fills the earth!
Your glory is higher than the heavens.
The Trinity - Hendrik van Balen

I donít understand but I believe

Questions I get asked about most of all by the children at our school are Ė "Where did God come from?" or "If God made everything in the world then who made God?"

I remember asking my pastor at confirmation classes a similar question. The pastor was going to great lengths to describe the nature of the Triune God. He had diagrams with triangles, and interlocking circles, the words Father, Son and Holy Spirit on the blackboard with arrows all over the place and lots of texts from the Bible. I was fascinated by all this and was enjoying the moment but one thing bothered me and so put my hand up and asked, "If God is Father, Son and Holy Ghost (not Spirit in those days) then why do we say there is only one God?"

The pastor stopped, stared at me. I started to feel as if I had said something wrong. Then came the words that have resounded in my ears ever since, "Well, Vincent, thatís just how it is". I thought that was such a cop out. I wanted an answer. I wanted a sensible explanation how 3 can be one. I thought he knew everything about God. I was a bit put out by an answer that sounded like "Well thatís the way God is Ė just accept it".

Now that Iím older Ė heaps older in fact - Iím much more comfortable with the idea that there are some things about God that I will never fully understand. And through this inability to know everything about God I have learnt something important about the nature of God. If I understood everything about God and could give answers to the most simple and also most complex questions about God then he wouldnít be God.

I say that because God is greater, more powerful, more mysterious and even more loving than I could ever imagine or explain or describe to another human. I donít have the words to describe the greatness and majesty and grace of God. I am experienced only in things of this world and there is nothing in this world with which I can compare God. I can try to describe the power of God by referring to the beginnings of human life inside our mothers and as amazing as that is, that illustration is like a grain of sand in the Simpson Desert. That is just one ever so tiny aspect of God's power.

To explain God I have to fit him in my frame of reference, I have to be able to comprehend what it means to be God. I need to have words that are able to describe something that is right outside of anything I experience in this world. Itís easy to come up with formulas and explanations about God but to do that I have to hem him in and restrict him only to what I can understand. And as soon as I do that God is no longer the God of majesty, power and grace, but something less than all that because I canít comprehend anything greater than my own world of experience. Does that make sense?

Trinity Sunday is one of those Sundays when preachers agonise as they try to prepare a sermon about a subject that defies human expression. There is the danger that we explain the Trinity in such simple and uncomplicated terms that we lose the magnificence and glory of God that Isaiah experienced in our first reading.

The other problem for the preacher is that he doesnít really understand the trinitarian nature of God - their connectedness, yet their separateness, and still be one God.

So one of the first things we have to do is recognise that there is something mysterious and unknown about God. When we ask questions like,
"If God loves, why does he allow things to happen which hurt?
If he is in control, why doesnít he stop wars?
If he is truly compassionate why does he allow people to suffer hunger, cruelty, famine, earthquakes and tsunamis?

There may have been times when you have asked similar questions and perhaps have been resentful and angry at God for giving us such a raw deal. Because God hasnít given us what we want we keep him at an armís length, we donít get too involved with God and the things of God.
Maybe there are relatives and friends who have given you a hard time because you donít have all the answers to their questions about God.
Maybe you have felt that the answer you gave that went something like this "Well, thatís a good question but honestly I donít know the answer" was inadequate and not at all helpful to the questioner.

As I said I have become used to the concept that there is something mysterious about God and that I will never fully understand that mystery. I have no problem saying "I donít know" to those tricky but genuine questions that I get asked by young and old alike. That doesnít stop me from thinking through some of the issues and making intelligent guesses as I try to get my mind around some of the mystery of God. I am quite happy to say, "Maybe this is what God thinks" or maybe God has allowed this to happen for this reason".

The more I think about God the more I am amazed by God. I believe he is the Creator and his creation is stunning.
So much beauty,
so much intricacy,
so beautifully fit together into the web of life,
each living thing depending on something else, like pieces of a puzzle.

And I believe Godís interest in his creation never stops. God hasnít created the universe, the world, you and me and gone to sleep, but still cares and still provides.
So I say things like,
"Thanks for the beautiful day,
thanks for the sunshine, the rain,
thanks for the majestic mountain and the beautiful beaches,
thanks for the gift of children,
thanks for my wife,
thanks for opportunities.
I say thanks to God because I know that I havenít done anything to qualify for these gifts. He gives them because of his love for me. I believe that God is at the bottom of everything that keeps me going day after day.

