June 3, 2012
One + One + One = ONE
Today is Trinity Sunday - a time to pause and reflect on the Christian understanding of God. Once a year it is good for us to contemplate the threefold nature of God. It is the first Sunday after Pentecost and honors the Holy Trinity - the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - three portions of one reality we call God! The post- Pentecost date acknowledges the Trinity as the final celebration of the church year - after Christ's resurrection and ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Trinity Sunday has been especially popular in the Church of England since the consecration of Thomas Becket as the Archbishop of Canterbury on Trinity Sunday in AD 1162.
The Christian Church ponders with joy and thanksgiving what the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have done to accomplish the salvation of sinful humanity. It reminds us as Christians how we should respond to the love God has shown us, praising Him and giving Him glory! Celebrating the Trinity is celebrating a loving and dynamic God!
Trinity Sunday is one of the few feasts of the Christian year that celebrates a reality and a doctrine rather than an event or person. The concept of the Trinity is clearly taught in the scriptures although the word Trinity is not in the Bible. The scriptures play an important role in the debates over how best to express Christian belief in God. The idea of the Trinity is implicit throughout scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. Matthew 28: 18-20 states " And Jesus came and said to them All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age."
The Trinity is one of the most fascinating - and controversial - dogmas. The concept of Trinity can never be completely understood or rationalized. The Trinity is a mystery - a reality above our human comprehension. How can 1+1+1=1 ? In Christianity's "new math" 1 equals one GOD!
The Trinity is best described in the words of the Nicene Creed. The Creed states:
"We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of Heaven and earthWe believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of GodWe believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,Who proceeds from the Father.With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified."
Trinity is the belief that God is one in essence but three distinct persons. God the Father created the world through the Son and the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters at creation and has been doing so ever since! The Holy Spirit is the quiet member of the Trinity. The Spirit diverts attention from itself to Jesus - the Son! Without the Trinity we end up worshipping a one-dimensional God, not the Triune God that has been revealed to us!
In his book "Mere Christianity" C. S. Lewis writes about "The Three-Personal God."
"People already knew about God in a vague way. Then came a man who claimed to be God: and yet He was not the sort of man you could dismiss as a lunatic. He made them believe Him. They met Him again after they had seen Him killed. And then after they had been formed into a little society or community, they found God somehow inside them as well: directing them, making them able to do things they could not do before (perhaps the Holy Spirit?). And when they worked it all out they found they had arrived at the Christian definition of the three-personal God."
Not everyone celebrates the Holy Trinity. Since the advent of the internet many traditional Christians are coming into contact with groups that deny the concept of Trinity or a Triune God! Time does not permit an explanation of who these groups are. I can provide a website reference if you wish to pursue this further!
The Trinity is about a God for us who lived as a blessing for the poor and mourners, confronted the power of evil, intoned with compassion into the world of human suffering, broke down the barriers between human sin and divine holiness and reconciled enemies. The patterns of Jesus' life manifest the Triune God who is with us until the end of the age!
How do we explain the Holy Trinity in our everyday lives? What examples can we
use to illustrate 1+1+1=1? I recall from my early management and leadership training at university the analogy of a three-legged stool (sometimes used as a milking stool) as the strongest support available to a leadership team in any successful business. The seat of the stool holds you and me, Christian brothers and sisters. The three legs are the Father, Son and Holy Spirit supporting us on a daily basis through the trials and tribulations, joys and sorrows of our journey here on earth and beyond. To me the stool has always been a visual symbol of God in three persons, blessed Trinity- the words from Hymn 286 in our orange hymn book! I also see the Trinity in a three leaf clover growing wild or in a field. It too is a reminder of the blessed Trinity we Christians know and love!
A little boy came home from Vacation Bible School one day and told his mom that the pastor had said that God was everywhere. "That's true" his mother said. "Is he in the oven when it is hot?" "Yes" replied the mother. "How about the cupboard?" "Yes" said the mother."How about in the fridge when the door is closed and the light is turned off?" "Yes" said the mother. "How about in the sugar bowl?" asked the boy as he took the lid off the bowl. "Well I suppose he is", answered the mother. The boy slammed the bowl shut and announced triumphantly: "Got him!" Of course, the mother had a lot more explaining to do!
This story illustrates that too often people view God just as the little boy did. They think that God can be put in a neat little package that they can understand and that they can control! We don't understand God completely and we certainly don't control Him! So 1+1+1=1 is still pretty much a mystery!
So next time someone asks you to explain the Trinity remember the following story as related by Desmond Tutu, in his book, Hope and Suffering. "Anthony Bloom, the Orthodox master of the spiritual life told the story of a simple Russian country priest who was confronted by an eminent scientist. This chap trotted out apparently devastating arguments against the existence of God and declared, "I don't believe in God." The unlettered priest retorted quickly, " Oh, it doesn't matter - God believes in you."
And that's what it all boils down to: God believes in us all. Whether we understand the Trinity or not, because God believes in us all, we are able to worship and serve God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
In our Gospel reading this morning we read about a conversation between a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews and Jesus. Jesus informed him that "no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above (or born anew)".
Jesus also said that " no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit, meaning the Holy Spirit". Let us never forget that as baptized Christians we have the opportunity to enter the kingdom of God. Let us always follow the blessed Holy Trinity!
Let me close with the words from 2 Corinthians 13: 13
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the
Holy Spirit be with all of you."