Sermon for the First Sunday after Pentecost/Trinity Sunday

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?

Mysterious yet personal

John McDouall Stuart was one among many of the early Australian explorer. He led 6 expeditions from Adelaide north through the centre of Australia with the sole aim of getting to the north coast of our continent. Stuart and his band of explorers were poorly funded.
They suffered extreme heat,
torrential rain that hindered their progress and ruined their provisions,
difficult often impossible terrain,
sickness and hunger, and
hostility from the indigenous people.
Crossing the vastness of this continent was dangerous business.
Even after the explorers Burke and Wills and all bar one of their team died during a similar expedition, Stuart set out again on two more expeditions finally reaching Chambers Bay (just east of Darwin) on 24th July 1862.

What is it that drove men like John McDouall Stuart to risk their lives to venture across rugged and inhospitable country? No doubt a large part of what they did was to solve the mystery that lay in the heart of this Great South Land.

Well these explorers and the pioneer families did solve the mystery of what was out there beyond the coastal strip. In fact people have been exploring the mysteries of our world on many fronts Ė medicine, technology, as well as what is out there in space. Where there is any kind of a mystery, people will try to solve it.

But there are some mysteries that will always be a mystery. Today, Trinity Sunday, we come against one of those mysteries - God. 
Who is God? Where is God? What is God?
I canít touch him.
I canít say how big he is.
I canít see him.
I canít knock on his door and have morning tea with him.
Sometimes I think I can feel the presence of God but Iím never too sure if I am only feeling my own emotions.
When I try to describe what God is like I end up using human pictures, giving him human qualities so that he makes sense to my small human mind.
When I try to fathom the ways of God often I end up more confused. If only I could understand Godís mind I might be able to understand why so many people, young and old, have been killed in the last few days in Burma and China by the forces of nature.

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 may even think about God as a bigger and more powerful version of us.
Some 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.

We have to face reality that we canít even begin to imagine what God is like.
Children have some very good and well thought out questions about God and I wish I could answer all those questions. Often the only answer that I can give is, "I donít know". This is not an attempt to avoid answering or find out the answer, it is a simple acknowledgement that there are so many things about God that the Bible doesnít tell us. The fact is God is great, 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 for him to exist, and is surrounded with mystery.

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 looked at the stars and the moon, and these days we could go further and add the galaxies and planets of the universe, and he could only conclude that these must be the work of a great God.

Maybe you have done the same. There are those "Ahhhh" moments when you are spell bound by the magnificent colours of a sunset, amazed at the intricate structure of a beautiful flower, awe struck by magnificence of the mountains and have said, "Thatís the work of God".

But seeing God in nature and 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?....
No-one understands his thoughts" (Isaiah 40:25a, 28 GNB).

In the not too distant past, people only saw God as mighty, majestic, fearful, distant and just.

But we know there is more to God than this rather limited view of 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. The story of the Bible is one long account of how much God wants to draw people close to him and how often people rejected his love.

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. We see the great love that God has for us when we look at the cross and see Jesus dying in our place. He wants us all to come close to him, something that is only possible, because our sin has been dealt with. God sent Jesus to restore our friendship with him through his dying and rising. Theoretically it is impossible for God to do this kind of thing Ė suffer and die at the hands of the people he created. But he did. For us. Why he would do this for mere sinful mortals like us - thatís part of the mystery that surrounds 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 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.

Describing God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit 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 his care and intimate knowledge of our needs and what is happening in our lives.

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?

The writer is expressing something of the mystery of God. I understand as much as my limited understanding can take in and I am happy to accept that there is so much that I cannot even begin to understand about 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 we have a living relationship with him. Our God might be majestic and mighty but his love and care for each of us is beyond doubt.

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

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
18th May 2008

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Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Good News Bible, © American Bible Society, revised Australian edition 1994.

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