And I look at Jesus and I see how close God wants to get to me - how much he loves me.
Because of his love he left heaven,
walked this earth,
lived this life,
experienced the range of human emotions and experiences,
gave his life, paid the price for me.
I believe that, because itís hard for me to live the life God created me to live. I fall way too short of his expectations and in Jesus I see I have salvation. In Jesus I see God's love giving me another chance.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit.
tapping me on the shoulder and calling me to attention,
taking the prayers that are inside of me Ė
my groans,
my sighs of frustration,
my fear of failure,
my concerns about how well we are carrying out his plans,
carrying all of this to the throne of God.
The Holy Spirit assures me that nothing is too hard for God to handle.
The Holy Spirit inspires me and gives me gifts to live out a life of discipleship.

I donít understand everything about God Ė in fact what I know about God is so small in comparison to the magnitude and magnificence of God.

Sometimes I have to believe like a child, in the beautiful way a six year old might believe. I donít understand but I do believe and trust in the God who has shown to me such amazing love.

Today we heard about Nicodemus. He has the same problem. Nicodemus is trying to understand God. He has come to Jesus and he wants to understand. And he is to be commended for his interest. But we, like Nicodemus, have so many questions about God. His love and grace are strange to our normal way of thinking. We want to understand God but at the same time make him comfortable and acceptable. Nicodemus wanted to understand more about Godís kingdom but found that his ways of thinking could not accommodate what Jesus was telling him about baptism and the Holy Spirit. All he could say was, "How can this be?" Even when we try to understand God and speak of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and we use words like Father, Son and Holy Spirit and picture-language (eg a mother eagle or a hen with chicks) that tries to describe what God is like, we are barely scratching the surface of what God is really like.

What Jesus has told Nicodemus about the work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in his life appeared to be simple and straightforward. Nicodemus found it difficult to understand the mysterious relationship between the persons of the Triune God. Nicodemus had a hard time grabbing hold of the grace and mercy God and being born anew from above. Our understanding comes to a grinding halt when it comes to talking about a God who is one but has three distinct characters. Creeds and books have been written attempting to explain God in language that everyone can understand, but finally we have to simply stop our attempts to push God into our moulds and stand in faith and wonder and marvel at the mystery of God.

Have you ever walked around a car show or (for the ladies) walked amongst some absolutely beautiful garments in a dress shop. Iíll stick with the car show because thatís what I know better. There in front of you is the shiniest, brightest, sleekest low slung, wide tyred beauty that you have ever seen. You have heard people talk about a car like this. You have read about it in magazines but here it is in the "flesh" right before you and you walked around it in absolute amazement. It makes the car youíre driving seem like something from the Stone Age. But - you will never know what this car is really like until you get into it and take it for a spin. Only then will you really know what a beauty it is. You may not know much about the mechanical side of things, or how the on board computer works, whatís so special about the tyres, or what the upholstery is made of. All you know is that baby is beauty. There is just one problem, can you afford it?

Itís a bit like that with God. You will hear lots of people tell you about God, about what he can do, about how complex and how amazing he is, and some people will tell you about God from personal experience. They have walked with him, talked with him, like heís an old friend who is part of every day.

However is spite of all that youíve heard about God, you will never know what he is really like until you are prepared to get up close and personal yourself. Read all the literature about him (the Bible). Listen to what others are saying about him. And most importantly you will never really know God and see his amazing beauty, his love for you, his willingness to do anything to help and comfort you unless you give him an extensive and extended test run. He says,
"If youíre thirsty, come!
If youíre tired and weighed down, come!
If you are restless, find rest in me!
If youíre afraid, be at peace!
If death scares you, in me there is life!

I think you would agree what an amazing God we have. Weíll never know everything about God, but thatís not important just as you donít need to know everything about how a car works to enjoy the ride. What makes it even more exciting is when you discover how every nut and bolt has a part to play in giving you the best ride of your life. Likewise we are always learning and discovering new things. We spend a lifetime of trying to grasp God.

On this Trinity Sunday we can only simply say,
"God, you are amazing! You leave us speechless.
You are too complex for our small minds.
And weíre OK about that.
What we do know is that your love for us is absolutely amazing.
All glory to your name.

O LORD, our Lord, the majesty of your name fills the earth!
Your glory is higher than the heavens.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
11th June, 2006

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